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Six creative ways packaging communicates brand storytelling

June 11, 2019  By Phil Bagdasarian

According to emerging tech hub Action Card, while consumers form a first impression of a brand’s logo within 10 seconds, it takes between five to seven impressions for consumers to remember the logo. Photo: Getty Images

Today’s packaging does more than protect a product, it is a vessel designed to convey a brand’s unique story. Every customer who purchases a product sees its packaging, thus creating an opportunity for businesses to establish a perfectly controlled interaction. The right strategy will generate engagement by crafting an informational, yet emotional, story.

Modern shoppers want more than product details, they crave a story that establishes a personal connection with the product’s creator. Once the perfect brand identity and story have been created, it is vital to express and bolster the narrative though the package’s design elements. A clear, minimalist design is highly recognizable in multiple settings, and is an efficient strategy for directing consumers to a brand’s evocative tale. Every design component is crucial, communicating a brand’s message through colour, shape, size, content and materials.

The following six creative strategies will help efficiently communicate a brand’s story and create a lasting, positive impression that will enhance the consumer’s shopping experience.


Know your target
Failure to target the right audience will result in packaging that falls flat, regardless of how attractive the design is. An overreaching strategy that attempts to sell a product to everybody will probably sell to no one, so it’s essential for businesses to conduct a market analysis that targets the right message to the right people. An effective design will be composed of aesthetically pleasing components that speak to the company’s targeted consumers, conveying its message with visual efficacy. To accomplish this, designers need to ask themselves several questions and establish their approach on the answers. Information such as the shopper’s age, employment, income level, gender, education, interests, location and marital status for instance, can help designers adopt a neutral, unbiased view that will assist them in creating a visual expression that reflects the emotional needs of consumers. Knowing an audience’s preferences is invaluable, so designers should perform research that sheds some light on lifestyles, personalities and tastes, and then translate these into colour, typography and layout that exudes the right ambiance and attitude.

First impressions
It takes seven seconds for consumers to make a decision after visualizing a product, which means businesses only have a small timeframe to make a first impression. Recent studies have shown that “people form first impressions very quickly based solely on appearance, and that these first impressions persist over time and aren’t changed easily.” An attractive packaging design is the ultimate motivator when it comes to impulse shopping, triggering a delightful feeling of reward. By integrating a story into product packaging, businesses can make their brand more relatable to consumers and establish an important connection that will drive engagement. But first, customers must be drawn to the design through original colours, unique shapes and appealing materials that offer a tactile experience. Once the initial connection has been elicited, the packaging’s words can do the rest of the talking. The same is true for e-commerce packaging, which makes an impression the moment it arrives on a consumer’s doorstep, regardless of what is inside.

Showcase the human connection
The layout of a product’s package is of utmost importance. Proper use of layout will direct consumers’ eyes the right way, drawing them to the brand message in a clear and emotional manner. Once the connection has been made, it needs to be maintained through proper use of colour, negative space, graphics and compelling content. Developing a strategy that encompasses a human factor will attract shoppers and help establish a brand’s unique character. In packaging, consistency is key, so this aspect must be present in each and every design variation. Humanizing specific elements of a brand, such as its employees or stellar customer service, by showcasing team photos or easy methods of contact, will help form the kind of relationship with shoppers that will make them feel valued and appreciated.

According to Forbes, consistent brand presentation across all platforms increases revenue by up to 23 percent. Graphic: Getty Images.

Set the mood with colour
The right combination of colours can evoke specific feelings, helping to express and enhance a brand’s storytelling. But oftentimes, colour choices in packaging are dictated by a brand owner’s personal tastes rather than what resonates with potential customers. To find the perfect colour palette, designers need to perform a delicate dance that can satisfy both consumers and brand owners. Colour theory can predict an audience’s reaction with surprising accuracy, but it’s important to apply a guideline that will prevent a disconnect between colour and messaging, which could turn customers away.

Guidelines can be developed based on a colour’s emotional associations. Red, for instance, conveys passion and demands attention, green signifies nature, stability and growth, while the colour white represents purity and health. When it comes to packaging, colours are vital tools. They possess the power to make or break a connection, so it’s essential to apply this type of methodology to craft the right design. Typically, brand colours involve the use of three colours: An emotive base colour, an accent colour, and a neutral tone that will harmonize with the base colour. To strengthen brand awareness, the chosen colours should be consistently implemented across each design element.

Conveying an experience
To design a packaging experience that expresses a story, careful consideration must be applied to materials, graphics and finishes. The right elements will create balance and a sense of fluidity that will make a positive and memorable impression during the unboxing experience. To create a euphoric and rewarding packaging event, several factors must be implemented. Functionality is key to keeping a product protected during handling and shipping, but is also crucial to providing shoppers with a smooth, relaxing and dynamic unboxing experience. Sensuality plays a significant role in the process, and can be tapped into by stimulating the senses with several features such as soft touch finishes, embossing, crisp edges, natural elements and crinkly materials. Adding these stimulating layers will appeal to the senses, helping to build excitement and anticipation.

Lastly, a box’s contents should be akin to a display case, presenting each element in a perfect sense of order. When all of these design features are carefully orchestrated and brought together in a single package, the unboxing ritual can be greatly enhanced, sending customers on an unforgettable journey.

Let’s be honest
Today’s market demands transparency. Since the 2008 recession, consumer trust is at an all-time low, so a brand message that lacks honesty and integrity will fail, despite the use of effective and creative design elements. Authenticity is at the top of shoppers’ lists, which is why businesses need to be completely open about their values and the products they offer.

A great way to convey transparency through packaging is to replace generic stock photography with real images. Showing photos of the actual product and the team of people behind it will let consumers know the brand can be trusted. What they see is what they want to get. Modern shoppers are savvy, so there’s no point in altering product shots. Instead, companies should lay out their core values in an open manner and hold themselves accountable, proving to existing and potential clients they can be trusted.

Phil Bagdasarian is the co-founder of Packwire, an online printing and packaging service that enables businesses to create their own box design, including branded mailers, folding cartons, shipping boxes and gift boxes.

This feature was originally published in the June 2019 issue of PrintAction and the Spring 2019 issue of Packaging for Printers, now available online.

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