Provocative or practical, how you package your products is critical to your success. Without great packaging, the best product in the world is destined to sit unnoticed on the shelf or arrive in a zillion pieces.
“Packaging is the first thing you notice about any product,” said Glenn Tatem, a development engineer for The Maesa Group, an award-winning global design firm in New York. Tatem, who specializes in designing the packaging for celebrity fragrances, said a package needs to “look good and function well.” It is extremely important, especially if you make any sort of cosmetic or over-the-counter drug.
“You don’t want the product breaking or shattering in your purse,” said Tatem. If you produce a liquid product, he added, you have to make sure the package prevents the product from leaking, spilling or evaporating.
Bottom line: Your package has to be functional. For example, if you sell a small, valuable item to a big box store, you’ll probably need to protect it with a tough, plastic “clam shell.” Those packages are impossible to open without a knife, scissors or other tools.
Tatem and other packaging and branding experts say companies should invest in a great package design as a way to set themselves apart from the competition.
“A good package has to differentiate your company and product from the marketplace, but not be so crazy-looking that it turns your customers off,” said Julia Reich, a graphic designer who works with many small companies, including several wineries in upstate New York.
Reich said winemakers are especially savvy when it comes to great label design, pointing to the success of Australian wines, especially Yellow Tail, with its bright, appealing label.
Never let a customer walk out the door with a plain bag or package, Reich advises. “Even if you are on a budget, putting your product in a beautiful bag goes a long way.”
While designers focus primarily on creating eye-catching labels and packages, companies like Accel Inc., based in Lewis Center, Ohio, create turn-key packaging solutions for big and small companies.
“A product properly packaged is half sold,” is founder Tara Abraham’s motto. One of the nation’s leading commercial packaging experts, Abraham began her merchandising career at Bath and Body Works. Fifteen years ago, she left her job to open a small “pick and pack” operation serving a variety of companies.
Accel designs and produces custom packaging for big and small companies, including The Limited, Victoria’s Secret Beauty and Bath and Body Works. Accel posts annual revenues in excess of $20 million and operates out of a 580,000-square foot facility. During the busy holiday season, extending from July to January, Abraham said her staff expands from 260 to 1,100.
The company’s minimum order is usually 5,000 units, but Abraham said if she thinks a new product has promise, she will work with a small business owner on a budget to create the right packaging solution.
An avid shopper, Abraham said she can predict which products, especially gift sets, will be a hit with consumers based on the buzz among her employees.
Abraham reminds business owners that no matter what you make or sell, your packaging has to protect your product on its journey between the factory and consumer. “First, you have to protect the product to make sure it gets to the store safely,” said Abraham. “We do drop tests on all our package designs and keep reducing the packaging until the product breaks.”
She encourages business owners to opt for minimal packaging design to reduce costs while protecting the environment. For example, she said Accel worked with a client to eliminate 27 truckloads of waste heading to a landfill by figuring out a better way to package baskets imported from China.
No matter what you make or sell, Abraham says a great package has “clean, sleek lines and colors that pop.”
Jane Applegate is author of 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, published by John Wiley & Sons. The Applegate Group Inc. helps big companies provide better products and services for small business owners and produces promotional videos.