by Raja Sharil Azhar bin Raja Abdillah
Since the era of mass production and commercialisation of products, packaging has played a vital role in contributing towards the public’s recognition, trust and connection towards a product. Take the curvy Coke bottle, for example. It does not only protect the drink and ergonomically aid the way we hold the bottle, but also create some kind of unexplainable connection between the product and the buyer.
As a result, the iconic curvy Coke bottle is now one of the most popular collectable items that are highly sought-after by those who collect rare, special edition or vintage items. This in turn, further reinforces the brand’s name longevity.
Here, we explain the primary functions of packaging (not in order of importance) in product development.
Protection serves as the basic function of packaging. Products are shipped and handled in multiple manners which may cause damage if not properly packed. Food items in particular, need to be packed in certain ways to ensure longer lifespan and sealed freshness. The materials used for packaging depends on the product feature where plastic is more commonly used for food items, and paper and box for other non-food items.
The nutrition facts label on food-based products’ packaging ensure consumers are informed of its ingredients. Some health-conscious consumers are highly critical of what goes in into their bodies, hence, the ingredients used in the product must be clearly stated on the packaging.
Failure to disclose the ingredients used would often lead to distrust among consumers or even lead to lawsuit in some cases. Packaging needs to include all the important information and the placement of this information on the packaging must be visible and readable.
Packaging design comes in a variety of style. Some comes in a more ‘serious’ look while others may look more casual. The design generally relies on market segmentation and product positioning. For examples, children’s products are more often than not colourful while products designed for adults commonly come in one or two harmonious colours.
There are also packaging that carries the company’s business direction or image. The packaging for flagship mobile phones, for instance the iPhone X, has a minimalistic yet stylish approach.
It is true that most of the purchasing we do are based on impulse buying rather than prior planning. Take a look at the supermarket shelves where a great number of seasoning products from various brands are sold. We might have a specific brand that we are accustomed to, but we may be enticed to look, pick, read and finally buy another brand that comes in fresh, interesting looking packaging.
Similarly, our children’s preferences are also mostly due to packaging that are bold in colours and the ones that appear to be fun and interesting.
Ease of use
This is related to ergonomics. How the product will commonly be used will determine the style of packaging. Water bottles are packaged differently depending on its usage. Some are intended to be stationary, while some are meant for outdoor activities in different environments. The latter needs to be more sturdy, has a more secured cap, and come in small or medium size for certain duration of activity yet not too big to be carried around.
Value, anticipation builder
This is the unsung role of packaging which is often neglected by producers due to lack of understanding or lack of budget. Think about your product as a valuable and anticipated gift. The packaging of your product is the gift box.
Ever received a birthday gift in which the actual product is packed in layers and layers of papers or boxes? It requires us to patiently and eagerly remove the layers one by one before we eventually get to the product. This is anticipation.
In the context of birthday gifts, people may take this as a joke. But in the real world, packaging that builds such anticipation may aid in the consumers’ appreciation, hence, adding more value to the product. Complex and unique packaging normally suggests a valuable product. Even if the product is not as valuable to the consumer, the packaging itself would be appreciated and kept.
Of course, this type of packaging technique is not meant for products used on a daily basis as it is pretty costly. But manufacturers should attempt this technique once in a while for their ‘limited edition’ or festival-related production.
Packaging is more than just ‘wrapping’ the product. Used to its maximum potential and you may not even need an advertising campaign to attract consumers to purchase your product. SME owners, in particular, should take note.
Raja Sharil Azhar bin Raja Abdillah is a design lecturer from the Faculty of Business, Design and Arts at Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.