What I’ve Learned About Packaging Design Projects

I’m knee deep in a packaging redesign and it got me thinking about things I’ve learned from past projects.  Over the course of my 10+ year marketing career, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a lot of interesting projects and in my opinion, a packaging design/redesign is a marketer’s most challenging responsibility.  It doesn’t get any bigger than planning and deciding what consumers see on the shelf. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of award-winning packaging designs, but I’ve also been a part of complete catastrophes.  Through this process, I’ve learned a few important things:

  1. Take your time – If you’re going to rush the design, just don’t do it.  You’ll be better off sticking to what you have or delaying the launch.  It really easy to fall into that trap of “well, we need the project finished by X date because the packaging vendor is paying for the set-up fees”  Believe me, I’ve been there.  But it’s not worth it.  Once that packaging hits the shelf, it’s part of the brand forever. There aren’t any “mulligans” in packaging.
  2. Complete redesigns don’t work – It’s really tempting to say “sales suck, so we need to reinvent the brand and give it a complete face-lift.”  Again, I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this one – and there is no better way to freak out of your sales team than to spit out a completely design that has no link to the brand icons and equities.  Make subtle improvements through time.  It costs more, but it’s way more effective.
  3. Let your sales people bitch about it – The good thing about about sales’ feedback is that they will look at it from a more functional standpoint.  Let them give you direction on the how it will fit in the shelf set and what the distributors/buyers look for.
  4. Go for it and don’t cut corners – Before you even think about spending money on anything else, you gotta get the packaging right.  If that means spending more on the packaging materials, so be it.  Take the money out of the advertising budget.
  5. Learn from others, but don’t copy – There are a lot of good ideas out there, so by all means learn from them.  But don’t ever try to knock off a brand that has been successful.  Consumers are too smart for that stuff and they’ll call you out on it.