Thoughts & Opinions

How FMCG packaging design differs from other brand communications.

Not so long ago, Pure was in preliminary consultations with a Russian client about brand & packaging for a new range. The client, a health & beauty tycoon who turns over circa $600 million per annum, expressed his opinion on the relationship between marketing and packaging design in an email reply, ‘Have you read too many books on marketing recently?’ – he wrote.  ‘Burn them in the backyard.’

His comment raised a few smiles and of course all brand communications are an aspect of marketing, but his underlying point is that packaging design has its own rules. Although packaging is now seen as an integral part of the marketing mix, FMCG packaging design is a specialism that’s quite different to other forms of brand communication.

The limitation of space on packaging means communication has to be more immediate and more implicit. Packaging also takes on a profound importance because consumers’ perceptions of product quality or suitability are directly related to the overall impression of packaging. On the simplest level, think supermarket premium tier versus supermarket basic tier packaging.

Here are 5 fundamental differences:


Whereas other forms of marketing are based on explicit communication, with packaging design there is greater reliance on implicit communication. With more emphasis on how people connect instinctively and emotionally with the brand design based on overall impression, design style, imagery, colour and pack structure.


The sheer volume of packaged FMCG goods on sale along with the need to stand out means there are far more nuances of look and feel used across packaging design versus brand advertising. It’s just one of the reasons why some FMCG brand managers now choose to develop packaging before other brand tools.


There is plenty of space on websites for brands to foster consumer connections. The challenge with packaging design is to create a meaningful connection despite the limited space through the cumulative impact of various elements, rather like telling a story in shorthand. (For example, that’s why you’ll see information expressed through iconography on packaging to communicate an array of key messages quickly)


Like billboard advertising, packaging is a medium where communication has to be instantaneous and arresting. While brands may choose to shout louder to make their advertising stand out, when it comes to packaging appeal shouting louder will likely sacrifice brand authenticity.


Very often advertising messages are drawn from marketing conclusions, contrived to make a point and entertain, whereas simpler, more direct marketing triggers work best on packaging relating to things such as purity of product ingredients or provenance because they register immediately with consumers and establish authenticity.


But ultimately, there is one very important difference between packaging and other brand communications. FMCG packaging is in a position to close the sale, which makes it arguably the most important brand tool at your disposal.