The Whole Package

By Barry J. Nathanson

I am big admirer of great packaging. I can think of no other industry that is more successful in its presentation of its products than the beverage industry. In no other business is there such a premium placed on packaging with regard to its ability to position, define and give clarity to what the essence of the brand is. Without packaging, there’s just a puddle. With it, there’s not just a functional container but a key enticement to buy.

When you walk the aisles of our retail emporiums, the packaging must be eye-catching. You’re stimulated and enticed to try the offerings which are so beautifully displayed. No products initiate impulse buys like beverages, so the package has to beat out the competition.

So please allow me to share some thoughts on what I feel makes successful packaging

First of all, I’m a big believer in proprietary packaging. If you can afford it, change the playing field. I can think of no other brand that helped define its uniqueness more than Fiji. Don’t settle for less than your vision. Arizona didn’t settle, and its success speaks volumes.

Second, less is more when it comes to graphics and copy. If you need to beat the consumer down by spending too much time explaining what your product is and what it does, then you won’t succeed. Let the visuals tell your story, but make sure the story has merit.

Third, be cognizant of the basics, like how the product works on the shelf. Often, I’m sent prototypes of graphics, and one story exemplifies a lack of insight. A flavored water brand had its name aligned vertically, with the name running up. I pointed out that in a glide rack, the bottom is hidden, so the consumer wouldn’t see the brand name and only the word “water” would have been visible. They reversed the name design. This was caught in time, but too many mistakes aren’t.

Fourth, clean up the Nutrition Facts section. Most aren’t readable, and the consumer really does want to know what’s in it, and how much. I like the “one bottle” serving size for instant consumption products – it’s just a more truthful representation of your ingredients.

Fifth, create special looks, either seasonal offerings or special promotional SKUs. It gives the buyer – and the retailer – a sense of excitement about your brand.

This list really only scratches the surface, but you get the sense of what I’m trying to say. It is important to distinguish your product. Packaging is the “window to the soul” of your brand. Make that window as striking as possible.