Lots of brands miss the mark with their packaging, and its not because of a lack of design talent. Beautiful design is an art, and there is visual proof around us that great designers are among us.
What is missing is the thorough and complete thought process regarding the goal of the packaging. For instance, when deciding on your packaging, are you simply looking for something that looks nice? Or are you considering how your consumers are going to feel when they hold the product in their hands?
There is one question that I see brand managers not asking time and time again -- and that question is:
At what stage of the buying process is my customer going to see my packaging?
Based on the answer to that question, your packaging should be focused on selling or brand building. The main distinction in strategy comes whether you are selling offline (ie. retail) or selling online (e-commerce or m-commerce).
If your product is going to be in retail stores (ie. offline), your packaging needs to sell. Your benefit statement and what differentiates your product needs to be clear and visible at quick glance. You might only have one chance to grab the attention of a consumer when they walk by their product. They may never return again, and they may have loved your product -- but your packaging is to blame for the loss of sales. From this one yardstick alone, how much money do you imagine companies lose every year due to weak packaging?
Let's now consider online purchases. Does packaging have an impact on whether or not you buy a product online, as is the case with the scenario outlined above. No, but I'd argue that its even more important.
When you buy a product online, more often than not, this is your first physical contact with the brand. As in, touch and feel. The beautiful thing about the internet is the ability to scale and reach millions of people. The downside is the lack of physical touch and contact. You can have a beautiful online experience, but if your product arrives without personal touch, its going to hurt your brand. Plain and simple.
We are quick to forget that the most powerful companies in the world today build brands. Brands are built over time, by strategically planning each and every aspect of the customer experience, continually improving them all. Brands are not created through flash sales. They are built slowly but surely, one experience at a time, one customer at a time.
Next time you think about your packaging, it's time to consider when your customer is going to be seeing your packaging. This will help dictate what you want to choose for your packaging. As a general summary, offline should focus on selling, whereas online should focus on brand building.