To create great packaging it helps to know what you want to avoid as well as what you want to include. Here are seven common packaging mistakes and how you can avoid them.
Trendy instead of Trend Setting
It’s tempting to go with the latest and greatest in package design but brands need think long-term. They need a look that’s both attractive, fresh and long lasting. With that in mind, package designers must be up-to-date on trends, and yet have some sense of classic aesthetics.
How to avoid this mistake: If you’re working with an outside firm, do your research, look at their previous projects, see how lasting the images and layout feel to your eyes and mind. For in-house design don’t get caught up in what’s new but instead focus on your brand identity and the long-term reputation you are looking to build with consumers. Create designs that will make you the leader of the pack instead of one of its many members. When all else fails, simpler is better.
Which brings us to our next mistake, packaging that is visually complicated or busy. You know that excessive wording on products by the Dr. Bronner soap company? They have made the deluge of words a trademark, but for most companies such a visual overload doesn’t go over well with their customers.
How to Avoid this mistake: Use a limited number of typefaces and choose from the same font family so there will be a flow from title to instructions to ingredients. Even on Dr. Bronner’s packaging, certain size typography draws customers attention to important information. Make sure the visual focus of your label is obvious.
Also ensure that all images and wording are clear and readable. According to a survey by The BenchMarking Company, consumers consider clear writing on labels as an important factor in their decision to purchase them. Use white space to give the consumer a break from visual overload. The strategic use of white space is often more important than the actual words on a piece of packaging.
There is nothing more infuriating than purchasing something that you need a buzz saw to open. This phenomenon is so commonplace it’s been labeled Wrap Rage. The same frustration can be said for products whose ability to be stored or resealed is tacitly impossible and that end up requiring another container just to keep them (think Philadelphia cream cheese in the aluminum wrapper).
How to Avoid this mistake: Think about the customer experience BEFORE you design your packaging. Commit to creating something easy to open, easy to use, and easy to store later. While it’s understandable that some items require packaging safety guards to keep them from easily opening, vitamins or apples do not have to be on that list.
Lookalikes with your Competition
While you might get the occasional dollar from mistaken identity, as a general rule packaging should distinguish your company from your competitors. Immediately recognizable packaging essentially builds recognition of your brand. You want to be sure your unique image shines through on the shelves.
How to Avoid this Mistake: Take a look at your competitors’ products before you decide on a final design for your packaging. Make sure your images are unique and not images that may have been used in your competitor’s ads or package design.
Excessive and Unnecessary
Packaging waste is one of the biggest contributors to overall waste worldwide. In 2017, over 170 kilos of packaging waste was produced per resident in the EU, a number that only continues to grow. Customers have become more eco-savvy. They are looking for companies that come to provide the quality they want while also having an eye on their carbon footprint.
How to Avoid this Mistake: If you are dreaming up new packaging, take the impact of its waste as seriously as you do the colors and typefaces you choose. Think about eco-friendly alternatives that could work for your product. Evaluate the methods used to make your packaging and how you might be able to make the end product more recyclable. Once you have made an eco-conscious choice don’t be afraid to advertise that fact to your customers. Research shows that today’s consumer is more willing to buy from companies that support their social and ethical commitments.
Not Properly Proofread
How can you trust a company with your body and what you put in it if they can’t even take the time to make sure their packaging is mistake-free? The answer for most is that you can’t. (This rule also goes for websites and other promotional spaces!) Errors in spelling, imagery or placement on your packaging can be expensive and embarrassing. Don’t let easy-to-remedy mistakes damage your brand’s image.
How to Avoid this Mistake: Check, Check, and Check again. It’s always important to have a proofing process that includes various sets of eyes going over the final design of your packaging. Read your packaging out loud to make sure it makes sense. Look at the final placement of elements and make sure nothing comes out looking suggestive or silly. You don’t want to end up a meme on the internet.
The fatal, yet well-known story of Tropicana’s attempt at changing their packaging is a lesson to brands that have been in the public eye for a long time and have a dedicated market of consumers. There are benefits to refreshing your look (and sometimes it’s absolutely necessary) but don’t scrap all of the common visual clues that let your customers know that you are you.
How to Avoid this Mistake: Think of the already distinctive elements of your packaging design. Are you known for a combination of colors? Or a particular image, photo or logo? Hold on to those tried and true symbols and simply tweak your design to add a little freshness. For established brands, design changes that are slow and incremental tend to work better than abrupt and total.