How emerging speciality brands can get noticed

22 July 2021, 07:33 AM
  • The power of packaging can help small brands make a big impact, says Lois Blackhurst, executive creative director at STB Graphic Designers
How emerging speciality brands can get noticed

At its heart, all packaging design has one simple goal: to persuade someone to pick your brand off a shelf and buy it. That’s not to say you can’t create something truly beautiful and unique along the way – in fact, in the fine food sector, that’s usually the key to it all.

As with any branding, you should start with one crucial question: Who is this product for? Your target audience should inform every single decision you make. Your brand’s personality – how it looks, how it talks – must appeal to that audience. Will they be won over by something cheeky and friendly, or do they prefer sophisticated and elegant?

Questions like these inform your design choices, naming decisions and the language your brand uses. There’s no point shouting: ‘Oi, tasty grub here!’ if you’re going for a premium, elegant chocolate market. And a boring, flat tone of voice won’t help a vibrant, innovative challenger take the market by storm.

New and emerging brands need a compelling value proposition to get noticed. Pinpoint what makes you stand out, and why people should buy your product above others. If you’re struggling here, be honest with yourself: it may be worth revisiting your product. There’s always a gap in the market that you can target – it’s about finding that all-important sweet spot between uniqueness and demand.

Consider all the senses

Food branding has some extra nuances too. Food can be quite an emotive experience, and the packaging and branding must appeal to all your senses. Colour, in particular, is vital – it has the power to make you feel hungry, or it can put you off something completely.

Foodie colours work well, as they hint at the taste of the product inside. Use blue with caution – there aren’t many blue foods, after all. Blueberry flavoured products, or maybe clotted cream, are exceptions but there’s a reason you don’t often see blue food packaging.

Appeal to people’s sense of touch too. The opening stage is important for any packaging, but even more so with fine foods where it can make or break the brand experience. Resolve practical considerations such as refrigeration, storage and breakage early in the process to give yourself room to craft a more luxurious ‘unboxing’. Could you include a seal to ensure the product feels special, for instance, or an extra tag that adds personality and style as well as just providing information? Can you give the product a giftable or collectable feel?

In the early days, spin the fact that you are new and small to your advantage. It’s a great chance to tap into consumer demand for independent, artisan produce. When you get an online order, take the time to personalise the delivery with a note of gratitude, for example. Little details make a big difference, and they help you stand out from bigger brands that can’t possibly offer the same level of personalisation.

Tell your story

Whether your fine food brand is sold online or in a farm shop or deli, the packaging must do so much more than just tell the customer what the product is. It needs to tell and show the story of your brand and what you stand for. If you’re proud of your ethical, sustainable processes, or your business has a unique origin story, here’s your chance to tell it. You can’t rely on having any additional messaging or point-of-sale materials alongside your product, so your packaging needs to work hard on its own.

Be selective, though. The most effective fine food packaging is usually very simple: people are looking for a craft aesthetic rather than a shouty FMCG vibe, so less really is more, both online and on the shelf. Simpler designs can also be more economical to produce – one or two colours of the right stock can look fantastic and ooze quality. It’s also better for the planet to pare back the fancy finishes and let design do the hard work.

But remember, there’s a fine line between artisan and amateur. To be successful, any new and emerging brand needs a look and feel that reflects the quality of the product. I can’t stress this enough: don’t be tempted to do it yourself. However talented you might be, you’re too close to your product and an objective, experienced eye works wonders. Write a great brief that’s packed with all the passion you have for your product, and then hand it over to a design professional to deliver your vision. There are many great design companies out there who are keen to help, even if your budgets are slim. If we believe in a start-up brand, we will invest in that brand’s future.

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