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Innovation in Packaging

Packaging – the most overlooked facet of a brand !

  • Over 70% of all purchases are estimated to occur at the point of sale, thereby giving packages an important role to play by standing out, communicating benefits and displaying a strong brand personality.
  • It sometimes is the only differentiating aspect between you and competitors.
  • It plays a strong role in the brand’s identity (especially, but not restricted to, the ‘physique’ angle). It is the only part of the brand which the consumer touches, or even flaunts.
  • Takes the longest time to change / modify and can’t be stopped overnight (unlike a TV commercial,  a radio spot, the price, or a distribution channel).

So, periodic innovation is necessary in design or form of packaging to ensure brand vitality. This post attempts to set a path for innovation in packaging, and a few pitfalls; towards key objectives that could give you a competitive edge in the market.

Packaging Innovation


Category Conventions

Every category, as it matures, leads to a few conventions that actually set boundaries to consumer preferences and later define the category. Consumers would then equate a particular form / colour to the category and any new entrant outside this boundary ends up in their blind spot.

body building supplements packaging



Body building supplements are typically packed in bulky containers (more wide than tall). This reinforces a subconscious promise to the consumer and any pack that is thin (to look differentiated) would just get ignored by the consumer.





classic champagne bottle with popping cork background


The cork in a wine / champagne bottle is a key component, with its uncorking having become a ‘ritual’. It is an event that marks the beginning of celebration. It would make little sense to replace this with an ‘easier to open’ screw top cap in the name of innovation.





Category Similarity Swamp

So, all the best practices of the industry are adopted by all the players. Innovation attempts are left to the leader and (if successful) copied by every one else. A certain body shape communicates key benefits, a particular set of colours represent the category, a similar set of pack graphics communicate what the consumer is looking for, the top of the pack needs to have the brand logo…. and voila!, everything on the shelf ends up looking the same.

How long does it take you to find the product that is meant for you, in these shelves?

Confusing shelves packaging

Pack similarity cluttered shelves

Thus a critical part of packaging involves this tricky part of ensuring the pack fits into definite category conventions while not getting slowed down by the swamp of category similarities.

Packaging as a key part of Innovation

The Key to creating a winning innovation in packaging lies in constantly revisiting category requisites, while creating innovations that lead to either, creating a brand personality, or increase its functionality, or communicating product promise, or creating an engagement with the pack.  The possibilities are endless, and it is possible to create winning packaging designs through in more than one aspect, as the examples that follow will prove.

However, while creating these drivers, you should avoid another pitfall – which is ‘identity alienation’ or seeming so different that your existing consumers cannot recognise you. The example for this was Tropicana’s failed pack relaunch which consumers totally rejected. The new pack totally didn’t bring forward any of the previous elements which the consumer would have used to recognise the pack earlier (Bold horizontal logo, depiction of fruit, straw, etc.) This was just something new to them in every aspect.

Packaging redesign - failures


Brand Personality

The packaging needs to bring about a consistent personality, in line with the identity of the brand. A few examples of axes that can be used:

Packaging - Brand Personality - Novice vs expert packaging Packaging - Brand Personality - Traditional vs Contemporary packaging Packaing - Brand Personality - fragrance vs natural packaging


Another source of inspiration for packaging design innovation could emerge from the brand name itself. Check out the two examples – Samurai – the sliced bottle used for the perfume creates an edgy atmosphere and a clear link to the brand name. So is the case for Dynamite Hot dog- with a spicy combination being wrapped in ‘dynamite packaging’

Packaging - brand personality - Dynamite hot dogs

Packaging - Brand Personality - Samurai


Packaging can also exhibit a strong ‘Source’ identity – what better way for an ‘extra hot’ chilli oil to demonstrate a certain mexican flavour to its bottle design?

Packaging Innovations - Brand Personality - Source

Identity can also be reinforced through personification of products, this could also help in differentiating variants in a clutter breaking way.

Packaging Innovations - Brand Personality - Personification 2 Packaging Innovations - Brand Pesonality - Personification


Think of the elements of brand personality that get added for, say, a ‘genuine’ / ‘aged’ whiskey to be packaged in an old newspaper? Or for a ‘real’ / ‘pure’ honey jar packed with small paper bees packed in the carton? Or for a ‘stunning’ ‘golden’ design and shape for a premium under-eye cream?

Packaging innovations - Brand Personality - Cover Packaging innovations - Brand Personality - Honey Packaging innovations - Brand Personality - Premium

Reinforcing Product Promise


The product promise can be enhanced by proving effectiveness, providing more information, enabling actual demonstration, Or adding brand personality (again).

What better way to guarantee that a watch is water proof, than to pack it in water?

Packaging innovations - BRand PRomise - Demonstration

In either the design or the packaging form, you could suggest effectiveness.

Packaging innovations - Product promise  - effectiveness PAckaging innovations - PRoduct promise - effectiveness

By adding dimensions of purity or transparency in packaging this box of ‘eple’ reinforces its brand promise.

Packaging Innovations - Brand Promise - Purity


Read more on the other aspects of Packaging innovations – Engagement, Breaking Clutter and Adding Functionality – here.




  1. Pingback: Packaging Innovations – breaking Clutter, creating engagement | brand manager guide - October 18, 2014

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