We use the words “packaging” and “labeling” quite a lot. But what do they really mean?
At a simple Google search, Wikipedia tells us that “Packaging is the science, art, and technology of enclosing or protecting products for distribution, storage, sale, and use. Packaging also refers to the process of designing, evaluating, and producing packages.”
Similarly, labeling refers to “a piece of paper, plastic film, cloth, metal, or other material affixed to a container or product, on which is written or printed information or symbols about the product or item. Information printed directly on a container or article can also be considered labeling.”
These sound about right, don’t they?
But there’s so much more about packaging and labeling to just be satisfied with their dictionary definitions. With this post, I’ll be looking to cover the importance of packaging and labeling and the characteristics that really matter for your business.
You’ll also get some tips and tricks to getting your packaging and labeling right, so customers stay with your company in the long run.
Let’s get to it.
1. Why do you need packaging and labeling
On a strictly functional level, packaging and labeling are very useful. Except for some grocery items that we can grab and take home in our own bag – like a bunch of bananas – the truth is it’s hard for us to think about products that don’t come in some sort of packaging and/or labeling.
In fact, chances are that if you’re buying bananas from a supermarket, they most likely to require a price label. And you’ll stick that label to the bananas after weighing them in. Bananas could already have a label with the producer’s logo like in the picture on the right.
So it’s safe to say packaging and labeling are everywhere, and although we think we could live without fancy boxes, the truth is they matter more than we think.
You’ve been saving money to buy the latest phone. When you finally go to the store, you pay, and they give you the phone without a box. Just like that, you take it and put it in your pocket.
Not that interesting, isn’t it? In fact, you’ve just had a very disappointing client experience.
Compare this to the actual unboxing experience you’ve been waiting for for so long. Saving money so you could purchase a state-of-the-art phone culminates with the magical moment of unboxing it. You tear off the external foil, you open the two-piece box and take out the phone from its perfect-fitting place. Inside the box, everything fits & sits in the right place.
Everything speaks to you, and you’ll probably keep the box as well (we know you do because we do it too!).
Packaging and labeling matter for any business, and there are three levels of packaging you can take advantage of.
The primary packaging
Also known as retail packaging, this is the packaging that comes in immediate contact with the product. Depending on the product, the primary packaging can be different. For a face cream, the primary packaging is the cream jar. For a bunch of candies, the primary packaging is the bag they come in. For beer, the primary packaging is the beer can.
Primary packaging can also include a custom label.
The secondary packaging is used to ship, carry or sell items that already have a primary packaging, like the candies I’ve mentioned, that come in a larger bag. For the beer can, the secondary packaging would be the shrink-wrap that goes over the 6-pack or the carton carrier. For a oil dropper bottle, the secondary packaging is the dropper bottle box.
The tertiary packaging is not usually seen by the customer, except when they purchase in bulk. It’s main use is to protect the goods during shipping and storage, by grouping multiple product together. It also provides easier transportation and easier handling. For beer, the tertiary packaging can be a bigger cardboard box that houses multiple 6-packs, or a wood pallet that carries a large stack.
Tertiary packaging is not always personalized, but most companies choose to have some sort of branding to it as well, for easier identification.
All three levels of packaging are important for your business, and we’ll focus on the first two since they are the ones that your customers interact with and can really make an impact on how they perceive your brand.
Before we get into why you need to treat your packaging and labeling as an extension of your product, let’s take a look into the functional aspects of packaging and why they are useful.
Packaging and labeling provide information
Your product packaging and labeling must contain details your potential customers need to know in order to choose your product.
To make sure you provide the right information, you can use the questions below and try to incorporate the message into your custom box, your custom label, or both. Getting as specific as possible (without over-crowding your design) is very important. Even a gorgeously-printed box can turn your customers away if the information is unclear or they can’t figure it out if your product is what they need.
By looking at your packaging and your label, your potential customer must quickly form an idea about the answer to these questions:
- Who made the product? Your brand logo should easily provide an answer to this question, so it should be visible and easy to read. You can also provide your website address or list your social media channels.
- Who is the product for? Do you target women, men, is it a product for children or a specific niche? You can convey this message through the colors and design elements you choose, as well as the text that goes on the packaging.
- What is the product designed for? How is it supposed to be used? Are there any warnings you should inform them about? For example, on supplement boxes you can often see the mention that the product is not intended to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease”.
- Where was the product made? It’s important for people to know the origin of the products, especially when it comes to food products or cosmetics. A simple “Made in the USA”, “created in Oregon” or anything along those lines should be enough.
- What are the ingredients & quantity (if applicable)? Listing the ingredients is a very important thing to take into consideration and there are some rules and regulations you’ll need to apply. I’ll touch on this later in the post.
- When should it be used? Does it have an expiration date?
Packaging labels help identify the product in the absence of another packaging
If you’re selling essential oil, the bottle itself should have a label applied to help your customer know what the product is even if they discard the box. Your label should communicate the same information as a box, since it plays the same informative role: what the product is, who made it, how it should be used, how it should be recycled, and the expiry date, if applicable.
Your label can be a simple tag, a sticker label, or a multiple parts fold-out label. What’s important to keep in mind is how your customer will interact with your product and whether you’re providing the information they need in order to make the purchase.
It’s not mandatory to have both a box and a label for all your products. Sometimes the container itself provides enough protection for the product and you will just need a label. Labeling directly over the container (without a custom box) works perfectly if you’re selling directly in a physical shop.
The decision-making happens in a matter of seconds, so it’s important that your packaging and labeling clearly provide information that makes your customer choose you.
Packaging provides protection & extends shelf life
First and foremost packaging protects your product. Packaging keeps possible contaminants from getting close to your product. To ensure proper protection, it’s important to match the style of the packaging with the product you’re selling.
For example, chocolate truffles are very well protected in a two-piece or a tuck-top box, but less protected in a holster box, which works better for a bar of soap.
Similarly, you can’t put a glass dropper bottle in a holster box because it won’t provide enough protection. For a glass dropper bottle, you would need a fully-closed box, to which you can also add an insert to prevent the box from moving inside the box and possibly breaking.
You can explore all the box types we offer and see which one is a fit for you.
Also, extra protection is added by any coating or laminate. If you’re in the cosmetic & makeup industry, your elixirs and creams may need extra protection from sun rays, so a custom printed box with a UV coating is a packaging solution that will offer specific protection.
Plus, coatings make the box look really good!
Read more about box coating and laminates we offer get in touch if you have any questions or need help in choosing the right coating for your product.
Packaging and labeling help differentiate between types of products from the same company
If you’re selling various scents of soap, it’s one thing to have all your soap boxes in the same color and only change the name of the flavor.
It’s a completely different thing (and desirable) to brand each scent differently, at least when it comes to colors.
This will help your customers associate, for example, the color purple with the lavender scent and the color yellow with chamomile. This works perfectly for shampoo flavors, beer assortments, clothing items, or anything that you sell in multiple variations.
The good news?
You’re getting bulk discount prices if you order different versions of the same box. For example, if you need 250 boxes for your lavender soap, 500 for your peach soap, and 750 for your better-selling rose soap, we’ll combine the quantities and consider them all as one order. This means a lower price per box for you. Read our guide on how you can print small quantity boxes and get the best price for multiple versions of the same box.
Packaging facilitates handling, transportation, and storage
The picture on the right is a perfect example. Selling each item of the 14-piece makeup kit separately would make for a tedious job. Instead, Southern Magnolia used their experience to create a complete kit and package it in a custom box that would hold everything together. Instead of having to sell 14 different items to maybe 14 different customers, they sell them all to the same client.
Besides grouping multiple smaller items for easy handling and transportation, packaging is also useful when you want to store your products. Products with a box will be easier to stack and arrange, taking less space on your shelves.
But these roles are just part of the story.
Sure, the functional aspects of packaging and labeling are important – the need for people to protect, wrap, carry, transport different goods drove the need for so many packaging options.
Let’s see what any business owner should really pay attention to when it comes to packaging.
We’ll go over the characteristics of packaging and labeling that really make a difference in how a client sees a brand.
And whether they make the purchase or not.
2. Packaging and labeling behind the functionality (and what really matters)
The #1 role of the packaging you should care about
Besides encasing and protecting a product, the main role of packaging is to communicate an immediate benefit or value for the customer.
What’s your product going to do for the client? If they buy from you, what will they get that they can’t get from your competitors?
If you come to think of it this way, every product or business created has been made with the purpose of helping someone, in one way or another. The way you showcase this depends on the type of product you’re selling, and more importantly, on your target market’s wants and needs.
Whatever you are selling, try to incorporate the main benefit of the product in the packaging design & writing. You must always design with your customer’s needs in mind.
Packaging and labeling tell your story
A brand’s story is important because it helps potential customers get a glimpse of the people behind the product. In the long term, clients that know you will become loyal.
What is it that you want new customers to know about your brand? Maybe you can share the philosophy behind your products, how did your company take shape, or what are your values and beliefs.
All these help a client get to know you, and if they resonate with your story, they’ll buy.
Don’t be afraid to write your company’s story directly on the packaging. Custom packaging allows you to create emotion and connection. Another great example is our long-time customer, Ma’na Organix, who use one side of the soap box to tell the story of the company and how they started. You’ll also notice that they included a direct benefit for the customer: “you’re getting the finest in all natural hemp oil bath, body & hair products.”
Take advantage of the ability to communicate through your packaging. Show your customers how and why your company and your products are a good fit and don’t get shy about sharing your strengths.
Quality packaging and labeling influence brand perception
When you think highly of your product and complement it with a custom printed box, a custom packaging labels or both, you are sending a message.
What’s the message you’re sending?
The message is that your product is high-quality and valuable. You are telling your customers that as a manufacturer, you have such high standards for your product that you believe it deserves the highest quality packaging.
You are telling them that you believe enough in your product that you are willing to put forth the extra effort to package it with consideration and care.
When your customer opens the box, the item inside should meet their expectations. The consistency between the box and the product inside should be seamless. If you’re only sending a product in a cardboard box, it sends the message that you were only interested in cashing in.
But if you make your clients feel important, they’ll think highly of your brand.
Quality packaging and labeling set a standard about your company and the things you make. By using your high-quality products, presented and packaged in a way that gives them justice, your customers will identify with and become one with the standard you’ve created. They’ll become part of your tribe.
Packaging helps you stand out from the competition
Maybe you’re thinking: ‘What I’m doing is different, I don’t need to look at what others are doing. I’ll just create a fantastic product and it will sell without any custom packaging.’
Here’s why I disagree…
Knowing your competitors gives you a clear advantage. For starters, it’s enough to just take a look at how the packaging and labeling of your competitors look like. What colors are they using, what shapes do their boxes have? Are they packaging similar items differently, or more originally than you?
You can do a simple exercise and take a picture of a display shelf in your industry, like in the example above. If you were to label your beer, this would help you identify what are the predominant labeling colors and how does your own beer packaging need to look to stand out.
In many cases, your competitors can have a lesser product, but sell better because of how it’s packaged.
Sometimes all it takes to catch your customer’s attention is a bright box or label that establishes a first favorable visual contact. Then the quality of your product will do the job for you, but it doesn’t happen the other way around.
The better the visual stimuli, the better the attraction. It’s like love at first sight!
3. Packaging and labeling – good practices & inspiration
Let’s take a look at a few packaging and labeling examples from our clients and how they managed to tell their story and create a unique appeareance.
Oven & Fred intentionally made a little play on words with the name of their soap. Their products are targeted for men and the kraft paperboard and simple writing make for a fun and interesting soap box that will surely stand out.
These handmade soap boxes for Morrison Man are kept very simple and straight to the point. The labels that go on the balm containers as well as the different scents complement each other and form a unitary brand feel that’s aimed towards men.
The packaging from Zandra Beauty is appropiate to their target group – girls & young women. It’s fresh, clean, with cheerful colors and fonts. Their motto is “Made by a girl for girls everywhere” and the message is supported by their visuals.
Gold foil goes a long way for creating a sense of professionalism and value. The packaging for Ildi Pekar would make any woman feel important, and more so,
they convey that the Pekar products are worth their money.
The creators over at The Beauty of Hope have made some excellent choices for their candle boxes. The combination of simple design and silver foil looks astonishing. Second, their brand name and, more importantly, their mission is clearly stated on the packaging. Combine a powerful mission with a great paperboard, inside printing, and some debossing and your branding will do the work for you. It’s all in the little details.
This is a fantastic example of how you can add more than one box finish or treatment to create a truly unique packaging. Imbue Naturals chose to combine an elegant leaf pattern print with hot foil stamping, embossing and debossing. Each side of the box is treated differently and the details help the box pop.
You can also play with the inside of the packaging and continue the story you’ve started on the outside. These kraft soap boxes take advantage of the closing flaps as well, where we’ve added cutouts and text. The custom cutout adds vibrancy and offers the customer a glimpse of the product inside.
You’ve seen how you can get your brand to the forefront of your competition with just a little effort of imagination, and without a huge investment.
Did you get any new ideas for packaging and labeling your products?
Remember, packaging can mean the difference between struggling to make your brand visible and earning your customer’s heart for good.
I hope you found this blog post useful. If we can help with anything else, feel free to drop us an email at email@example.com or give us a quick call at (877) 300-2405 when you’re ready to create your custom packaging and labeling.
At YourBoxSolution we give your brand so many options to showcase your goods while still staying dialed into your brand story.