Imagine the following scenario: you ordered a luxury candle from an online home goods brand but when it arrives, you’re at a loss for words.
To start with, the box is completely unbranded — if you didn’t see the brand’s name on the tiny return address sticker, you never would have known where it was from. Plus, the thin, flimsy cardboard has already been crushed on one end. Not a good sign.
When you open up the box, your lovely candle is just free-floating, surrounded by a few, meager packing peanuts. A return slip has been haphazardly shoved inside and you’re a bit worried about what looks like a scratch on the glass of the candle.
The cherry on top? The candle itself is completely bare — no branded sticker or tag in sight. And to make matters worse, there’s no thank you note or personalized message of any kind. This candle could truly be from anyone.
All in all — shockingly bad packaging. To be fair, the candle smells amazing and is exactly what you were looking for. But when considering whether or not you’ll order from this brand again, it’s a strong no.
Moral of the story? Brand packaging matters. And not just for aesthetic and brand identity reasons — it has an effect on your brand’s sustainability and accessibility, as well as your brand experience. All of which affect your company’s most important KPI — revenue.
So, let’s discuss the myriad reasons why brand packaging matters in 2022 and how you can ensure your brand is getting it right.
What is Brand Packaging?
Brand packaging is exactly what it sounds like — the container, protective packing, and any additional branded materials that come with an online purchase. In many ways, it’s a consumer’s first real, hands-on experience with an online brand.
But — for many years — brand packaging was an afterthought. After all, if your delivery is speedy and your products high-quality, do the shipping boxes you use really make a difference? Thankfully, we now know that it very much does.
According to a 2021 survey from Dotcom Distribution, there are a few important packaging components that make US consumers want to shop from brands online:
42% want sustainable packaging
34% want free samples
6% want gift-like packaging
5% want a personal note
14% want something “other”
Based on this data, we can see that the most important factor for consumers is sustainability — which is supported by data from bespoke packaging company Swiftpak.
According to their research, “74% of consumers indicated they would actually pay a higher amount for products that were contained within environmentally safe and sustainable packaging.” Clearly, the sustainability and eco-friendly nature of a brand’s packaging does have an impact on sales and revenue.
Add in the rapid growth of eCommerce over the last two years in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and it’s understandable that both consumers and brands have doubled down on the importance of brand packaging.
According to Holly Adams’ 2021 article “Packaging trends in 2021 and beyond”:
“2021 packaging is being made with the focus of deliverable suitability – meaning sturdy and supportive casing in order to protect the contents, but also quality materials and trendy designs to make the eventual receiving of the product all the more pleasurable.”
Clearly, modern brand packaging is about more than just ensuring a product arrives safely — it’s part of the larger brand experience. But how, exactly, does brand packaging impact consumer experience? Let’s discuss.
How Does Brand Packaging Impact Consumer Experience?
Before the arrival of online eCommerce, most people visited brick-and-mortar stores to make purchases. They were able to see, touch — even smell — possible purchases. They could speak directly with sales associates about products’ benefits and drawbacks, and take in their surroundings.
In-person shopping was and is a personal, in-depth brand experience.
Ordering products online is an entirely different experience. Consumers use the internet to research an item they want and, without ever physically seeing or touching said item, buy it.
Thus, a good deal of ordering products and services online is faith-based — whether that means believing the brands themselves or the positive social proof of other clients. If you’re a new customer, you have to hope and trust that you’ll be impressed with your purchase.
So, how do online brands entice consumers to make a purchase? Sure, there are attention-grabbing ads, exclusive discounts, and convincing website copy — they all do their part.
But one of the most important factors is branded product packaging.
According to Inc., every year, 95% of new products fail due to the fact that most consumers judge them based on first impressions alone. And while that might not be the best news for up-and-coming brands, it’s just human nature.
If a consumer is comparing two products from different brands — both with similar functions and customer reviews — in the end, they’re most likely to pick the one with better presentation packaging.
According to Swiftpak, presentation packaging is “a collection of techniques and processes that goes beyond just an ordinary box, it’s all about re-thinking the package and turning it into a piece of art.”
Though investing time and money into branded product packaging may seem like a chore to some, it’s actually an opportunity to better connect with and impress modern customers.
For example, brands that want to earn or maintain a reputation for being sustainable in order to impress their target audiences should use eco-friendly packaging materials and practices.
Another reason to focus on brand packaging is to increase accessibility. Brands that pride themselves on being inclusive and accessible can’t just be so on their websites. It needs to be consistent throughout their entire brand experience — and that includes packaging.
For example, let’s pretend you’re the product manager of an online brand that sells organic cleaning products. For most consumers, your product labels are enough to identify what is what.
But what about blind and visually impaired customers? How would they differentiate between your products? After all, no one wants to be using glass cleaner on wood.
In this case, it would make sense to include a form of braille labeling for your product packaging. Whether it’s on the bottles themselves or as removable tags, it would make your products far more accessible to all.
At the end of the day, high-quality brand packaging provides another opportunity to share your brand story with consumers. And i’s about more than just consistent brand colors, imagery, and fonts — it’s about the common thread that runs through your entire experience.
That way, from the first time a customer lands on your website or social media profile to the moment they open their package, their experience is consistent and uniquely yours.
3 Companies That Are Acing Brand Packaging (+ Tips)
When it comes to brands that have thought up amazing brand packaging solutions, a few big-time names come to mind.
Think Tiffany’s and their iconic robin’s egg blue boxes and bags. You see this color and immediately know the brand in question.
Or consider the Chanel No. 5 bottle. It’s immediately recognizable and unique to the Chanel aesthetic. In fact — at this point — it’s part of the product’s allure.
However, most brands are decades away from the levels of brand awareness those examples possess. So, instead, we’ll discuss three mid-sized brands that are acing their brand packaging — plus provide tips other brands can use to improve their own.
1. Get Creative, like Thelma’s Treats
When it comes to absolutely nailing brand packaging, look no further than Thelma’s Treats. A US company based out of Des Moines, Iowa, this inventive brand's cookies come in custom packaging — aka an iconic and memorable “Oven Box”.
Made to look like a retro oven, the package opens on the front side and the cookies slide out on sheets, just as they would from an actual oven. It’s fun, quirky, and plays on consumers' nostalgia. A true brand packaging home run.
Now, think about what it feels like to take warm, fresh cookies out of the oven. The smell, the anticipation. Does that feeling usually translate to opening a plastic package of Oreos? No. (Though Oreos are still great.)
The design of the “Oven Box” evokes those thoughts and memories for customers. It reminds them of youthful treats and the thrill of a fresh-baked goodie — making unboxing this package an integral part of their brand experience.
The Takeaway: When it comes to your brand packaging, don’t be afraid to get creative. You want consumers to remember your brand — remember how it made them feel.
Unique, fun brand packaging is one great way to do just that. So, if it falls in line with your brand image and identity, it’s time to think outside the box.
2. Keep It Simple, like Huel
Sometimes, simple really is better. And when you take a look at health & nutrition brand Huel’s packaging, it’s clear that this is a mantra the brand lives by.
Bold, sleek, and minimalistic, Huel’s brand packaging serves as an extension of its brand identity. How do we know this? Just consider Huel’s mission:
“To make nutritionally complete, convenient, affordable food, with minimal impact on animals and the environment.”
It’s clear and to the point — no fluff, no hype. Exactly like the packaging seen above.
And this simple, clean approach extends to the brand’s external packaging as well. Huel’s deliveries arrive in a matte, all-black box — with “Huel” featured prominently on the top and sides.
When opened, all the contents have been arranged with thought and care — everything has its place. Each product is clearly labeled and easy to identify, allowing consumers to also view the brand itself as easy to use and convenient.
In the end, Huel’s brand packaging’s success is rooted in its simplicity and sleek, no-fuss design. Positioning itself as a practical, smart choice, Huel is a great example for brands looking to connect with similar target audiences.
The Takeaway: For many brands, simplicity is the key. It’s easy to get caught up in branding and design trends — to want to stay up to date and modern. But you have to consider if the latest styles really suit your brand identity.
As a brand, Huel knows who it is and what it represents — and its brand packaging does a great job of reinforcing its values. When choosing your own brand packaging, keep your mission, values, and goals in mind.
If you don’t, you might end up with a visually pleasing but disjointed brand experience.
3. Prioritize Your Values, like Patagonia
Patagonia is a brand that’s well-known for its sustainability initiatives. A self-labeled “activist brand”, Patagonia has never shied away from addressing tough issues — even when it’s rubbed some consumers the wrong way.
Recently, Patagonia chose to redesign its packaging for its Baselayer clothing line as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility efforts. For this new “rightsized” packaging, they wanted a design that upheld their brand values — something sustainable, eco-friendly, and practical.
They ended up with an ingenious hexagonal box design — space efficient and easily stackable, this option “reduces air space in the packaging, and thus the materials used.” Not only does this design allow for more efficient shipping, but it also makes in-store stocking easier. Win-win.
The Takeaway: Keep in mind, excellent brand packaging isn’t just about pretty designs and on-brand color schemes. It’s about function and values.
When you look at your brand packaging as an extension of your brand experience and an opportunity to enhance your brand story, you’ll be able to find more functional, creative ways to integrate it.
So, when coming up with your brand packaging design, remember to let your values guide you and think unconventionally.
Brand packaging is so much more than the materials that hold and transport your products. It’s a chance to emotionally connect with customers, strengthen your brand values, and elevate your brand storytelling.
However, it’s important that you keep your target audiences’ values and perceptions in mind when designing your brand packaging. After all, you need to know what’s important to them to deliver brand packaging they’ll love and connect with.
That’s why we recommend using brand monitoring software. With access to reliable, nuanced consumers data and insights, you’ll know exactly which direction to take your brand packaging in 2022.