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Effective Packaging Design will influence a rise in sales. Follow my 5 Step Process for successful product packaging.

What is your ‘Silent Salesman’ is doing (or not doing) to capture your consumer? Not sure?
Do you know how your ‘on-shelf brand image’ can be more compelling to your core consumers?

All you need to know is here, so read on.

I have been designing product packaging for over 25 years.¬†I have launched brands for large multi-nationals like Nestle and Unilever down to a small¬†start ups or farmers with a value add product. In all that time I have found,¬†there is NO ‚Äėone size fits all‚Äô strategy for effective packaging design.

ALL products face different challenges within their category. A tailored approach to creating your product image is more powerful ‚Äď every time.

To win a new customer you need to disrupt their current buying pattern. This is NO easy feat. Most of us already buy products that we love or are familiar with. Often people feel bombarded with all that’s new or are too busy to try new products. The job of packaging is to make it EASY for them.

Well designed labels and packaging are your ‚ÄėSilent Salesman’ and should be attracting consumers left, right and centre!

Let face it, the label on product packaging is your last chance (and often the first) to capture the consumer. Did you know most consumers ONLY spend 1.8 seconds scanning the shelf for commodity products? The front facing of the packaging design needs to work hard for their attention. It needs to deliver the exact information they need. Specialty products have a little longer, upto 3 seconds, and boutique products more time too, 3-5 seconds.

People are influenced by a myriad of factors when making a purchase. These include the price, product size (or perceived size), competitor options, sales promotions, structural packaging (recylcable, resealable) and much more. But here I will focus on how to create a design that can influence the bottom line.




The majority of consumers are buying a product based on either their belief about the brand or what the product promises them.  If you are Vegemite, Dorito’s, Nudie Juice or Maleny Dairies, people are basically buying the brand. They are investing in the values and the brand stands for. Or they are reinvesting in what they know they already love about the brand. They are buying from a place of allegiance or familiarity. Of course, this is the ideal place for a brand to be.

But if you are¬†relatively¬†small brand people are usually making a first time¬†purchase. This will likely¬†be based¬†on the ‚Äėpromise’ the product is making.¬†The¬†reason people buy something based on a ‚Äėpromise’, is because their needs are not already¬†being met¬†or could¬†be met¬†better. ¬†In other words, they have a¬†problem and are buying a solution. ¬†Before I delve into the nitty gritty of constructing powerful packaging design, lets start with the basics‚Ķ


Effective Packaging Design 101


Understanding the foundations of packaging design will set you in good stead. Even if you have a unique product concept always keep in mind the ‚Äė3 Be’s’.

BE SEEN!  Unseen is unsold so lure consumers in with a logical strategy.

BE UNDERSTOOD! ¬†Stick to the KISS principle ‚Äď keep it simple stupid. Overcrowded packaging = overwhelmed customer.

BE ENGAGING!  Ok so, if your product is seen and also understood the next step is to create a connection with the consumer.

Compelling packaging design delivers a solution. I¬†frequently¬†see gorgeous packaging but the product doesn‚Äôt move off the shelf. Being pretty doesn’t¬†mean it makes the sale.¬†The sale comes when the consumer needs¬†are met.

I use a system I called my 5+5 to determine what those needs are and how to meet them. There are 5 steps toward the 5 pathways I use to discover the solution. Answering each one of these simple steps will lead you to successful product packaging.


5 Steps Forward

STEP 1. Describe the product:  This is a detailed but succinct description of your product and its Unique Selling Point (USP).

STEP 2. Define the target audience and motive: Describe the person who buys your product and their REASON for buying it. Identify this persons personality, values and purchasing habits. Then, outline who are they buying for? Frequently, the purchaser is not the end user and both parties are your target audience.

Knowing your target audience will help you to create packaging that solves their problem.

STEP 3. Research the competition:¬†It is vital to become intimate with your competitors products. All the competitors ‚Äď big and small.¬†Seriously, buy¬†them, use them and make a list of their pro‚Äôs and con’s.¬†Knowing your competition¬†intimately¬†will help you learn why they have made certain choices. This¬†will help you avoid mistakes and save money.

STEP 4. Discover the problem:¬† I use the word ‚Äėproblem‚Äô¬†loosely. You want to know WHAT is your consumers discontent, obstacle or dilemma in the¬†category. What bothers them either about the product they usually buy. Consider external influences, like feedback from family or negative media attention.¬†Without discovering the problem, packaging is¬†just¬†created to look pretty and hope for the best.

An example of this¬†is unpermeated¬†milk. This term hit the media a couple of years ago. It created unease in many shoppers minds. As a result a lot of the¬†milk brands in Australia now have ‚Äėunpermeated‚Äô on their labelling. There was a problem and the producer solved it. The design becomes a reaction to the¬†consumer concern, irritant or desire. Our job is to hunt it down, become detective and get to heart of their concern.

STEP 5. Choose a pathway and create the design: Based answers to Steps 1-4, choose a pathway. The direction you choose is a communication tool to creating a solution via the design.

If your product packaging can adopt one these you will be well on your way to increasing product sales.


5 Pathways to Effective Product Packaging

Pathway #1

Embrace The USP

The absolute best pathway to successful product packaging, is to embrace the USP. The Unique Selling Point offers the customer something unique to the category. It is a specific solution to a problem ‚Äď ideally. It can be something as niche as Trisco Foods Precise precision dosage pump for their liquid thickener. Or be a combination of three valuable USP’s as with Proteco Oils Pressed Purity cold pressed oils range.

But it can also be very simple like being Certified Organic or Gluten Free or 100% Australian. The value of the USP is determined by the consumers values and needs.

Although there can be overlaps be careful not to confuse the USP with the product benefits. The product benefits are extra endorsements the either support the USP or engender a sense of reassurance. The product benefits are things like high in anti-oxidants, good source of fibre, no additives or preservatives.

The most important aspect of all product packaging is to communicate is the unique selling proposition. Try to keep it to 2-4 words.


Pathway #2

Be A Vehicle For Giving

Being a responsible brand is highly attractive to consumers. Purchasing a product with a social conscious helps consumers feel good about themselves.  Most people love to feel they can contribute to the welfare of other people in some way. They are usually happy to do so if they don’t need to make much effort. Finding a way to align your product with a cause. With permission display their logo proudly on the packaging. This is a strategy that many consumers gravitate toward.

Brands with a thoughtful attitude are growing. Brands which harm the environment, people or animals are on the nose. Using a symbol of what you endorse on your product packaging can influence many consumers. Start a dialogue with a charity that will support your brand values and become a vehicle for giving.



Pathway #3

Be Clear

Never underestimated how easy it is to confuse a consumer. Helping the consumer to understand WHAT IT IS at a glance is vital. Without lightening speed clarity the consumer will gloss over and move on. So make it ULTRA EASY for them.

Providing the customer with clarity can be achieved in number of ways:
‚Äď ¬†a window or transparent area so the consumer can see the actual product
‚Äď ¬†photography or illustrations, symbols, diagrams
‚Äď ¬†a brand name with meaning
‚Äď ¬†clear and interesting product descriptions

In this example for Rainforest Bounty I designed the range to focus on the key fruit content.¬†As the general public don‚Äôt know what indigenous fruits look or¬†taste like I created a design for each label with a single focus ‚Äď the fruit. Simplicity is the key to this pathway.


Pathway #4

Be A Vehicle For Giving

This pathway is about identifying a gap in the market. This pathway is best undertaken BEFORE embarking on a product launch or relaunch.¬†Introducing¬†another product into the category that is ‚Äėbetter‚Äô is not¬†necessarily¬†going to draw the people to part with their cash. Infact, failure is most likely. It‚Äôs better to¬†start with a product idea. Then, tailor that concept and positioning strategy where there is a market gap. Be flexible with your product concept.


We start by looking at market sectors. Generally the market can be divided into 4 sectors:

1. Wholesale
2. Retail Commodity ‚Äď everyday foods
3. Retail Specialty ‚Äď caters to dietary speciaties ceoliac, organic, dairy free, vegan
4. Retail Boutique ‚Äď giftable consumables, specialty ingredients and delicacies.

Within each of these sectors the product positioning can be broken down into economical, mid-range, high end or luxury.

Finding the gap means identifying a position that the competitors failed to serve. High growth brands that cater to underserved niche markets. This way they have the ability to resonate with consumers. Essentially they do this under the radar.

An example of finding a gap is these sustainably farmed Australian vanilla brands: Broken Nose Vanilla and Very Vanilla.  Broken Nose Vanilla has a boutique high-end positioning strategy. Consequently I created the packaging to reflect this.

Last year, Matt and Fiona (owners) found that they could launch a second brand with the same product. It has a different positioning strategy: Wholesale Mid-range. The range is smaller and the packaging is simpler. There are less labels, less labour and less cost in the structural packaging.

Feedback from the market indicated there was demand for Australian Vanilla that is free of pesticides and sustainably farmed. These two vanilla farmers have two value add brands tailored to serve both ends of the market.

Pathway #5

Be Enticing

The last (and most common pathway) is to ‚ÄėBe Enticing‚Äô.¬†If your product doesn‚Äôt have a sexy USP, brand values that shake up a category, is not aligned¬†with a charity and is not filling a gap in the market. THEN at the very least your brand can Be Enticing. This pathway is the most common because lets face¬†it not all products are revolutionary and its easy.

Beautiful simple streamlined packaging is attractive and often wins awards. But it does NOT mean sales will increase. The key is always to connect to consumer.

Consider how you will appeal to the all senses of your consumer. Think about our five basic senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. Scent is primary for beauty products whether they have a fragrance or are fragrance free. Touch is highly valued with tactile products like hand cream and tissues. Taste is essential for food and beverage products.

Products need to ENTICE the consumer. Very often product sales will benefit from a serving suggestion or displaying flavours. The trick with this Pathway is to do it well.

In this example Glasshouse Plantation is a ‘day destination’.¬†It provides visitors with a meaningful experience, a connection tropical and exotic fruit¬†orchards and an opportunity to communicate¬†directly¬†with the farmers.¬†The experience of the plantation¬†is supported by¬†range of value added retail¬†products.¬†Made from the orchard fruits, these are high quality jams, launched with four varieties.

The Glasshouse Plantation brand design¬†was created¬†to be Enticing. It showcases the USP ‚Äď fruit grown and harvested on the plantation. The labels¬†emphasise the fruits with bold and delicious handpainted watercolour illustrations. To keep the focus on the fruit, the product descriptors are simple, stand¬†out and are very easy to read.¬†The uniqueness of this brand is the place where the fruit is grown and the sustainable farming values that it is grown with.¬†Creating a brand design that tells this story was¬†really¬†important.



Effective Packaging Design Checklist

Consumers compare similar products or similar product benefits. Sales oriented packaging design should be ‘solution focussed‚Äô. Every square centimetre should be considered and captilised on. My quick checklist will guide you through, start with number 1 and work your way through to the end.

  1. Work through my ‘5 Steps Forward ‘
  2. Choose a process from my ‘5 Pathways to Successful Product Packaging‚Äô
  3. Decide on the structural packaging
  4. Choose a designer ‚Äď not all designers are trained in packaging (check experience)
  5. Brief the designer to create the brand and packaging the design. Include the pathway you have settled on. Make sure your brief includes:
    ‚ÄĘ A brand design that is clear, addresses the USP and is versatile.
    ‚ÄĘ Consumers seek the benefits of the product so ensure your designer knows what they are.
    ‚ÄĘ Engage the consumer with taste appeal via tempting photography, illustration or a window to the actual product.
    ‚ÄĘ The product name is one of the largest elements on the pack.¬†Ensure your product name and descriptor is memorable, easy to understand,¬†legally¬†correct and succinct.
    ‚ÄĘ Consider the value of an endorsement, guarantee, product of origin and the health star rating for the front of the pack.
  6. Review the designs presented. Choose one that aligns with the product positioning. There will be many other considerations to. These will include the style or theme, colour palette, typography. Ensure these need to be inline with the foundations of your brand values.
  7. Ensure your packaging design follows 1 or more of the 5 pathways.
  8. Effective packaging design will have a flexible system that functions across a variety of platforms (bags, pouches, boxes, adhesives, tubes, bottles ect.) and formats ‚Äď tall, landscape, square. Your chosen design should also allow for business expansion with new product development.
  9. Check the artwork is legally compliant. Sounds obvious but it is easy to make mistakes at this stage. Ensure you collect the mandatory information in advance. Think allergen, ingredients, country of origin claim, nutritional data, best before area size and barcodes. Plus the optional information: brand story, directions, product usage, serving suggestions.

Your product packaging is an investment that can increase sales. Shelf appeal can be an alluring hook whether a consumer is a loyal advocate or an impulse purchaser.




Not all printers are the same. Some print film and pouches, some print labels, others print boxes. Getting the best price for your printing has a lot to do with selecting the right printer. These are the suppliers I recommend:

Film Printing: FlexPack, Snell Flexibles
Label Printing: Ultra Labels, Queensland Label Makers 
Box Printing: Platypus Graphics, Printing Blue
Caron Box Printing: Orora, The Cardboard Box Shop
Foil Lids: Reelprint 

REMEMBER ‚Äď product packaging design is your silent salesman. It should be turning heads, getting attention and increasing sales! If you found value in this article you may also be interested my Label Design Checklist ‚Äď 9 Essential Tips.




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