What seems like a lifetime ago, I worked behind the counters
of an upscale department store, selling cosmetics. In
hindsight, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to watch the
consumers first hand as they walked around the area, sniffing
and searching for the perfect cosmetics. All of the girls
had been trained by their own lines on what to say, how to stock
their shelves, and how to basically ‘move’ their products.
Not just because it was our job, but hey, we were on commission.
The cosmetic packaging was created by the best of the best, at
costs that far exceeded any budget of the small companies that I
work with today in the all-natural beauty field.
On a daily basis I sold gorgeous glossy boxes filled
with fancy frosted glass bottles embossed with gold ink, or
other such expensive packaging. The customers arrived with
the anticipation of looking like the supermodels that they saw
in the cosmetic ads. We made sure to give them free
samples, tell them about the latest products in our lines, and
place their new treasures into high gloss paper shopping bags
that looked more like pieces of art. This was all done in
an elegant room with plush carpet, chandeliers and pristine glass
counters, while all of us were dolled up like mannequins.
What I’m trying to say is that the hype was not wasted on these
shoppers. They ate it up and would come back for more,
lots more! But in the end, here’s the problem that I
eventually realized… most of those products were made up of
cheap synthetic ingredients, while most of the money was spent
on advertising, store space, training of the line reps, and
The companies that I work with today are mostly small
operations that have tiny budgets in comparison. Yet their
products far exceed the quality of the products that I was
selling before. The question becomes ‘What is a company to
do to bring customers to their products?’ Besides offering
effective natural products, employing smart advertising
decisions, and having a sterling reputation, the 'packaging' of
your products is one of the biggest considerations in the
selling of your products. “Remember, your packaging not only
has to contain your product, it is the first thing the customer
usually sees, and first impressions usually make lasting
impressions. Make sure you deliver a strong message and a
good first impression with your packaging. You will be
sure to stay ahead of the pack this way.” says Lisa “Brooksie”
Bardsley, Private Label Project Manager at Essential Labs.
“Packaging can be a major factor in the success of your product.
I think it is important to have an appealing and unique look.
The name of the game is to stand apart from everybody else on
the shelves and to develop 'brand awareness'. Your goal is
to have people look at your product and know immediately that it
is your brand. I would suggest taking a window shopping
trip and checking out what the competition is doing. Once
you see what they are doing do not duplicate it but use what you
see for inspiration. Speaking of inspiration, think about
the things that inspire you; it may be nature, antiques, modern
technology, fashion or Art Deco (just to name a few). The
things that inspire you usually inspire others; these things
could help you when it comes to thinking up some creative ideas
to make your product packaging unique.”
Of course packaging is not the whole story; but it’s at
least half the story, according to a poll we recently conducted
at the All Natural Beauty Forum. We set out to see how big
of a role packaging has on our visitors decisions when
purchasing products. The question was “What percentage of
importance would you give the 'packaging' of an all-natural
beauty product from a store shelf?” At the end of the
poll, the results were exactly 50%. This is coming from a group
that searches out all-natural products whenever possible.
So my guess is that those that are not as selective about their
ingredients might even vote higher for pretty packaging.
But when asked if they had ever bought an all-natural beauty
product based solely on attractive packaging, the overwhelming
answer was ‘NO’ by 10 to 2.
Our forum participants shared their views about the
importance of using recyclable materials, good ingredients, and
the reputation of the companies. When it came to pretty
packaging, one visitor summed up her feelings by saying, “I LIKE
packaging! I like it to be non wasteful, but I LOVE packaging.
I like the 'extra touches' that some places provide in their
packaging. I like attractive packaging..... makes me feel
good. I am very much aware that what's INSIDE the product
is more important than the packaging.... but doesn't
matter...... I'm a sucker for cute and pretty elegant and
feminine, crispy little colored papers/bows, hand written
notes.... LOVELY packaging! :) Packaging impresses me as much as
product......... I agree, it shouldn't....but it does! :)
I like the visual as well as the performance of a product.
If I receive something wrapped in newspaper with scotch tape, or
in a mailer stuffed with shredded paper........ I'm not as
impressed as one that arrives in beautiful tinted tissue tied
with a little colored string or ribbon and a little added floral
sticker.... well packed. That shows me the company cares
about the presentation and cares about the customer.
Otherwise I feel they just slapped it in a box. The
product itself I very much like in containers that are suitable
for that product... i.e. dark glass bottles.. etc etc....... but
all this said, yes, I do look at packaging.” I think that
this visitor sums up what most of us feel when it comes to nice
packaging... like someone cares enough about us to wrap up our
products like gifts. I'm not sure if men would agree with
this or not, but I think us ladies enjoy the 'gift' factor.
Of course I'm just speaking from my own feelings, based on my
years of working with mostly female spa clients.
When it comes to an all-natural product making it onto
retail shelves, it’s not all about the products packaging
though. Ingredients should be the priority.
Retailers are definitely feeling the heat when explaining the
purity of their products today (yay!). Maia Toll, owner of The
Apothecary Garden in Philadelphia, PA, makes sure that before
she buys from a manufacturer, she has an in depth conversation
with them about not only what ingredients are used, but how they
are grown. She makes sure that they were grown ethically
as well as organically or wild crafted. Maia says “When it
comes to packaging, it must be recyclable and visually
appealing. I may have 3 similar products. Different
visuals will attract different customers. But crappy
visuals attract no one.” She often hears suppliers say
that they are offering a ‘quality’ product; therefore it doesn’t
need good packaging. But she feels this is not true.
"It doesn’t even necessarily have to be expensive to be
appealing. Good packaging is about understanding human
nature. You can create evocative packaging that is not
expensive. Play on people’s nostalgia. Speaking to
that gives you very simple, elegant packaging. Handwriting
on butcher block paper can be charming, as long as it’s well
Dennis Gibson, President & CEO of Sunburst Bottle
Company in CA, makes a good point when he says, “After a customer makes the purchase the
packaging then takes a back seat to the effectiveness of the
actual product. A customer will buy again only because of
the product. The packaging may still please the new
customer but its’ primary purpose will have been completed.”
So what does make a consumer gravitate towards one product and
not another? Dennis poses these questions, “When you look
at a shelf of products, what seems to jump out at you?
What grabs your attention? Color is an important part of
visual attraction. Color however can be good or bad.
A bright red for instance may not be the best color for a
product that offers a calming affect. Perhaps a softer and
tranquil color would be more appropriate. Red however may
work nicely with an energy drink. You need to carefully
consider what you are trying to project when selecting colors.
If you have a logo or some other branding technique you can
apply these to your labels so they are in prominent view of the
customer. If your logo or label attracts the gaze then you
should consider using this to your advantage.”
Dennis advises “If you are searching for ideas you
should go into a few stores and spend some time just looking at
products. Pay close attention to which products command
your attention. Then take notes on why particular products
attract you. Look at color schemes, logos, label design,
size etc. Don’t hesitate to be simple in design, color and
appearance. Some products shout “look at me” through
simplicity and delicacy. There is something beautiful in a
ballet dancer as well as an offensive lineman. They are
both beautiful but in different ways. You need to decide
what image you are trying to project.”
Branding is something that is very important when it
comes to selling your products. This also plays into the
importance of a strong company image and reputation. This
aspect of the packaging should not be minimized or taken
lightly. Before your products ever go to market, your
company identity needs to be established. Many companies
fall short in this area, as they feel that they can do it
themselves. Your image can be felt by your customers as
either ‘amateurish’, or as a professional company with high
standards in an instant through your branding practices. A
company must not only look at their image today, but where they
are heading in the future. This is where a good graphic
designer can play an important role early on in the development
of the company and its products. SharAmbrosia offers the
services of Vinaya, a very talented and established
illustrator/graphic designer. When asked about the role of
a graphic designer in branding a company’s image and producing
effective packaging, she tells us “A graphic designer helps a
client create a unique and effective packaging by providing
design services, including logo, artwork, layout, typography and
print work. An effective packaging design can help to
create, promote, and strengthen a company's brand identity in
the market place. It helps differentiate a product from
similar competing products. A designer ensures brand integrity
and helps create a package that is innovative, adds value, and
leaves a positive influence on a consumer.”
As Dennis Gibson of Sunburst Bottle Co. says, “You
need to project “command presence” in your product. You
need to direct the thinking of your customer. If you can
do this your product sales will sky rocket. Don’t hesitate
to ask your customers what attracts them to products. Not
only will you receive great feedback but your customers will
appreciate your attention to their wants and desires.
Remember it is all about THEM not YOU.”
Another consideration when it comes to packaging,
besides its marketability and aesthetic value, is it’s
compatibility with the intended product. Lisa “Brooksie”
Bardsley of Essential Labs tells us that, “One of the mistakes
that manufacturers make when packaging their products is this:
If they are using a product with pure essential oils as opposed
to fragrance oils the proper packaging must be used. Not
all materials can be used. Certain types of plastics and
acrylic should not be used with products that contain essential
oils because the essential oils will literally eat right through
the material and you will end up with a gloppy mess. PET
plastic, PETE plastic and glass can be used. However
please note that glass is not always the best because it is
heavy to ship and of course the obvious; it is highly breakable.
The other thing to take in consideration, this is for the people
that are using ready made bulk products from companies that
offer them, before it comes time to fill the product into
containers make sure your product will come out of the lid, pump
or opening that has been chosen. I would suggest getting a
hold of some packaging samples and experiment to make sure your
product is not too thick to come out of the opening.”
So you see, packaging is not just about what’s in the
package, and what’s outside the package. There are many
factors that make up the consumers decision to buy a product.
The ingredients that make up the product is important. The
company’s reputation and image is important. Likewise, the
effectiveness of both the product and its packaging are
important, including it’s ‘prettiness’ factor. It all
comes together though, after a lot of thought and attention is
given by the manufacturer to each of these areas. As a
consumer, I feel fortunate to know that things are changing in
the beauty/cosmetics field. I’m thrilled that ingredients
are playing a larger role in the minds of today’s manufacturers,
rather than just the packaging and shopping experience.
What a great time to be a consumer!
thanks to the following individuals that provided their expertise for this
Lisa “Brooksie” Bardsley,
Essential Labs Private Label Project Manager, Licensed
Our Labs division specializes in natural and organic
alternatives for custom formulations, contract packaging and
private labeling for all size businesses with the lowest
minimums in the industry.
Owner of The Apothecary Garden - An old-fashioned apothecary
located in historic Philadelphia, offering herbal products, organic beauty and bath products,
gifts and more. Many interesting classes are offered, including
a 9-month Community Herbalist Training. Consultations are
available as well.
President & CEO of Sunburst Bottle Company - Sunburst Bottle Company
distributes glass and plastic containers and accessories. We cater
to customers in the following categories: bath and body, aromatherapy,
massage, homeopathic, natural foods, olive oils, cosmetics, etc.
- To see Dennis' full interview with Sharon for this article,
make sure to sign up for his interesting newsletter 'Message in
Opt in here
Vinaya, Illustrator/Graphic Designer - Offering logo,
package, and website design through SharAmbrosia.
Logo Creation Information -
Other Design Work
SharAmbrosia All Natural Spa
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