Three Ways You Are Sabotaging Your Packaging

My name is Ron Farnum. And I am a rampant, enthusiastic retail consumer. I love shopping, studying and buying products. Combined with my shopping addiction, I’m also the father of four kids. My annual spending at Target rivals the GDP of a small island nation. My love of buying stuff may be part of why I have been in the packaging design business for the last 20 years.

Having kids, however, means that I’m not often a casual shopper. More frequently, I’m the time-pressured maniac everyone avoids who’s hell-bent on conquering a shopping list at a near-sprint in order to make the next soccer game on time.

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In maniac mode, I barely have time to think, and I certainly can’t be bothered to decipher all the bizarre claims in the toilet paper aisle—like how six triple rolls equal 24 normal rolls or the difference between “double-thick extra quilted absorbency” versus a “triple roll with embossed pillow softness.”

And that is how this article came into being.

In most retail environments, packaging isn’t just your best salesperson. In most cases, it’s your only salesperson. If your packaging isn’t effective, consumers probably aren’t buying, and if they aren’t buying, you’re not staying on that shelf very long. It’s that simple.

Here are three ways you might be sabotaging your packaging without realizing it:

1. Clutter
Great packaging is NEVER a cluttered disaster. Do you really need so much information slathered all over the box? Do you need two full panels to explain all the fabulous ways your product can be used? Are five photos necessary to tell the story?

Focus on simplicity. The greatest packages are always the cleanest ones. Every element is carefully considered and much more is left off the package than ever makes it on. Make every item meaningful and you’ll be amazed at the improved impact your package will deliver.

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However, do not mistake having quantity with not having quality. There are certainly instances where you need a lot of content, and it can all be valuable. That’s when really great graphic design comes into play. Experienced packaging designers are experts in breaking large amounts of information into smaller segments that still flow visually and make sense to the consumer. Packaging designers can help you. Trust them.

2. Communication
Hire someone to read the copy on your package with fresh eyes and report back their thoughts. Are you speaking in a way the consumer can easily understand or is the copy confusing, clunky or esoteric?

And how about this: Is critical information missing because you’re so familiar with the product that you didn’t even notice? Find a balance between not enough and too much information. Not sure? Ask for opinions. But ask for them outside of your company. You need people who aren’t familiar with your product to give you open, honest feedback.

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The timeless adage, “Features tell, benefits sell” remains absolutely true. Focus on how your product solves consumers’ problems or addresses their concerns, don’t push that your product has more do-dads than your competitors. It’s pretty unlikely that consumers care about more than two, or possibly three, things your product does. It’s the primary use that matters most.

Tell less. Prove you listen more. Your packaging will sell better.

3. Claims
And as I mentioned earlier, claims are so often pointless and even confusing. What does “4x softer” really mean? Softer than what, and how can I tell? Does this product really make my hair 3x thicker? How is a triple roll different from a 2-ply double roll?

If you choose to make performance claims, identify a clear statement that will resonate the benefit to your audience. Remember, consumers aren’t likely to study your package to figure it out—they will just put your product back on the shelf and pick up another one that speaks to them.

Of course, creating a great package involves much more than just avoiding these three saboteurs—if only it were that easy—but keeping Clutter, Communication and Claims in mind can really help change your decent package into a great package, ergo a more powerful, effective sales tool.

Something I already look forward to buying.

Damen Jackson