Tips for choosing the packaging that’s just right for your product and for your customers.
It's all in the package,” is a favorite expression of marketers. To sell your product, you must attract and inform the customer. Unless someone has the opportunity to taste your product, the only chance you have of convincing a consumer to purchase is through your packaging. Tour any supermarket and note what catches your eye, and why. This will convince you of the important role of package design.
Look at the competition
Before you decide on your package and label do some market research. Start by visiting stores that carry products you are interested in. Look at competitors' products. Look through the other aisles while you are there. You just might find some new ideas. Packaging changes constantly. What new innovations are there in tamper-proof, recyclable and reusable packaging? Trade shows are great places to learn about package and label trends. You do not want to reinvent the wheel. You want to use existing containers, boxes, tins and bottles in new and exciting ways.
Consider the consumer. Your market research has identified your target consumer. You need to keep this profile in mind when you design your package and your label. The package should relate to the product. The consumer should be able to tell what the product is, based on its package, be it a box, jar, bottle or plastic jug.
Your market also determines the package. If your product is sold primarily as a gift, it may require a slightly different presentation than a product sold primarily in a food store, alongside mass-marketed products.
The packaging should give consumers an idea of the cost of your product. If you have a slightly higher retail price, your packaging should reflect that. It implies that the product is a specialty item, and consumers should expect to pay a bit more.
The use of the product may influence decisions about the flexibility, the overall size, the closure of the packaging and other issues. Availability and shipping costs are also considerations.
Also, think about store display. Shelf space is limited and some grocers and retailers have requirements for your product. If your package deviates from the standard shelf height for products like yours, you may find it hard to get your product into certain stores. Talk to retailers, grocers, distributors and container manufacturers about these issues.
The characteristics of a package that make it consumer friendly include:
• environmentally friendly (reusable, recyclable, minimal packaging);
• tamper evident or tamper proof;
• easy to open; and
• convenient (sizes, re-sealable, etc.)
Check with local, provincial and federal departments of environment to identify any packaging restrictions that pertain to your product. Contact numbers can be found in the blue pages of your phone book.
By now you have given some thought to your product package and size, and to mandatory labeling requirements. What about the design of your label? The label helps to convey the personality of your product. It is one of your best advertising opportunities.
Naming your product: The name of the product should tell consumers what it is. The name is the product's identity. Like its design, it helps to define the personality of the product.
Many specialty products are named for the person who created the recipe or for the place where the product is manufactured. These names help to lend a personal touch to the product and establish its personality. That is part of what lends charm and uniqueness to specialty food products.
Here again, it is important to think of your market. If your product is primarily a gift, you may want to consider using a location in the name. That would make it a nice souvenir for travellers to keep or give to friends. If your primary market is a specialty food store, an offbeat name that shows a bit of innovation may be in order.
Try out some names on your family, friends and anyone else willing to give you an honest opinion. Gauge the response to each.
Label copy: Think about ways you can build on a sense of place and personality in your label copy. Leave a panel open to tell a little about who produces the product or where it comes from. It gives your product a personality that a mass-market product does not have. That personality is a strong selling point. It is one of the things that makes specialty products appealing to consumers. Also include information on how to use the product. That information helps to broaden your appeal to a less sophisticated audience, who may not know exactly what to do with a certain type of seasoning, sauce or condiment.
Hang tags: Also consider hang tags as an additional selling device. A hang tag is the tiny tag that hangs off the neck of many bottles. These usually carry recipe suggestions that add perceived value to your product and help to personalize it. A hang tag is another way to increase the use of the product and to establish a connection with the consumer. If you have a family of products, this is also a place to cross promote.
Designing your label: Getting help from a graphic designer or a design firm is strongly recommended. A well-designed label makes your product easier to sell to consumers, retailers, mail order catalogues, brokers and distributors.
Look for a designer or firm that has produced labels or package design. To find a designer whose work you like, walk the aisles of markets and retail shops and jot down the names of product labels that appeal to you. Contact the companies and ask for referrals.
It is not a good idea to work with a designer who is already producing a label for the manufacturer of a competitive product. In any case, most reputable designers would politely refer you to another designer or firm if they felt that working on your product would harm their relationship with their current clients.
Select a few designers and arrange to meet with them and to see a portfolio of their work. Discuss fees and expenses. Then determine whom you feel most comfortable working with.
Your decision should be based on your response to their portfolio of work, your feelings about how well you would work together and the proposed fee structure.
Remember, this is an important relationship. Your designer must produce a label and logo that will capture the essence of the product you have worked so hard to produce. There is a lot riding on the success of your decision, so be sure it is based on all the factors, and not just on price.
Some designers work for a flat fee plus expenses. Others work for a fee plus royalties. The latter is sometimes an easier arrangement for a smaller producer as it allows you an initially lower fee for the design of the label and the first printing. If the product sells well and you reprint the label, the designer is paid a predetermined royalty, based on the print run.
There are creative ways to negotiate fee structures. Be honest about how much you can afford and let designers tell you if they can work within your budget. Get a contract that spells out who retains the rights to the artwork and whether royalties are to be paid for future printings. Be specific about the press run and the royalty agreement. The graphic design industry has guidelines intended to help you and the designer create a contract that covers all of these issues and more.
Working with your designer
Your designer needs to know the package sizes, the number of colors available for printing and all the copy that must appear on the label.
You also want to discuss who your competition is and where you plan to sell your product. If your product is mass-marketed, the label needs a different look from the label on a product available only at gourmet food stores or retail shops. You may need two different labels for the same product if you have two very different markets. Have your designer go to the market to see what other products look like and get a better sense of where your product will be sitting on the shelf.
If you have an existing product and want your package redesigned, take the package with you so that you can discuss what you like and dislike about the existing label. You may want to carry over some aspects of the existing label into your new design so that consumers can quickly identify your product on the shelf. The same is true if you are introducing a new addition to your family of products. You should build on the brand identity you have established with consumers. If they recognize some familiar aspect of the label, they may try your new product out of brand loyalty.
You can expect designers to show you sketches of the proposed design after your first meeting. You will meet to discuss the sketches and then your designer will revise the ideas and present you with a final sketch for approval. Then, he or she will commission artwork or produce the finished product. If you do not like the proposed designs and revisions, and feel you can no longer work with the designer; you can opt to terminate the relationship by paying him what is called a kill fee. But, if you have carefully and thoughtfully done the preliminary work of interviewing, looking at portfolios, and checking references, this should not happen.
Sometimes it is hard to choose which design you like best. If that is the case, show the sketches to family and friends, retailers, brokers, or distributors. It is always a good idea to get other reactions. Remember, you are so close to the product that you may overlook some aspect of the design or presentation of information. It is also a good idea to show a copy of the proposed design to the printer to ensure that he can reproduce the design without any problems or additional charges.
For information on packaging and labelling suppliers visit the Alberta Agriculture Food and Rural Development website.
Source: Alberta Agriculture Food and Rural Development, www.agric.gov.ab.ca.
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