The winning practice of Packaging Design

Packaging is just one of those things, because we touch it every day. Executed well and the effect can be highly positive for your brand and business’ bottom line. Executed without care and first impressions of your product are compromised, perceptions of value are eroded and your sales and eventually your brand will suffer the consequences.

No matter how much we prefer to think that ‘it’s the inside that counts’, market research and buyer behaviour tell us over and over again that packaging is highly important, even to the point of swaying buyer decision.

“Design is so simple. That’s why it’s so complicated”

Paul Rand, Author/Graphic Designer

Case in point, admittedly the ultimate in packaging examples – Apple’s precision, double lined, white or black boxes, neatly nested into each other prompt us to consider the craftsmanship, the use of materials and their masterful reveal of the product. While most of us have nothing near the budget provisions of Apple, their consideration to the packaging discipline is admiringly evident. It is the expression of a deep design practise that successfully incorporates their brand story, their tactical and mandatory content in a way that rewards the senses and adds broad value to the product it wraps and the brand that it bears.

Here’s a couple of case studies a little closer to home.

Milk in glass

In 2017 Voice was fortunate enough to win gold for packaging at the 2017 Transform Awards Asia Pacific for our work with Aunt Jeans Dairy. This was a case where the packaging defined the brand, providing a story that resulted in strong market entry and impressive fast-growing consumer demand. The product: A2 milk, fresh from the farm, bottled in glass. A fresh, pure and traceable to source product in environmental packaging.

The project was based on a collaboration between a Nelson-based farmer and global glass maker, O-I Glass. The packaging concept was about highlighting the purity and recyclability of glass and the ‘farm gate’ provenance of the product with highly stylised graphical treatment on bottles and milk carriers.

Design concepts strongly leveraged the brand strategy that articulated the brand messaging pillars; fresh from the farm, low touch, from A2 herds a better protein, better for you, less lactose issues, higher in fat content and unsweetened, in glass to taste better and be infinitely recyclable. Agency chose to evoke the nostalgia of NZ life in the 50s, a cow illustration in ‘scraper style’ and the word ‘milk’ elevated from a product descriptor to a graphic element.

Immediately following the brand’s launch to market, Aunt Jean’s Dairy was picked up by a national boutique grocery store and one of the largest national supermarket chains in New Zealand. Due to this success, the client is now pursuing cheese and cream product development.

Craft beer bottles

In 2018 Voice again won gold at the 2018 Transform Awards Asia Pacific, this time for our work with O-I Glass and the Provider bottle range. The project team consisted of Unitec faculty and students, supported by O-I Glass, NZTE, The New Zealand Brewers Guild and Voice. The product: a beautifully crafted bottle range that craft beer brewers could use to present their products to the burgeoning craft beer markets in Asia. An idea conceived to answer the issue craft beer brewers had with bottle choices – invest in expensive custom designs or risk looking like just another mass market brand.

Voice’s role was to mentor the design students to ensure end results were customer-focussed, that Asian customs and cultures were woven into the fabric of the bottle and that brand ‘New Zealand’ was present and highlighted the ingenuity and practicality of what had been achieved.

Design concepts included a bottle shape that suggested an iconic hand-crafted ceramic bottle, size that importantly allowed Asian cultures to share or taste-test, bottle measurements were considered to express luck and prosperity – 888ml was big enough to share and 328ml, small enough to taste. The name ‘The Provider’ articulated what the bottle was designed for: to provide craft beer makers the ability to export their products to meet the new demands of the Asian middle class.

Immediately after its launch The Provider was bought by one of New Zealand’s larger craft beer brewers with the view to exporting into China. Following this O-I Glass made the decision to extend the range to a 518ml size and launch the full range into Australia.

A winning approach

While it’s always great to win awards, Voice truly believe that the measure of greatness is in the success of the brand in market. For both Aunt Jean’s Dairy and O-I Glass those results were immediate and stand out. If we look closely we see three key elements that remained common to both.

It’s brand-based creative. Packaging can be an eloquent expression of brand and for us at Voice, no packaging job would start without first deeply understanding the brand strategy; background, positioning, values, differentiation, brand story and key messaging. Where cleverness is essential is working out what components of the brand need to be expressed and how this can be achieved on what is often a minimal amount of space.

And it’s backed by customer research. A deep understanding of your customer is imperative, this knowledge will be your source for customer-centric insights that will drive design discipline and help you create compelling differentiation. Key for Voice is the integrity of the insight and how it is translated meaningfully into the overall creative idea. For O-I Glass’ Provider, customer research revealed two key insights that were used.

  • Asia’s cultural preference for not drinking alone, rather in groups and using drinking occasions as ways of showing hospitality and respect for each other. This insight translated into the creative as the bottle’s metric volume – made large enough to share or small enough to just taste
  • Asia’s love of numbers and their meanings. Particularly those numbers attributed to luck and prosperity. This insight translated into the design and development of a large (888ml) bottle and a smaller (328ml) bottle.

Find the strongest idea. Remain loyal to it. Packaging is complicated. Details like shipping logistics, store shelf display, print cost and sustainability credentials are all important considerations. What project teams need to be aware of is not allowing these considerations to overrule the big idea. With so much detail it’s easy to dilute the main creative in favour of meeting a consideration like shipping costs. While saving budget is important, saving on shipping to the detriment of the creative, the brand differentiation and potentially sales, is not a way of saving money in our eyes.

In order for your product to thrive in market for the long term it needs to stand out for more than just its price tag. Packaging can, if completed strategically and with adherence to a big idea that is driven by customer insight, can and will help you achieve that. In this instance value is added, differentiation and loyalty is built and business success is preserved or even accelerated.

Voice is a brand agency based in Melbourne and Auckland. If you would like some advice on your packaging project, contact Jonathan Sagar (Voice Principal) at

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