Packaging design can be one of the most powerful sales and marketing tools for startup CPG companies. A well designed flexible package can deliver an enticing sales message to consumers hungry for new product experiences.
We’ve tasked our pouches with a truly important task: stop the consumer cold in their tracks, convince them to reach out and grab the product (or make their cursor do the grabbing), and in three seconds convince them to throw it in the shopping cart (both the real-life as well as the virtual one).
The retail shelves are no longer the domain of the big CPG brands competing for inches on the supermarket shelves. Now there are hundreds of startup CPG brands popping up everyday creating a mad race to stand out on supermarket shelves.
Given the context, you need a leg up on the competition, which is why we created this guide to help you design effective packaging to sell your brand to shoppers, both online and offline.
Good Design Helps You Punch Above Your Weight
Our mission here at ePac is to “… provide locally-based consumer packaged goods companies the ability to compete with large brands with great packaging.”
A single day’s marketing budget for industry whales like Procter & Gamble, Mondelez and Heinz is greater than some startups’ annual revenues. But you have a secret weapon at your disposal: great design.
Rafat Ali, CEO and Founder of travel website Skift.com, once said:
“Use design to punch above your weight…”
Ali was referring to startup internet companies using design to successfully compete against large enterprises.
But you can apply the same principles to your startup CPG brand: use design to punch above your weight.
You’re more nimble, more creative and have less corporate baggage. Your agility and design chops can help you run circles around the large brands, as they seem stuck in their traditional ways.
So how can you use design to punch above your weight and turn your package into a competitive advantage?
The following are 10 design tips to follow if you want to crush it in 2022 and beyond.
1. Treat Your Package Like a Creative Canvas
The most cutting edge consumer brands today are using their creativity to stand out on the shelves. From literally featuring works of fine art on their bags, to using negative space, and even turning their pouches into vintage throwbacks to the 1800s, startup CPG brands are blurring the boundaries between functional design and artistic masterpieces.
Use of Negative Space
Copywriter Mich Fodstad, writing in Medium, said that “…negative space (another term for white space) makes it easier for consumers to remember brands “
It’s the use of a clean, minimalist design – like this bag from Toro Matcha – that contrasts the newer brands from the cluttered design of traditional brands.
Solid, Unique Colors
Another design innovation is the use of solid, unique colors that cover the whole package, colors not normally used in packaging design.
Notice this package from Invictus Gloves and their use of solid black. Definitely an attention getter!
Works of Art
Artists and locally-based CPG brands are forming mutually beneficial collaborations by leveraging product packaging as an alternative venue for fine art. UK-based COCO Chocolatier has done just that by partnering with local artists to sell gourmet chocolate in packaging that doubles as works of modern art.
It seems that more and more consumer goods companies today are using vintage throwback designs to make their packaging look like the Dapper DanPomade can from ‘O Brother Where Art Thou.’
And it’s not just designs that look like they were plucked out of an old Western. In the package featured above, Qhali Kay Organics designed their pouches to have an Adean mountain vintage paper look.
2. No B.S. Copywriting
Lest we get too creative, don’t forget the power of the written word. Here again, innovative consumer goods companies are using marketing copy in creative ways to communicate clear, straightforward messages that cut through the clutter and do away with marketing jargon.
Sometimes you just need to state a simple list of ingredients so consumers can know they’re buying something healthy.
Or just a simple statement of what the product actually does, like this Basis Electrolyte Cran Raspberry Mix: “Bounce back from whatever dehydrates you.”
Another trend is speaking in a casual, conversational tone instead of “marketing speak”.
3. Make Room for Connected Packaging
Part of modern packaging design is the ever more popular QR code. Today, with the rise of connected packaging, that QR code is now a unique serialized QR code. Each serialized QR code is like a thumbprint that allows you to uniquely identify and communicate specific information pertinent to each package.
A few things you can do with serialized QR codes:
- Validate product authenticity to guard against counterfeit.
- Provide traceability so consumers can identify the exact crop, batch or person that processed their particular product.
- Communicate specific marketing messages, depending on the unique characteristics of the buyer, the current date, and their geographic location.
- Collect demographic data for market research.
4. Design for eCommerce as well as Supermarket Shelves
Packaging design today must do double duty. With the rise of direct to consumer business models, more consumer goods companies are selling online – sometimes exclusively online.
Product packaging design should consider the peculiarities of online stores, where consumers can’t just grab a package and hold it in their hands.
Consider simplifying packages using large fonts, single colors, direct, to-the-point marketing copy and creativity.
5. Special Occasion Designs
Digital printing – especially on flexible packaging – is enabling brands to be more agile so they can respond to special occasions quickly and inexpensively.
For example, during the recent global games, nutritional supplements company Skratch Labs produced a limited-run Gold-themed package for their sports hydration mix to honor the spirit of the global sporting competition.
The execution of the limited edition package was only a few months in the making. Skratch Labs was able to add the limited run to an existing order, which was only possible because of innovative digital printing technology.
6. Seasonal Designs
Another benefit of digital printing for flexible packaging (no need to pay for plate fees, small minimum orders, quick turnaround) is the ability to print seasonal packaging.
Take a look at this beautiful fall design from Coconut Whisk. Really gets you in the mood for family get-togethers, pumpkin pie and football games, doesn’t it?
But it’s not just the usual holidays. Now, because of the power and agility digital printing can bring you, you can get creative with your definition of ‘seasonal.’
Want to celebrate National Cheese Lover’s day on January 20th? Go for it!
And if you’re a coffee company you might want to honor World Sleep Day on March 18th, tongue-in-cheek of course.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to seasonal designs now that you can print out a small run with the state-of-the-art digital printing capabilities available today.
With the advent of content marketing, blogging and social media, creative storyselling has become a distinct marketing discipline companies are turning to in order to infuse the power of emotion-laden stories to sell their brand and products.
In fact, the specific term ‘storyselling’ has emerged to describe the specific way companies are using storytelling in their marketing.
Think of the J. Peterman Catalog (hilariously portrayed on Seinfeld) and the creative stories woven throughout their online store.
Brands are now starting to tell stories through their packaging, where each package tells a unique story.
For example, Brooklyn-based Matzo Project introduced Matzo Bites with an illustrated Jewish grandmother (a bubbe in Yiddish) as the spokesperson on every package.
Matzo Bite’s Bubbe has various sayings on each package, all hilariously representing something a Bubbe might say in real life, like: “A nice snack on the plane (if you ever come to visit),” or “Eat something, you look skinny,” or even “Would it kill you to try something new?”
Interestingly, The Matzo Project makes hilarious use of transparent packaging (see below) in which the Bubbe’s glasses serve as a little window to quickly inspect the package contents.
8. Transparent Packaging
In item #2 above, we talked about how just a simple list of ingredients can do the job of selling your product. In the case of transparent packaging, you let the product speak for itself.
Transparent packaging should see a boost in 2022, especially as more brands promote organic or healthy products where the product itself looks….well, healthy.
For example, don’t these raspberries from Organic Crunchy Fruit just look appetizingly good for you?
9. Stand Out with Humor
Along the same lines as storyselling, nothing sells better than making people laugh (in fact, the benefit of storyselling is the ability to weave emotions into your marketing message).
Humor is a powerful emotion, but it’s also different. You can use a funny design that causes grocery shoppers to stop in their tracks in the aisle while they laugh out loud.
Take for example Wabi Whiffs On-The-Go Singles toilet deodorizer.
“Be the Boss of Your No. 2 & avoid poo anxiety” says the back of the package.
I’ll just leave it there…
10. Use AI to Choose Your Winning Design
Digital marketers have been using A/B testing software for years now. Leveraging artificial intelligence algorithms, marketers can experiment with different website design elements such as headlines, button colors and form placements to improve online conversions.
This is referred to as Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), and the practice is coming to CPG companies as well.
With new applications like startup software company Vizit, you can now test various design elements to find the most effective packaging design to drive more sales directly from the shelf.
Startup CPG companies have a distinct advantage over the established market leaders: their agility. Without large corporate bureaucracies to hold them back, they can leverage packaging design to run circles around the big brands.
Specifically, they can use innovative, creative packaging design to stand out on the shelf, communicate clearly what their product advantages are, incorporate smart packaging technology, design for both the virtual as well as the physical shelves, and use newer AI applications to create more effective designs.
We believe innovative startup CPG companies can disrupt the market through superior design sensibilities. While the above tips are a good start, we look forward to hearing more from you about what innovations in packaging design you can implement to crush it in 2022 and beyond.