For a lot of brands, packaging is simply a necessary evil. It’s not necessarily an afterthought, but it’s certainly not considered a primary branding platform. At quench, we beg to differ. That’s why, before we even begin to design a packaging assignment, we try to stalk the product in the wild. We photograph planograms, examine actual or predicted shelf- and eye-levels, and document the heck out of the competitive ecosystem. Sometimes, we discover a remarkably actionable insight. Did you know, for example, the top third of the facing for ground sausage is usually hidden from the viewer? We do, which is why we presented this redesign for Hatfield’s Recipe Essentials line.

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Or, ever consider that the materials of most beer packaging are identical, with no break-out differentiation on-shelf? That’s why we literally wrapped Mackeson Stout’s concept designs.

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Sometimes packaging will even be inadvertently designed so that its color set blends in with its competition instead of standing out. And that’s why we designed our new Blue Harbor Fish Co. tuna packaging to be the brightest in an ocean of sameness.

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After we thoroughly suss out the intended ecosystem, we like to play a little game. I like to think of it as fly-fishing. I’ve learned from experience that you can be in the right stream, with plenty of fish, but without a lure that piques appetite and a presentation that stirs action, it’s gonna be a long and fruitless (or trout-less) day. What do I mean by the metaphor of presentation? Well, let’s put it like this. A package doesn’t just have to be a functional wrapping; it can be a gift wrapping. So, we ask ourselves: How can we make this package a gift for the consumer? Don’t believe me? Check out Coke’s recent innovation: a label that can actually be transformed into a bow. Here’s another brilliant example from the beverage category that actually transforms the packaging with an added-value gift: the Mountain Dew skateboarder tool. That’s a prime case of the packaging adding immediately to the value of the product, with instant relevancy and utility.

Even a minor design shift can turn packaging into something new: a game that the consumer gets to play, such as Coke's wildly popular “Share a Coke” cans or this playful Snickers wrapper. Both of those daring examples turn the packaging into something that begs to be given or shared, which is exactly what I mean by gift wrapping. Even without any added interactivity, a purely thoughtful design that looks hand-crafted or retro — such as our Big Hill Ciderworks designs or our newest concoction, Seagram’s Hard Soda — can add perceptual value to the product’s price point.

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There are countless other examples, but I’ll leave you with another of my personal favorites — an oldie but a goodie. Even if you can’t alter the exterior of the packaging, you can sneak a little gift into its interior. Consider Target’s bold experiment that transformed something as boring and as overlooked as a prescription label into something that positioned its brand as innovative, useful and empathetic in one fell swoop. That’s what I mean by gift wrapping, not packaging. And it’s worth thinking hard about for your brand, whether it’s the holidays or not.