We’ve all heard of thinking inside and outside the box, but what about the box itself? Whether on store shelves, window displays or online shopping pages, packaging appears to say a great deal about the products being sold. But when it comes to design, a package is more than a package; it is the product. Just ask Domino’s Pizza, which last year changed its pizza box design in the United Kingdom and got customers looking at its product in a new light.
Before undergoing a redesign, Domino’s had already taken its packaging seriously by developing a corner-cut pizza box, made to reduce folding time for employees putting the boxes together. But the messaging on the box was cluttered with graphics that resembled a diner place mat. Tasked with coming up with a new design, branding agency John Knowles Ritchie did some research and found that 96 percent of Domino’s pizzas in the U.K. were purchased in pairs. What better way to capitalize on that fact than to use Domino’s well-known logo in pairs of red and blue boxes? The updated look simplified the cluttered messaging the company was putting out and introduced bolder colors to the box.
The new design is clever and encourages customers to buy into the company’s two-for-one deals. It’s a perfect example of how packaging is an essential element of branding. Domino’s U.K. box followed many of the recent trends in packaging design, with solid colors, minimal text and straight-to-the-point messaging, but there are many more factors that go into a great package. We gathered tips from package printing experts about selling effective packaging and working with a company that designs it.
KNOW THE TRENDS
Being aware of trends is good for gauging what customers think looks good on a store shelf or other buying platform. This knowledge is also useful to determine when a trend has become a norm, when those store shelves have become stocked with packages that all look the same. A unique package that bucks design trends is sure to stand out on the shelf, but if package printers and distributors aren’t aware of the trends in the first place, standing out could mean making a fool of yourself.
John Shanley, president of Labels West Inc., Woodinville, Wash., shared his knowledge of recent trends in label packaging. “Unique ‘add-on decoration features’ are all the rage at the moment,” Shanley said. “Things like foil stamping and more color are a very popular way to attract the consumer’s attention at the point of purchase. Tactile features like embossing, materials with special finishes and textured varnishes are very popular as well. These additional decoration features come at a price, but it is usually worth the extra expense.”
Digital printing is a tech trend that has opened up the packaging sector for distributors. The capabilities of digital allow distributors to operate on many levels of a client’s brand, coordinating different marketing materials for a consistent look. That includes packaging and other print products that a client might want to produce.
Dan Shedd, president of Taylor Box Company, Warren, R.I., said that digital printing is adding more creativity and speed to the industry. “As folding box companies begin to integrate the new digital-sheet and roll-fed presses into carton making, the possibilities become endless,” he said. “This is also impacting the workflow and making new demands upon post-press diecutting and carton converting.”
Thomas Spina, president of Luminer Converting Group, Lakewood, N.J., offered his insight on labels as well. “To our company and in our marketplace, the largest trend is expanded content or multipage labels,” Spina said. “Due to government regulations for safety and instructional info and the desire to put more marketing information on labels, package designers want more room. On a small package, the only way to do this is to either make a bigger folding carton, or to add more pages to the label. Since retail stores don’t want bigger boxes, multipage labels are the best way to go.”
KNOW THE BRAND
These days, distributors have taken on expanded roles as marketing service providers, and marketers need to know the brand they are working with inside and out. No matter which company comes calling, distributors should be informed about exactly where their clients fit in the marketplace. That brand awareness will inform package design.
“You must first have a good understanding of how the brand wants to position the product in the marketplace,” Shanley said. “Is the product going to be marketed as ‘the cheapest’ product of its type? Is the product going to be marketed as the highest quality? What is the demographic that the brand is targeting? For example, you wouldn’t want to package a high-end product in a basic package in most cases.”
Just as there are many packages that serve to advertise a product on store shelves, there are just as many that have to comply to a utilitarian standard. Pharmaceutical regulations force those packages to fit a certain mold, but the brand there is just as important as something being marketed to consumers. According to Spina, accuracy, readability and inspection are the key elements in a pharmaceutical package.
Suzanne Hunt, marketing manager for FoldedColor Packaging, Corona, Calif., said the key factor for packaging that does not show up on store shelves is identifiability. “It is extremely important for medical professionals to be able to quickly identify the products contained within the packaging. For this reason, we recommend the print be in large font, and only absolutely required information be listed on the outside of the packaging.”
KNOW THE SUPPLIER
And the reality of that expense brings us to the importance of finding a good partnership with a supplier or package designer. Where will your dollar go furthest? Who will produce a design most efficiently, and who will cut corners? (Sorry, Domino’s.)
To answer those questions, our experts agreed that distributors should look for a supplier that is willing to be open about the package printing process. Spina said that openness should naturally lead to a mutual trust. “You must have complete trust in your supplier,” he said. “The supplier must have trust in the vendor. You cannot just constantly use your vendors as a pricing tool. Trust me, word gets around.”
At Taylor Box Company, Shedd and his team cater to a niche market for luxury paperboard packaging, where lack of communication on budget issues can stall the process. “Getting a budget target can be very challenging as buyers and brand managers are very cagy with their goals. That really stresses the process unnecessarily. …Too often we hear ‘no budget, really,’ and then create an amazing package, which suddenly is out of the budget. Being a domestic producer means that we can offer quality and speed to market — among other things — but not the low prices available in Asia or south of the border.”
KNOW IT ALL
Of course, it’s impossible to know everything about the package and label printing industry, but in this case, “knowing it all” is about having enough knowledge that a client can trust you.
“If you are a distributor and you are calling on some sort of branding company and they have a package, you need to know folding cartons,” Spina said. “You need to be able to tell them the difference between shrink labels and pressure sensitive labels. You need to be able to tell them how to incorporate the no-label look or perhaps a security feature.
“In my opinion, people use distributors for two things: one-stop shopping and inventory management,” he continued. “If you consider yourself a one-stop shop, you had better have the technical expertise to describe many different types of packaging to the customer.”