For some it’s a beauty contest. “Come up with a package design that is so innovative, so fabulous, it casts a spell on the consumer.” Well, maybe the request isn’t quite that dramatic. But when brand owners and package designers start the new relationship dance, or just kick off a new project, there is only one way to ensure the best outcome—pick a partner who can cut a clear path from design idea to manufacturability to shelf—from brand owner saying “I want something innovative,” to consumer saying, “I want this product.”

When Does Package Design Enter the Picture?

Whether the product is a legacy brand or a new product launch, choosing the right time to involve the packager can have a big impact on things like manufacturability across retail channels, cost and time to market. When is the best time to bring the packager to the table?

  • When you’re developing the product and figuring out the delivery system
  • When 3D drawings are done so that packaging can show the product to its best advantage
  • When thinking through cost targets—what are the manufacturing and supply chain implications of the structure? Do we have to use paperboard, plastic or foam?
  • When product engineering is started and electronic drawings are ready; this allows you to evaluate how packaging can achieve the desired ROI

Four Things Your Packaging Partner Needs to Have

According to an engineer for Newell-Rubbermaid,

“I don’t care if I’m starting out with a new brand or refreshing a whole category, I need a supplier who gets it—understands how to launch products in every packaging style, knows the materials, markets and design styles critical to the success of our brands and can create a structure that optimizes the product, won’t get damaged on shelf or in shipping and can scale up to 200 SKUs when I need it.”

Here are the four “must haves” a packaging partner needs to deliver on those expectations:

1. Brand Alignment

Making sure you have the right packaging structure for both the retailer and the consumer. This is an open dialog; there is no right or wrong way. Structured communication and collaboration are key. Some brand owners prefer to work with the packager’s sales person and others prefer direct contact with designers and engineers. Either way, to achieve brand alignment from package design to engineering, manufacturing, prototyping, printing and distribution, market success relies on the packager’s ability to carry the ball all the way through.

2. Experience across all channels

Package designers need to be experienced across retail, club, mass and online. The packager needs to deliver whether it’s only a small pack for the Dollar Store or packaging for a mass club store. In the words of our marker client, “I don’t want to have 5 suppliers – this just adds to my development time.”

3. Material expertise

Can the packaging supplier offer protection through the supply chain? Are they proficient at drop tests? When the brand owner asks for a “wow” experience, does the packager understand this must deliver on re-purchase?

4. Speed-to-market

A packaging partner needs to come to the table knowing what constraints might slow down the process. As one brand put it, “Our side is the one that typically causes the slowdown: scope creep, changing specs, etc. I count on collaboration to find a solution—that’s what I expect from my partner.”

Want a Partner Who Excels at Brand Alignment, Channel Expertise, Material Know-How and Speed to Market? Make Sure They Can Answer These Questions

On brand alignment

  • What is your process to align design vision with manufacturing?
  • How should we communicate the product’s unique differentiator via packaging?
  • How do you align all the touch points from initial design to distribution?
  • How will the structure of the packaging deliver on the promise of the brand?
    • For the consumerExpo PaperMate Sharpie Club Store Packaging
    • For the retailer

On experience across all channels

  • Are your designers experienced across retail, club, mass, specialty and online?
  • What are the budgetary and manufacturing restraints by channel?
  • How can you help us meet our pricing objective?

On materials expertise

  • How proficient are your designers with issues such as:
    • Protection through supply chain?
    • Transportation?
    • Drop tests?
  • What is your process for delivering a “wow” consumer experience that drives repurchase?

On speed-to-market

  • How would you address the issues that drive time to market, such as:
    • New competition that threatens my market share?
    • Declining sales?
  • What are the constraints that might slow down the process and how would you manage them?
  • What manufacturing equipment and processes will you use to bring my product to market?