How much does packaging matter?
Quite a lot, it turns out.
A recent poster by The Design House brings this to life. It depicts a simple outline illustration of three objects.
Despite the lack of any detail each is instantly identifiable – as Chanel No 5, Coca-Cola and Pringles.
The shapes, materials and textures of packaging can be iconic.
We can instantly recognise bottles of Kikkoman Soy Sauce, jars of Marmite, or packets of Toblerone from a dozen paces.
Sometimes the packaging of a single brand can define an entire category.
Take a look down the supermarket aisles and brave is the brand that stands out. Competing products are often stubbornly similar – housed in the same kinds of containers, even following similar graphical styles and colour schemes.
Supermarkets have long exploited this trend with own label copycats that aim to short-circuit pre-existing preferences for brand leaders and nudge us towards buying similar substitutes.
But brands that do dare to be different can reap great rewards. Red Bull famously adopted a narrower can shape, rather than follow the squat 330ml form factor popularised by Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
It worked in drawing attention to its points of difference (and hiding the fact it too is an unhealthy concoction of sugar and caffeine).
Paint company Lick has adopted a beautifully designed industrial style can shape, rather than a standard cylinder, which helps gives the brand a premium feel.
Sometimes innovation in packaging design comes as a result of innovation in the business model.
Bloom and Wild has created a hugely successful mail order flowers business by using packaging that fits through standard letter boxes without damaging the fragile contents inside.
How packaging works, and how it looks, is no longer enough for consumers. Increasingly they care about what happens after the packaging has served its primary purpose.
These days the ability to recycle is thankfully, usually a given.
But it would be good to see more examples of packaging having a useful ongoing purpose – such as how Nutella’s smaller jars are perfectly designed to have a second life as breakfast juice glasses.