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Style Over Substance – When Packaging Sells

Style Over Substance – When Packaging Sells

Packaging, especially when dealing with consumer products, is one of the most important aspects of marketing. You only have to look down a supermarket aisle to realise that we are not only enticed by packaging, we are bombarded with it.

The outer wrapper of a product shapes the strongest image of a brand in a buyer’s mind. That’s why brands are hesitant to make drastic changes to their packaging and why many have kept the same design for years. This includes label design and logos. Through their packaging, brands want to create a connection with the consumer so that they return to that brand, time and time again.

Packaging needs to appeal to all of the senses but first it needs to attract our eyes. It has to make a psychological connection, too. We have to like the colours. The shape of the box or wrapper should be pleasing too. The text should be easy to read and informative. Not too much, not too little. Then we have to carry the product, transport it, use it, store it… then we discard it, throw it away… considering all these things, no wonder it is a challenge for manufacturers to get packaging right! Obviously, personal choice comes into the equation, and whilst some prefer bold prints and even a bit of bling, others like more simple and sophisticated designs.

So where does the content that is inside the packaging come in? And if the wrapper or label is so enticing, does it really matter if what’s inside isn’t of the best quality? Here are my top three household examples of where packaging really sells:

1) Benefit cosmetics

With quirky product names like ‘Bad gal lash’ and ‘Dr Feelgood’, Benefit takes risks with its packaging. It borders cheeky and sophisticated, and each product has a different story, making you feel a part of the Benefit ‘family’. Where make up is concerned, I live by the rule ‘you have to see it to believe it’. Unless a beauty product has been recommended to me, I have absolutely no idea if it is any good or not, and so in my eyes the packaging of beauty products is more important than ever. I think any good make up artist would say that different make up suits different skin. Just because it has good packaging, it doesn’t mean it’s a good product for you. But Benefit hits the nail on the head for quality with that little bit of fun, sure to entice you to open up that purse and make a purchase!



2) Absolut Vodka

I personally love the story of how Absolut chose the packaging that we are all so familiar with today. It goes like this: ‘American experts were called in. They recommended modern-looking packaging with a bright, colorful label that would stand out on the shelf. They recommended a royal touch, mimicking so many of the “Czar themes” on the market at the time. The Swedish team was less than thrilled. ’

The breakthrough came when a bottle was finally chosen. Like many breakthroughs it came purely by chance and in retrospect seems almost too obvious. ’

Advertising man Gunnar Broman was looking through an antique shop window in Stockholm’s “Old Town” when he saw an old Swedish medicine bottle, a cultural icon was unchanged for more than a hundred years. The bottle was elegant, different, simple and very Swedish. In the 16th and 17th centuries vodka had been sold in pharmacies as medicine to cure everything from colic to the plague. ’

The choice was a stroke of genius. Several Swedish designers were given the job of helping the Absolut Vodka team further develop the bottle. ’


It had been decided that there should be no label to hide the crystal clear contents. After much discussion and several prototypes the team came to the conclusion that some kind of coloured lettering was required. Blue was decided upon as a the most visible and attractive colour, the colour that is still used today for the famous Absolut Vodka logo.’

Funny enough, I actually enjoy other vodka brands better, purely because of taste. But even though I prefer other brands, I always find myself wanting to buy Absolut, because of its packaging. What I particularly love about Absolut Vodka packaging, is the way it can be adapted for special occasions and flavours – for example, the new copper Absolut Elyx, whose packaging includes copper lines over a clear bottle with a copper bottle top. Mixed with genius advertising campaigns to match, no wonder it is the world’s best selling Vodka!

3) Ella’s kitchen

Mothers (especially new ones) are one of the most marketable groups in terms of consumers – they want the best for their child, and will go great lengths to get it! But they also want easy-to-use products that work for them. Great for mums on the go are Ella’s Kitchen food products. Gone are glass jars and hard to open lids – instead, baby food comes inside a squeezy pouch which keeps food fresh even when it’s been inside a warm changing bag all day. Ella’s Kitchen says:

‘We believe that, just as adults do, babies eat with all of their senses – so it’s not just the texture or taste that’s important. That’s why we make sure all our scrummy, 100% organic baby food appeals to all their senses, with bright, colourful, squeezy packs that we know they love to grab and squish.’


Packaging is 100% recyclable, so appeals to environment-conscious mums too, and the range includes gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian products.

Always a challenge is coaxing your little one into eating the contents, but a big high five for Ella’s Kitchen’s packaging and making life just that little bit easier! Quality counts, but it is clear that superior packaging will always go far in swaying purchasers to return to your brand. And with more than three quarters of purchasing decisions made at the shelf (according to Point of Purchase Advertising International) it pays to get your packaging right!

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