Packaging materials can make or break your brand

December 15, 2016

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What do companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, Toyota and Nike have in common? They've mastered branding. Their logos are easily recognizable, and consumers expect a certain quality when they purchase items with these labels. There are many facets that go into building a business identity, and the value of packaging materials should not be underestimated in this endeavor.

Why brands matter

In order to focus on brand-enhancing strategies, companies must first understand the importance of creating a strong identity. As the Economist explained, it's not unheard of to invest billions of dollars in branding, as this marketing facet can enhance customer loyalty. In fact, according to data from Access Development, 69 percent of millennials cite brand recognition as the most critical component to earning their loyalty. This not only leads to greater sales, but it allows companies to charge premium prices for higher quality. When mistakes happen, well-loved brands are more easily forgiven than unrecognizable ones.

According to TimeTrade, 85 percent of consumers still prefer the in-person experience of shopping in brick-and-mortar stores as opposed to online shopping. Beyond just offering an opportunity to get out of the house, shopping in stores allows customers to put their hands on the product. They use all of their senses when making purchasing decisions, and how the product is packaged can make all the difference.

The basics

Imagine consumers receiving their $600 iPhone in a plastic bag with no stability to support or protect the product. What would happen if a person's favorite shampoo proved too difficult to squeeze out of the bottle? Whatever companies sold those items would suffer a blow to their brand thanks to poor packaging choices. While aesthetic appeal matters, it's hardly the only element that goes into Packaging Design. Any experienced Packaging Engineer knows it begins with the basics: fit, form and function.

These concepts apply to both primary and secondary packaging, and designers of the latter casing need to know everything they can about the primary package. This way, they can create a label, carton or other form of packaging that - at the least - does not conflict with the primary package.

Let's take shampoo bottles as an example. These items must be made of a pliable material so consumers can squeeze the container to access the product. If the bottle was made of a rigid material like polyester, the consumer would be standing in the shower shaking the product until the shampoo dripped out. This frustrating experience could easily prompt the individual to avoid buying that brand again. Meanwhile, a company that uses a more squeezable material, like an MDO-polyethylene blend, would allow for ease of use and earn greater customer satisfaction.

A secondary Packaging Engineer must know exactly what material is used to produce the bottle to create an appropriate label. Some polymers react well with adhesive systems, while others do not. Additionally, secondary packaging designers have to understand the product's applications. A shampoo bottle sits in the shower, so the material must be able to withstand water exposure.

Decorative technologies

Brand recognition is key to building customer loyalty, and Carton Packaging that blends into the background can't possibly become a familiar sight to consumers. As such, the packaging must not only meet fit, form and function basics, but it must also stand out on the shelves and draw customers in to pick up the product. Packaging engineers make this happen through decorative features.

There are several big trends in decorative material, one of which is holographic design. The bright, shiny surface is eye-catching and gives a premium, almost futuristic vibe befitting a brand that embraces innovation. Meanwhile, metallic materials, while not as reflective, offer several options for giving the package an attractive glisten. Two popular methods include hot stamps and cold foil stamps, each of which offer their own benefits.

How additions like metallic paper are placed on packaging makes a difference, too. For instance, some companies choose a matte finish and use metallic material only on their logo. This is ideal for a company with a brand that speaks volumes about the product.

Brands would do well to consider more senses than just vision when designing packaging, particularly touch. Inviting consumers to hold the product can make them more attached to a brand, building customer loyalty. As Harvard Business Review explained, when individuals hold a product, they inherently feel a sense of ownership and safety. This connection not only sparks a shopper-to-brand relationship, but it also drives sales.

Of course, this requires the appropriate packaging materials. Something as simple as glosses can change how a product feels in a shopper's hands. However, those aiming to really appeal to the sense of touch might go with a bolder choice. For instance, raised varnishes provide a tactile sensation, and packaging engineers can perform certain coding to give the surface a velvet-like feel.

That said, flashy isn't always the best avenue. For companies that sell more natural products, perhaps over-the-counter vitamins or mineral-based makeup, a holographic image sends a superficial message. Rather, packaging can embody the brand by incorporating more natural colors and plainer features. 

Consumer safety

A single safety incident can destroy a brand's reputation, which means companies must ensure their packaging is designed in a way that reveals tamper evidence. This is especially beneficial in the pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries.

Often, this type of safety requires multiple layers of technology. A qualified packaging partner can create the package in a way that reveals whether it has been opened without sacrificing design principles. For instance, packaging engineers may use resealable tabs that showcase tamper evidence but don't interfere with the package's function. That is, consumers would be able to spot if the package had been opened, but they could also open and close a tab, lid or carton for easy, safe storage.

Effective packaging is critical for brand success, and companies that want to rise to the top must ensure their products are encased in functional, appropriate, attractive and safe material.

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