Effective Packaging Design: 6 Tips for Successfully Taking Your Brand Global.

Many Asian clients we work with are active with their consumer brands in export markets. They regularly visit exhibitions and trade shows looking for new sales opportunities and distribution contacts in remote markets.

If you’re the brand owner of an existing brand that wishes to go international, every dollar spend on packaging has the potential to return itself in so many ways. How? Well for starters, for many brands that are tapping into the opportunities of a much larger international market your packaging design is most likely the only form of advertising you’ll be doing. Making sure you get your packaging right and not treat it as an afterthought, can help you sell more products, making good packaging essential to your brands commercial performance abroad.

Here are a few pointers on how to develop effective packaging design solutions that without other advertising or communication support can help maximize your returns.

1. Be aware of cultural sensitivities. A Design that works in your market, might not suit the international export market.
A good example was when Unilever’s Sunsilk Shampoo, that once featured girls on their packs, entered the Middle East market, local customs deemed existing pack designs inappropriate to face a girl without hijab on the pack. So the packs were adjusted, but what good is a beauty shot focused on hair, when you cannot show hair?

Another classic example is bad brand naming. Many foreign brands have burned themselves with names that translated awkwardly in local language. Consider your name before taking your brand international.

Make sure that when you are ready to develop new packaging design concepts you brief your agency about the markets in which you’ll be competing. Share images of local competitor packs so when you update your design concepts you develop solutions with the end in mind.

2. Consider the Competitive Environment
Packaging solutions perform in part by creating great contrast against the competitive set. Getting your product seen on a busy shelf is the first step towards getting sold. If you are invisible your packaging is not optimized for commercial performance. Contrast through design can only be achieved if you know what the environment looks like in which your brand is competing.

When relaunching your brand try to take your agency partner out to the trade environment in the key markets you wish to compete in. Seeing competition, visiting typical sales outlets and observing shoppers as they shop can provide golden insights, especially for the smarter and more experienced packaging design experts who can translate insights into solutions that sell. If it’s not possible to take your agency on a market audit, at least make sure you provide them with recent shelf shots that show the actual retail fixture and typical trade channels in all the markets in which you’re aiming to compete, so you can benchmark your new design directly versus key competitors.

3. Localize your communication, or not..?
The choice between saving cost and looking cheap (having six languages on 1 pack) or developing more expensive but customized packs for each individual market you wish to enter should be a strategic consideration based on the size of the market opportunity and the habits and preferences of the local consumers you’re trying to reach.

I remember the old Mentos TVC that ran on Dutch TV when I was young, obviously created somewhere far away and poorly dubbed in Dutch, I knew immediately this was not my brand. Markets with a strong local culture might take offense or assume you’re being a lazy marketeer trying to sell them something that doesn’t feel like it’s made for them.

In other markets the opposite can be true. When developing packaging for the Chinese market for example, it often helps having some English on a pack. Many Chinese consumers still love Western brands and we even see local brands trying to look more international by adding some Engrish on their packs. Localization can also be relevant for specific categories take for example a skincare product that wishes to compete on a Thai cosmetic shelf for example, having some Japanese or Korean words might make consumers feel like these products have been partly developed in those markets which ads instant credibility to a brand.

Make sure packaging localization is carefully considered. When in doubt, ask your distribution partner as they probably better know the local market, perhaps do a small test using actual mockups to test consumer response before launch.

4. Understand your target Consumer
When we worked on a large Filipino rum brand in the recent past the goal was to bring something familiar to Filipinos living abroad. Especially in the US where there’s a large migrant community of Filipinos living abroad. What is common among many migrants is that culture tends to pause the moment you migrate. After all a migrant doesn’t experience daily life in the country of origin anymore, instead the memory of what life was like back home upon departure is kept alive. The graphic design solution we developed went retro instead of making the brand more modern to try and tap into this feeling, specifically creating relevance for that audience.

5. Be a Cultural Embassador?
Two other alcohol brands we worked on tried to build local culture overseas in their own different ways.

When we relaunched Siam Winery’s Monsoon Valley brand the goal was to build in-roads into Thai restaurants anywhere in the world, offering an iconic Thai wine brand that would look great on the table and would be considered Thai to a mostly foreign audience. Our solution was to develop a label that leveraged more stereotypical design elements to deliver the feeling of Thai-ness and allow easy recognition.

When working on Chang Beer we developed a local Songkran Edition for launch in international markets to create awareness for Thai culture and the Songkran festival delivering design cues more unique to an audience not familiar with a Thai culture, creating curiosity and attracting their attention in a different way.

6. Test new design first in foreign markets
Some brand owners we work with who are managing some of the more iconic local Asian power brands must account for their every action to a typically very strict and risk averse company management. Often this nervousness to change leads to brands looking dated as management forgets that to stay relevant they must appeal to a continuously changing audience and occasional change in the right direction actually is a good thing.

Some of the smarter clients that face such internal dilemma’s sometimes make use of an export market to test new graphics and take a bit more risk as there’s not much yet at stake. In case of sales success these results can then be used to help make the case for change in the home market and strengthen the brands competitiveness.

Closing Thoughts
There are many different ways to design great looking packs that simultaneously deliver tremendous commercial return, but especially when you’re planning to take your brand international make sure you team up with the right packaging design partner.

Experience working across various international markets counts and can add tremendous value to your internationalization efforts. Having a partner with an understanding of local consumer insights, different needs and preferences and a real understanding of the challenges the different trade environment situations can pose often means the difference between mediocre results and tremendous success.

Make sure your agency is aware of your internationalization plans and consider re-allocating some of your export budget towards the development of strong commercial packaging design solutions that on their own can help advertise your product. Especially if you’re not able to support your brand in any other way.

Good packaging can help you sell more, more quickly and more easily! Make sure you get it right, especially when planning to take your brand international.

If you’d like to discuss opportunities and strategies for taking your brand global, don’t hesitate to get in touch here.

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