You’ve spent a lot of time and effort creating an incredible product that ticks all of the boxes … but what about your packaging? Have you thought about what it will look like when you wrap it up and send it to your customer? And if you have, are you making sure it’s strategic?
This week Whitney Zimmermann, Founder of packaging and brand design studio the WildHive, joins us to talk all things strategic packaging. We deep dive into the 3 pillars you need to implement when coming up with your product packaging and how to use the box your product comes wrapped in as a key marketing tool to encourage word-of-mouth advertising from your customer.
Whitney Zimmermann is the Founder of the WildHive Studio, a packaging and brand design studio that artfully curates strategic brands for ambitious eCommerce businesses so they can stand out with confidence, connect with their customers, and generate buzz around their brand.
Typically, I say that pretty doesn’t equal profit because I don’t want you to get caught up in the weeds of everything in the background, but when we are talking about product packaging, obviously it matters.
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The 3 pillars of strategic packing design
That means you’re getting noticed in the midst of your industry competitors.
After you’ve obtained the attention of your customers and they’ve made a purchase, you want to create an emotional experience so that your customers connect with your brand and your products on a deeper level.
The customer has made a purchase, and they feel connected to your brand. Now you just need to inspire them to share your product on social media with their friends, family, and followers. That free word-of-mouth referral can ultimately expand your reach and lead.
How do you approach creating memorable packaging?
Understand your brand identity
This is really where that strategic part comes in. Strategic and memorable packaging really starts with your brand identity. Before creating a brand identity (your logos, your fonts or colors, all the visual assets) you need to take a deep look at your competitors because you’re up against what their products look like.
Understand your ideal client
You also need to get a deep understanding of who your ideal audience is. What type of people really need your product and really vibe with what your brand stands for, and then to have a deep understanding of your own brand.
Your brand’s personality, values, mission, vision, all that good stuff. That’s the information that our studio then takes and builds a brand identity out of. Then we translate that into your packaging to create something that was literally designed to help you stand out.
Know where your product will be sold
If you have a physical product that you plan on selling in someone else’s store, your packaging is the only thing you really have to catch their attention.
If you’re an eCommerce business, you’re going to have pictures of your product and your packaging, which is going to be the basis for all the content that you create. So you definitely want to make sure that you have that memorable piece.
How do you tap into the emotional experience when it comes to packaging?
Remember: People buy with emotion and justify with logic.
Creating an emotional experience with packaging comes back to your brand strategy.
You came up with a really clear customer profile of who is actually buying or who is most likely to buy your product—their age range, if they’re male or female, or what they like to do, where they make their purchasing decisions, ect. By understanding who those people are, you can then create something that speaks to them on a crystal clear level.
For example, many people want their packaging to feel special, so you need to know—are they a girly-girl? Are they really sporty? What age are they? All these things factor into which design decisions you’re going to make.
Once you understand that, you can dive into the packaging itself and you can start determining what is written on the product, or how you want them to feel when they receive their package on their doorstep. Using your packaging is a great price of real estate to include encouraging messages or to talk about what your brand stands for.
I’ve seen a lot of brands who focus on sustainability or ethically sourcing their ingredients and they are really verbal about it. They know they have a really passionate group of consumers out there who find their stuff because of those values. There are a lot of different ways you can connect with your consumers on an emotional level using your packaging.
How do you create a sensory experience with packaging? Is it the colors? Is it the font? Are there other ways that you can engage the senses?
In the luxury space, or in skincare, you see packaging that engages the senses a lot because you want it to feel really luxurious and memorable and fancy. It feels really special because you’re paying more for it in a lot of cases.
That’s partially where you spend more on materials because you want a nice sturdy box or something that has a soft feeling to it. You’re going to want quality paper inserts or tissue paper or ribbons—all those delicate materials that help you create that sensory experience.
If we’re talking about any brand in general, no matter what industry you’re in, I would say that a thank you card or some sort of handwritten note goes a really long way to show the customer appreciation or connecting with your customers.
There are some really clever and creative things you can incorporate in your packaging, which make it a really effective marketing tool that turns first-time buyers into repeat customers.
Check out episode 99 of the podcast, where Brian Burke talks about his growth and how he continues to treat his customers the same no matter how big he gets.
How do you create effective shareable packaging?
Referrals and word of mouth are not dead. You need people to be talking about you and one way that you can capitalize on that is through “shareable” packaging.
Include a call to action on your packaging
You can either do this on the box itself or on an additional paper insert. Give them a clear path to engage with you though something like a branded hashtag or direct links to your social media.
Encourage them to share the product with your branded hashtag or a chance to be featured on your Instagram page. Encourage them to tag you in their Instagram stories or on TikTok when they share your product so you can feature them.
QR codes are a great tool
You can scan a QR code and it’ll send them directly to the product page where they can leave a really awesome review for your product.
Use your packaging to create a very clear next step for your happy customer
You’re taking that excitement they’re feeling and really encouraging them to take action that will ultimately benefit your business and keep bringing in more people.
If you’re just getting started with strategic packaging, I want to set your expectations. This will not revolutionize your business overnight. It’s playing the long game. It’s going to take a bit of time.
When is the right time for a brand to invest in custom packaging?
If you’re on a smaller scale or in the beginning stages of business, you don’t have to go all out, just take some little steps, even if it’s just buying a pre-designed poly mailer. Do something that helps create this memorable, emotional and shareable experience. Something that’s going to help your product stick out in the minds of your consumers.
When should an established business consider re-doing their packaging?
If you are a more seasoned business owner and perhaps you’re seeing a dip in sales or you’ve surveyed your customers and they say they’re not feeling connected with your brand—those are all really strong signs that it’s time to switch things up, not only visually but also behind the scenes with your strategy and how you’re approaching the visual presentation of your products.
Outsourcing can help you determine your weak points
When people seek outside help and want to outsource something, we all have a tendency to self-diagnose our problems. We can only see things from a certain view. We’re convinced that this thing over here is the number one problem in our business, but sometimes it’s not. Or sometimes it’s a lot of little things building up over time.
When we do the packaging design of an already established business, we take a completely new look at your business. We bring in those fresh eyes to revisit key things like, who are your competitors? Are there new competitors and businesses that have popped up in your industry? What do you think you stand for versus what you’re actually communicating?
We do a complete overhaul of the strategy and then we assess what actions design-wise need to be taken from there.
Sometimes it’s just minor changes to the brand identity, and then we can do packaging. Sometimes we have to completely redo the brand identity.
Whether you are hiring something out or you’re doing something yourself in-house, it doesn’t really matter. The process is the same. You have to just remove yourself from what you have been doing and see it from the outside. This is why so many of us struggle to do shit for ourselves, because we are just too close.
What are the next steps in terms of packaging for multi-six or multi-seven figure brands?
This depends on where you’re planning on taking your brand. You would need a refresh if you are making a shift in your business. For example, if you’re a candle company, but now you want to do gift boxes that include your candles and a variety of other products—that’s a big shift. You’re going to be attracting a different type of audience, which means you’re probably going to have to revisit your strategy, your brand design, and your packaging design in order to facilitate that change.
If you’re going through a change in your business or if you feel like you’re not connecting with your audience or your brand values have changed, you’re going to want to have a look at things. Think of it like visiting the doctor when something doesn’t feel quite right. You see what the professional says and then you go from there and see what you get prescribed.
How do you approach brands who sell wholesale vs online?
There’s definitely a different approach if you’re selling in stores or exclusively online, because that’s a different range of competitors.
In the online space, you want to be looking at a lot of other online brands and then some really popular hotspots where people would go to stores to buy their product.
However, if you’re going to be selling in stores, we want to look at what stores you think you’re going to be filling out. Is your product more of a Walmart product or a Whole Foods product?
Once we know that, I do some in-person research by going into those stores to see what’s there, taking pictures, seeing where your product might sit on the shelves, who it is up against, ect.
It’s about how you’re going to catch people’s eye on the shelves so that you stand out from everyone else while still being true to your brand and the customer you’re trying to serve.
What are some of the most common packaging mistakes you see people make?
1. Not caring about packaging at all
This is a major mistake. Unless you’re an Etsy seller or some sort of DIY brand, you really want to avoid that homemade look—this is especially true in the beauty or food space, because this is something we’re going to be putting on our skin or in our mouths.
2. Basic design mistakes
I’ve seen people try to design their own packaging, typically on Canva where the text comes out too small or way too big. It’s way too in your face and the colors aren’t printed right because they’re not adhering to Pantone printing standards, which are the world-wide color printing standards. Adhering to these ensures you can color match every single time you get your products printed.
3. A lack of strategic design
So many people have designs that look good, but are not strategic. I’ve seen a lot of brands who had a really beautiful brand aesthetic, but it just didn’t make sense. It was more to their personal preferences and wasn’t attracting the type of person who would like to buy that product.
The key takeaways from today’s episode
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
Think about your own experience as the consumer.
- What gets you to share with your friends and family?
- What gets you to take a picture of what you just bought and share it on social media?
Make it memorable, emotional and shareable
When you’re assessing how your products look and how you present your packaging, check for the three pillars.
- Is it memorable? Are you standing out?
- Is it emotional? Are you forming a connection with your customers?
- Is it shareable? Are you giving your customers a call to action by telling your customers what to do next and how to really participate with you with your brand and share your product?