How to Create a Strong and Concise Packaging Hierarchy

Do you ever see a package and just say, “Wow that is beautiful”? On the contrary, do you ever look at a product and have no idea what they are selling, why it is important, or what to look at first? Those are two very extreme examples of how a strong and well thought out hierarchy can effect packaging and leave an impression on your customer.

Knowing your product and hierarchy of information is so important. You can have an amazing product, but if you can’t convey that on the packaging (through the way and order in which you communicate) then no one will know.

I have had many clients that want to put everything on the front panel. They say, “…But it’s all important!” Yes, but no. Customers only take 2-3 seconds to read and absorb information on packaging. That’s not a very long time.

Studies show that customers will actually interact with your package differently each and every time they encounter it. The first time, they may spend the majority of time reading and investigating the package. The second encounter, they may just skim the copy but enjoy the appetite appeal or interesting photography. The third time, they start to recognize colors, shapes and graphics. And so on…

Knowing what you want to communicate and the order of importance of that information is KEY to connecting quickly and communicating with a customer.

Here are a few things to think about as you are creating a strong brand and package hierarchy:

What is the feel of brand/ package? Yes, information is important, but that first impression will be a total snapshot of your brand. Do you want to communicate heritage? Modern innovation? Strong appetite appeal? When you know your positioning, you can more clearly write and define your words and hierarchy so that it aligns with the marketing objectives.

What do you HAVE to communicate? Know what you are required to say and what the regulatory rules are that you have live with. A good designer can integrate regulatory information in a way that meets the standards, but does not distract from the marketing objective and shelf impact.

What do you WANT to communicate? What results, feelings, or impressions do you want the consumer to have when they engage with the package? Do you want their mouth to water because of the delicious photography? Do you want them to be given a list of claims that justify the purchase? Write all of them down, then number them in order of priority. This will give you a chance to really decide what is important, and what is there as extra information. Remember, there are so many other places to tell your story. It doesn’t all have to fit on the front panel.

KISS – (Keep It Simple Stupid) – You’ve heard it before: simple is better, less is more. It really is true. Just look at Apple packaging and ask yourself, do I want that or a Microsoft box? (Sorry Microsoft.) There is elegance in simplicity in our over-communicated lives. So pretend that you can only have 2-3 callouts. What will they be? Determine what you MUST say and try to stick with that.

Now write it down – Here is a list. Feel free to use it and apply it to your own brand.

  1. Brand position – What do I want to convey?
  2. What MUST I communicate?
    1. Net weight or content statement
    2. Mandatory claims (regulated information)
    3. Product name
    4. Sub-descriptors (flavor, artificially flavored, enhanced, etc.)
  3. What do I WANT to communicate?
    1. Brand logo
    2. Claims
    3. Benefits
    4. Results
    5. Imagery
    6. Violators (new, low fat, etc.)

Now number these in the order of importance. Share the list with your design team and trust them to figure out how to visually communicate that order using type, color, size and graphics.

Taking the time to figure out your hierarchy of information will make this process a lot easier for your team. Commit to fully completing and reviewing this internal document with your team before you start design. Your results will be: a faster time to shelf, less revisions, clear communication, happy customers and ultimately, more sales!

How do you organize information and callouts on your packaging? How do you structure communication in order to connect with your clients? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.