Committee Blog: Brand Driven Package Design Cheatsheet
By Bethany Moore
January 10, 2022

Committee Blog: Brand Driven Package Design Cheatsheet

by Wendy Barr, CEO & Creative Director, Barrcode Branding
Member of NCIA’s Packaging and Labeling Committee

You want “that” package, the one that is flying off the shelves; the one that people photograph and post on social media; the one that makes the consumer feel something inside, something special, maybe even emotional. Maybe it’s a package they keep, reuse, save, share, and purchase over and over again.  

If you’re in retail, you want a package that earns you shelf space. A package that retailers want at eye-level in their stores and dispensaries, featured on their website, in their app, directly in front of the consumer… tantalizing, educating, and urging them to purchase. Admit it, you have an amazing product, and you want irresistible packaging design!

What does all gorgeous packaging have in common? 

YES!! Branding!

Cool, you have been listening…

Yes, it’s true, we’re extremely passionate about packaging design (and branding). That’s why we’ve committed our professional life to the packaging design industry. We want to understand why a consumer is compelled to purchase one package over another. What makes this package so hypnotic and desirable? We want the graphics, colors, messaging and overall design to appeal to something deep inside of the discerning adult consumer. It’s our goal to create a personal connection that expands beyond the product itself. The packaging is more than a mere vehicle. It should hold the sale, inform, and delight the consumer.

Did you know that packaging design is one of the last sustaining manufactured print products?

Think about it. Magazines, books and literature, posters, flyers, brochures, album covers (yes, I remember vinyl), even business cards are on their way out. But, product packaging is here to stay. It can’t be purely ‘digital’; the product has to go into something for transport, storage, information, and more. 

Your packaging is a billboard that represents your entire brand.

Your branding will dictate the look and feel of your packaging, and the language used to communicate the product’s value to the consumer. When you get this part right, you can experience huge rewards. But if you get this wrong, you may never get a second chance. Ouch, that stings…

Many businesses get this wrong, especially those in newer industries like the legal cannabis, CBD, and hemp industry, for example. Some companies opt for a white label product and simple packaging design created by the white label company. Or they print their own labels using their DIY logo and wonder why it’s not selling. It’s a great product, tried and true, but the packaging doesn’t communicate the brand value to the consumer effectively resulting in #epicfail. 

Why focus so much energy on Brand Driven Package Design?

If the goal is to be visible, popular, and profitable, your product packaging can’t be an afterthought. Your branded product packaging is part of the big picture. It’s functional marketing and should be treated as such. Keep it simple, clean, and on-brand, and you can’t go wrong. You got this!

Here is your mini cheatsheet:

Branding (need I say more?)

Your spot-on brand identity comes first, it has to, because your packaging design is a reflection of your brand. The logo, colors, fonts, imagery, and language must be indicative of your unique differentiation as a brand. 

Sustainability (it’s time to save the planet!)

Make sure that your packaging materials reflect your brand values and mesh with the product. Sustainability issues and concerns are critical due to the potential negative impact on the environment. Consider recycled and/or recyclable materials, and work with regulators and lawmakers to improve access and feasibility. 

Primary vs. Secondary Packaging (what does it all mean?)

Primary packaging is what directly holds and contains the product (like a bottle). Secondary packaging is the exterior packaging (like the box that holds the bottle) that protects and/or labels the product. Tertiary packaging is used for bulk handling, storage, and distribution.

Specialty Design Agency (can you say branding?)

Choose an agency that is or has worked closely with you on the development of your brand. A professional agency will have designers with expansive knowledge regarding packaging design, print production, branding, and marketing. Your packaging design, website, and marketing efforts must be intrinsically and cohesively linked to your brand identity.

Wait, maybe white label or private label would work for you. But, in that case, is branding still a valid concern? 

I’m so glad you asked! White labeling is hot and trending in the cannabis industry. But, is it right for you? Let’s take a look…

What are White Label Products?

White label products are mass produced by a manufacturer as a generic product, and sold to a retailer who will in turn add their own label and sell it under their brand name. The formula is standard and typically, cannot be customized. So, the only thing that you can customize is the branding, packaging design and brand marketing. 

What are Private Label Products?

Private label products are produced by a manufacturer as well, but in partnership with the brand to create a unique formulation. It is a longer, more expensive undertaking, but it results in an exclusive product. Retail brands use this to differentiate their products and cater to their niche audience. 

White Label vs. Private Label

How do business owners decide which is the best investment for them? Well, it’s important to weigh the price differential. White labeling is more affordable, but the product is not original. Private label requires a more substantial investment, but it allows for collaboration, flexibility, and exclusivity with regards to formulation, and in some cases, trademarking and market share. But, unless you have a loyal, expansive customer base and exceptional branding/marketing, it could be difficult to compete against established, well-known brands. 

What is exactly the same?

BRANDING! In the end, no matter the direction you choose, a white-label product or a private label, the only way to optimize your visibility and assure that your product stands out is branding. Having professional, eye-catching branding, a spot-on brand story and a unique branded marketing strategy can earn you distribution, shelf space, and loyal customers now and in the future. 

Short story long, if you are in this to win this, do it right the first time! Make it custom, make it YOURS!





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