Hi! Before we get started on our packaging journey, a word of warning…

I’m a copywriter. A copywriter who loves writing the words for packaging and label copy and who gets pretty excited about the visual side of packaging design, but still a copywriter. That means you might find what follows is focused a bit more on the words than you’d normally expect. That’s just what happens in the happy little world of my brain. You have been warned.

Packaging is a wonderful thing. Did I mention how much I love it?

It’s EVERYWHERE in our day-to-day lives (especially if you spend a lot of time in your kitchen or out shopping) and yet it’s so easy to become blind to it.

But packaging is fascinating because it has so many jobs to do.

  • It has to catch your customer’s eye and hold their attention.
  • It needs to convince that customer that this product is their perfect match.
  • It has to be functional and practical (nobody likes a milk carton that doesn’t pour properly).
  • It needs to leave a lasting impression so that customers – and perhaps more importantly, potential customers – start to recognise your brand and identify with it.
  • If it sits on a shelf in your customer’s home, that’s a daily opportunity to keep building loyalty, connection and love of your brand.
  • And alongside your personality-packed romance copy, any instructions, ingredients or directions need to be crazy clear and easy to follow.
  • Oh, and the copy needs to be concise.

Not much to ask, really.

So, before we dive into the detail, let’s take a step back and work out exactly which of those jobs your packaging needs to nail.

Different types of packaging have different functions

You’ll want to decide what type of packaging you need before you start making other decisions. Most likely, you’ll be looking at a combination of the following:

  • Packaging for products that sell off the shelf.
  • Packaging for products that sell online.
  • Packaging that’s thrown out straight after purchase.
  • Packaging that the customer will see regularly around their home or workplace for weeks or months at a time.
  • Inner packaging (also called primary packaging) which comes into direct contact with the product.
  • Secondary packaging, which goes around the inner packaging when that needs to be protected or if you want it to look fancy, or which groups together different parts of a product which are sold as a unit. You might say that Rowan Atkinson’s character in Love Actually was a big fan of this kind of packaging.
  • Tertiary packaging, which protects a product during transit.

Let’s take a closer look at a couple of these and how they impact on the copy you write.

Packaging for products that sell off the shelf

When you’re writing copy for boxes, bottles or labels that people can read before they buy, the words need to make an impact and can directly contribute to making that sale.

Packaging for products that sell online

Most of the packaging copy for products sold online won’t be seen before purchase (instead, you need to invest in excellent product descriptions to secure those sales).

In this case, the copy is building a longer-term relationship with the client, especially if the product is something that will be used regularly over a period of time at home.

Of course, there are also products that are sold online and come in packaging that’s almost immediately thrown away. The impact of the words here is much less, but they do need to be straightforward, helpful, and – if there are instructions – super easy to understand.

With that out of the way, let’s look at those seven ways to use packaging to communicate your brand.

1. Visual design

This is so often the first thing people think about for packaging, so I thought I’d be predictable and start here. Your brand identity and visual design are oh-so-powerful when it comes to grabbing attention and making someone want to pick up and own your product. But they’re not EVERYTHING.

2. Format

What will you put your product in? A box? A bottle? A packet? Does it need to be fully enclosed for protection or does it sell itself without too much packaging? Do you need outer packaging to go through the post? Maybe it’ll just have a swing tag or a label.

For food and toiletries, will you offer a refill option? If so, what does the one-off purchase look like, what does the refillable container look like, and will you be offering refill packs/pouches?

I know. So many questions. Sorry.

3. Layers of packaging

If your product has outer packaging that sits on the shelf and inner packaging within that, think about the job each of those does and how they might work together. For example, you might have a bottle that will sit within an outer box on the shelf, or for something like teabags, you might have an outer box and inner paper wrappers.

4. Sustainable materials and other choices

As consumers get more and more interested in recyclable materials and sustainability issues, your choice of packaging material is increasingly important (and judged!). From cutting down on cardboard to choosing recyclable plastic or emerging alternatives (packaging made from sugar cane or potato starch, anyone?) there are all sorts of options out there. And the choices you make all say something about your values as a brand.

5. Brand and product name

The name you choose for your brand and for your product (as well as any sub-brands) can tell potential customers a whole heap of stuff about who you are, what you stand for and what that product of yours actually does. Some names are very straightforward (No More Nails, anyone?), others less so. A family name might suggest heritage. A completely made-up name can be fun, but only if it fits the product. Naming is a massive (and complex) process, but it’s worth investing in.

6. Front of pack copy

The copy on the front of your product is what shouts at the customer, whether it’s on that shop shelf, the website photo or on their shelf at home. Keep it short, keep it helpful, and if there’s room, pack in some personality.

But more than anything, make it super clear what’s inside.

7. Back of pack copy

First up, make sure you cover all the essential info (whether that’s instructions, directions or ingredients). And then, if you have the space, this is your opportunity to get chattier and make the most of your brand voice in some lovely romance copy. Make your customer feel a connection with your brand and get them excited to try your product.

I could go on…

I could talk packaging – and especially packaging copy – for days. Instead, I’m going to quit while you’re still here (assuming you actually are still here).

If you enjoyed this or found it useful, head over and follow me on LinkedIn for more of this kind of stuff.

I’m on Instagram, too, if that’s more your thing.

And sometimes on Twitter, if it’s not being too angry that day.

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