Packaging design and its importance to the success of your business

Flexible or rigid packaging: what’s best for me?

When you’re setting up a new business, especially one trading online, it’s easy to push aside things like branded packaging until later, in favour of getting the basics right from the off: that is, developing a product for which people have a want or need, marketing it with an emphasis on its benefits or stylishness, and supplying it in packaging which is functional but effective.

You may think that smart packaging, clever and eye-catching design or a good logo are things just for the big boys with a large marketing budget – after all, how can you commit precious money to an indefinable thing like ‘branding’ when you have so much real stuff to spend it on? Everything’s a risk already, so why compound it?

You may even think, if you’re a small startup only selling on the internet and not in shops, that ultimately it doesn’t matter.

Branded packaging matters
A plain brown or white cardboard box, while adequate for selling online, will only take you so far. It will ensure your product reaches your customer safely, and hopefully help keep costs to a minimum. If you want to build your business in any significant way, however, you need to push the brand so that people know who you are.

And the best place to do that is on your packaging; after all, what’s the first thing your customer sees when they receive your product in the post or take it off the shelf?

If you cornered a couple of hundred shoppers and asked them if they would rather pay less for things in plain packaging or a little more for the same thing in a fancy box, most would probably say they’d take the cheaper version.

In reality, we don’t work like that most of the time. Whether we like it or not, how the packaging surrounding a product looks has a serious impact both on our decision whether to buy it and also on how we remember it.

Developing a brand doesn’t have to be expensive
Many companies and organisations spend thousands of pounds – and more – on their brand, and at the end they come out of it usually with a nice logo, and always with a glossy guide containing page after page telling you in great detail how to use it in any number of design situations.

But, you know, you don’t have to spend that kind of money. If you do have a limited budget, there are plenty of young, creative, freelance designers with exciting ideas and sensible fees who can create a ‘look’ for you. That could just be a simple logo to go on your packaging or include things like stationery and business cards as well.

Have a good think about the sort of thing you might want first, though, as most designers will want a more helpful brief than ‘something nice’! Find examples of logos, fonts and colours that you like and work out what it is about them that you do like. Also, have a think about the values you want your business or product to reflect. Those designers we were talking about may charge reasonable fees, but you’re still paying for their time, so at the end of the day you’ll need to give them the best opportunity of getting close to something you like first time.

You could try it yourself, of course, but be realistic about your levels of expertise – cheap and amateurish branding will look worse than no branding at all. And you’ll still need the right kind of software so that you can create it in the format your packaging suppliers will need.

Now you’ve got the look, get it on your packaging
Once you’ve established your brand, you need to find a company that can incorporate it into your packaging without demanding unrealistic minimum quantities – very few startups are going to want to pay up front for thousands and thousands of boxes they may never need. It is possible to get very reasonably priced printed boxes with a minimum order of only 500, although the unit price will drop still further the more you buy.

It’s the cost of the printing plates that makes even that minimum necessary, and remember that you’ll need one for each colour, so bear that in mind when briefing your designer. If you can get a logo that will work well in a single colour, it will make your branded packaging that much more cost effective. Of course, if things do take off, you can always introduce more colour later! (Digital printing means things like headed notepaper, business cards and compliment slips can be done almost as cheaply in full colour, so make sure you do get a full colour version as well!)

So far, we’ve mainly looked at branded packaging in the form of the cardboard boxes you mail or sell your product in, but there’s a lot more you can do. Many packaging suppliers can also put your logo or other branding on things like packing tape, plastic strapping and packing tissue. You can even get your own printed plastic carrier bags with a minimum order of just 1000.

In summary, branded packaging doesn’t need to be outrageously expensive. Just make sure that you shop around to get the best value, but also make sure that your supplier has a good reputation for producing high quality results – after all, you want your packaging to be remembered for all the right reasons!

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Remy Courtois

Remy has been a contributing author since late 2011, when he arrived at Davpack from a major packaging competitor. Originally a product buyer with many years of specialist knowledge in the fields of custom cardboard boxes and corrugated products, Remy now combines his purchasing and literary skills to maximum effect in our marketing team as a content writer. Born to French and British parents in Nottingham, Remy had a bilingual upbringing and has lived for the past twelve years just South of Paris. He presently commutes twice a month to France but is in the process of re-locating to his birthplace. Davpack

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