Your Product Packaging Design Can Make Your Brand into an Icon


Competition in the consumer packaged goods segment has always been more like war than business. And you don’t have to be Sun Tzu to foresee that with purchasing preferences and power shifting to Millennials, fighting for your brand’s share of market is only going to get more brutal.

Many brands are already losing territory to upstart competitors with a better grasp of changing tastes—tastes that include not just what’s inside the package but the package itself.

According to Datamonitor, 50% of all consumer decisions are made at the point of sale. Put another way, the data suggest half of consumers intending to buy a certain kind of salsa for example make a different decision in the store based on the product.

If your sales are flat or declining, it might be time to rethink the story your packaging is telling modern consumers about your brand. This is where unique product packaging design is important.

new product packaging for consumer goodsWhen consumers see your brand, do they see “meh” or “made for me?”

Like generations before them, Millennial consumers expect quality ingredients and a satisfying product experience from their packaged goods. But unlike their parents, these customers are just starting their own lives and discovering their own favorite brands.

So it’s only natural they would gravitate to interesting packaging that speaks to their sensibilities and values.

If you want to have a shot at becoming a favorite with this segment, don’t rely on advertising and promotion alone to tell your story. Instead, look at your packaging as a prime opportunity to grab attention and sales.

After all, retailers may control the shelf space but with a compelling package concept, you can dominate the real estate.

Aquafina Water BottleFrom commodity to leader: A lesson from the bottled water industry.

According to a 2014 study by Euromonitor International, after the 2008 recession many bottled water brands struggled to profit from rising demand despite the growing segment of families turning away from soft drinks.

Part of the problem was habit—consumers had been trained to buy store brand bottled water or wait for chains like CVS to advertise a sale on brands like Pepsi’s Aquafina.

Coke’s Smart Water saw an opportunity to break out of the commodity trap and become a premium brand by adding value from the inside out.

First they enhanced the functional value of their water by fortifying it with electrolytes, creating a premium product in the process. Then the company packaged the technically enhanced water in a slim, slightly taller bottle that targeted affluent, acutely health conscious consumers.

So, did consumers buy it?

As reported by, Smart Water sales exceeded 800 MM in 2017 – ranking fifth in sales among all bottled water brands in North America.

Placed next to its generic-looking competitors in their stubby bottles in beverage coolers, Smart Water’s sleek, striking packaging said, “I’m the bottled water for fit attractive people who understand the importance of hydration in the gym and the office.”

At this point you might be thinking, “Inspiring case study, but compared to Smart Water we’re a tiny brand with limited resources. What I’d really love to hear is where do I start a project as involved as a custom package design—and how do I do get buy-in from the folks who approve the POs and sign the checks?”

Fair questions. Whether for a new product or a redesign of an existing package, developing a custom package design is a critical branding and business effort that will consume resources and attract attention.

It’s also a journey that requires the support of senior leadership and input from important influencers from different areas in the company to maximize your chances of a successful outcome.

product packaging for industrial wipes

Make sure your package design adds value, not cost.

To be effective, your new package design must play a marketing role (communication and brand differentiation) and a technical role (physical protection and containment).

To be viable, the concept must be cost-effective to produce as well as be appealing to consumers. Unfortunately, these requirements are often at odds.

Innovative packaging is especially challenging for CPG brands because the tight margins and intense competition in the segment make it difficult to pass along additional material costs to customers.
Therefore, as you consider all the ways your packaging can be reimagined to set your brand apart, you’ll want to be alert to every available opportunity to reduce packaging costs without diminishing the perception consumers have of your product.

This strategy will not only help you gain buy in with stakeholders who can support and approve funding to create custom package concepts and prototypes, delivering a new package at a lower per unit cost can significantly improve margins.

new product bottle designStart by tearing down your competition.


The whole point of rethinking your product packaging is to take shelf space and sales away from competing brands.
So your first task is to study the packaging of the leaders—and figure out how to do it better and cheaper. Break down what makes their packaging appealing to consumers—and potentially more appealing than yours.

By the way, don’t just rely on gut instinct or anecdotal feedback from retail or distribution partners as you seek to discover what’s not working for you. Ask the people in your target market.

Getting reliable and actionable insight from customers doesn’t have to take months or cost tens of thousands of dollars in market research.

For example, you can use a cheap, fast online survey to gauge how consumers view your package as well as those of your competitors, and measure the extent to which the package options influence their perceptions and purchase intentions.

Using a platform like, you can select from dozens of templates or for a modest fee get help designing a survey that can point up places to improve your packaging and sharpen your brand message.

Look at your package from every angle.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned at Cad Crowd in the course of connecting more than 1500 satisfied clients with more than 16,000 qualified designers since our inception, it’s this:

Smart Water product packaging example

Package design should not be done in a vacuum. 

In fact, according to a 2012 position paper by global strategic consulting firm McKinsey & Company, Design to Value: A Smart Asset for Smart Products, the best product packaging solutions involve marketing from the start working as part of a cross functional team.

Under this approach, the team would include key players from departments such as operations and engineering where at the outset everyone agrees to unify around a shared goal and focuses their collective energy on achieving it.

The blend of unique perspectives offers the potential to create a higher volume of fresh, workable solutions.

For example, while marketing can suggest any number of cosmetic tactics to increase your product’s perceived value, specialists in engineering or shipping are more qualified to reverse engineer the production process and materials used by competitors and help spot opportunities where weight or thickness might be reduced without sacrificing functional integrity.

For their final Smart Water package, Coca-Cola could have chosen to apply the branding and product information via custom screen printing. However, they used an elegantly-designed, pre-printed clear label instead.

While the actual figure is not available, a trade off of this type would typically yield yielded a savings from .01 to .50 cents per unit, which over the life of the product will drop millions to the company’s bottom line.

The decision allowed the company to maintain the premium positioning they wanted to achieve with the package—as well as an acceptable profit margin.

Now that you’ve got a better appreciation for the value of the cross-functional approach to identifying potential packaging solutions, what’s next?

You’ll want to distill the collective insights gathered from customers, the competition, and subject matter experts in your company into a design brief that defines your marketing, branding and functional goals for your package.

From there, you’ll need to find a designer to help you deliver a game-changing packaging solution.

That’s where Cad Crowd can help you.

How to afford top shelf design talent on a private label budget.

While it obviously takes more than unique packaging to differentiate your brand, especially one with premium positioning and pricing, the Smart Water example demonstrates how a custom packaging design can instantly telegraph your product attributes and connect with your ideal customers.

Unfortunately for small to mid-size CPG brands, custom packaging can be heinously expensive and notoriously time-consuming. And off the shelf options, while attractive from a per unit standpoint, restrict your ability to customize and differentiate your product at point of sale.

Fortunately you don’t have to have pockets as deep as a worldwide bottler to afford world-class consumer packaged goods design.

With Cad Crowd’s 3D modeling and 3D printing expertise and a global network of 3D designers, designing a custom container or a 3D outer pack is not only feasible, it’s comparatively fast and affordable.

Our platform lets you hire pre-qualified, proven professional CAD designers and 3D modelers or post a design contest to attract multiple submissions.

Cad Crowd can help you through the entire process from the initial brief through final designs. We can also help you vet final design(s) to ensure they can be cost-effectively produced at scale.

Cad Crowd can also be a resource for helping you develop packaging concepts— from rapid prototypes for user testing to commemorative, limited-time only packages.

Speaking of rapid, while we never sacrifice speed for quality, in retail first to market means choosing partners who can work at the speed of the global marketplace.

Shape the future of your brand.

As custom packaging consultants to global brands, small businesses and Entrepreneurs, Cad Crowd can bring some of the brightest engineering and design minds from around the world to your next packaging challenge. To read what clients say about working with Cad Crowd see our reviews.

To learn how we could work together to help you connect with a new generation of consumers to boost sales and market share, let’s talk.

Because the future is here.