Product packaging can be nearly as important as the product.
This is because people respond psychologically to visual designs.
Knowing how to get people to respond favorably to your packaging design will help you sell more products.
With millions of products sold online and at retail, your customers often compare your products to competitors’ products. And while people read product reviews, they also compare products based on packaging design. That’s where most product entrepreneurs struggle.
Here are eight product packaging mistakes and tips on how to avoid making those mistakes.
Product packaging that doesn’t visually differentiate
If you haven’t distinguished your brand identity, your product packaging will also struggle to differentiate. After all, if your packaging looks similar to competitors, people will have difficulty telling the products apart.
Imagine if a friend asked: “Can you pick me up some more toothpaste at the store? Look for the blue box.”
At least several other brands likely have the color blue on their packaging. But, if a product entrepreneur or manufacturer chooses a less-common option like orange or purple, that decision can help the product attract attention. Other ways to differentiate the packaging include using reflective elements, unusual shapes, or see-through material that gives people a glimpse inside a cardboard carton.
Spend time performing market research to determine what choices your competitors made when designing their packaging. And assess packaging design trends. Then, explore how you can differentiate while still supporting your overall branding.
Pay attention to customer comments, too. If a significant percentage of people mention that your packaging seems to blend in with all the rest, that’s a clue there’s room for improvement.
And, don’t forget to adapt to what’s happening in the world. For example, packaging design has already changed for many products in response to the pandemic.
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Making too many changes to product packaging
There are undoubtedly good times to do a significant packaging rebrand.
Maybe you want to help the public forget about some past bad press or customers made ongoing complaints about a specific aspect of the current package. In many cases, though, alterations cause consumer confusion and other negative impacts. People like what’s familiar to them and may not respond well to lots of changes at once.
That happened when Coty did a substantial redesign of its COVERGIRL external makeup packaging and the associated advertising campaigns. In addition to using black as the primary packaging color, brand representatives chose a new tagline. They also swapped the cheerful celebrities in campaign photos with lifestyle snapshots and people wearing serious expressions. Now, the latest packages are much brighter and appealing.
Representatives admitted during an investor presentation that “correcting packaging mistakes” was a must-do task for 2021. Besides giving its packages a more attractive look, the brand plans to improve its social strategy and invest in a clean-beauty push for some of its products.
The packaging alone is typically not enough to cause a sustained sales uptick, but it undoubtedly helps.
Product packaging that frustrates customers
Many people understandably get excited when they buy a product. However, when a person struggles to open the packaging, they blame your company. And they might choose to purchase from a competitor in the future.
Consumers often resort to using kitchen knives, keys, scissors, and even their teeth to get to the goods encased in a package.
Excellent product packaging balances showcasing and protecting products in a way that enhances the user experience.
Features like pull tabs, perforated strips, and “open here” indicators can help customers get inside products faster. If you sell something other than a single-use product, consider reclosable or reusable packaging to capitalize on convenience.
Keep your target audience in mind, too. If most buyers are older adults, they’d likely appreciate features that make it easier to open jars or pill bottles.
Product packaging that has a forgettable design
Good packaging helps you grab people’s interest, even if they don’t immediately purchase. That’s why it’s vital to make your packaging as memorable as possible, including the containers used for shipping.
Consider how the boxes of cereals geared towards children often feature beloved mascots that make youngsters’ parents reminisce too.
Products ranging from chips to chocolate bars often feature special-edition packaging to drive sales, too.
Think about how you could use the packaging to emphasize your brand voice and values. That might mean mentioning specific product attributes, showing before-and-after photos, telling your brand story through packaging design, or using colors that people characteristically link to your brand.
A person might see hundreds of packages on a single shopping trip. When a design stands out, people are more likely to notice it and buy the product.
If you ship products directly to customers, investigate ways to strengthen branding by adding your social media handles to the outside of the box or going with a distinctive design that immediately tells people the package they just received came from your company and not elsewhere.
Product packaging that contains spelling and grammar mistakes
Your packaging is a reflection of your brand. But, pleasing colors, a user-friendly design, and other best practices don’t eliminate the need to task people with carefully checking the package graphics for misspelled words, grammatical errors, and missing or incorrect information.
People who trust your brand are more likely to buy your products.
But, hurrying or overlooking the product proofing process could lead to errors that cause customer doubt.
Customers and prospects might worry about a product’s overall integrity if its packaging contains mistakes.
One particularly embarrassing packaging mistake for an abdominal exerciser involved two spelling errors – with only four short lines of text between each one.
This example highlights why it’s so wise to have people check all material before it goes to print. Giving the responsibility to more than one person is ideal. After all, even the most conscientious proofreaders don’t catch every issue, particularly if tired or feeling anxious due to excessive workloads.
Product packaging design that overwhelms the customer
It often becomes clear that fine lines exist between getting a customer’s attention and bombarding them with too much information or an overly busy design.
Swamping people with packaging details is an easier mistake to make with smaller products like granola bars or lipgloss rather than the packaging for a toaster or toddler’s car seat. When you have less overall space to work with, it’s typically more challenging to decide what to mention on the product container versus elsewhere.
Similarly, making the most appropriate design decisions isn’t always straightforward. Perhaps you initially want your packaging to feature two vastly different fonts or a neon color scheme. Those elements will probably get noticed, but not necessarily in the ways you want.
It would help if you also were mindful of the mood associated with your product. For example, many packages for energy drinks purposefully use bold designs that get people excited. However, the look of a box for a neck pillow will likely be much more subdued.
Aligning your choices with consumers’ expectations supports strong branding.
Product packaging that doesn’t promote sustainability
Today’s customers are increasingly concerned with sustainability. They frequently prioritize companies that engage in practices that remain mindful of the Earth and all its inhabitants. That extends to the packaging as well as the products inside of it.
Some companies use excessive disposable materials to make packaged products look bigger. Besides being wasteful, that tactic understandably makes many customers feel upset and misled.
Another common mistake is placing small products into enormous boxes for shipping and using massive amounts of bubble wrap and other materials to safeguard them in transit.
Some customers share pictures on social media of how much packaging came with a relatively small item, such as a set of earplugs or a tin of lip balm. Then, a wider network of people participates in disbelief over the decisions company representatives made before shipping a product to someone’s doorstep.
Making strides with sustainable packaging can also mean eliminating plastic.
A creative collaboration between Amazon and an organic beauty brand involved designing a plastic-free container that served as a storage container and shipping box for the merchandise. The instructions for use also got directly printed on the package, eliminating packaging inserts. Statistics showed that if 50,000 people switched from conventional products to these, 34 tons of plastic waste could get saved every year, making a substantial impact.
Product packaging that chooses aesthetics over functionality
Brand representatives who make packaging decisions must also take care not to make another frequently committed mistake of picking options that look fantastic but fail to work well for their primary functions.
Imagine packaging with a beautiful look that doesn’t protect the highly fragile product inside.
The same issue can happen with a pretty package that’s too hard to open or features a material that gets accidentally perforated too easily, causing leaks.
It’s no surprise that brand leaders aim to come up with eye-catching packages. However, while doing so, they must stay aware of any unintended consequences that stem from forgetting that a container must also show off and protect the contents.
Of course, there are plenty of packages that excel with both functionality and appearance. Researching to see what other companies have done can help bring inspiration.
It’s also essential to listen to customer feedback.
Since people can easily give opinions directly to brands via social media, many eagerly do so regarding good and bad experiences.
You could also invite people to weigh in after changing the packaging. Printing something like, “We’ve switched to a new box. Tell us what you think!” onto a container is one possibility that could get the conversation going and emphasize that your company cares about what people think.
Packaging design becomes a learning experience, and it’s unrealistic to expect perfection with the first version of a new container. By understanding common packaging design mistakes and avoiding them, you’ll create compelling product packaging that showcases and protects your products.
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