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Standing Out in the Crowd

By: Aniko Hill
Posted: August 31, 2011, from the September 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

Image via The Brand Group

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Communicating a unique brand identity on a package design can be expressed through the visual form of the package, or the graphic design, the verbal communication or the copy writing, and the tactility of the package, or the shape and material. Unique form or overall design aesthetic, regardless of trends in the marketplace, can give the packaging that extra edge in standing out on the shelf.

Unique packaging forms are particularly important for female-targeted brands, as women are sensorial in nature. Trends come and go quickly, so the most important thing to remember when considering a new package design is to stay true to the core values of the company and the characteristics of the product itself.

Although there is no clear formula to designing unique packaging, there are some fundamental principles to remember when embarking on a rebrand. Below are just a few tips along with examples of successful brands that have implemented packaging that truly stands out in the marketplace.

Tip #1: The Boldest Design Isn’t Necessarily the Strongest

When trying to lead their brands to be unique, many brand owners make the mistake of trying to make the product pop too literally. But in many cases, the loudest or most elaborate package design isn’t the one that stands out. This is why it is so critical to analyze the competitive landscape. For example, if all the products in the category or on the shelf around your product are bold, your bold package is going to get lost in the sea of sameness no matter how impactful it may be on its own.

Apple is one of the best examples of a successful brand in today’s marketplace. The entire brand experience—from the packaging to the website to the in-store environments—is smart, beautiful, and communicates a strong and consistent message. The packaging is artfully designed with clever structure and high quality construction, forming a direct connection to the characteristics of the product itself. The packaging is known for being incredibly simple and clever, with almost no color and restrained typography. In this case, the most minimal package is the one that stands out in the category. Over the years, many competitors have been trying to mimic this aesthetic, but because Apple was the first to break through with the powerful minimal approach, the competitor’s versions almost always look like knockoffs. Because Apple has been so consistent in its approach, it now owns the clean and minimal packaging approach in the electronics category.

Tip #2: Stock Components Can Be Interesting When Taken Out of Context