Effective Packaging Design: 6 Tips for Getting Customization & Limited Editions Right

Limited Edition Packaging Designs are Hot!

There’s a trend in packaging design land at the moment, where we see many brands starting to experiment more and more with personalized or customized packaging designs. Globally, the most impact-full limited edition execution we’ve seen recently was Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign that featured people’s names printed on a can. The result? A tremendous social media success and most importantly a big uplift in sales, turning around decades of sales decline. As an agency we’ve also seen a big spike in requests for limited edition design projects, so we thought it would be interesting to share some thoughts from an agency perspective on how to develop and use limited editions more effectively.

The Power of Packaging Design

As media habits change and time spend on digital devices is now surpassing time spend watching television, many marketing teams are re-evaluating how to most effectively allocate marketing budgets as traditional Above-the-Line advertising is dying. Besides just reach and frequency, marketing is evolving to a science to the degree where we even see neuroscientists starting to measure brain activity when exposed to a certain branding message.

Packaging Spends most Time with Consumers

As the dust settles, however, in between these big phases of change, packaging design consistently emerges as a winner. Unfazed by the shifts in media consumption habits, many brands are starting to realize “time spend” is a more effective metric to measure what touch points actually can help them to form real connections and relationships with their desired consumer base. If we want to establish real relationship, we need to spend time with each other, right? As packaging design typically spends quite a bit of time with consumers in their homes, in their cars on their desk, in their back pockets or in their bags, many brands are quickly realizing packaging design is becoming a much more relevant element of the marketing mix. We see more budget shifted towards packaging design as its one of the most powerful touchpoints able to connect with consumers at the right place and at the right time, without adblockers or filters avoiding them from seeing advertising messages.

Customization is Key

Another thing we’ve noticed as a result of that increased attention: an increase in requests to develop limited edition designs, customized and personalized packaging designs and collectible packaging designs, which if executed correctly, can result in stronger engagement, more quicker formation of positive brand perceptions and most importantly, an increase in sales!

So? Are you excited to read our 6 tips on getting limited editions right? Here we go:

1. Work With a Strong Packaging Design Foundation
Limited editions are more effective when your brand can make use of a strong packaging design base. What does that mean? Your pack needs to have some well developed design equities (signature style elements) that are blindly recognized by users before you start to play with your design. Without these, your limited edition designs might not quickly be recognized as belonging to your brand, which then of course defeats the purpose of even doing a limited edition. Does your brand own a color, a font type, a certain pattern, a brand icon, a distinctive shape or ideally a combination of a few of these elements a creative team can play with and re-interpret?

2. Think about the Audience First
You are creating a limited edition for your audience. So try to focus on what they would love and try to de-emphasize what you (as marketeers) would like to show. Get rid of the clutter and the marketing speak on a limited edition pack. No, we don’t need to have a big logo. No, we don’t need to carry all your branding claims and No we don’t need to tell a big product story. Experiment! Make it fun. Make it unique. Make it Outstanding. Make it something they would love. Make something that is worth buying.

3. Capitalize on “Afterlife”
If packaging is becoming a more and more relevant branding touch point because it spends most time with consumers, why not capitalize on the time factor, and try to make your limited edition design into a collectible that you keep after a product is used, or create an after life What else spends more time with a consumer than something they want to collect? McDonald’s Happy Meals are among the best example for using collectibles to create brand loyalty, leveraging the time factor to constantly come up with new reasons to buy a Happy Meal. Could your limited edition pack be part of a recurring series of collectibles that people will buy just to collect them all? Could your limited edition pack have a different function after the product is consumed, to give your consumers a reason to keep it around and let the brand continue to connect for a long time after use?

4. Make it Shareable
We’re living in a digital age and brands that get how to be relevant on social media are steps ahead of their counter parts that don’t. Use your limited edition to give people some content to dress up their Facebook Wall, Twitter Feed or Instagram Timeline. Optimize your packs so they photography nicely. Suggest the #hashtag, so any images are easily shared on social media. Encourage them to like, follow and share maybe with a small contest behind it as an extra stimulus, allows you to get an even bigger “Reach” for free!

5. Do it when others Don’t
“Oh it’s Christmas, Chinese New Year or the end of Ramadan, let’s do a limited edition”. If you want impact, perhaps those periods are not the best moment to launch a limited edition, just when everyone else is doing the same thing. Look beyond the obvious moments, look for unique moments and occasions that are perhaps relevant only to your audience. Look for newsworthy connections like the way Pepsi is launching “Pepsi Perfect” on October 21st this year, to commemorate the movie Back to the Future, where Marty McFly arrives in 2015, orders a Pepsi and gets a Pepsi Perfect. If you google “Pepsi Perfect” you can see how much free PR they’re getting out of it, and they’re only doing a few thousand of these packs.

6. Make it Strategic not Tactical
Too often still limited editions are treated as an after thought. An opportunity for a brand manager to finally have some fun, with a global design they’re not allowed to touch. That’s all fine, but the moment you start to consider limited editions as an integral part of your branding strategy and a way to develop loyal relations and connections with your consumers, then ask how it would change your strategy and approach. Could a limited edition tell your brand story? How can it connect better with your audience? How do we create real engagements that make people feel good about your brand? What occasions would be most relevant for our brand and how do we win new people by focusing on them, not ourselves.

Now, if you’re looking for a nice limited edition pack design, or if you need help figuring out how to fit limited edition design into your overall branding strategy. Don’t hesitate to get in touch here!

For a bit more inspiration, see below some amazingly successful work we did for Danone’s Milkuat kids brand, a limited edition, collectible, around-the-world edition, which became a huge hit on social media, with people sharing their collections and how their kids played with it. Real value and real connections created over a good packaging design execution.


For more info on the #ShareaCoke campaign, see our branding best practice section here

Also worth noting are Absolut’s  Unique Campaign, Nutella’s Unica Campaign, and Danone’s Hayat Kids Water

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