3 Core Moments You Need To Implement in Packaging Design
by evelio mattos on 02/28/2019 | 5 Minute Read
There's a lot of news around straw embargoes, plastic bag bans and over-packaging in general, and we’re starting to see a trend towards simplification in packaging focused on three core moments.
These non-negotiable moments in the unboxing process are the invitation, the introduction, and the reveal. This is how I explain these moments to my clients—the invitation is seeing someone across a room, whereas the introduction is shaking their hand. The reveal ultimately is about establishing a deeper human connection.
Let’s break down each step in the process so you can implement them in your next package design.
This is the precise moment when consumers are visually intrigued enough to consider learning more about your product. When that moment happens varies based on each customer's preferred consumption method, whether it's in-person, online, or something gifted.
As a designer, you must identify these moments to capitalize on the opportunity to connect with your target. You must understand both the user’s environment and their intent at the time of the interaction, as well as the brand’s promise and desired outcome. Identifying these core moments preceding the consumer’s decision to purchase will clarify the problems addressed in your solution.
Retail packaging may be the hang tag on a shirt, display packaging, or the package you walk out of the store with—that might be a gift box, or a shopping or garment bag.
Product packaging is the on-shelf pack battling competitors for a consumer’s attention. In most cases, both retail and product packaging will also be delivered in a shipper to satisfy online orders. E-commerce packaging is the primary shipping vehicle delivered to your doorstep, not what’s within. The three traditional packaging invitations are seeing the pack, holding the pack, and receiving the pack, and you have to design for each of these opportunities.
Structural packaging and material selection is key to designing an effective Invitation, as is empathizing and focusing on the user. Creating inviting packaging targets your audience in the environment they’ll encounter your pack and uses the surroundings to draw focus to your design. Much like seeing someone across a room, if they blend in you won’t see them. If they’re looking down, you won’t make eye contact, and if they’re not trying to make a connection, they won’t. Deploy color, shape, and finishes to draw attention to your product and invite consumers to take the next step.
How to design for the invitation:
- Stand out with color, shape, and texture. Make a splash that identifies the pack from a distance.
- Consider the pack’s in-store lighting, shelf-mates and aisle position. Can you reflect more or less light than competitors? Think about different finishes, materials, and structures. You should also take inventory of the colors seen on competitors in your segment of the aisle. What colors will you use to carve out your piece of real estate? If you create colorful contrast in commerce packaging, make the product inside the hero, not the other way around.
- Remember that it’s always on-brand to design with fewer materials and make sustainable choices.
The Introduction is both the physical and visual connection that takes place in the mind once the pack has been picked up. It’s the signals relayed via the packaging structure, graphic design and copywriting that heighten consumer anticipation.
Even though this often occurs alongside the Invitation, separately considering them yields a more effective design process. Take a page from industrial designers and think about the ergonomics of the package you’re designing—does it fit the hands of your target market better than its competitor? The bulk of packaging today is designed to fit shipping cartons, not human hands. Flip the script on this old-fashioned way of thinking and inject a little human-centered design into your process.
How to design a memorable introduction:
- Choose materials with a tactile contrast to competitors. Natural textures are trending as they can make an impact on consumers compared to ultra-smooth packaging.
- Add elements of surprise and delight in unexpected areas. The bottom of the pack doesn’t have to be reserved for UPCs-use it to connect with your target.
- Does the pack’s design quickly and effectively communicate the target’s top three buying reasons? This will vary among products and brands, and you’ll need to know why consumers are choosing to purchase this item. Part of your role as a designer is to reinforce their decision in selecting this brand. It's almost like physical SEO-shoppers today compare products online while shopping, and if you’re not considering SEO keywords when writing packaging copy, you're missing out.
The Reveal welcomes you into the conversation, and it happens after the purchase when the consumer experiences the brand and gets to know the product, but you'll want to avoid making the mistake of “selling past the close."
At this stage, the pack has sold the product. There's no need for any more up-selling copy. None. Ever. This concept of selling past the close means that once a sale happens, you can only give the buyer a reason to change their mind by continuing to sell them features or add-ons.
Instead, reinforce the brand by over-delivering in the unboxing experience using brand appropriate messaging that winks, not stares. Take this opportunity to craft an unboxing that highlights the product, and don’t outshine it with complicated packaging. When a consumer removes the product, the packaging should disappear into the background, allowing the product to be the focal point.
After the packaging has done its job of delivering the product, consumers need to understand how to separate the packaging for recycling. How2Recycle.org offers a simple alternative to chasing arrow logos that educate consumers on what is and isn’t recyclable, increasing the number of recyclable materials diverted from our waste streams.
How to deliver a beautiful reveal:
- The packaging shouldn’t outsize the product once it gets unboxed. Limit the number of inserts, collateral, and inflatable pack protection to a minimum.
- Packaging should fade away once a consumer removes the product. Yes, we all want that Instagram-worthy post, but can you design it into the pack? Remember, consumers are there for the product, not the packaging. This is why the pack goes into the trash, and not the product.
- Use colors that compliment the product. Remember, the product is the hero, and the pack is the vehicle.
Packaging continues to evolve with new developments, materials and changing consumer demands. As a designer, you need to stay ahead of these trends by pushing your work further into the future by considering its impact on tomorrow, especially when it comes to over-packaging and sustainability.