The medium is the message.
How smaller brands can use packaging to tell their brand story and capture market share.
There is no doubt that consumers are interested in supporting products and brands that tell a unique story and exemplify lifestyle or value-based ideals. There is a compelling space for designers in all of this to help brands capture market share by differentiating themselves through packaging and storytelling.
Fuelled by a maker-inspired culture of DIY, short-run printing, the online accessibility of jars, bottles, and bags, and an overall return to quality-crafted, mercantile type retailing, it is easier than ever for start-ups to enter the market. With this ubiquity of products and accessibility of markets beyond the face-to-face of market stalls, packaging becomes the medium that allows consumers to interact with the brand.
Local coffee roasters and purveyor’s have led the way with on-package storytelling. A unique label or complementary ‘rubber stamp’ and the selection of the right bag or package all add to the tactile and sensory experience of coffee culture. Shoppers can signal that they subscribe to the same values and belong to a tribe by purchasing products. The purchase decision allows shoppers to take this piece of culture and art home with them, to integrate the piece into their own home and share the feeling created.
Signaling to fellow tribe members through carefully designed packaging is key to capturing market share for lifestyle brands. The packaging is a canvas to to tell story of the brand: the philosophy, processes and mission, that underscore the product.
When you pick up a package from ACE coffee roasters the experience begins with a teasing question: “Why ACE?” The unique story of each roast as an expression of a bigger set of values and ideas. All that in a resealable foil bag.
Good package design taps into human ideals, not trends. It conveys the authenticity and provenance of the product, as well as feeding inherent desires for nostalgia, identity, belonging, and other personal values of anyone who comes to contact with it.
The packaging provides a connection between the humans who created the product and those that purchase it.
As we move towards new frontiers of product development, packaging becomes an integral way for fledgling specialty brands to differentiate and capitalize on the value of the assets they produce. Yes — behind the commodity side of food, beverage, or even cannabis products, the brand itself is intellectual property.
We worked with Thanh Thanh to create a line of asian condiments that are a take-home extension of the experience you have in their bricks and mortar space. For Cerabeta, MightyDrop, and Microbix, the packaging designs instil confidence and demonstrate the science and reasoning behind the products’ chemistry. Simultaneously, the packaging articulates features and benefits that mean something to the end user.
Package design is an exercise in restrictions and designing inside the box (pardon the obvious pun). Food and pharma package designs come with a plethora of government guidelines to keep in mind. Practical requirements for bar codes, ingredient lists, directions, and content weight must be accomodated. In Canada, we must also consider French and English labelling requirements if a package is to make it on to store shelves. The required elements don’t leave us a lot of ‘canvas’ left for storytelling.
While the big-league of mass consumer retailing narrows the creative possibility of the package itself, specialty brands have a bit more opportunity to play. With that, we often ask ourselves: How might the package support a broader narrative and be integrated into the space it occupies, not just on the shelf but in the mind of the customer.