If your business sells physical products, you probably already know the importance of product packaging. From keeping your products contained, to displaying important product details, to protecting products during transit, packaging has plenty of practical purposes.
But product packaging can contribute more to your company than just containing, explaining, and protecting your product.
With branded product packaging, you can transform what surrounds your product into something that supports your brand.
So, if you’re looking to generate awareness and affinity for your brand, it might be time to start thinking inside the box.
What is brand?
Before we can talk about building your brand into your product packaging, we need to define “brand”. While many people think of brand as just a logo or a slogan, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Although logos and slogans are an important part of your branding materials, brand itself exists only in your customers’ minds. Brand is made up of the stories, memories, feelings, and associations people have with your company. You can’t control your brand directly, but you can control your branding efforts—and influence how people perceive you.
One of the primary ways companies direct customer perceptions is through brand identity. Brand identity consists of the various visual and non-visual elements of your brand, including your logo, slogan, voice, colors, fonts, and symbols. You can think of brand identity as the language your brand uses to communicate what it does, why it does it, who it does it for, how it does it differently, and why people should care. Even though you can’t control how customers perceive you, your brand identity lets you control how you portray yourself.
When it comes to branded product packaging, the visual components of your brand identity—your visual brand identity—are the most important. The building blocks of visual identity include colors, fonts, symbols, and imagery, which can be leveraged in a variety of ways to produce different brand assets. For instance, a brand’s logo usually combines several elements of visual identity, with fonts, colors, and symbols coming together to represent the brand at a glance.
Now that you know the tools you’ll have at your disposal, let’s look at some of the ways you can start building your brand into your product packaging design.
Put a brand on it
Let’s start with the basics of branded product packaging. While these basics might not score you too many affinity points with customers, they will help in building brand awareness. After all, before people can love your brand, they need to know it. The best way to start building that recognition is by simply adding aspects of your brand to pre-existing packaging. This method lets you repurpose and plain packaging you already have on hand, so nothing goes to waste as you start becoming more brand-conscious.
Branded stickers are a cinch to order and can easily be added to different packaging. Source: Looka.
Your logo, colors, fonts, and symbols can be easily added to any packaging you’re already using, building brand into the product packaging already at your disposal. This can mean anything from simply placing stickers of your logo on your product packaging, adding tissue paper in your brand colors, using a custom stamp of your logo on various paper packaging, or sealing boxes with packing tape that has your company name printed. In all of these instances, you don’t need to rethink your product packaging design—you just need to purchase something to place on top of it.
If you’ve got pre-existing product packaging, you’ve got an opportunity to add your brand—and create some brand awareness. For many brands, this decorative approach to branded product packaging is enough. It’s a big step up from completely unbranded packaging, but it’s just one step.
Creating custom product packaging
While sticking, stamping, adding, or taping your brand’s logo, symbols, colors, or fonts onto otherwise plain product packaging is a great way to start building brand awareness, there’s more you could be doing for your brand. To take the next step towards brand affinity, you need to integrate your brand a bit more—with customized product packaging.
By integrating your brand directly into the design of your product packaging, you create a more consistent brand experience for customers. So, when the time comes to place your next product packaging order, take this opportunity to create the kind of consistency that’s going to gain customer loyalty.
Custom printed boxes create a more cohesive experience of your brand for customers. Source: Looka.
Unlike adding a logo sticker or branded packing tape, customizing your product packaging requires more in-depth design decisions. With more opportunities to incorporate your brand come more decisions about how exactly you want to incorporate your brand. The way you incorporate your brand’s visual identity into customized packaging will influence people’s impression of your brand. Your visual identity is the language your brand uses to communicate; different arrangements of the elements of that language send different messages.
Now, all of this can sound a bit vague, so let’s talk about a few concrete examples of the kinds of choices you’ll make as you begin customizing your product packaging.
Incorporating your logo as a pattern on tissue paper, printing boxes and paper in different brand colors, incorporating brand imagery on stickers—these are all choices you’ll be faced with as you begin customizing your product packaging. Source: Looka.
These design choices can include things like the placement of your logo, which brand colors are used where, whether you leave certain product packaging elements unbranded, whether you incorporate your logo in unexpected ways or locations, and anything else your product packaging provider lets you customize. All of these choices about how you use your brand’s visual identity in your product packaging will affect the way people see your brand. As you begin customizing your product packaging, consider the messages your design choices might be sending—and whether those messages align with your brand.
Designing brand into your product packaging
Now that we’ve covered adding your brand to pre-existing packaging and customizing your product packaging, let’s take things a step further. For a fully integrated experience, you need to build your brand directly into your product packaging design.
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “How is this different from customized product packaging?” Good question. Customized product packaging changes your packaging at the visual level. To fully integrate your brand, you need to change your packaging at the physical level—from the materials used, to the ways your packaging can be reused, to the shape and structure of your packaging. Here, it’s not just the way you incorporate your visual brand identity that enforces certain brand traits—it's the very packaging itself.
This level of brand integration begins with the materials that make up your packaging. If your brand is futuristic and sleek, a glossy finish might suit your product packaging better. If you’re aiming to give off a gritty, organic impression, then matte, textured materials might be a better fit. A brand that champions sustainability as one of its values might consider using recycled or recyclable packaging in its product packaging. Cosmetics brand Lush takes this route, using recycled plastic in its packaging. To truly live their eco-friendly values, Lush even has a packaging exchange program to promote further recycling.
Integrating your brand into the structure of your product packaging can also mean creating packaging suited to your customers’ lifestyles. Millennial favorite Glossier appeals to the on-the-go ‘Glossier Girl’ through their packaging design. The bubble wrap used to protect its products in transit comes in the form of a travel-friendly pink pouch, which customers readily repurpose as a travel makeup bag. The packaging has become so popular that Glossier sells it separately on the site as well.
By becoming a part of their customers’ daily lives—through reusable, persona-targeted packaging—Glossier builds affinity for its brand. The more customers see your packaging, the more likely they are to think of you—and how important your brand is to them.
You can even incorporate your brand into all the things that surround your product packaging, creating experiences that go beyond the box. This might mean the inclusion of a handwritten note on custom stationery inside every box, or adding branded stickers that customers can use to decorate their purchase, or even getting the other senses involved, by including sweets or scents that suit your desired brand impression.
The more deeply you integrate your brand’s assets and traits into your product packaging design, the more deeply you can connect with your customers.
If customers see your logo once on a box, they might remember you. If they see your logo on the box, then your symbol on the tissue paper, your colors on the box interior, your fonts at the top of a handwritten note, and smell the same fragrance you use in your product as they open the box, customers won’t just remember you—they’ll understand you.
It’s this understanding that builds a connection between customers and companies. With every opportunity to incorporate your brand, comes an opportunity to build a relationship with customers. All you need to do is think inside the box.