Thought Leadership

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What Is Instagrammable Packaging?

by | February 19, 2018

I recently wrote an article in Beauty Packaging Magazine titled, “What Can Big Beauty Learn from Indie Beauty?”

You can read it here:

I’ve had a lot of great feedback from the article, and many questions around the part of the article called “Think About Instagram.” Here’s what I wrote in the article:

For our indie clients, we design for the shelf and of course we design for e-commerce. But we also design for Instagram. This means that built within our process is a step where we look at our design directions and consider which ones will translate the best when a consumer takes a photo of the product with her smartphone. Will the logo pop? Will the phone’s flash bleach out the deco? Will the design look distinctive and memorable in these moments? A professional photographer and a re-toucher can make any design look decent. But what happens when your design is in the hands of the customer and her Instagram stories?

My friends across many packaging disciplines at corporations large and small had the same question: How do you design packaging for Instagram? There is no hard and fast rule, but there are a few things to consider when developing your packaging design strategy.

Just 10 years ago the only image of your product in the market was either created by your brand or by magazines. These images were all a result of controlled photo shoots with expert lighting, prop stylists and the comfort of retouching. Deco elements that didn’t read well on camera could be adjusted in post-production. One of BBCA’s global clients during this time comes to mind. They consistently decorated with a metallic foil logo across all products and we would always retouch the logo black to improve legibility in advertising and beyond.

That was then, this is now a UGC world. User Generated Content (which means content created by regular people, aspiring influencers or professional influencers) is fabulous for brands — it helps brands reach new eyeballs and has proven itself as a truly compelling marketing initiative. But it means that your products will be photographed in environments that are not controlled by you and most often not by an expert.

Test UGC-Style Photography

Take a second look at your primaries, this time through the lens of your mobile device. This is the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to determine if your primaries need an overhaul. Ask a friend to take a photo of the product. Does the logo pop? Can you clearly read the name of the product? Does it look differentiated versus your competitors? Are you happy with the story the deco is telling? If the answers to these questions are not an immediate yes, then you have some work to do.

I want to paint a picture of how important this is today. There is an incredibly popular skincare brand that features a very distinctive color for its primaries. No matter what shape the product is in, a jar, tube or bottle, this color is quickly recognized. Beauty enthusiasts always associate this color with the brand. But, the color of the silk-screened deco does not have enough contrast against the primary to read when shot as UGC. It is impossible to read the name of the product in these situations, which in this hyper-competitive marketplace, is a huge challenge. The marketing team has done incredible work to create a frenzy around the brand, but it is stopped short by the deco when the customer can’t, in an instant, identify something as basic as the product name.

Readability and Transparency

Readability in the UGC realm is also an issue for primaries with a ton of transparency. I love the way clear plastics and glass look on the shelf, but I also know how hard they are to capture well on professional photo shoots. On shoots we take a lot of time to remove or hide the back labels and messages to be sure that it doesn’t show through to confuse the image. This is incredibly challenging when the clear vessels feature double-sided labels – the show through of the interior messaging is distracting and muddies the crystal clear impression the design intended to create.

Brand From a New Perspective

Take your package. Turn it upside down and all around and you might find some new perspective and new ways to communicate. For example, if your product is in a cylinder or jar, I strongly suggest you add branding to the top of the cap. Think of all the overhead collection shots you’ve seen on social media. Wouldn’t it be nice for your product to be recognized from all angles?!?!

And did you notice I haven’t mentioned anything about secondary packaging? If you want it to land in UGC it must be magnificent! That’s an article for another day.

Message our CEO with your thoughts: Any questions or want to see packaging case studies? Please email me!