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packaging design

How packaging design can reassure consumers

Posted on August 20th, 2020 in Industry News

From health concerns to the growth of ecommerce, consumer habits have changed significantly in 2020, precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic and the longer-term uncertainty ahead.

As well as providing the type of products their customers want, brands also need to make sure they’re marketing them effectively with packaging that speaks to current concerns and pain points.

Addressing health concerns

Health has been a priority for shoppers during COVID-19 and likely after, with increasing sales for health and wellness products such as natural food and beverages and supplements, particularly those containing vitamin C, zinc and immunity-boosting products.

Attentive brands have responded by adding these sought-after features to their products or emphasising their presence on packaging, helping them to stand out from competitors. Products can also receive a boost from including more general wellness-related terms on packaging (such as ‘relaxing,’ ‘soothing’ and ‘stress relief’), which speak to many customers’ needs in these difficult times.

Including endorsements from health authorities can also make products more appealing, as long as these are valid and don’t breach the strict advertising guidelines for misleading health claims, or this could lead to expensive product recalls and other penalties.

Safe materials

Packaging materials have taken on more importance for consumers during the pandemic, which has seen sturdy single-use plastics coming back into fashion as a hygienic option for lowering the risk of infection and also giving consumers peace of mind.

As the health crisis eases, it’s expected that demand for sustainable packaging will return, though packaging will still need to be sturdy enough for shipping and consumers will still want the assurance that contamination risks are being minimised. Developing materials that satisfy all of these demands will be a priority of research and development in the packaging industry.

Appealing imagery

Good packaging practice hasn’t changed, and many consumers still base their purchases on how attractive an item looks over the competition. What has changed is people’s regular buying habits, with many trying out new foods and pharmaceutical products for the first time, drawn by their health benefits, better value for money or due to the necessity of having to do more home cooking in lockdowns.

Packaging design should appeal to these newcomers without alienating regular buyers. More effective than a full graphics rebrand can be updating product photos, especially for food serving suggestions to present customers with an accurate (if aspirational) look at what they’re about to buy. Whether companies use photography or graphics, the quality and professionalism of these images will directly reflect on their brand.

Keep it simple

Less is more when it comes to making all-important first impressions on new customers, especially in the age of ecommerce when packaging designs are often reduced to a thumbnail image on a phone screen, which still need to make the same impact as when an item is handled in a brick and mortar store.

Brands should identify the most important messages they want to convey and avoid cluttering the front of packaging with too much text. Further details can be included on the back of the packaging or read through the customer’s smartphone via QR codes or other smart packaging features.

Communicating value

While health concerns are the priority for many consumers, worries about the recession and loss of income have also made price a more important deciding factor for many households, and this is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future.

Brands that are competing on price or value for money should express this through packaging, both for attracting new customers and informing occasional purchasers about current offers. A simple design aesthetic can carry associations of budget without necessarily suggesting lower quality.

Emotional connections

The best packaging designs do more than just summarise the contents. They connect with consumers on a personal level to make deeper, more lasting impressions, encouraging memorability and brand loyalty. To achieve this success, brands and packaging manufacturers may have to work with professional design agencies that know how to market effectively to today’s consumers.

Colour plays a key role in highlighting ingredients or setting the desired mood. Brands can successfully leverage the psychology of colour for stronger associations with health and wellness (green), relaxation (blue), budget prices (bold primary colours) and other effects.

One recent Australian packaging success story that achieved these goals was Coles’ Own Brand confectionery range, for which independent design agency Hulsbosch was awarded first place and two silvers in design awards in the US and UK. The range differentiates each product through easily recognisable colours and friendly faces that appeal to its young audience.

Whether brands hire a design agency or handle their packaging rebrand themselves, market research is essential to learn what appeals to their target customers and what problems they can help them to solve.


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