Packaging includes every possible aspect of industrial design on multiple levels.
It involves a huge array of types of information and design elements which most people have never heard of, let alone understand. Plastic moulding may be familiar, but not much else.
In marketing, another almost mythical area in the public consciousness, packaging is a primary tool for practically every known form of consumer product. The packaging is literally the product identity. The all time classic case is the Coca Cola bottle. An instantly recognizable logo, distinctive shape, and global fame came from this packaging.
The Coke bottle is actually still unique in many ways. As packaging, it was a complex type when invented, but the idea was very simple. To this day it’s physically impossible to mistake the bottle for anything else, and it remains a consumer favorite.
That’s not the case with a lot of different types of packaging. Some are really technical achievements, but as packaging for market purposes, barely qualify as so-so.
A classic case of “packaging gone mad” were the Star Trek Original Series DVD boxes. These were universally loathed by Star Trek fans. Fragile, light gauge plastic with fragile, light gauge hinges. Fortunately for all concerned, one of the world’s biggest single markets for merchandising simply cursed and bought the things anyway. Later efforts were actually considered worse by fans, and Paramount, apparently waking up to this irritant, repackaged the Next Generation and other series into basic cardboard box sets.
Packaging’s not supposed to be an obstacle to people buying the products.
It’s a very relevant issue, because modern packaging can be more technically demanding than ever before, and anything from injection moulding issues to mysteriously sized or shaped “Look At Me!” packaging can be equally good or bad for marketing.
This could be called The Revenge Of The Coke Bottle.
Two simple packaging concepts produced a household name for a century or more. Top quality production technology can produce expensive, annoying eyesores. For marketers, there’s a very clear choice to be made, but it’s often the wrong one.
Brand identity isn’t supposed to have any negative associations. If anyone has a problem, the net will broadcast it. The effect on marketing campaigns hasn’t quite hit the lynch mobs, torches and pitchfork levels, (yet), but backlash can trash a marketing campaign very effectively.
The way of avoiding these horrors, which tend to lose clients like dandruff for marketers, is to bring in designers at the start, not at the “Gimmick-Finding Committee” stage. Packaging designers can take one look at any product and save you a fortune’s worth of mistakes.
The effects of designer input are immediate:
- Production costs are reduced for distributors, often drastically
- The more insane, impractical ideas are eliminated
- Stronger design images are created
- Things like product safety are remembered and enforced
- The packaging is physically better for product handling
In effect, the Coke bottle. Simple, effective, practical, and with full brand identity.
If you’re a marketer, lock in a good packaging designer before you start a campaign.
Everything (and everyone) will be much easier to live with.