Story telling through packaging

A funky image, logo and creative strapline – isn’t that all you need to make your packaging jump out at consumers?

You may have packaging that looks great, but having a relevant, authentic story on pack really puts your branding into motion. Without a compelling story, without a connection, it’s hard to get consumers motivated to engage with your brand, follow your business and invest in your products.

Storytelling is essentially a way of connecting your brand to consumers, linking what you stand for to the values you share with them. It’s the strategic 'glue' that bonds the rational and emotional attributes of your brand together to create a powerful narrative. Using packaging to deliver your story makes for an effective marketing tactic and is fast becoming the best opportunity for brands to build a strong, immediate connection with consumers.

Powerful tool

Packaging is more than just about protecting the product. It’s a powerful tool and advertising space which can be utilised in many different ways within a marketing mix. In many respects it has a distinct advantage over other forms of marketing. For one thing you can be 100% sure that it will be put directly in front of the consumer when delivered, unpacked and even during disposal. You have your consumer’s undivided attention at all of these touchpoints and it’s important to use this to maximum effect.

Effective at all levels

There are millions of different products available, all vying for consumer attention. We can easily recognise brands such as Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola and BMW cars. They hardly have to do anything to get noticed. Let’s face it, bigger brands have a much easier task; if you’ve got the budget, you can build up your brand story on all fronts - from tv advertising campaigns, to social media, live events and so on. Each channel builds a unique chapter in the overall brand narrative.

If you’re a brand with a smaller budget, however, you can still use packaging to deliver a brand story with great results. The brilliance of story-telling at all levels is its capacity to bond all marketing and sales channels to connect with audiences. It’s the glue that holds the brand idea together and enables it to venture into all channels with a well-crafted and consistent narrative. Smaller brands often have the edge in this instance, having a more relatable story which works well across all channels.

But how do you do you maximise this opportunity?

Know your audience

First step is to gain a deeper understanding of your audience and then tailor your brand story to them. Your brand story should be a narrative that evokes an emotional response and forges deep connections between your company and audience. If your brand story doesn’t forge emotional connections, your audience won’t have a reason to care about your company. But if it does, you can build customer trust that lasts a lifetime.

That’s why creating a brand story lies in really knowing your audience. Think about how to talk about your company and products in a way that your audience can relate to, whether it’s through shared values, goals or ambition.

Building connections

It’s critical to drill down to what you want your consumer to feel. Stories are about eliciting emotion and the correct approach should ensure that your consumer builds a stronger connection to your brand. Key here is depth and authenticity. Take the packaging that you find on iPhones as an example. It’s not just the minimal design execution but the way the components fit elegantly together and express the exclusivity and luxurious feel of the brand without saying in words this is a ‘must-have product’.

Colour and imagery for emotional impact

A brand's aesthetics are an essential part of its story, heightened by the fact that a human brain processes visual stimuli faster than text. Bringing your branding and purpose together involves the correct combination of colours and graphics whilst still maintaining your identity. With limited space, this is about choosing the best elements and understanding how they fit together for an emotional impact. It helps to have what marketers call a brand personality – human characteristics that you associate with your business and which can be clearly expressed in your design choices.

The packaging materials you use are also important nowadays. Many consumers have bought into the notion of sustainability, for example. If your audience is worried about plastic, removing this from your packaging and utilising sustainable materials will connect with them at a much deeper level. Your story becomes more authentic and relatable.

Whatever the packaging says to consumers through your choice of materials, size and graphics is exactly what its contents become, be that a perfume bottle or bottle of milk. These attributes not only help in attracting and sustaining attention but also help consumers in identifying the brands via your choice of imagery and subconscious brand story telling. To attract the subconscious mind of consumers, you need to utilise storytelling throughout the pack in a way that meets their psychological needs, clearly identifying ‘what’s in it for them’.

Moments of truth

In summary, with so many platforms and ways to share your story, there has never been a better time to connect with your target audience, make your brand a thought leader and lead others to victory through an exciting, emotionally stimulating and focused brand narrative.

Key benefit of using packaging to deliver your story is the visceral response it gets from your consumers. It’s the final step, if you like, to lock in your brand and make it relevant to each individual. Through contextual and visual storytelling, consumers can more easily make a connection with your product, building a higher level of trust and possibility becoming a long term brand advocate.

Consumers can pick up, smell, and see your packaging and that gives you a great deal of power over them. It’s also rare in today’s competitive world that you have their undivided attention – it would be foolish not to capitalise on these opportunities during those ‘five moments of truth’.