At a recent networking event, after introducing myself to the group, one of my colleagues piped up with some thoughts on package design. “I do not want to see a brown bag of chips. EVER,” she said. “Chips in a brown bag CANNOT be good!” We chatted briefly about the importance of design to influence purchasing decisions and then she added, “But then you see a beautiful package that looks soooooo good, you take it home, and the product inside looks NOTHING like the front of the box!” In approximately 2 minutes, my fellow savvy business owner (who, by the way, is not involved in the design field in any way) hit on two of the most important building blocks of a successful food package and brand design – knowing your community and being authentic to yourself.

First, let’s talk some more about the importance of knowing your community. In the example above, if a chip brand was trying to reach people like this consumer, they sure as heck had better not have picked brown for one of their primary brand colors! How do you avoid this mistake? Before you begin any brand design work, get curious about your community. Go out and ask them, when do they like to eat chips? How often? Do they eat them alone or share them with family and friends? How do chips make them feel? Once you have that information, you can begin to build the visual communication toolbox (including color!) that will most resonate with the people you are trying to reach. And even more importantly, give them a brand experience that they will love!

Now that you’ve thought through what is most important to your tribe, it’s time to consider the truth about your product. Today, people demand transparency from the brands they buy. Long gone are the days when you can just slap a pretty picture on the front of a box and expect to gain a brand loyalist. They may try your product once, but if they are disappointed, they will never try it again. So, when you think about your packaging design, how can you make sure it looks great AND provides the most accurate representation of your product? If your product is attractive and ready-to-eat, consider utilizing transparent packaging to show it off. If not, maybe illustration is your best bet, or even focusing on imagery of the ingredients, instead. And don’t forget about the quality of your packaging materials. Choosing an elegant bottle shape, a heavier cardstock or even a higher-ply film can elevate the look and feel of your package design. Even though these materials may mean having to reconcile some higher costs up-front, the long-term sales gains could make the investment worth considering.

If you have more questions about how to avoid the dreaded double-take of disappointment when a customer opens your box and peers inside to see something that looks NOTHING like the front of the box, or you’re having trouble nailing down how to visually execute your brand strategy, we’re always here to help – we love working with brands to get their packaging right.