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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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With the sea of sameness, customers are used to seeing the same stock packages out there with different labels slapped on to them. For small- to mid-sized companies, going custom often isn’t an option due to lower quantities and the cost involved with doing custom packaging design. But the good news is that stock components can be unique, especially when used out of context.

Premium bath and body line Cucina (“kitchen” in Italian) does a great job of using unexpected components to communicate its brand message. Instead of the typical stock components used in beauty packaging, it utilizes bottles that mimic food bottles such as olive oil and jam, and cartons that reference items such as cheese and canned goods. Since the name and packaging identity is inspired by an Italian kitchen, using food packaging is a clever twist that helps to support the brand identity. Taking components out of context can be powerful as long as it works conceptually, as in this example. If done arbitrarily, it can easily look odd or hokey.

Tip #3: Go Custom for the Most Differentiation

With so many brands trying desperately to be noticed, it is important to design packaging that is innovative in its form whenever possible. Since we see form first in the sequence of visual perception, a unique shape can be key in catching a customer’s eye quickly and standing out on the shelf. Over time, the shape itself can be just as ownable as a logo mark or a brand color.

Method is one of the most prominent examples of brand packaging that is known for its unique forms. When it first introduced its “drop” packaging for its soap pumps, there was an immediate splash in the market that helped to propel Method into huge success and name recognition.

The most successful unique packages are often the first in their category that use a particular form or technique—when other brands follow, it almost always looks like a copy and the consumer will ultimately think of the original anyhow. Since Method was the first to execute this distinct packaging form in its category, it now owns any form that looks even remotely similar, and competitors that try to ride the fad end up looking like knockoffs.