Bad Packaging – 10 Things companies get wrong

You don’t have to search too hard to find someone on twitter ranting about a poorly received parcel. The world of things is still as prevalent now as it was before the internet, in fact packaging is now more important due to the myriad ways it gets to the end user.

I thought I’d list a few don’ts in order to help my fellow packaging enthusiasts!

Oversized shipping containers

Companies rant about their environmental credentials, but 9 times out of 10 the impact of shipping outstrips any tiny saving on material usage in the primary packaging. This is why the outer shipping container is even more important. Yes it should be sufficient to protect the product but a massive box with a tiny object rattling about in it means wasted lorry space, and in fact less protection. The winner of this category has to be Amazon, but to be fair, they ship a lot of different things and there can’t always be a box the right size. It still has to be said, however, that this could be managed much better.

Poorly Considered Photography

People take on average 7 seconds to make a decision. Product imagery needs to be appealing, especially when it’s a ready meal for example – a brightly coloured food item is much more likely to appeal than a grey soup – regardless of what colour the product is in real life!

Poor Choice in Materials

I have a bit of a sweet tooth, and my least favourite occurrence is when I’ve just opened a bag of sweets just for it to split down the side leading to a colourful but disappointing carpet of confectionery. The most annoying thing about this is that it’s easily solvable by mixing the correct material with a good opening device or different sealing mechanism.

Material choices can have a variety of impacts from construction and print quality right through to shipping strength and performance. Choices that work both to complement the brand and protect the product effectively can make a huge difference to the customer experience.

Difficult Opening

Whether it’s a film lid which tears into a million pieces but must be removed before cooking, or a vac-formed blister with welded edges that is practically impenetrable, the opening experience is really important. A lot of companies design their product to get to the shelf. But the way a customer feels about the product they have just bought can affect their brand loyalty. In the modern age of social media, the fan video of ‘wow look what I got’ is the holy grail – don’t let it be ‘I couldn’t even open it so I’m sending it back!’

Terrible Spelling & Translation

The problems with spelling in Grammar can have obvious connotations and miss-spelt products are a common result of international markets. Aside from hilarious consequences, sloppy mistakes also can have an impact on the feeling of quality and reliability. If your brand gets associated with a cheap import in the customer’s eyes, it can affect how much they’d be willing to pay.

Un-researched Market Territory

33% of consumers make buying decisions based on the packaging alone – so it’s important to get it right. Different regions can have widely different social and historical beliefs to our own, and a brand identity that has a warm fuzzy feeling in our own territory may in fact have a repellent effect in another.

Wrong Audience

According to a study by the university of Portsmouth in February this year, arthritis, deteriorating eyesight and physical strengths made older consumers more at risk of experiencing “vulnerability” when buying packaged goods. Poorly considered openings and instructions can not only lead to fewer sales, they can actually have a negative impact on the emotional attachment that a consumer would link to a brand.

Unchecked Artwork

For multi-territory products when you have a big team translating across 24 languages, there are many things that can go wrong, but having a stable set of checking and approval procedures is critical. By automating too much you can in fact lead to worse decisions – the human ‘common sense’ factor is highly under-utilised, especially in large organisations with inexperienced staff.

Poor use of fonts

It’s easy to see what went wrong here, but legibility as funny as this example is, can be really important. Miss-communication of the product can make a huge difference to the longevity of the brand.

A disjointed approach

My final note is all too common. Packaging as a tangible item is about all the above elements. Too often designers and companies produce concepts in a staged, staggered approach – think about the colours and artwork, then add some materials, then work out what shape it needs to be. For me this is a backwards approach. The product is the most important thing, then work outwards towards the packaging and consider all elements together. This way, well thought out structure and material choices can meet quality artwork that complement each another to get that warm fuzzy feeling you’re looking for.



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