Feb
12

Seth Godin on brand packaging: he’s right (this time)

The true job of “packaging” (hint: it’s not just to wrap stuff)

Beg to Differ is focusing on a great blog post today by Seth Godin which asks a question we all need to ask ourselves: “does your packaging do its job”? But of course when Beg to Differ (and Seth)  thinks about “packaging” we don’t mean a disposable wrapper…

Image (uncredited) from sethgodin.typepad.com

Image (uncredited) from sethgodin.typepad.com

Mmm. The Land of Chocolate.

Okay, I don’t always agree with Seth. Actually I almost never agree with him when he talks about product naming (Squidoo?!?) or brand architecture (Apple’s  iMac / iPod / iPhone convention sloppy?!?). But today he’s dead on in his assessment of the packaging for the chocolate product above, from the company Madécasse (pronounced mah – DAY – cas).

Now, you may look at it and say to yourself: hey! That’s not bad. It’s actually really well designed. And you’d be right: it’s a simple, elegant design that looks like craft-made – and probably expensive – chocolate. And again. You’d be right. You’d also be right if you noticed the effective use of repeated elements across the packaging, the solid little icon, and the nice differentiating touch of the little ribbon tied at the top.

You might also guess that this is fair trade chocolate. And again, you are a smart reader.

All very nice. All very professional. Yay.

So what’s wrong with a nicely-designed package?

Nothing wrong. That is, there’s nothing wrong *if* the design also helps customers to find you quickly in a store full of high end chocolate bars – which is where these bars would be most  likely to be sitting.

Nothing wrong. If your attractive design doesn’t actually act like camouflage – hiding you from their eyes.

Nothing wrong. If your design doesn’t also hide the fact that your product has a very different story (Madagascar chocolate! Made in Africa by Africans!) that could create an emotional bond – if only people could see through the wrapper to you.

Nothing wrong. If you listen to Seth for a moment:

I don’t think the job of packaging is to please your boss. I think you must please the retailer, but most of all, attract and delight and sell to the browsing, uncommitted new customer. – Seth Godin

How about you?

When you think about all the “packaging” around your product, service, or person-brand, are you just following the “nice design” conventions? If so, your package may be actually hiding you from your customers.

Instead, think about how the outer packaging acts as a transparent window to the really important differentiators that for the heart and soul of your product.

Or in Seth’s words:

  • The story you can confidently tell. (for more on stories, see yesterday’s Beg to Differ)
  • The worldview the buyer tells herself. (or “Values” see Protecting your brand’s Crown Jewels)
  • And like Seth did, I’ll end by wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day. Why not celebrate by sharing a fair trade chocolate bar with someone you love? Even if it’s not well-packaged and clearly differentiated (yet), it’ll make you feel great!