At The Behaviours Agency, we are often tasked with creating new packaging design for our clients to dramatise a product’s performance.

Interestingly, successful pack design is not always as you would expect.

A key point in the shopper journey

Packaging design is a critical stage of the shopper journey; it has to deliver across multiple objectives and influence the shopper to buy at the shelf.

From heroing the brand, to dealing with differentiation between product categories and variants, not to mention highlighting product benefits to educate the shopper on why they should buy a brand over a competitor – packaging plays a huge role in communication yet often space is at a premium.

The different approaches to packaging  taken by Microsoft and Apple – with one covering every minute aspect of the product while the other strips back to the bare essentials – demonstrates that opposing ends of the spectrum can both be successful.

We more commonly find that the most effective option is likely to be somewhere in the middle.

Complicated design style

Design purists may often prefer the cleaner, less cluttered approach, but a quick review of FMCG products highlights that most mainstream brands use packaging design that is busy with imagery, text and design flourishes.

This becomes more apparent with performance brands, such as batteries, washing powder, motor oil and razor blades, where there is a common thread of design rules that appear to fly in the face of contemporary aesthetics.

These are typically a maelstrom of swooshes, glows, splashes, arrows, textures, icons, reflections and other layered graphics. Over-stylised illustrations or heavily retouched imagery is order of the day. And let’s not forget the cacophony of text styles with embossment, italics, drop-shadows, gradients and even metallic finishes – all thrown in for good measure.

On review of this style of pack design, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a designer got carried away with newfound techniques and has used them all in one go. Or, perhaps 10 different designers worked in isolation for each component of the total design.

Sometimes less is just less

However, the more likely reason is that most of these packs have been carefully honed over the years with the purpose of convincing the shopper that this product really works and will deliver results. Nothing is by accident, extraneous or without purpose. They are all there to dramatise and amplify the active process or the performance aspect of the product.

From the sparkle behind a Finish Powerball to the swirling bubbles on Vanish, or even the white glow on Colgate – all of these are a less than subtle reminder of performance credentials.

It’s common to assume that this busy style of pack would struggle to influence today’s sophisticated shopper.

Yet through our shopper insight and research processes we’ve proved time and time again that without these cues, shelf standout, performance and ‘premiumness’ all drop off in the eyes of the shopper.

Our approach to packaging design

At The Behaviours Agency, we have our own proprietary tool to help us assess and consider pack design and best manage the multiple messages required for maximum engagement and appeal. We call it EasySHOP, and it provides the structure to influence shoppers to act.

If you would like to speak to us about packaging or to see if we can help you drive more shoppers to your brand, then get in touch.


Adam Tregaskis

Head of Retail