It's hard to understate the impact of packaging on consumers. Since packaging of a product is the first thing that a consumer sees, it plays a vital role in differentiating a brand from the competition. Appealing, environmentally-friendly packaging can give your product a competitive edge.

How Packaging Reinforces Brand Image

One effect of the packaging of a product should create or reinforce a brand’s value proposition with a focus on its target consumer. It needs to be viewed across the entire marketing mix: product, placement, pricing and promotion. Buy-one-get-one (BOGO) free promotions on high-end luxury brands may cause confusion in a consumer’s mind and devalue the brand. A child’s toy packaged in a black and white cardboard box would not create any excitement in children. In either case, sales may be affected.

Brand managers look across all the marketing and advertising elements to be sure that they present a focused and consistent brand image. Every piece of advertising, marketing and packaging for Frosted Flakes includes Tony the Tiger. The United Parcel Service makes sure that all of their brochures, uniforms, envelopes and packages contain the color brown. Tide laundry detergent has never considered changing their orange packaging. Consistency breeds familiarity in packaging, particularly for established brands and companies.

How Packaging Influences Consumer Perception

Consider the example of Tropicana, who decided to develop new packaging for its orange juice line. The new design was trendy, clean and streamlined. Tropicana’s consumers became confused. The new packaging made the Tropicana brand look too much like a generic product. Consumers had trouble finding it on the shelf and sales plummeted. Tropicana quickly reverted back to the original packaging.

Consumers expect an expensive product to have high-quality packaging. They want their eco-friendly trash bags to be contained in eco-friendly packaging and their children’s vitamins to have cartoon characters on the labels. When you do not listen to your consumers, they do not buy your brands.

Some products, such as children’s cereal, can present a challenge. The children want brightly colored packaging that appeals to them. The parents want the packaging to clearly demonstrate the cereal’s nutritional value. In this case, the child is the consumer and the parent is the shopper. Making the wrong choice in a case like this can kill a brand.

Considering Packaging Practicality

The practicality of a brand’s packaging is also important. A grab-and-go snack packaged in plastic that requires a pair of scissors to open it will soon be rejected by consumers. A food product geared towards family consumption that is packaged in single servings is not appropriate. Conversely, a product aimed at seniors that is sold in bulk packaging will probably not fare well.

Adult beverage manufacturers have faced the dilemma of perception over practicality for many years. They know that their products that are sold in glass bottles are a hazard in many situations. Many companies have tried to make the switch from glass to plastic (known as PET) bottles. When the consumers saw premium brands in plastic bottles, sales took a hit.

Cost Considerations With Packaging

When it comes to the cost of packaging and who pays it, the cost of packaging is passed along to the consumer. Consumers of premium brands want high-end packaging and are willing to pay the price. Value consumers are not. Average-priced brands must determine what price bump their consumers are willing to pay for better packaging and adjust accordingly. For any increase in packaging expenditures to be cost-effective, it must translate into higher sales.

Consider Packaging Function

Packaging of a product must also adhere with its intended use. Consumers will make a better connection with suntan lotion sold in a small, plastic spray bottle than they would if it were sold in a wide-mouthed jar. Any consumer would have a difficult time justifying the purchase of traditional laundry detergent sold in a small spray bottle. If you forget intended function of the product when designing your packaging, your product could fail.