Heard of PANTONE No. 1837? Didn’t think so. What about “Tiffany blue,” its more common name? The colour represents wealth and luxury; a Tiffany blue box is the quintessential example of premium packaging.
For retailers and food companies, trying to communicate the message behind a premium product sitting amongst 50,000 other SKUs on a grocery shelf is a challenge. And with studies showing shoppers only spend four seconds maximum looking at any one item on a shelf, your packaging has to make a big impact.
Toronto-based food trend expert Dana McCauley says the way shoppers typically analyze products can be broken down into three parts: head, heart and hands.
“The first thing is awareness of the product’s existence. Is the packaging pretty?” she explains. Next, shoppers decided if it’s something they want or need. The third step is when the shopper actually picks up the item and puts it in their cart.
For those companies looking to communicate a feeling of luxury, there are some basic guidelines to consider.
“There are specific cues that premium products have,” says Steve Davis, president of Mississauga, Ont.-based Bridgemark Branding, which has worked with Wrigley and Uncle Ben’s. “Colours like black, silver and gold are often used on premium offers.” Over in the milk aisle, white is prominent because it relates directly to freshness and purity.
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There was a time, says Davis, when the classic formula for pet food packaging included a photo of a dog or cat next to a bowl of food, and a list of its benefits. “[Pet food packaging] has since branched out to be less about that literal representation,” Davis says. “With premium packaging there’s more confidence, so you don’t have to spell things out. Companies are going for a more holistic look and feel that tends to be more simple.”
McCauley agrees that the more premium a product, the more simple the packaging should be. “A simple black backdrop on packaging can remind shoppers of evening wear or a black-tie event,” she says. “[Premium goods] don’t clutter the packaging with a lot of claims.”
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Toronto-based Werle Design Associates specializes in package design and branding for CPGs, and has worked with big names such as Coca-Cola and Nestea. Werle project manager Lynn More says a distinct look is vital for premium products. “Go proprietary whenever possible, because as soon as you customize something, it’s ownable from a brand perspective.”
From a structural standpoint, this can mean looking at specific packaging shapes or materials. “Little windows in the packaging or a die cut where you create a shape helps a shopper view the product within the packaging, and lends more character to the structure,” says More. “There are also a lot of fun printing techniques, like varnishes or embossing, that can make your work stand out.”
More says custom typography can also help highlight a product. “Hand lettering is making a comeback, and creating your own font is a great way to identify your brand.” She believes Fruitopia’s font, for example, captures “the youthful character of the brand and is identifiable.”
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Premium products aren’t necessarily always about indulgence or luxury. For many shoppers it comes down to a willingness to shell out a few more bucks for products from companies that hold similar values.
According to a recent survey from LoyaltyOne, 87% of Canadians are willing to spend more money to ensure a product is local. Emphasizing terms such as “organic” or “ethically raised” can make a product seem more premium. “It’s such a demanding environment in- store, shoppers want to see keywords,” says McCauley.
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Ian Lifshitz, North American director of sustainability and stakeholder relations at Asia Pulp and Paper Group, says more customers associate premium food products with companies that support the environment.
A survey conducted by the group in January reveals that 77% of Canadians want more environmentally friendly packaging for food products, and 58% of Canadians seek out food that is packaged in containers that can be recycled or reused.
“People used to associate sustainable packaging with dreary, washed-out colours like army green,” says Lifshitz. But now companies are exploring more visually appealing, high-quality recyclable materials such as paper, paperboard and metals.
They’re also looking for opportunities to make the manufacturing process more energy efficient. These efforts are then communicated on the packaging through text. It’s another way to convey premium cues on packaging.
MORE LESSONS IN LUXURY:
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Do your products have that luxury look? Share your premium packaging tips by commenting below.