Tim Youngman: Packaging – art, science and branding combined

Marmite - you either love it or hate it - But do you realise how important the packaging is?

Marmite - you either love it or hate it - But do you realise how important the packaging is? - Credit: Archant

One of the things I love about marketing is that there are elements of it which to the outside world are an afterthought, but are actually a science and art form in their own right. Take packaging for example. You create a product and to keep it safe for transport you put it in a box and that’s it done, but actually that’s just the beginning.

The average supermarket has 25,000 products on its shelves so standing out from the others becomes paramount. Recent research also showed that 64% of shoppers have tried something new because the packaging caught their eye and 41% have made a repeat purchase because of packaging.

Basically we are all creatures of habit and so distinctive packaging helps us quickly identify our favourite brands among a sea of others. Whether it is colour, shape, fonts, logos, images or a complete design, we hunt out those that are familiar and will be drawn to those that stand out. Walk into any Aldi store and you will see that not only are the products inside the packaging very similar to their branded counterparts but the packaging and especially the logos, colours and imagery are extremely close too.

Unilver, whose brands range from Domestos to Marmite to Impulse, actually have a vice president of design who has a wonderful line about how design should be about creating an addiction. A packages ability to attract must not be done at the expense of the reason it exists in the first place however. Various packaging studies have shown that protecting the product and easy access are still the two most important factors for packaging. No matter how beautiful the box if, when opened, the product is damaged or you cannot open it easily, it puts you off the brand. I’m sure you can all think of examples of when that has happened to you and the effect it had on your desire for repeat purchase.

Packaging needs to do more than look good. It has to be able to transport, store, open and be easy to dispose. Next time you walk down a supermarket aisle though, think about the hours spent on the packaging of every single product you walk past.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant.