If you have ever purchased an expensive bottle of whiskey, you know that the expensive stuff sometimes doesn’t live up to the hype. Of course, no one is going to mistake a ten-dollar bottle of generic liquor for a 30-year-old Speyside single malt, but in blind taste tests it is extremely rare for the most expensive items to actually get the highest marks. The reason for this is pretty basic: how a product is perceived is an intrinsic part of its appeal – and its value.

When it comes to consumer packaged goods (CPG), the look and feel of an item on the shelf can be even more important than what is inside the box. That’s why savvy entrepreneurs need to make presentation more than an afterthought.

Monopoly packaging design
photo credit: Andy Mangold / Flickr

It’s hard to think of any product that isn’t enhanced by having a handsome, elegant package. When you walk into a grocery store, the inexpensive chocolate bars are all wrapped in cheap-looking paper wrappers, but the higher-end candies (which sell for three to five times as much) often have embossed foil, lovely art, and elegant design.

Are the bars better? Probably – but it’s likely that the manufacturer didn’t spend five times as much on ingredients. This is a perfect example of how enhancing packaging can play a pivotal role in increasing perceived value and profitability. But it’s far from the only one.

As an entrepreneur, you might be thinking, “I don’t have the extra funds to blow on nice packaging.” That may be true, but by not upping your game on the packaging side, you could be limiting your revenues. That’s because consumers have lots of choices when it comes to purchasing products, and they tend to gravitate to ones that have an emotional connection for them.

Fancy packaging design concept

How to Stand Out from The Rest

So what are some of the ways that small companies that make consumer goods can’t stand out from the pack without breaking the bank? Let’s take a look.

The Look and Feel of the Product

One of the biggest is the look and feel of the product. If you think about it, it costs just as much to print an average label as it does to print a great one. The difference is in the graphic design.

If you are trying to create a real connection with a potential customer, think about what is important to them. For example, if you sell tea, consumers may be drawn to products with labels that convey a sense of peace and tranquility. Something as simple as adding a picture of a calm ocean or some clouds may actually create that emotional link. A generic picture of tea leaves is not going to do that for you.

Unfortunately, many consumer products companies don’t think beyond the contents of their packages, which is why so many brands are boring and forgettable.

The Materials

Once you get beyond the art, the materials also become important. There’s a reason why top-shelf bottles of brandy often come in royal-looking boxes with ribbons and wax seals – or even with a pair of crystal snifters. None of those things affect the taste of the product, but they affect the experience of purchasing and owning the product. That’s key to building a luxury brand.

Of course, not everyone is going to spend an extra $20 or $30 to pretty up their product, especially if they are on a budget. For example, crafters who sell their products on Etsy usually have very thin margins, and the idea of going overboard with packaging is just not feasible.

Cold brew coffee concept design

No Budget? No Worries!

What is the answer for start-up companies that want to make an impression but don’t have the budgets to invest in custom packaging or over-the-top design?

There’s no one right way to do things, but the good news is that over the last few years a lot of innovative off the shelf packaging options have made it possible to create a brand that is visually impactful without going over budget. These include everything from small pouches (for things like coffee and tea) to mylar bags (for candy and other food items) to metal boxes (for jewelry or other decorative items).

Containers of been around since the beginning of time, of course, but one of the exciting things about the market today is that in many cases there are no minimum orders, and digital printing makes it possible to customize the branding without having to order hundreds – or even thousands – of units. T

hat’s important for companies that are still watching every penny while they are trying to bring in the dollars.