For many people at this time of year, the excitement builds as brightly wrapped presents begin to appear under the tree. The sense of expectation and suspense isn’t created by the gifts alone, it’s also about the packaging. The experience would be a lot less exciting if everyone just piled their unwrapped gifts, or placed plain brown boxes, under the tree!
The same is true for packaging in the marketing world. While packaging has practical applications, it also has the ability to create an experience for your customer and build their relationship with your brand.
Most businesses, particularly those with products that compete for retail or online shelf space, understand how well-designed packaging can make them stand out from the competition. But what’s less well understood, is how packaging can be a customer relationship-building tool when it’s designed to create an experience, make a connection, or tell a story.
All of your packaging is an extension of your brand experience
This way of thinking about your packaging – as an opportunity to connect with your customer – isn’t just for typical product packaging, it’s for anything that ends up in your customers’ hands: gift cards, presentations, shopping bags, and shipping boxes. All of your packaging is an extension of your brand experience. For Tiffany & Co, the famous “little blue box” has even become what the brand identity is built on.
Packaging can create an experience
Anyone who doesn’t think that packaging has the potential to create an experience only has to think about the slogan “roll up the rim to win”. Chances are, we don’t even have to mention the Tim Horton’s brand.
When your packaging evokes positive emotions like excitement or pleasure, you create an experience of your brand that’s not just “known”, it’s “felt”. And that’s gold.
One of the simplest – and most often overlooked – examples of this is a gift card envelope. When you put an attractive gift card into a special envelope – whether it’s been designed just for you, or it’s a specific colour and size you’ve ordered from a stationary store – you’re making your brand part of the suspense, ceremony, and pleasure associated with unwrapping a gift. It’s a great place to be!
Your buyer loves the fact that you’ve increased the perceived value of their gift with attractive packaging (that they didn’t have to source), and the recipient now has another opportunity to physically interact with your brand during the gift opening.
The sense of theatre you’ve created can’t be matched by a plain, white #10 envelope. It’s a small thing, but it’s a big idea. Think about your customer’s interaction with every kind of package they receive from you, are you missing any opportunities to evoke a positive emotion?
Packaging can create a sense of connection
Recently, we received an order from lingerie company, Knix. On the box was a simple message that said, “Your day just got better” – and it made us smile. Knix was reaching out and having a conversation with us – saying “hello”, even though they weren’t in the room.
Vancouver-based Vessi Footwear packages its waterproof shoes in boxes with diecut raindrops, and their care instructions are enclosed in an envelope with a cheerful welcome.
The Heart retail store in Cloverdale tucks a handwritten note into each parcel. Big or small, these businesses know that when your customer opens a package from you, they are having a relatively long period of direct contact with your brand, compared to other marketing media – and they’re using that moment to connect. It becomes even more important when you sell online, because your packaging and the experience it provides, is the first moment at which your brand begins to come to life for your customer.
Packaging can tell a story
For a while in Metro Vancouver, Lululemon shopping bags with motivational sayings on them were everywhere. Lululemon had a lot of advertising on people’s arms, because they took the time to create a package that resonated with their market – their customers were proud to display the values expressed on the bags.
With our craft beer client, Barnside Brewing, we were also able to signal a set of values and story through packaging design. Their craft beer cans feature vintage colours, fonts, and agricultural scenes that signal to buyers that this is a beer rooted in tradition, hard work, and honesty – even before they read the story on the label.
Both of these brands are using their packaging to tell a piece of their story. Stories are important in marketing, because humans respond to the ones they find meaning in. If your target market loves your story, it can move them one step closer to making a purchase – make sure you’re telling it at every opportunity.
Packaging can even control how your story is told. When we packaged the Delta Police Department’s presentation that ultimately placed them among the Top 100 Employers in BC, we used layers of packaging to control the reveal. From the sealed custom box, to the opening note, to the layers of presentation folders, we carefully rolled out a story that we could not present in person.
Are you using your packaging as an opportunity to connect?
Whether you offer a product or service – and particularly if your customers are skipping the usual in-store experience right now – it’s time to think about all of the items you place in your customers’ hands. Are you missing an opportunity to connect?
Just because you’re not with your customer, it doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them – and you can start small: purchase a high-quality stamp with a friendly message, slip a handwritten note into the bag, or secure your shipping boxes with custom-printed packing tape. Create a series of small conversations that communicate your brand values, differentiate you from your competitors, and build long-term customer relationships.