The Importance of Packaging

by Braden Kelley

Let’s talk about packaging. Packaging can be thought about in many different ways, but if we think purely about the purpose of packaging first, we find the purpose is to:

  1. Contain the product
  2. Communicate product information
  3. Facilitate product storage and shipment
  4. Reinforce branding

Innovation in packaging

The fourth point (branding) is truly part of the second point (product information), but it bears special mention here for discussion.

If you look at the packaging for the iPod, it satisfies the first point (product containment), and excels at the third (storage and shipment) because it is a cube. But what about the second (product information) and the fourth (branding)? What does the packaging communicate about the product? The answer is that the packaging simply and elegantly communicates that:

  1. This is a premium product
  2. This is a product from Apple
  3. This is an iPod (assuming you know what one is)
  4. Some product information (assuming you’re pro-active enough to look at the bottom of the box)

revenue innovation

Most companies focus on #4 and trying to make sure the box has every piece of information that might cause you to purchase the product. Apple recognizes that for this product, by the time you see the box, you have likely already made your decision to buy. This means the purpose of the packaging is more about validating that purchase intent and allowing the prospective buyer (after handling the box) to verify they’ve got the right version.

By focusing on #4, the manufacturer communicates that this is a commodity product and its purchase, the manufacturer believes, is driven by one of the many product features described on the packaging.

Let’s now look at a video that shows how Microsoft would likely have designed the iPod box if they were the company that had come up with the shipping product instead.

Please view the video of Microsoft’s re-design of the iPod packaging and then come back for the rest of our article.

From the video you should see clearly the difference between the Apple approach and the Microsoft approach.

profit innovation

The question is, which is better? There is no unilateral answer as it depends on the customers’ expectations and expected interaction with the packaging. Apple’s package is designed well for the expected interaction (primarily post purchase decision) and for the customer expectations (ease of use, premium product). The Microsoft package design shown in the video might actually be preferable in an environment where there are no salespeople available, no sales collateral is available, and the customer is expected to have limited knowledge of the product. The Microsoft package design is also preferable for situations where the customer is expected to compare packages in the aisles prior to making a purchase decision.

Finally, do not underestimate the importance of how the opening of the packaging works. Manufacturers, please stop cutting my skin to shreds with your “cheap” clamshell packaging. Nobody likes this packaging other than “shrinkage” managers at major retailers. So manufacturers, please stop using it!

cost reduction innovation

Apple is famous for its out of the box experience. Think about how your customer will want to open the box and begin using the product. Take special care in structuring the order that things come out of the packaging, what people see when they open the packaging (what’s on top, any messages they might see, etc.), and how the packaging opens.

Bringing it all back together, for a package design to be “good”, you should end up with a package that contains the product, communicates the appropriate level of product information, facilitates ease of storage and shipment, and that reinforces branding. Anything less and you are missing an opportunity to maximize revenue and lifetime customer value.


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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a Social Business Architect and the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden is also a popular innovation speaker and trainer, and advises companies on embedding innovation across the organization and how to attract and engage customers, partners, and employees.

One comment

  1. I wonder if the packaging also influence a person’s future purchases with the same brand?

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