November 2018
Packaging - Success by Design

Jeffrey Spear - President, Studio Spear

Jeff Spear

Marketers are constantly challenged to develop new products and position them in a manner that will appeal to, and resonate with, a fickle and easily distracted buying audience. With so many competitive brands on retailer's shelves, the only way to prevail is by design.


It is a well-established fact that packaging is the #1 sales ambassador. While well-crafted and emotionally appealing design sells, let’s not forget that packaging design has two essential elements: 1. Structure and 2. Applied Graphics. In many instances, containers are generic and off the shelf, limiting design to labels alone. Unfortunately, this approach overlooks valuable opportunities to establish a competitive advantage and generate sales.

Sure, proprietary packaging is expensive. But simply dressing up a tried and true container may not generate the impact you desire. While many buyers still judge a book by its cover, there is a growing number of consumers who have become somewhat immune to superficial presentations.

I’m not saying applied graphics aren’t important. They are. In fact, it’s often a dominant color or striking illustration that first catches the eye, initiates a favorable emotional response, compels investigation and contributes favorably to your bottom line.

All you have to do is walk down the cereal aisle. This is a category where just about all of the competitors have agreed to the same structural configuration - the rectangular paperboard box. As a result, consumers encounter one flat façade after another. The only element that describes contents, communicates value and creates brand allegiance is the applied graphic on the front panel. Whether it’s a multi-colored toucan, dimensionally rendered lettering, or some other visual device, the impact of color, typography and illustration is unmistakable.

There are some brands that have found success at the opposite end of the spectrum - creating significant gains by exploiting container shape and functionality. Look at what Pom Wonderful has achieved with the introduction of their undeniably distinctive “figure eight” plastic container. It stands out from the crowd with virtually no assistance from applied graphics. While there are increasing numbers of juice producers investing in proprietary packaging, there are still those who are happy with more traditional configurations. The result is that many brand presentations in the juice category are still missing out on opportunities to enhance their competitive edge.

There’s also the issue of functionality. Creating a great looking container is no good if it’s too hard to get the product out, or it fails to maintain freshness throughout its usable life. The easy open lid, rigid pouches, gravity fed pouring (upside down condiment containers) and advances in ergonomics have all been very well received. Even the humble toothpaste tube is experiencing functional improvements that are, in my opinion, long overdue.

Without a doubt, there are some wonderful opportunities in packaging design that remain untapped. The first step is recognizing that parody brands are only good for a while. Stores are full to the ceiling with copycats and lower priced equivalents. Don’t forget, consumers are more informed than ever and can see a fraud from miles away. It’s been proven, time and time again, that consumers appreciate value, seek out quality, and are willing to pay a premium for high integrity products. If you have any doubt, just take a look at how well specialty foods are performing and how rapidly they have gained shelf space in mainstream supermarkets.

Packaging design, whether structural or applied, is playing a very real role in brand building, consumer preference and sales. If your bottom line is looking a bit flat, it's probably time to re-evaluate your brand imagery and embrace change.


If the time has come to overhaul, update and re-invigorate your brand image, or you'd like to change up your marketing program, please call 904 685 2135 - ask for Jeff Spear. You can also contact Jeff via email:

Designed by Studio Spear