By Adrian Whitefoord, Co-Partner and Co-Founder, Pemberton & Whitefoord

Research has verified that packaging on supermarket shelves has 2.6 seconds to impress consumers. Good design can drive sales - it is the face of your brand and your on-shelf advertising.

It is essential that your packaging design is compelling and impactful. The best designs eliminate marketing jargon and utilise creativity as a tool to cut through the labyrinth associated with the design process. The culmination results in packaging solutions that outperform rivals.

Achieving the equilibrium between visual appeal and clear information, however, is challenging. A packaging designer with more than three decades’ industry experience, Adrian Whitefoord shares his thoughts on making your packaging design work hard for your brand.

  1. Less is more
Ensuring aesthetic principles are optimised whilst incorporating necessary textual information (particularly if excessive) can interfere with pack visual harmony.

Sometimes brand owners wrongly assume that the more copy, callouts, flashes and logos on their packaging, the better it communicates. In fact, quite often the exact opposite is true.

Research has shown that 90% of information communicated to the brain is visual; consumers are largely influenced by visual stimuli, so packaging should not sacrifice shelf presence due to information (text) overload.

  1. Connect with colour
Around 80% of visual information absorbed is related to colour. Intriguingly, 95% of the world’s top 100 brands use only one or two colours in their logo designs; examples being Tiffany’s robin egg blue, Coca-Cola’s iconic red and white and Cadburys purple.

A brand’s colour signature can be so distinctive it is the only clue the consumer needs for brand recognition.

Think vigilantly about colour connotations as they can create sensation and performance expectations. Blue is a prevalent choice for brands wishing to evoke dependability and trustworthiness (Samsung, Dell, Gillette) and contrastingly red is energetic and provocative, evoking passion (Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Virgin). Colour triggers emotional response, it is a vital weapon in a brand armoury.

  1. Honesty is the best policy
It is imperative that brands do not mislead or misinform consumers (unintentionally or intentionally). Misrepresentative and misleading information is illegal, immoral and ultimately, counterproductive for all.

When product information is not truthful (think of the horse meat scandal) brands instantly loose credibility that can take years to regain (assuming it can be fully regained at all). Being ‘selective with the truth’ can have dire consequences in terms of brand integrity, customer loyalty and ultimately, sales.

Brands that are honest, in touch with the end user and have a moral compass are more likely to enjoy longevity

  1. Demographic ID
Fastidiously scrutinise your product’s target consumer and ensure your product packaging exudes the appropriate appeal.

If end users are concerned with the environment, use ethically sourced, recyclable packaging. If your product is perfume, it must exude quality and opulence. Your demographics’ opinions and tastes should always be prioritised above your own.

Brands should never shirk from the barbs of responsibility that are interlinked with brand ownership, environmental conscience in particular will play an increasing reason for specific brand engagement.

  1. Digital dedication
Digital communications can enhance consumer interaction with your brand.

Incorporate a QR code to redirect your consumer to a bespoke YouTube tutorial or even an entertaining augmented reality (these touch points would especially appeal to the Millennial market).

You could generate an appealing USP if your packaging implements interactive elements by engaging the ever-increasing tech-savvy consumer base.

  1. Font firepower
Sensitive use of typography can help to define your brand. Powerful brands are pedantic in there use of typographic styling. Could you imagine Steve Jobs sanctioning the use of Comic Sans on Apple packaging? It certainly crops up with lamentable consequences on advertising, mailers and numerous other forms of corporate communication.

Typography influences consumers both consciously and subconsciously; if your font choices look old-fashioned overly ostentatious, too modern or gratuitously chatty you may squander consumer engagement. Fonts must work in harmony, something that can be difficult to fathom but highly rewarding to achieve.

  1. Create your own style
Identify the strategies of other brands in your sector and take note, but do not feel obliged to follow suit; it is imperative to forge your own unique path. Analyse competitor strengths and weaknesses and ensure your packaging exceeds expected criteria.

Take inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. Visit galleries, exhibitions and graduate shows. Go into rarely frequented stores, investigate past marketing and design award winners, comb the Internet, read design journals and sign up to industry publications. Also, visit your local library!

  1. Join forces
Collaborate with a design professional. You may feel your brand vision is clear but your enthusiasm may not be a substitute for a professional’s eye and experience. Engaging a specialist packaging consultant or consultancy will give you the edge that you need in an increasingly competitive commercial jungle.

The journey from product conception to finished article on-shelf is never easy, but it should not be intimidating, assuming the right steps are in place. Creating standout packaging is not readily accomplished and is rarely achieved by a brand owner singlehandedly. Working with a design consultancy will empower you to make the right decisions.

Ensuring you find the right professional creative partner is vital; the process should be a collaborative merging of opinions and ideas. Remember though, it is your product, so make sure you don’t get overwhelmed and over-persuaded. This is your product after all.

A prime example which illustrates how strongly influenced consumers can be by packaging is the 2008 Diamond Shreddies (originally, spoof) campaign. Sales soared 18% in one month with no alterations made to the recipe, texture or cereal structure, it was entirely achieved through the packaging! Consumers genuinely believed they tasted the difference created by the 45 degree rotation!

Under no circumstances would I advocate consumer deception but this case study does illustrate the significance of packaging communication and how influential and powerful it can be.

The route to creating great packaging as a means to supporting your brand and selling your product may seem daunting but with expert assistance combined with fortitude, organisation and good judgment, the benefits creative and judicious pack design can deliver will boost your brand’s image and reputation immeasurably.