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8 Product Packaging Design Tips for Start-ups

unique folding product packaging for caramel candies

Finding the right packaging for your product is not only important for establishing your product and brand, but also for its overall success in the marketplace. Start-ups have it especially difficult when developing their very first product packaging. Faced with a myriad of factors such as time and budget, start-ups must be deliberate when launching their product into market.

At JohnsByrne, we work with clients from a diverse background. From start-ups to international brands, we work intimately with clients throughout the product launch packaging development process including early collaboration, conceptualization and execution. This close relationship allows us to work efficiently and effectively to produce the perfect packaging for their product.

Throughout the many years developing packaging for clients at every stage their business lifecycle, we’ve learned a thing or two about designing innovative packaging.

Here are 8 tips for start-up companies to design the right packaging for their product.



packaging trends

1.    Study Your Industry

While it may be tempting to say that your product is unique and will stand above the rest no matter what, it’s important to study your industry and identify the common denominator when it comes to packaging your product. From consumer expectations to packaging requirements, your industry will dictate a bit of what your packaging will or should look like. Cosmetic product packaging is very different than packaging for consumer electronics. Studying industry leaders and defining industry standards will help you identify necessary elements for your product’s packaging.

2. Define Your Market

Getting your product to market is perhaps the biggest hurdle for start-ups. But before you even hit the market, do you know who your market is? Just like no two packages are alike, no two markets are alike. Are you trying to reach the mass market or the luxury market? Wal-Mart or Neiman Marcus? Each market establishes certain expectations and barriers for entry. By defining your target market early on, you can better identify your packaging needs and design your packaging accordingly.

3. Identify Who You Are Marketing To

Now that you’ve identified your overall market reach, it’s important to narrow down on who exactly you are trying to market to. Think drug store versus high-end department store. Regardless of what product you may be launching into market, consumers have already developed a perception about your product just by where it’s sold. A product sold at a high-end department store is perceived to have a higher value than a product sold at a drug store. Consequently, your packaging should reflect your buyer’s perceptions.

4. Know Your Price Point

The price of your product is probably one of those pieces of information that you’ve dwelled over for a long time. Make it too high and you might not have any takers. Make it too low and you might be losing money. Knowing your price point early on is key to developing a package that is not only appealing but also profitable. A product that retails for a few dollars will require a very different packaging than a product that retails for several hundred dollars. Or could you develop higher end packaging that can help you command a higher price premium while distancing you from your competitors?

5. Determine Your Positioning

Most start-ups have a clear vision of their product and how they want consumers to perceive their product. Translating that vision into packaging is key to helping you live up to your brand’s values. Depending on your vision, you may require a packaging design that is simple and sleek. Or, it may require tactile, structural or material elements to tell a story. Think Apple vs. Method. Although they exist in very different markets, they have very distinct approaches to their packaging. The former focuses on a clean and minimalist design while the latter focuses on recyclability and the environment. Determining your product’s overall position in the market can help you discover the direction for your packaging.

6. Specify Your Product’s Needs

This may sound like the simplest task for any start-up to do. Yet, oftentimes, start-ups get too carried away with the vision for their product that they forget the key aspects of packaging development—protecting, transporting and telling the product’s story. Does your product need to be visible inside the package? This may call for a window packaging or a vacuum-formed tray to hold your product in place. Does your product need to be accessible yet protected? This may require tamper proofing. Specifying your product’s needs to your packaging supplier is crucial for a packaging design that is not only visually attractive but also functional.

7. Recognize Your Prototyping Stage

Innovative Product Packaging Design and DeveloplementAll products undergo an ideation and prototyping stage. These are essential in determining the final marketing plan for a product. Depending on product complexity, changing budgets or marketing needs, a product’s prototype may evolve over time. Many products undergo multiple prototypes or versions of an initial prototype. Recognizing the prototyping stage for your product can be crucial for major cost-savings. If you’re at an early stage in prototyping, renderings and mockups can be sufficient to get you through the next stage in securing a buy-in from a retailer. If you’re prototype is final, you may require retail-ready packaging. Needless to say, changes in your prototyping affect you overall packaging cost. Identifying and foreseeing your prototype changes can mean hours and dollars saved.

8. Partner With Your Packaging Supplier

This is perhaps the most important piece of advice we can give any start-up company looking to find the perfect packaging design for their product. Engaging with a packaging supplier early on in the game has many benefits. From working with you throughout the prototyping process of your product, to the day it actually ships to retailers, your packaging supplier is your best ally. Here’s why:

  • Cost-savings: your packaging supplier can guide you through every step of the process and help you determine the best packaging within your budget. Additionally, using their knowledge and expertise can mean you save on costly mistakes along the way.
  • Expertise: packaging companies are used to working with clients in your industry. Use their knowledge to hone in on core elements your packaging will need.
  • Sell-in tools: are you getting ready to pitch your product to a big-box retailer? Your packaging supplier can produce renderings and mockups that can make your presentation that more convincing. Are you presenting at multiple retailers? Depending on your product and your target buyer, you may require two completely different packaging styles to appeal to the buying team. Your packaging supplier can easily help you plan your packaging needs to help you land your ideal contract.
  • Ongoing relationship: once you’ve established a relationship with your packaging supplier, they can also assist you with additional marketing tools such as sales kits, sampling kits and even retail store displays and point of sale displays.

custom packaging for haircare

Working closely with your packaging supplier from the early stages of your can mean the difference between having just a packaging supplier and having a packaging partner.

Innovation Derived From Experience

Just like having business mentors to help guide you along the journey of launching your product, working with an experienced product packaging company can translate into time and money saved—not to mention a successful product in the market.

Are you a start-up searching for packaging design nirvana? At JohnsByrne, we have been pressing the limits in packaging for more than 50 years. Our experienced packaging specialists can advise you on industry trends, establishing and defining your brand, and ultimately, designing the perfect packaging for your product. Get in touch with us and let’s discuss your packaging needs.

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