E-commerce News and Insights
Apr 27, 2020

Using Packaging to Boost Your Brand and Gain a Competitive Advantage

Shippo Snippets:

  • Keeping your brand packaging design consistent with your marketing efforts will help your customers become familiar with your product so they can easily identify it in the future
  • Ultimately, your customer should be able to “read” your shipping packaging at just a mere glance
  • The functionality of your packaging is just as important as its design 
  • During the COVID-19 crisis, the arrival of your package can be a rare moment of reassurance and optimism in an otherwise stressful day 

The Story:

In these uncertain times, when customers depend more and more on shipped items, your shipping package is a crucial part of the overall customer experience. And, during the COVID-19 crisis, the arrival of your package can be a rare moment of reassurance and optimism in an otherwise stressful and surreal day. 

A few companies with super-distinctive shipping packaging:

  • Amazon
  • Chewy 
  • FedEx 
  • Target

But beyond just the unboxing potential, your brand’s packaging is at the core of its public persona. Check out the list of products below and see if you can immediately envision their brand packaging design:

  • Campbell’s Soup
  • Nike
  • Heinz Ketchup
  • Chanel No. 5
  • Quaker Oats
  • Tiffany’s 
  • Pringle’s 
  • Coca Cola 

Pretty iconic, right? Envisioning them is a no-brainer, and some may even make you smile. Yet, none of these packages were designed by chance and luck. Each one took some intensive thought and planning. The result: staying power, simple practicality, and high customer preference. In fact, Coca Cola’s bottle became so instantly recognized that it was given trademark status. (A rarity at the time for commercial packaging.)

It’s an unfortunate and unfair fact of life: people judge you by the way you look. Same goes for your product and shipping packaging. Think about what makes these product packages stand out. Your customer should be able to “read” you at just a mere glance. As well, your shipping materials should be just as brand-specific and easily recognizable as the product inside. 

Is there an easy, tried-and-true way to make this happen? Not really, but you can strategize your way to effective brand packaging design, both inside and out.

What works then? Try the five-year-old test,” where you describe a package design to a five-year-old and then send them into a supermarket to find it (after the crisis passes, of course). Can they easily identify it and bring it back to you? If so, then you may be on to something. That means that anyone, even a child, can understand your packaging right away, and remember it enough to retrieve it. 

Before considering designing or redesigning your product or shipping packaging, ask yourself these questions: 

Who Is Buying Your Product?

Knowing your target customer benefits you on so many levels. Know who you are designing for: 

  • Are your customers male or female? Or both? 
  • Are they experts in what they are buying? (Example: auto mechanics would most likely be fairly adept at shopping for work gloves)
  • Where do they live? What’s their demo? 
  • What do they want in a product like yours?
  • Can your product be given as a gift? 
  • Can the shipping packaging be re-used by the customer? 

Can a Customer Tell Right Away What it is You’re Selling?

Even if the brand packaging design is cool, hip and brilliant, make sure it doesn’t mislead or confuse the customer. Be sure to list the features and benefits of the product right on the packaging, so there is no question about what’s inside. 

Does the Packaging and Design Make Sense Physically?

  • Is your product delicate and may need extra protection during the shipping process? 
  • Is it sensitive to warm or cold temperatures? 
  • Can the product be shipped easily?
  • Is the shipping packaging in proportion to the size of the product inside? 

Is the Package Easy to Open?

Don’t challenge the customer to attempt and re-attempt to open your product. Make opening easy, and give directions on how to best make it happen: “tear here,” or “pull at the perforated line” or “simply twist the cap.” Products need extra security to avoid tampering, but easy-to-open directions let you achieve both product safety and customer satisfaction. 

How Will Your Brand Packaging Design Look on a Store Shelf?

Being the boldest, brightest and loudest product in the store is not always the best answer. Yes, you want to attract the consumer’s eye, but sometimes simplicity is the most effective way to do that. Low-key can often cut through the clutter. Ask yourself: 

  • Where will it be sold? 
  • Can it differentiate itself from the competition, which may share the shelf? 

Can the Same Packaging Be Effective Both Online and In-store?

Think of your packaging design as transferrable. It should look as good on a store shelf as it would in an online image. 

Consider Coca Cola’s iconic packaging again. Its dynamic and ageless logo (the red, the wave, the bottle shape, the typography) shows curves and flow that can work well anywhere, from TV to print to online to shelf. To achieve this, it’s not as easy as it looks, but you’ll know it when you see it. Try a few different beta ideas online and in person and see how it makes you (or your focus group) feel. Mail your newly designed shipping packaging to a few people whose opinions you trust and ask for their honest reaction. 

Keeping your brand packaging design consistent with your marketing will serve to help your customers become familiar with your product and let them be able to easily identify it in the future. 

Can Your Brand Packaging Design Gain Your Customers’ Trust?

Displaying FDA or sustainability information can help a customer breathe easier when looking over your package. Being transparent and maybe even environmentally friendly can go a long way in building trust. 

Are You Using Psychology When Designing Your Packaging?

Often, brand packaging design can inspire emotions in customers. Employing a few mind hacks to entice customers to your product may help: 

  • Bright colors may inspire happiness 
  • Curves may be more appealing than straight lines
  • There may be an unconscious bias against pointed shapes
  • People like to touch packages. Is your package pleasant to the touch? It could create a feeling of ownership, which could drive a purchase decision
  • Careful with the font you choose. An old-fashioned font associated with a product could seem outdated (although, depending on the product, that may not always be a bad thing). Fonts can convey meaning, so give your choice some thought

Are You Using Professional Packaging Designers?

When it comes to your image, don’t cut corners or always go with the lowest bidder. As you’ve often heard, you won’t have a second chance to make a first impression. 

In the digital age, you don’t need millions of dollars to design effective and attractive custom branded packaging. In fact, 3D printing is revolutionizing how packaging is made. If you’re not an expert on this subject, hire one. 

Have You Paid as Much Attention To Your Shipping Packaging?

Never underestimate the power of attractive shipping packaging that arrives on a customer’s doorstep. In fact, if the packaging is durable and practical enough, the customer may decide to re-use it for other purposes, keeping your brand name out in the open longer.

Here are a few ideas to make your shipping packaging memorable and attractive: 

• Custom-shipping packages

It may cost a little more, but placing your logo on your shipping boxes and mailers (as opposed to generic packaging) may be that extra touch that makes your customer remember you. Companies such as Arka offer creative and cost-effective custom packaging options that can go a long way in helping you do just that. 

• Unique color 

As mentioned, color makes a psychological impression on the customer and can arouse feelings of happiness and excitement. A colorful shipping package on their doorstep may be just the thing that touches a customer’s subconscious and makes them look forward to ordering from you again.

• Stickers 

Including stickers on your shipping packaging could add some extra dimension to your mailings. Illustrations, sayings and well wishes can be appealing to the customer as the box is opened. You can also try seasonal stickers that correspond with upcoming holidays. 

• Personal notes or cards

If time and resources permit, you may be able to include a handwritten, personalized note inserted into a pouch on your shipping package, thanking the customer for their purchase. If you have a larger business, a pre-printed postcard may be a nice touch. 

Is Your Shipping Packaging Durable?

The functionality of your shipping packaging is just as important as its design. Think about what materials it would take to allow your product to safely survive the shipping journey. Plastic? Paper? Cardboard? Will it arrive in one piece and not look beat up? Receiving a box that’s been pulverized is never fun, especially if it could’ve been been better protected.

Did You Add a Scan-based Return Label to Your Shipping Package?

Make it easy for your customer to make a return if necessary. A scan-based return label adds to the customer’s feeling of trust and comfort. It may also show that you run an honest business and are committed to their satisfaction. 

The Bottom Line

These days, there’s a myriad of things vying for your customer’s attention. How your customer perceives your packaging design can ultimately help in strengthening your brand and growing your business.

Explore Shippo for efficient and cost-effective shipping and logistics solutions. 


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Ron Sklar
is a business content writer based in New York. He writes for clients in a number of sectors, including real estate, healthcare, financial services, tech, and transportation/automotive.

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