Boxing Up a Brand

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What’s in a brand?

In an age of information and product overload, companies clamber to stand out and connect with consumers. Enter branding: an opportunity to not only distinguish a company from competitors but also set the tone for the product experience. In short, a brand encompasses a company’s identity, aspirations and consumer perception, according to Entrepreneur’s Small Business Encyclopedia.

Why does packaging matter?

Packaging means more than just protection. With consumers constantly on the go, an item’s presentation can add oomph, catching buyers’ attention and permitting them to judge a product by its packaging. “The packaging is that first moment of truth for you to experience the product—that’s the perfect moment to elevate [the consumer’s] experience . . . as well as really embody the brand values you want to convey,” says Kuen Chang, a design director and industrial designer in the IDEO Chicago studio, a global design consultancy that launches products, services and brands. “Any time you can use that opportunity to reinforce your mission statement, you enhance your brand equity.”

Packaging should also be memorable, connect emotionally and bring “simplicity in complexity,” acting as a bridge between brand and product without overloading consumers, says Jin Ko, a portfolio director and brand experience designer also in the Chicago IDEO studio.

With great power comes great responsibility. The sentiment sounds cliché, but it certainly applies to packaging. As shopping habits evolve and the Amazons of the world grow, there’s pressure on packaging to do more than just branding. Ko and Chang know all about next-level packaging, having joined forces to design a concept for a medication bottle that “ripens” like a banana when the pills expire. According to Chang, technology may begin to play an even bigger role, with intelligence embedded into product packaging. “We’re living in a really exciting era,” Chang says. “Finally I think technology is beyond what you can imagine. If you did come up with a good idea, there’s a way to make it happen.”

Ampro Design

Scene03Ampro Design created a wine bottle to toast its clients and to symbolize a partnership where both parties win. “This packaging reflects our vision that our success as a business is directly connected with our client’s success,” says Irinel Ionescu, founder and creative director of the Romanian packaging and brand design firm. The “win-win” bottle boasts two necks in an enclosure that helps the product stand and also doubles as cups. Ionescu says of the two cups, “One represents us and one the client, and the bottle and its contents represent the good results.”

Since its creation in late 2009, other businesses (such as wine producers in Greece, a bank in Bulgaria and wine distributor in Austria and a company in Africa) have expressed interest in purchasing the item for various events. The product’s packaging also garnered seven international awards, including a Brand Identity Grand Prix accolade and a Pentaward, which recognizes packaging designs from around the world.



apothecary-woman-tiglio_CMYK crop

Don’t judge a book by its cover, unless you’re looking at Apothecary’s packaging. When asked to design packaging for organic Italian soaps, co-founders and creative directors Elena Carella and Emanuele Basso of The 6th Creative Studio in Milan, drew a page from another industry.

Realized by Lara Piccirillo, the packaging mimics miniature books tied shut with a black elastic band, romantic and classic. The “book covers” are whimsical, yet elegant, and are inspired by the product’s floral ingredients from Sicily and Sardinia.

“The idea was that you have soap with such special ingredients, such old and unknown recipes, that the packaging should be like a small book of secrets,” says Carella, who noted that cosmetic and fashion shops began requesting to carry the product and display it in their windows during Christmas. “It was the first time the brand had a face,” Basso says. “Normal soaps were turned into something of a bit more luxury.”

Tube Toys

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.02.33 PM Who says packaging can’t become part of the product? Tube Toys, created by London-based product designer Oscar Diaz, are fueled by sustainability and imagination. “When you see children playing, they enjoy sometimes as much the packaging of a product as the product itself,” says Diaz, whose designs include all recycled or recyclable materials to make the product more ecological and economical for the producer and consumer.

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The tube contains wheels, stickers and other accessories that transform it into a vehicle when all pieces are attached to pre-cut slots. Children can choose from four models: a train, tractor, fire truck or car, and take their creativity on the road. “Packaging is a huge instrument when the customers have so many choices,” says Diaz, noting that most items are over packaged. “I think there’s a demand for this kind of product, which is a bit more ecological.”

Thelmas Oven BoxThelma’s Treats

For cookies fresh from the oven, look to Thelma’s Treats, a Des Moines, Iowa-based cookie delivery business that aims to delight cookie lovers through its product and packaging.

Dereck Lewis launched the company in 2012 in memory of his great-grandmother, who he remembers spreading love via batches of homemade snickerdoodles. He teamed with a marketing firm to spice up a typical cookie container, transforming a delivery box-turned 1950s-style oven into a standalone marketing plan. “I think [the packaging] is probably the thing that embodies our brand the most,” he says. “One of our core brand words is joy, so our design revolves around the idea of spreading joy. The classic oven really takes people back to their grandma’s house and brings up good memories of their own lives.”

The oven theme sweetens the unboxing experience, allowing customers to pull open the front flap and slide warm cookies out. The package even gained traction on social media, with patrons snapping images to share with followers. “Because it’s such a cute box, people like to showcase it, and it has a big ripple effect,” Lewis says.

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