Creative Functionality: Product Design and Packaging in Branding

I recently helped my oldest daughter with a math project.  Math is not one of my strengths, but fortunately, this was not complicated math.  The interesting thing about this project though is that its underlying them was about marketing.  The assignment was to design a creative new package and logo for “Yummy Candy Company”, a company that needed a new package to hold thirty-six pieces of fudge.  At ten years old, my daughter is learning about marketing through a geometry project.  Marketing and branding are everywhere.

Product packaging design is more important than many companies realize.  Many customers may choose to try a new product simply based on the product design alone.  This can even be a decision people make in a matter of seconds.  When faced with what seems to be a never ending stream of essentially the same products on the shelf at the grocery store, a consumer is most likely to choose the product that stands out the most.  So what makes a product stand out?  Good product design and creative packaging make a product stand out.  Product and package design are truly critical for a brand’s image.  Most of our purchases as consumers are actually based on our emotions.  According to Marty Neumeier in his book The Brand Gap, “A retail package is the last and best chance to make a sale.”

The human brain is inclined to categorize everything.  When we are faced with hundreds of products, all of which are quite similar, we categorized them based on the product design and packaging.  the design affects our emotions, and we make judgements.  This product is elegant.  That product is tacky.  This product looks cheap, but this one looks expensive and well-made.  The judgments we make about the products then affect our perceptions of the brands that manufacture those products.  In this way, customer loyalty can actually begin with good product design and packaging.  Your brand is only as good as consumers perceive it t be.

The Primary Functions of Product and Package Design

  • It is the physical representation of a brand’s identity, ideology, and personality.
  • It is a promotional tool, drawing attention to a brand among many other brands.
  • It implies the value of a brand, reflecting the perceived quality of the brand.
  • It also protects the product, which is important to remember when thinking of a good design.  A creative and unique design is not worth much if it is not also functional.
  • Sometimes people even keep cool, creative, or unique packages.  They might be used as souvenirs, collectibles or a source of storage, especially decorative tins and boxes.

First and foremost, you obviously need to be selling a quality product.  However, your product design and packaging choices will very much impact how consumers perceive the quality of your product.  You may very well have the best chocolate on the planet, but you are competing with thousands of other brands of chocolate.  Your packaging will make an enormous difference.  Consider this.  I am standing in the aisle at the grocery tore after a very long day, emotionally exhausting day.  I desperately want to indulge myself.  However, I am also incredibly socially conscious, and I want to purchase from a company that cares as much about humanity and the environment as I do.  How are you going to grab my attention with your brand of chocolate?  You have to tell me who your company is, what you care about, that your product is a quality product, and you still have to include the nutritional information so that I can be sure that I am not allergic to anything in your chocolate.  You must convey all of this information on your product’s package.  Additionally, I am incredibly tired on this particular day, and the store is out of the brand that I usually buy.  This is your company’s opportunity to gain a new customer.  How will you garner this new customer loyalty?  You will gain my loyalty first through product and packaging design.  You must get my attention, set yourself apart from your competition.  I am a customer who is uncertain of what she wants, so your product and packaging must be good enough to make me choose your brand.