Packaging Designs That Lose Customers

7 min read

A Woman Choosing Between Two Trending Packaging Designs At A Supermarket

Count the times you purchased an item, took it home and couldn’t get it open. Then, if you managed to pry, cut or slice it open, it won’t close as advertised. It’s always very frustrating and sometimes dangerous especially if you use a knife to cut through the tough blister packaging.

The problems consumers have with packaging cover seven categories, and that’s what you’ll see in this article. First, we need to define packaging. It’s more than the card, box or jar you see on the shelf.

66% of consumers said they had tried a new product because of the packaging.


Every Layer of Packaging Must Compliment the Others

There are three layers of consumer goods packaging design that manufacturers must use to wrap and ship their products. Customers in stores usually only see the product packaging and sometimes the inner packaging. Online shoppers see the outer packaging too, and it should be part of your overall branding strategy. Think Amazon and their ubiquitous smile logo found on their shipping cartons.

Here is a brief explanation of the three layers of packaging.

  1. Outer packaging – Typically, this is the box that protects the item during shipping, absorbing bumps and spills along the way. However, for a brick and mortar shop, the outer packaging can be the shopping bag with the store’s logo and colors. It’s the first layer the customer sees when she unwraps her purchase.

  2. Inner packaging – This layer is what holds the item in place protecting it from moving around during shipping and handling. It can be tissue paper, shredded paper, packing peanuts or a sealed bag for retaining freshness.

  3. Product packaging – This is the layer most people see in the stores or images online. It’s the box, bag, bottle, label or jar that holds the products. Here you’ll find the brand logos, colors, and descriptions.

Each layer is an opportunity to enhance your brand’s image with your customer using logos and colors. Too often, package designers miss the mark and create packaging so useless, that it seems like an afterthought. For more details about designing packaging, the process, and the terms, here is a comprehensive guide.

If you are planning to design your first package or redesign an existing brand, here are seven design blunders to avoid.

7 Packaging Designs Mistakes That Will Make Customers Switch

If your company designs and manufactures packaging for others, you owe it to your clients to avoid these 7 deadly sins of packaging design.

1. Difficult to Open

Packaging Design Blog Difficult To Open Product PackageImage credit: Consumer Reports

Do customers use tools or their teeth to open your packaging? Consider this a design failure.

No matter how beautiful the product package looks, nothing frustrates consumers more than having a product that is hard to open. Clamshell/oyster-style packaging is notorious for this. If your package requires customers to twist their wrists hard, cut their fingers or need scissors and knives, they’ll choose another brand next time.

Difficult to open packaging is a time waster, dangerous, and might damage your product. For a solution, consider perforations, notches or no glue at an opening point.

2. Labels That Are Hard to Read

An Older Man Holding Product Package That Is Hard To Read

Consumers hate having to squint their eyes or use a magnifying glass to read the label. Use large, high contrast font for the product name, and main description. It is especially critical if the consumer cannot see inside the outer package.

Product packaging is not the only issue. Unreadable shipping labels and barcodes also cost money in lost sales and returns.

3. NOT Environmentally-Friendly

3 Doritos Packaging Designs That Are Not Environmentally FriendlyImage credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr

Today, consumers place a greater emphasis on green packaging. It should be biodegradable, recyclable, or both. 62% of consumers feel negative about brands who don’t use environmentally-friendly merchandise packaging. With plastic bag and bottle bans increasing around the world, manufacturers need to pay attention to this trend.

4. Excess or Over-Packaging

Image of Claritin Product Over Packaging DesignImage credit:

Customers hate it because it’s wasteful and bulky. Stores don’t care for it because it takes up excess shelf space. Over-packaging costs everyone money from raw materials to shipping to disposal.

Securing the contents is essential. Optimize packaging by minimizing the interior space and using the least amount of fillers possible.

5. Using the Wrong Materials

Poor Quality Packaging With Image of Resealable Strip That Doesn't Close

Packaging should be aesthetically pleasing and functional. It could be as simple as putting takeout in a container that leaks.

If you use low-quality materials, the package may fail before it can be displayed. Consumers may reject the product if the packaging is not up to the quality standards they expect for a given item.  

Quality matters when it comes to packaging. If the resealable strip on a bag doesn’t close or screw on top of a juice carton comes off, it will affect future sales of that product.

Ecommerce customers expect their products to arrive undamaged despite the rigors of shipping. Skimping on quality packaging can result in damaged and returned goods along with the loss of customer loyalty.

6. Typos or Graphic Design Inaccuracies

Mislabeling Product Showing A Picture Of A Cat With My Dog LabelImage credit:

Misspelling and mislabeling can adversely affect a business’s reputation. Sometimes typos and graphic design flaws, although hilarious to everyone else, will drive customers away. They can be expensive to fix, and the damage to your brand may be permanent.

One of the primary culprits is poor translations from one language to another, usually English. Use multiple departments to examine every word and sentence before printing and packaging. A packaging assurance testing company can scrutinize everything to ensure your packaging is error free.

7. Unclear or Confusing Messaging

Confusing Messaging Products Image Of Tide Pods That Look Like Candies

Is it a candy or a laundry detergent? By now you’ve heard stories about people accidentally or intentionally ingesting Tide Pods. Although Tide’s packaging clearly states it’s a detergent and not for consumption, the colors and candy-like appearance has caused some confusion, especially to young children.

Ambiguous cpg packaging that forces consumers to pick it up just to read and understand the contents is not the reason you want them to pick it up. A shiny gold box with butterflies may capture attention, but if the bottle inside contains fish oil capsules, you’ll lose the customer. Be sure your packaging is clear about what’s inside to avoid accusations of misleading the consumer.

Don’t try and explain everything about the product on one small package. Keep it clean with plenty of white space. Limit your information to the name and one or two main features and benefits. Use high contrasting type font that is bold and easy to read without magnification. If you require a detailed explanation, use an insert.

A little common sense and using the services of a professional packaging design team will save money and aggravation in the long run. Your customers will appreciate it.

Avoid Design Mistakes with This Approach

There is an incredible amount of thought and planning that must go into every package design. Too many times companies move ahead without benefit of consumer input or measuring against a competitive product.

Before you start your packaging design:

  • Get input from current and potential users.

  • Keep up to date with relevant trends such as sustainability

  • Select colors, fonts, and materials that enhance the brand’s image

Deliver your brand’s promise by being consistent with every detail and layer of packaging. Use an experienced packaging design team to create a quality experience for your customers and you should be in great shape!

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