Your product's packaging serves several purposes: to provide functionality (containing breakfast cereal, for example), to protect the product during transport and shipping, and to appeal to customers who are making a purchasing decision. Despite all of your marketing efforts, the product packaging is the “silent salesperson” that holds the key to the moment of truth when the customer decides whether to buy…or not to buy.

Here are some tips for developing product packaging that enhances your brand and helps make the sale.

Consider how your product is sold.

Your packaging needs will vary depending on whether your product is sold to consumers in a retail location, wholesaled to resellers or sold to consumers online (where it can’t be physically touched). If your product is sold in a retail store, the packaging is extremely important, as it helps your product stand out from the competition.

Assess the competition’s packaging.

Before designing your product packaging, visit the locations where your product will be sold, and look at the types of packaging your competitors have. Note what you like and don’t like. How can you make your product stand out on crowded shelves? The more competitors you face, the more important your packaging is in telling your brand story.

Make it the same, but different.

Product packaging that is too different from that of your competitors can confuse customers about what you're actually selling. For example, if you’re selling breakfast cereal, it needs to be in a box or bag. Cereal packaged in a plastic bottle that looks like laundry detergent may break the mold, but it won’t attract customers either (unless you have an enormous marketing budget). Choose a packaging shape that fits the industry standard, and then use visual design elements to make it stand out.

Keep it simple.

In most cases, simple packaging design will stand out best. Consumers comparing products don't spend a lot of time doing so — typically, they just perform a quick visual scan of the shelves or racks in the store. “Simple” doesn’t necessarily mean minimal—Dr. Bronner’s organic products, for example, have packaging that’s quite busy, but “reads” simple from a distance.

Be consistent.

Your product packaging should incorporate the same colors, font/s, logo and tagline as your other marketing materials, so that when prospective customers look at the package, it’s immediately identifiable as being your brand.

Don't forget the basics.

Every product package should include:

  • Your business website’s URL
  • A phone number to contact your business
  • You can also include your business address, if desired
  • Any information required by law (such as nutrition information for a food product)

Use the fine print to fill out your brand story.

Once the overall package has grabbed the customer's attention, it's time to fill in the details. Use smaller type on the back or side of your package to share a little bit about what makes your brand unique — whether that's your socially responsible approach to business, your all-natural ingredients or your fourth-generation family business.

Choose packaging materials wisely.

The actual materials used in packaging are as important as the design elements. For example, if your brand is environmentally friendly, use packaging that’s recyclable and/or made from recycled materials. If you sell artisanal jams based on your great-grandmother's recipe, packaging it in traditional Mason jars labeled with plain brown paper can convey its homespun nature. On the other hand, if you sell a high-tech product, sleek and minimal packaging (think Apple) will appeal to the target audience.

Get professional help.

Unless you have graphic design and marketing expertise, product packaging is best left to professionals. Experienced packaging designers can not only incorporate all of your brand elements into the packaging in a unique and effective way, but they can also make sure that your packaging meets all of the requirements for industry/government regulations, product protection and functionality. 

Group of diverse people working on packaging design of a product