One of the things I hear a lot from small and startup businesses is that deciding on product packaging is the most exciting and awaited part of the production process and business launch. What color to use, what size of the box or jar, how many inches from the lid should the logo sit. These are the thrilling questions that get thrown in the brainstorming process for packaging.
Unsurprisingly, it can also be the most nerve-wracking, and here’s why. Packaging has the smallest physical space but needs to work the hardest. With competition getting tighter, as a brand, you only have that microsecond to convince your ideal customer to grab your product from a sea of other somewhat similar products on the shelf. The wrong color, confusing label, illegible fonts, or awkward container can throw off your customer - and there goes the sale.
Regardless of your business size or how long you’ve been in the market, if you want to succeed in retail, hiring a professional package designer is an investment that pays off over the life of your brand. It’s something you simply can’t shrug off. Nor can you try to just wing it. What you invest in your packaging can make or break your brand in the retail environment.
Virginia Foodie Essentials:
Product packaging is one of the five places that a food brand controls its brand story.
Packaging is your silent salesman. Your package design needs to tell your brand story when you aren't there to explain it to the shopper.
Purchase decisions are made in microseconds at the shelf, and research shows that shoppers will change their minds at the very moment they reach to put products into their cart.
Confusing your audience and then making it hard for them to use your product is never a good idea no matter what the cost-savings.
The trick in packaging is to make sure that the brand essence can be translated into a small shape and still support all the technical needs of packaging for the US market.
Your brand essence, your product positioning, your flavor profiles, the legal requirements, manufacturing processes, and the refill and replenishment costs over the life of your brand.
Key Points From This Episode:
Packaging can make or break sales in the retail environment
Packaging is probably the first big investment a small brand makes
Package design is an investment and not as a sunk cost
The big communication work your package does is set expectations
Choosing colors is important, especially for future expansion
Subtle shifts in design elements can convey different messages
Package design is part of a manufacturing process
Product packaging needs to weather the storm and extreme changes
True craftsmanship takes time
Good package design firms understand all the legal requirements
Project-based fees keep clients and service providers in check
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[00:00:00] Georgiana Dearing: If you want to succeed in retail, hiring a package designer is an investment that can pay off exponentially over the life of. Colors, font choices in imagery, all help reinforce a brand message and a good designer can make a great first impression.
[00:00:20] Georgiana Dearing: Welcome to The Virginia Foodie Podcast, where we lift the lid on the craft food industry and tell the stories behind the good food, good people, and good brands that you know and love. If you've ever come across a yummy food brand and wondered, “How did they do that? How do they turn that recipe into a successful business?” Then we've got some stories for you.
[00:00:46] Hello, again, my crafty foodies. Welcome back to the podcast. After my chat with Darcy Lacey in episode 50, I thought I'd take a deeper dive into the topic of packaging for food brands. So that's the focus for today's quick Marketing Monday episode.
[00:01:03] Product packaging is one of the five places that a food brand controls its brand story. The other four are your website, your sell sheets, your email marketing, and your social media content. The important thing to note about your product package is that of all your communication tools, it has the smallest real estate, but it needs to do the hardest work for your brand.
[00:01:27] Packaging is your silent salesman. Your package design needs to tell your brand story when you aren't there to explain it to the shopper. Purchase decisions are made in microseconds at the shelf, and research shows that shoppers will change their minds at the very moment they reach to put products into their cart. The experience is slightly different online, but this plays out for e-commerce sales too.
[00:01:52] Think about all the words you say when you're showing your product to an interested shopper. If you came up through the farm market circuit or through pop-up shops, then you were probably standing there, charming folks into taking that first taste and then buying your product. Your product's packaging needs to do that work for you. And the package design can make or break sales for your brand in the retail environment.
[00:02:18] Packaging is probably the first big investment that a small brand makes. You may not realize it when you start out, but even in a home kitchen, the bottle, bag or box your food goes into is a buying decision that impacts how your food product will sell out in the wild. I've even seen very young brands make mistakes over the shape of their packaging that probably seemed like good choices at the time. But putting a syrup into a wide mouth jar, or a spread into a squeeze bottle can put the consumer off a bit by sending the wrong visual signal. Plus, it can create an inconvenience. Syrup is meant to be poured, not spooned. The typical bottle shape serves a function.
[00:03:03] Confusing your audience and then making it hard for them to use your product is never a good idea, no matter what, the cost-savings. Beyond the selection of the container, there's a print or label design that can also be a costly investment. Most brands start out with their first label. And later go seeking help when they realize the products aren't moving fast enough into stores.
[00:03:26] Having a friend or a family member help with the design may be okay at the start. But if you want to succeed in retail, hiring a package designer is an investment that can pay off exponentially over the life of a brand. Colors, font choices and imagery, all help reinforce a brand message. And a good designer can make a great first impression. A well-crafted design considers the subtle nuances of the arc or angle of letterforms and this sincerity of a color's hue. Little shifts in these elements can convey luxury or playfulness, or the comfort of home cooking.
[00:04:05] The trick in packaging, though, is to make sure that the brand essence can be translated into a small shape and still support all the technical needs of packaging for the US market. Regardless of your brand size, if you plan to sell into large retail chains, you should be following FDA guidelines for your packaging. A good package design firm will understand all the legal requirements for food and beverage packaging, and will make sure your brand passes with flying colors.
[00:04:35] And speaking of colors, the big communication work that your package does is set expectations. You can say to someone, "it's got a fiery heat" or "it's sweet, like strawberries," as you hand them a mostly white label. But when you aren't there to give insight into the experience, that fiery heat needs to have an orange-red visual, while a strawberry's sweetness needs a ruby red to go with it.
[00:05:01] Color conveys flavor. And choosing those colors is important, especially if you plan to expand your line. Don't use a bright orange on an apricot flavor if you think you might roll orange out one day. Color selection is as much science as it is art. Experienced designers will make choices that perform well on a printing press as well as on-screen.
[00:05:27] Another unique concern with package design is that it's part of a manufacturing process. Unlike a printed brochure or postcard, product packaging needs to stand up to extreme changes in temperature, liquid spills, and other handling issues that come with filling containers, packing them for shipping, and traveling from the plant to the stores.
[00:05:50] Because it's part of manufacturing, your packaging is part of your product cost. Choosing the right print materials and processes is important for keeping your production costs low. That may be why startups often start with cost-cutting as the primary goal for package selection.
[00:06:09] Your brand essence, your product positioning, your flavor profiles, the legal requirements, manufacturing processes, and the refill and replenishment costs over the life of your brand. That's a lot of work for just a few square inches to carry. And that's why you should consider your package design as an investment and not as a sunk cost.
[00:06:30] This may give you sticker shock, but a package design project with a good agency is going to have a starting cost in the neighborhood of $5,000 or more. It really depends upon the state of your overall branding. Like Mark Twain once said, "I didn't have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one". True craftsmanship takes time. And as I write this, most quality design firms charge a blended rate of around $150 an hour or more. Given that scenario, $5,000 can only you get you about 33 of those hours. The better firms, though, won't be working on a time and materials basis. They won't charge you by the hour, they'll charge by the project.
[00:07:14] Think about it. There's no advantage to working smarter if you get to charge the client more. Project-based fees keep both parties in check. Clients can't make unreasonable revisions, and the service provider needs to be in tune with the goals of the project. Regardless, get a quote upfront and understand how your fees are captured before moving forward with a creative agency.
[00:07:38] If you plan to expand into retail, I can't express how important your package design is. If you're thinking about retail, or if you're in retail, but wondering why your sales aren't taking off, then let's talk. I'm happy to have a free half-hour consultation with you. There are lots of ways that I can help you get your brand where it needs to be performing to hit your sales goals. And that's a wrap on this Marketing Monday.
[00:08:05] Georgiana Dearing: Thanks for listening. And if you want to learn more about how to grow your own food brand, then click on Grow My Brand at vafoodie.com. If you're a lover of local food, then be sure to follow us. We are at @vafoodie on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Join the conversation and tell us about your adventures with good food, good people, and good brands.