Planning and designing seasonal packs
What you should – and definitely shouldn't – do when creating seasonal packaging
If you are looking to create an impact in retail stores, drive sales and win customers this Christmas, your seasonal packaging can play a crucial role.
Even with uncertainty regarding the UK economy, cost of living crisis, stock shortages and more, UK shoppers remain likely to increase their spending over Christmas.
To capitalise, many businesses will look to limited-time promotions, marketing campaigns, and seasonal packaging to capture a share of these additional sales.
But what should you consider if you plan to use your packaging as a promotional tool? This guide covers the seven do’s and don’ts when creating seasonal packaging, covering:
- Maintaining your brand recognition.
- Consideration of target consumers, demographics, and competitors.
- How specific you should make your seasonal packaging designs.
- And much more besides.
Seasonal activity and the UK economy
The ongoing cost of living crisis and stubborn inflation see both high street and online sellers bracing themselves for a challenging festive trading period.
Deloitte’s consumer tracker report, surveying over 3,000 UK consumers, found that more are planning to increase their Christmas spending this year compared to last year. However, 29% of shoppers still indicate that they plan on spending less in 2023.
The long-term impact of the cost-of-living crisis has suppressed consumer spending power, but it appears as if consumers are still willing to spend more at Christmas by prioritising it over other spending. Yet some shoppers will remain cautious with their spending during the upcoming winter months because of high energy and fuel prices.
What this means, however, is that your seasonal packaging becomes even more crucial this year.
What is seasonal packaging?
Seasonal packaging is that used for a specific event, time period, or promotion. Popular at Christmas, seasonal product packaging aims to drive sales amongst consumers who would not usually (or infrequently) buy a specific product. Limited edition packaging can include different print, designs, colours, sizes or even materials.
Why consider seasonal packaging?
The uncertainty surrounding the economic performance of the UK is likely to affect consumer confidence this Christmas. Yet reports expect Christmas spending to be around £84.9 billion. As such, seasonal products, promotions, and packaging remain a crucial consideration (as highlighted by these Christmas packaging facts).
But why use seasonal packaging?
Done correctly, seasonal packaging can significantly drive sales volumes, brand awareness and impulse purchases. It can help you stand out from the competition, attract additional shelf space, and, in the longer term, help to drive consumer loyalty and repeat sales.
Ultimately, it can be the difference between a red-hot sales period and a lukewarm (or worse) festive season.
But critically, your packaging must be on point to achieve this. As such, the remainder of this guide covers the seven things you should do when creating seasonal packaging and the seven things you really shouldn’t. The seven deadly sins, if you will.
The 7 do's for creating your seasonal packaging
The key points to consider and achieve to drive seasonal sales volume
The seven most important considerations – and targets you should be aiming to hit – when creating seasonal packaging are:
- Increasing product appeal to persuade consumers to buy.
- Adding value to your packs.
- Building brand loyalty.
- Adding personalisation to your seasonal packaging design
- Aligning with existing branding.
- Having a promotional strategy.
Increase product appeal and persuade consumers to buy
Of course, the key objective of your seasonal packaging should be to increase the appeal of your products in a retail environment.
Taking Christmas as the obvious example, many shoppers look for festive-themed packaging suitable for gifting. This appeal is particularly important for products that would otherwise not be associated with the season.
Festive or seasonal packs are also more likely to be in tune with consumers’ moods and will lead to increased impulse purchasing.
Another aspect to consider here is to add a sense of luxury or drama. Doing so can be achieved through special finishes on your packs (such as foil embossing or spot varnishing) or clever structural design that makes the pack unusual or different compared to the alternative options. Even well-designed print can make a significant difference here.
Limited editions (see Starbucks, winter cups and the hype surrounding “Pumpkin spiced lattes”) can also create excitement amongst regular, loyal customers.
Ultimately, you should decide what your goals are for your seasonal packaging – such as brand awareness, overall sales volume, average order value, etc. – and you can then design it to help meet these.
Achieving this can be as simple as ensuring consistent seasonal branding across all your existing product lines.
However, businesses can also achieve this by creating multi-packs or gift packs selling bundles of products together in a larger outer box.
Packaging (and offers) of this type can see consumers purchase your products as gifts for friends or family members. It can also encourage consumers to buy more of your products than they may have done otherwise.
Other options include money off or BOGOF on all seasonally branded items. You should use this tactic sparingly, however, as it will drive volume but not margin and can alter your brand positioning and perception.
Build brand loyalty
You should aim to design your Christmas packaging in such a way that it drives brand loyalty amongst your existing customer base, as well as attempt to foster this with new customers.
Your packaging can do so by using colours, graphic designs, messaging, and effectively arousing positive emotions. These could include a sense of inclusivity, luxury, care for the environment, or even evoking positive childhood memories.
Limited edition packaging can also drive sales amongst your existing customers, especially alongside suitable promotional activity. A limited run will generate a feeling of scarcity, a powerful way to increase sales of more expensive items.
Personalisation can be challenging to implement at scale, but it is a tactic you should consider for your packaging.
For example, offering personalised notes included with eCommerce orders can be a great way to make that gift extra special.
Digital printing can allow for personalised packs and products, too, which increases the perceived value of the item and shows a level of thought and consideration (which reflects well on both the gift giver and your brand).
Reusable and value-added packs
A criticism of most seasonal packaging is that it effectively increases the amount of material used, harms the environment, and leads to the burden of disposal falling on the end recipient.
However, a way to avoid these negative associations – whilst also boosting perceived value in-store – is to design your packaging to add value to your products.
An example of adding value would be a gift box or case the recipient retains for ongoing storage of the items (or even for another purpose).
This strategy is a real win-win for brands. Firstly, consumers see the product as more desirable and valuable, leading to higher sales at a higher cost. Secondly, it also allows your branding to remain in the consumer’s conscience as they retain the pack over a prolonged period.
Align limited edition packaging with existing branding
Loyal customers look for your products when purchasing gifts for their loved ones (or even themselves). They are already aware of the benefits and qualities that your products bring.
However, if your limited edition packaging is almost unrecognisable from your existing branding, it can turn off your loyal customer base. Even worse, it can mean they miss your products altogether.
This problem also provides an opportunity for competitors who can showcase their products – customers who you may never win back.
As such, you must strike a balance. Your festive packaging must look different enough to appear special. Yet it must remain close enough to your branding to reassure existing customers and maintain your previously earned brand loyalty and recognition. A coherent limited-edition packaging strategy is vital.
Have a promotional strategy
Whilst seasonal packaging is a great marketing tool in its own right, even with the perfect packs, it is still crucial to have an overall promotional plan in place.
Your broader strategy can include sending email newsletters to subscribers, giving them a “sneak peek” or early access to your seasonal or limited-edition packs. You should also consider general advertising, influencer mentions (including popular unboxing channels on YouTube), and securing prominent positions in retail outlets.
You should also think about coordinated point-of-sale stands (such as CTUs or FSDUs), allowing you to place your promotional packs at the locations most likely to grab consumer attention or drive impulse purchases.
The 7 don'ts when planning and designing seasonal packs
The seven errors you must avoid at all costs when creating your promotional packaging
Whilst you could nail all of the points detailed above and sit back, safe in the belief that your seasonal packaging will soon ramp up your sales, it is also imperative to avoid the seven pitfalls in the following section. Each of these could seriously dent your performance.
When considering your seasonal packaging, you must avoid the following:
- Overestimating stock.
- Overspending on your packaging or design.
- Focusing on holidays which are too specific.
- Focusing on the wrong holidays or demographics.
- Mimicking competitors.
- Losing your brand differentiators.
- Making basic mistakes in your artwork.
Don’t overestimate stock
Whilst it is easy to do, especially with difficulties forecasting in the current climate, it is important not to overestimate the stock levels of seasonal packaging you require.
Firstly, whilst flooding the market can be a good tactic in specific scenarios, being too visible can erode any exclusivity that seasonal packs typically convey (this is more critical with luxury and higher-value products).
Secondly, it could also mean the need to significantly discount products towards the end of the seasonal period to avoid leftover (and unsellable) festive lines. As a pricing strategy (whether planned or not), it could impact your brand positioning. For example, a luxury or upmarket brand discounting large volumes of products or packs can quickly harm your brand equity.
Finally, you may also be left with a large amount of packaging that you simply have to write off (and the financial implications of doing so).
It can be pretty easy to get carried away with your festive or seasonal packaging, with a new print, specialist finishes, a unique structural design, a mix of materials, larger dimensions, etc.
But this can quickly lead to costs ballooning. And if the market you operate in is particularly price-sensitive (something affecting many more sectors this year), these limited-edition packs could quickly erode your margin.
You should also consider that larger packs – whilst grabbing more attention in-store – are also more costly to ship. If you prioritise the form over function, you could also see increased incidences of items damaged in transit.
In essence, the more you spend on your seasonal packaging, the bigger the risks you take (especially considering the potential for over-ordering, as detailed above). It is essential to find the right balance.
Don't focus on events or holidays which are too specific
Depending on your budget, expected sales and aims for your seasonal packaging, it can be easy to fall into the trap of being too specific with what you are targeting.
For example, whilst you may wish to produce a specific pack for Christmas, this means the design is out of date after 25 December.
However, if you produce a winter pack, this could stay on shelves (without massive discounts) beyond the end of this period and into the following year. Another good example is “Autumn” vs “Halloween” themed packs.
A further consideration here – and particularly for smaller retailers – is to not shorten your seasonal packaging’s lifespan by including special offers or dates with expiry dates. You cannot use a pack featuring “Happy Christmas 2023″ the following year if you have excess stock.
Considering the design, wording, and specific promotional offers can help keep costs down and profit margins up.
Don't focus on the wrong holidays or demographics
Similarly to the above, poor targeting of consumers or how specific markets behave during certain sales periods can also be disastrous.
As a very crude example, a florist would likely have success with a “Mother’s Day” themed pack or gift box but considerably less with a Father’s Day one.
As such, it is essential to know your target consumers. You can usually ascertain this by looking at historical data or, failing that – creating buyer personas. You can then ensure that your packaging targets shoppers actively looking for your products at that specific time.
Don’t be unprepared
Christmas – as just one example – seems to roll around quicker with every passing year. And with retailers’ promotional calendars featuring ever more overlap (mince pies in shops at the end of August, alongside BBQ food, for example!), it can take businesses by surprise.
And being unprepared can create many problems.
For starters, failing to be prepared means you may not get your packaging on time and, in turn, miss out on a chunk of the targeted sales period. It may mean that you rush the design, leading to mistakes. Or your supplier may struggle to hit deadlines, and the quality suffers.
Although easing somewhat in 2023, this final concern has been particularly acute over the past few years. Cardboard shortages, delays in shipping containers arriving from overseas and even the lack of lorry drivers have meant that lead times on corrugated cardboard packaging, in particular, are longer than they may have been historically.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Don’t (always) mimic competitors
While conducting thorough competitor research and analysis is vital, a common mistake many businesses make is copying their competition.
Mimicking your competitors means your promotional packs will get lost amongst the extra noise during busy sales periods. It can also erode the brand values you have built up over the years (and the reason your loyal customers choose your products).
There is also no guarantee that what your competition is doing (or has done) is or was successful. You may be copying the same mistakes they have learnt from and want to avoid.
Bottom line? Stay true to your brand aesthetics and values.
Don't lose your brand differentiators
As with diluting your brand by copying your competition, it is also crucial that your seasonal packaging does not confuse or turn off customers.
Specific examples include Coca-Cola releasing special edition cans that were white instead of the traditional red – with consumer backlash after many believed they were buying the diet version of the drink (and not – inadvertently – the full-fat version).
Changing your packaging to a specific colour can also cause unexpected reactions in consumers due to the colour psychology around certain shades). Poor colour choice for your packaging can also confuse your product with your competition or mean consumers end up with a product they did not intend to buy.
By all means, use seasonal colours to reflect the mood of the holiday you are targeting, but carefully consider how this is likely to be perceived.
Don't make basic mistakes with your artwork
And finally, whilst creating festive or seasonal artwork and designs for your packaging can be a great project to work on, you must ensure that basic mistakes are spotted and removed before final production.
At the lower end of the scale, typos, poor colour choices, or low-quality graphics can look unprofessional and harm sales. At worst, poorly worded terms and conditions or offers can result in your losing money or facing angry consumers (particularly if they have bought your products based on promises your packaging makes but that you cannot keep).
Ensure you ask several colleagues not working directly on the project to proofread all artwork, wording and other elements (it’s incredible what a fresh pair of eyes can spot). Take heed of these ten packaging artwork mistakes too.
Making sure your seasonal packaging hits the spot
It can be critical to your business’s success that you hit sales targets during crucial trading periods, such as Black Friday, Christmas, Easter and more (exactly when depends on your industry).
Seasonal packaging is undoubtedly an excellent tool for helping you stand out, drive sales, retain customers, and foster loyalty. However, getting it wrong can see you stuck with an excess of packaging (and products) that become obsolete or negatively affect your overall performance.
The steps above can be a good starting point for creating your seasonal packaging. Still, if in any doubt, it pays to speak with a packaging designer who can help you maximise the success of your promotional packs (someone like GWP, in fact).