The Impact of Good and Bad Package Design

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How effective is your package as a silent sales person?

How often have you bought a package based on the design, never having tried it before? I’m guilty! If I like the design, I’ll buy it. With so much choice in grocery and retail stores today, package design must work even harder to ‘woo’ us.

There are of course times when my decision is outweighed by a tried and true brand or a ‘must’ purchase. As a seasoned shopper, I have grown up with a multitude of brands and packaging I have come to know and trust that affect my purchase habits. Kraft makes the best peanut butter. Heinz makes the best ketchup and I trust Campbell’s soups.

Over the years, these brands have updated their packaging to improve their appeal and ensure they don’t get lost or forgotten in the plethora of packages!

What Makes a Well-designed Package?

What’s involved in developing a new or updated package design? How do you ensure your packaging stands out and has purchase power? In other words, how effective will it be as your silent sales person?

Design is a critical stage in package development, but it’s the brand positioning and strategic planning prior to design that play an even greater role in crafting the message, direction and overall design approach.

While every project is different, there are design and strategy fundamentals that will always set the parameters by which the package will be designed. Here are a few considerations:

  1. Who is your customer? Who will buy this product and why?
  2. Are there competitive products? Is your product any different? How?
  3. Does your product require government approvals? Are there environmental considerations?
  4. Are there manufacturing limitations?
  5. How will the package be printed? Litho, Flexo, Die sublimation?
  6. Will photography or illustration be required?
  7. How many languages are required? Canadian packaging must be bilingual. Many packages abroad are trilingual.
  8. How will your product be supported at retail? Point-of-purchase? Ad campaign? Promotion? Website? All?

Important Considerations that Impact Design

Once these questions are answered and the direction is created, the fun begins for the designer! Developing concepts requires thoughtful selection of colours, fonts and imagery to suit the character and personality of the brand. As concepts evolve, here are important considerations that will impact the design.

Clarity and Simplicity

Canadian packaging must be bilingual and this can be challenging. It leaves less room for creativity, especially when French can often be one and half times the length of English. It’s like a puzzle and a good designer will make sure all the information is clear and concise, appeals to the eye and is graphically balanced!


Competitive products will provide some reference, but this is a chance to introduce something new and take over the shelf space – not share it! A good designer will think differently and challenge the status quo. The two package designs below are perfect examples.

A household cleaner with professional strength is communicated in a clever ‘weight-style’ package design that visually delivers the message! U by Kotex launched a brand new bold and youthful look for their feminine hygiene products that stood out at retail in the sea of pastel colours their competitors used. This packaging approach was strategically planned and executed brilliantly!

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Design Elements

Colours, fonts, photos and illustrations must be carefully selected to bring a package to life and tell a visual story about the product, as well as enhancing the brand. Below are two great cases.

Cadbury Buttons is an excellent example of the use of illustration in such a fun and simple way. I can’t resist buying these! Coca-Cola has so much brand equity; they can afford the luxury of taking creative liberties with their logo. Again, they are simple and fun and hard to resist. By the way, I prefer Coke to Pepsi

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Multiple Products

When a product has multiple flavours or varieties, this impacts the design. Consideration must be given to how each will be distinguished from one another. Is the product itself able to do the job (as with the teas below), where the beverage clearly shows the unique flavor? Or in the case of the gourmet popcorn boxes (seen right), colour, pattern and photography all play a role in differentiation, yet create a unified family of products.

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Shelf Support

Your package could have an award-winning design, but unless it is supported by additional marketing efforts, it may never be noticed and sales will be low. This support might include a coupon, display or cross-promotion with a complimentary product. And don’t forget, consumers will want to learn more about your product and will search online for information, so a website presence is a must!

Strategically thinking about how all of these activities will support your product and drive sales at store level, and within what timeframe, will be best organized through the development of a marketing plan. It may include a multitude of traditional media (such as magazine advertisements, billboards, radio or point-of-purchase support), as well as social media channels which offer a direct opportunity to engage with your customer through updates, coupons, or promotions

Package Design Doesn’t Have to be a Daunting Task

Package development may seem like a daunting task with so many considerations, but it doesn’t have to be. By working with right advertising agency whose experience can help make the process easier, you’ll create that perfect silent salesperson in no time. One who’s designed for success!

The Fine Print - Mr. Clean is a registered trademark of Procter & Gamble, U by Kotex is a registered trademark of Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc., Coca-Cola is a registered trademark of The Coca-Cola Company, Dairy Milk is a registered trademark of Cadbury.

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