Planning and Designing Seasonal Packs
What you should – and definitely shouldn’t – do when creating seasonal packaging
Even with uncertainty regarding the UK economy, Coronavirus restrictions, stock shortages and more, one thing for certain is that UK shoppers will increase their spending over the Christmas period.
To capture a share of these additional sales, many businesses will look to limited time promotions, marketing campaigns, and even seasonal packaging.
But what should you consider if you are planning on using your packaging as a promotional tool? Well, this guide covers 7 do’s and 7 don’ts when creating seasonal packaging. It covers
- Maintaining brand recognition
- Consideration of target consumers, demographics, and competitors
- How specific your designs should be
- And much more besides
Please continue reading below, or use the table of contents to jump to your specific area of interest.
Quick Reference / Contents
Seasonal activity and the UK economy
More than any other year in recent memory, Christmas 2021 is difficult to call. And, of course, this is due to the unprecedented situation we all found ourselves in (and remain in, to differing degrees) due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Restrictions, government guidelines and media coverage meant that consumers were “taught” to fear visiting stores. Many workers were placed on furlough and / or feared for their jobs. In London, South-East England (accounting for approximately 25% of the population of England), plus the majority of Scotland and Wales, non-essential stores were closed from the 21 December – the peak Christmas trading week!
As such, comparisons with previous years are irrelevant. And predicting what will happen this year is considerably harder too.
However, research suggests an average British adult still spent around £476 on Christmas gifts in 2020 (being £37 less than the £513 average in 2019). This equates to UK spending of £24.2 billion on festive gifts, down 10% compared with the £26.9 billion total spent in 2019.
With pent up demand and savings competing with stock issues, lorry driver shortages and ongoing uncertainty, analysts are still arguing over exactly how retailers and online sellers will fare in 2021.
Why consider seasonal packaging?
Even with the uncertainty surrounding the economic performance of the UK – and what it means for consumer confidence this Christmas – the figures being quoted on what is likely to be spent still makes seasonal products, promotions, and packaging a key consideration (as highlighted by these Christmas packaging facts).
But why use seasonal packaging?
Well, done right, seasonal packaging can be a significant driver of 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.
02: The 7 Do’s for Creating Your Seasonal Packaging
The key points to consider and achieve in order to drive seasonal sales volume
So, without further delay, these are the 7 most important considerations – and targets you should be aiming to hit – when creating seasonal packaging.
- Increase product appeal / Persuade purchases
- Add value to your packs
- Build brand loyalty
- Add personalisation (where / if possible)
- Align with existing branding
- Have a promotional strategy
Increase product appeal / persuade purchases
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 will be looking for festive themed packaging that is suitable for gifting. This is particularly important on products that would otherwise seemingly 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. This can be achieved through special finishes on your packs (foil embossing, spot varnishing etc.) or through clever structural design that makes the pack unusual or different when compared with 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 goals.
Your festive or seasonal packaging can also be a great way to upsell additional products in your range.
This can be as simple as ensuring consistent seasonal branding across all of your existing product lines.
However, it can also be achieved through the creation of multi packs or gift packs, where bundles of products are sold together in a larger outer pack. Packaging (and offers) of this type can see products being purchased as gifts for friends or family members, and encourages consumers to purchase more of your products than they may have done otherwise.
Other options include offers such as money off or BOGOF on all seasonally branded items (although this should be used sparingly as it will drive volume – but not margin – and can alter your brand positioning / perception).
Build brand loyalty
Christmas packaging should be designed in such a way that it drives brand loyalty amongst your existing customer base, as well as aiming to foster this with new customers too.
Your packaging can do this through the use of colours, graphic designs, messaging and effectively arousing positive emotions – be this a sense of inclusivity, luxury, care for the environment, or even evoking positive childhood memories.
Limited edition packaging can also be a driver of sales amongst your existing customers, especially when combined with suitable promotional activity. A limited run will generate a feeling of scarcity which is a powerful way to increase sales of more expensive items.
Personalisation can be difficult to implement at scale, but should be considered on 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 not only increases the perceived value of the item, but also shows a level of though and consideration (which reflects well on both the gift giver and your brand).
Reusable / value added
A criticism of much seasonal packaging is that effectively increases the amount of material used, has a harmful effect on 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 the products being sold.
This could be for example a gift box or case that is retained by the recipient for ongoing storage of the items (or even for another purpose).
This is a real win-win for brands – as not only is the product seen as being more desirable and more valuable (leading to higher sales at a higher cost), but also allows for your branding / logos to remain in the conscience of the consumer as the pack retained for a period of time.
Align with existing branding
Loyal customers will be looking for your products when purchasing gifts for their loved ones (or even for themselves). They are already aware of the benefits and qualities that your products bring.
However, if your seasonal packaging is so far removed from your existing branding it can turn off your loyal customer base. Even worse, it can mean they miss your products all together.
This also potentially lets in competitors who then have the chance to showcase their products (customers who you may never win back).
As such, you must strike the balance between your festive packaging looking different enough to appear special, but remain close enough to your branding to reassure existing customers and maintain your previously earned brand loyalty and recognition.
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.
This can include sending email newsletters to subscribers giving them a “sneak peek” or early access to your seasonal and / or limited-edition packs, general advertising, influencer mentions (including popular unboxing channels on YouTube), and securing prominent positions in retail outlets.
It may also be worth considering coordinated point of sale stands (such as CTUs or FSDUs) which will allow you to place your promotional packs at the locations most likely to grab consumer attention and / or drive impulse purchases.
03: The 7 Don’ts When Planning / Designing Seasonal Packs
The 7 key 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 be ramping up your sales, it is also incredibly important that you avoid the 7 pitfalls detailed below. Each of which could seriously dent your performance
- Overestimate stock
- Overspend on your packaging / design
- Focus on holidays which are too specific
- Focus on the wrong holidays / demographics
- Mimic competitors
- Lose your brand differentiators
- Make basic mistakes on your artwork
Don’t overestimate stock
Whilst it can be easily done (especially with difficulties forecasting in the current climate) it is important to not overestimate the stock levels of seasonal packaging you require.
Firstly, whilst flooding the market can be a good tactic in certain scenarios, being too visible can erode any exclusivity that seasonal packs would normally 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 in order to avoid having unsellable festive lines. This in turn could have an impact on your brand positioning (a luxury or upmarket brand discounting large volumes of products / packs can harm your brand equity).
And finally, you may be left with a large amount of packaging that you simply have to write off (and the financial implications of this).
It can be quite easy to get carried away with your festive or seasonal packaging, with a new print, specialist finishes, a unique structural design, 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, these limited-edition packs could quickly erode your margin.
Other factors to consider include larger packs – whilst grabbing more attention in store – are also more costly to ship. If form is prioritised over function, then you could see increased incidences of items being damaged in transit too.
In essence, the more you spend on your seasonal packaging, the bigger the risks you are taking (especially considering the potential for over-ordering as detailed above). It is important to find the right balance.
Don’t focus on events / 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 from Christmas, this means the design / packaging is out of date after 25th December. However, if a winter pack was produced, this would be able to 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. A pack that contains the text” Happy Christmas 2021” cannot be used the following year if you have excess stock.
This can help to keep costs down and profit margins up.
Don’t focus on the wrong holidays / demographics
Similarly to the above, poor targeting of consumers and / or how certain 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 would have considerably less with a Father’s Day one.
As such, it is important to know your target consumers (something which can be ascertained from looking at historical data or, failing that – creating buyer personas) and ensure that your packaging is targeted at those which will be 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.
This can obviously create a number of problems.
For starters, failing to be prepared means that you may not get your packaging on time, and in turn missing out on a chunk of the targeted sales period. It may mean that you rush the design which leads to mistakes. Or your supplier is struggling to hit deadlines and the quality suffers.
This is a particular problem this year too, with cardboard shortages, delays in shipping containers arriving from overseas and even the lack of lorry drivers meaning that lead times on corrugated cardboard packaging in particular are longer than they would be normally.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Don’t (always) mimic competitors
Whilst it Is obviously important to conduct thorough competitor research and analysis, a common mistake that many businesses make is to copy their competition.
Mimicking your competition not only means that your promotional packs will get lost amongst the extra noise during busy sales periods, but can also erode the brand values that you have built up over the years (and the reason that your loyal customers choose your products).
And, besides all of that, there is no guarantee that what your competition is doing (or has done) is or was successful. You may be copying the exact same mistakes that they have already learnt from and are looking 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 key that your seasonal packaging does not confuse or turn off customers.
Specific examples of this 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 specific colour can also cause unexpected reactions in consumers (due to the psychology around certain shades), can get your product confused with your competition (see above), or means consumers end up with a product that they did not intend to buy.
By all means use seasonal colours to reflect the mood of the holiday you are targeting, but give careful consideration to how this is likely to be perceived.
Don’t make basic mistakes on your artwork
And finally, whilst creating festive or seasonal artwork / designs for your packaging can be a great project to work on, you must take care to 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 features but that you cannot keep).
Make sure all artwork, wording and other elements are proofread and triple checked by someone not working directly on the project (it’s amazing what a fresh pair of eyes can spot), and also take heed of these 10 packaging artwork mistakes too.
Making sure your seasonal packaging hits the spot
It can be critical to your business’ success that you hit sales targets during key trading periods, such as Black Friday, Christmas, Easter and more (exactly when will depend on your industry).
And whilst seasonal packaging is a great tool for helping you stand out, drive sales, retain customers, and foster loyalty, getting it wrong can see you stuck with an excess of packaging (and products) that become obsolete or negatively affect your overall performance.
Following the steps above can be a good starting point for creating your seasonal packaging, but if in any doubt, it pays to speak with a packaging designer that can help you maximise the success of your promotional packs (someone like GWP in fact).