The Theatre of Packaging
It’s not just those of us at Lil who feel that every single company out there in the wide blue world of ours could benefit from evolving their packaging. However, it is our experience that not everybody is as happy tinkering with cardboard boxes as we are. All too often, e-commerce packaging is an area of retail that can be overlooked and considered of secondary importance. Trust us though, if you don’t pay enough attention to this vital component of your business, it’s at your own peril; there’s some exceptionally sound thinking behind considering each and every aspect of your packaging.
Packaging is an Art Form
Don’t just take our word for it; packaging is an art form. Some of the biggest names out there put almost as much thought into their packaging as they do into the products they produce. Take the biggest of them all, for example, the giant, the behemoth, the veritable Jedi master of both exceptional marketing and premium product: Apple.
Back in the days when the iPhone 3 was the new kid on the block, Steve Jobs, well known for his attention to even the smallest detail, felt strongly that the packaging traditionally used for mobile phones was too bulky and inappropriate; it just didn’t match the look and feel of one of their most coveted products – the iPhone. His obsessive nature and ability to focus on each and every single detail might strike some of us as over the top and pedantic, but Steve wanted to engage the consumer emotionally and he also wanted Apple to stand out from the crowd in what we all know is an extremely competitive industry.
Apple Led the Packaging Revolution
Steve’s colleague, Walter Isaacson, has often been quoted as saying that he and Steve spent a lot of time getting Apple’s packaging just right. They destroyed hundreds of prototypes to achieve the design of the perfect box. At one point, they tested and created a seemingly unending array of arrows, colours and tapes, just to come up with one single tab. If you’re interested, we recommend reading about their quest in Adam Lashinsky’s book, “Inside Apple”. Lashinksky notes that Steve and Walter worked for hours to create a “ritual of unpacking” in order to make their product feel even more special. Knowing that their product – the iPhone – was already revered simply wasn’t enough for them; they assigned packaging the task of taking it to another level.
''Packaging can be theatre, it can create a story.'' - Steve Jobs
Packaging should be theatre; it should create a story, because it is this story that shapes our emotional connection to a product. And it is this emotional connection that is so vital in the world of retail; Steve Jobs understood this only too well.
Packaging is the first time your customers physically experience your brand
In these days of e-commerce, many of us no longer have direct contact with our customers. We never get to meet them face to face and they never get to walk into our shop, enticed by beautiful window displays and the friendly, open smiles of a sales assistant, the well appointed shop floor, or the feel of our products. In the face of never-ending online choice, it could probably go without saying that we need to appeal to our customers’ emotions more than ever.
Customers aren’t buying like they used to; advertising campaigns, sales and even the latest technology are no longer enough to get consumers to part with their money. You may get a lot of attention with a fifty-foot advert in Piccadilly Circus, but how do you win consumers’ trust, loyalty and repeat custom? It’s rare to make a purchase with the head alone; the heart must also be engaged. And without that shop to walk into, how do you create an emotional connection with your customer? How do you create a piece of theatre without a stage floor, or a story without an audience to listen to it? The answer, my friends, is simple: you do it with your packaging.
If you’ve ever been given a present – and I’m sincerely hoping you have - you know that half the fun is not just the gift, but the anticipation and the curiosity that builds as you wonder what that gift is. And, here’s the rub; even if you do know what it is, I bet there’s still a part of you that’s both excited and nervous as you shake that parcel under the tree and try to guess its contents for sure.
A big part of the joy of a present is the theatre of it: the giving it, the receiving it, the feeling it, the squeezing it, the admiring of the wrapping paper or the ribbon or the gift tag. We might even try and delay that delicious moment of revelation only to be chided by family or friends and urged to get on with it. Is there really anything more frustrating then someone who carefully peels the sellotape off wrapping paper, smoothing it as they go?
Packaging sets the tone and builds suspense
If we didn’t have packaging, if we could see the gift immediately, then much of the thrill would be lost. There would be no anticipation, no surprise, far less fun. There’s a reason people film their unboxing experiences and they prove so popular. Even though the package is not for us, as viewers our curiosity is aroused; maybe we even feel a pang or two of jealousy. We want to see what’s in the box and we find ourselves watching till the very end. Then - at last - comes the big reveal: the product finally has its “ta dah!” moment.
This is a tried and tested formula. As with any actual piece of theatre, the box, the security tabs, the hinged lid, the perforations, the wrapping, the sticker that you have to peel off carefully, all of these components work together intrinsically to build up to a dramatic climax: the product inside. Like some play from the golden age of detective fiction with all its layers of suspense removed slowly but surely by the detective and ending with the shocking whodunit, the packaging is as essential as the product. Human nature finds this reveal incredibly satisfying.
Packaging is multi-faceted
Let’s not forget that any old e-commerce packaging won’t do. Packaging has to be multi-faceted, it has to provide a reveal but also be highly functional. There can be no style without substance. Remember the tab that Steve Jobs spent so many hours working on? Not only was it designed to show Apple customers where to pull back the invisible, full-bleed sticker adhered to the top of the clear iPod box, it was also positioned so that when Apple’s factory packed multiple boxes for shipping, there was natural negative space between the boxes that safeguarded the tab. The tab was about selling one box to one customer, but equally importantly, it was about storing many boxes on many shelves before they were shipped to many retail stores. E-commerce packaging should be attractive, but it must have functionality; it must be a perfect marriage between use and beauty.
Matching packaging to product is key
The right packaging has to be matched to the right product. However inspirational the box, there is no point sending flowers requiring ventilation holes in the same kind of cardboard box as a bulky winter coat. Your packaging must also be tamper safe and deliverable. Ideally, it should be environmentally friendly and at Lil Packaging, we feel strongly about recycling and are proud of our green credentials. Remember, have nothing in your warehouse that you do not know to be useful or believe to be both beautiful and environmentally friendly (to paraphrase William Morris).
Packaging and emotional connectivity
We all know that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we should definitely judge a product by its packaging. Packaging that has functionality, but also shows creative flair and artistry, as well as a genuine concern for the environment, will get consumers thinking. If a company puts this amount of effort into getting their packaging correct, what must their product be like?
The perception of the consumer and the emotional connectivity that they feel to your brand is the responsibility of the seller and this, in a nutshell is the theatre of packaging. It is your job, as a seller, to create an impression that you value both your products and your consumer extremely highly; you do this with your packaging. The bad news is that if you get packaging wrong, it can be extremely costly. The good news is that it doesn’t have to cost much to get right.
Contact us today to speak to a packaging expert. We may not be Apple and we may not be Steve Jobs, but we’re certainly as dedicated to the cardboard box in all its glorious forms as he was and we have a thing or two to say about tabs as well.