Like everything in our world of rapidly changing technology, packaging design has had to continually evolve to fit a new landscape. Retail, e-commerce and "click and collect" have forced packaging designers to consider new elements in the design phase that allow packaging to serve a growing list of functions. One element that continues to become an influencer in brand packaging design is social media. Once an afterthought, we now find shareable packaging design has moved front and center in the list of importance for design consideration. Marketers are realizing the power in instantly recognizable brands on social media and how identifiable packaging design can leverage marketing dollars more effectively when shared in an integrated marketing setting.
For packaging designers on the forefront of the social media trend, it has become clear that a new phase of testing is necessary for social media-friendly imagery. This means that before designers finalize the packaging form and the brand design of the creative components, they need to add a step that tests the image on social media platforms and views them on a smartphone, not a desktop. This allows designers the ability to make better decisions on what grabs attention when packaging is shared or posted. When design is approved and packaging is produced before considering a social media campaign, a brand might not get the full power of recognition it's looking for. Consider some of the following factors:
The form that packaging takes has long been understood as a must-have consideration for design. In the most basic sense, packaging must protect the product it's transporting and convey the brand and function in all phases of the supply chain. When you layer in social media to the form function phase of the design process, it's important to understand that some consumer products are only recognizable by their packaging. Take hand lotion, for instance. A small tube, a large pump or an elegant jar all convey different aspects of the brand experience and function of the packaging. You rarely see a puddle of lotion in an ad for hand lotion. Instead, the focus is on the packaging used to apply it. If you expand the example of hand lotion to social media, it’s easy to imagine a social media influencer applying hand lotion from an easy-to-use tube that's recognizable to shoppers.
Color Pallet and Font
Smartphones are the primary device for most social media users and, as such, designers have had to rethink the creative aspect of their brand guidelines. Messaging that was primarily viewed for on-shelf retail appeal and potential website viewing doesn't always convey the brand when viewed on social media. Designers are used to the importance of color pallet and font, and regularly test these in retail shelf settings for consumer appeal and recognition. Take the Carmex brand, for example. After a recent successful cold sore product innovation, the brand was ready for a refresh. After a consumer research study, the company redesigned its packaging with a modern feel to increase shelf impact and navigability. Social media is now adding a new layer to Carmex's process —forward-thinking designers will add a social media test in their design phase to assure brand recognition in all media channels. This new process can save costly redesigns and assure that Carmex is getting the most recognition possible with shoppers.
Don’t Fear Change, Embrace It
Technology continues to make us consider new ways our brands can reach consumers, which naturally has an impact on package design. Brands that embrace this change and find ways to make disruptive technology work for them, instead of viewing it as an obstacle, will win the social branding game. The key is to understand the new landscape and to not fear changing a tried-and-true practice before it's too late.
Paul Nowak is the senior director of sales strategy and business development at QuadPackaging, a provider of collaborative end-to-end packaging solutions.
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