While we typically focus on what's inside of the product packaging, no one's completely immune to branding. "For many products, the packaging is the branding," writes Marty Neumeier in The Brand Gap. "It's also the last and best chance to influence a prospect this side of the checkout counter." Not only is it the last thing we see before making a decision to purchase, but it's the thing we're committing to seeing daily thereafter. Beyond curating a lineup of visually pleasing in pursuit products (we're also not immune to shelfies), the way beauty products look deeply impacts how likely we are to buy them, like them, and keep buying them.
Turns out, there's science behind why we're drawn to certain beauty brand packaging. Some brands draw us in because they resonate with our aesthetic, either the one we already have or something more aspirational (the lifestyle we envision when we imagine the product on our shelf). But why are certain brands more appealing than others? Why do some seem to tell a stronger story? Here are five branding takeaways courtesy of super successful beauty brands.
The packaging reflects a content-first approach.
Especially in today's digital age, how the product packaging experience translates into user-generated content is huge. Glossier is a master at this, adorning their deliveries with branded tape, catchphrases, stickers, and that signature pink-coated bubble-wrap bag. Every piece of the unpacking experience makes for a good photograph—and that's absolutely intentional. So, it's no wonder the brand has resonated so successfully with a social media generation.
The color stories are distinctive.
A successful brand is recognizable at first glance, even when the name or logo isn't visible. According to Neumeier, "a branding moment" is when the customer is standing in the aisle (or scrolling through various products online) in order to make a final decision. One of the first things shoppers notice is "good colors." Glossier basically owns millennial pink in the beauty space. If you catch a punchy array of colors on white, you can bet it's Drunk Elephant. Charlotte Tilbury's rose gold and browns denote luxury and give a nod to old Hollywood glam. Herbivore's formulas are housed in glass jars, but the product itself is pastel. This does just as much, if not more, than the name itself.
The packaging is unexpected.
One of the most important aspects of branding is distinguishing oneself from the competition. In addition to the eye-catching colors recognize as the brand’s specific palette, Drunk Elephant’s square silhouette serves up a distinctive look and feel–setting it apart from competing skincare options. It very literally pops on the shelf. Fenty's Match Stix are uniquely shaped and magnetic, make sure they don't get lost at the bottom of your bag. A huge part of haircare brand R+Co's appeal is its striking packaging, featuring wrapped photos and graphics with a theme (i.e. a shot of Death Valley for the dry shampoo).
The packaging becomes the experience.
It can be easy to dismiss packaging simply as the conduit by which we use the product it houses, but good packaging design becomes a part of the experience itself. This can certainly be said for Glossier, which packages its Cloud Paint cream blushes in actual paint tubes. Pat McGrath Labs packages products in tear-open bags with sequins, so the mere act of unwrapping feels like a celebration. In The Physics of Brand, the authors Aaron Keller, Renée Marino, and Dan Wallace write, "Continued and immersive multi-sensory experiences with a brand can add new memories and refresh old ones, leading to habits of buying a brand, creating more memories, and on and on it goes."
The packaging aligns with our values.
This last subject is especially important as we've become more aware of the impact our consumption habits have on the planet. The beauty industry is a huge source of plastic waste, so those interested in protecting our environment are turning to reusable and recyclable packaging. With its line of refillable compacts, Kjaer Weis is one of the beauty brands leading this initiative.