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The first rule of product packaging 101 is learning the difference between packaging and packing. No, they aren’t interchangeable. However, these two “cousins” of the commerce world are linked in important ways. It’s understandable that brand managers often get these two important components of product presentation confused. However, knowing the key differences can actually help brand managers to get the edge when it comes to creating flawless packaging plans. Take a look at the relationship between packaging and packing.

What’s the Difference Between Packaging and Packing?

Knowing the difference between packaging and packing starts with getting a grasp on the basic definition of each option. Something that can make the learning curve a little bit complicated is that packing is sometimes used in place of packaging. In these cases, it becomes the default packaging. This is something you see more commonly in grocery stores, craft markets, and artisan eateries. However, packing that is serving the role of packaging still isn’t technically a packaging material.

What Is Packing?

Packing serves as a protective wrapping over goods. It can cover everything from food to cosmetic products. In addition to providing added security, product packing is also a powerful visual element. While “filler” can be a synonym for packing, packing isn’t always necessarily used as filler. It can be protective, decorative, or essential for contamination prevention. Here are some common examples of packing:

  • Coverings used on fruits and vegetables at the grocery store.
  • Coverings placed at weak points of larger products to prevent breaking, cracking, or denting.
  • Decorative, colorful wrapping used with gifting boxes.
  • Packaging filler that fills up empty space to prevent jostling and movement.

Common packing materials include packing tape, packing gauze, kraft paper, tissue paper, foam, bubble wrap, trays, and cartons. While some packing is only used to create buffers between actual packaging and the outside world, other forms of packing are intended to be functional companions to actual packaging that stay in place until removed by the customer. Like packaging, packing can be used for branding purposes when it is created using custom specifications. However, packing can also be purchased in generic bulk orders.

What Is Packaging?

Packaging is the “container” that a product comes in when you buy it. Of course, this very broad definition encompasses what is essentially an endless array of options. Here’s a look at some common packaging options:

  • Corrugated boxes.
  • Plastic boxes.
  • Rigid boxes.
  • Paperboard boxes.
  • Cotton bags.
  • Jute bags.
  • Bubble mailers.
  • Chipboard packaging.
  • Poly bags.
  • Foil sealed bags.
  • Clamshell containers.
  • Custom insert boxes.

What’s fascinating about packaging is the way that it serves so many different functions at once. The function most people think about when they picture packaging is the security aspect. Packaging should ideally protect products from damage, theft, contamination, exposure to the elements, and tampering. Generally, the material and design of packaging is tailored to meet the needs of the specific product. This is how you view packaging from a utilitarian viewpoint. However, the value of packaging goes so much deeper.

The second purpose of packaging is its marketing power. Any brand manager will tell you that packaging is one of the biggest forms of product advertisement. With 72% of consumers sharing that product packaging impacts their buying decisions, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that packaging can truly “make or break” a brand’s sales. Why is packaging such a powerful tool for driving customer perceptions? The simple answer is that packaging tells a story about a product’s value.

Brands can use both visual and tangible design elements to create packaging that increases perceived product value. Thicker packaging with noticeable coating is often viewed as being more elegant. Going with a thicker option with a protective coating implies that there’s something “valuable” to protect inside.

Intricate packaging designs can also signal quality to buyers. When packaging has clearly been designed with great care and attention to detail, this creates the impression that the manufacturer is “obsessed” with quality. Putting so much time and effort into creating just the packaging alone sends the signal that immense effort has been put in designing, producing, and testing the product inside.

Of course, what may be the most important aspect of all when it comes to product packaging is the way that packaging can reinforce brand recognition. Brands can use bold packaging to reinforce a brand’s familiar colors, logo, or slogan. Smartly using packaging to boost brand visibility encourages customers to “grab for what they know” when doing product comparisons on the shelf.

Finally, packaging can be a powerful tool for creating a memorable branding experience that “hooks” customers in for brand loyalty. The popularity of online ordering has made the experience of receiving a package a true event. Many brands that focus heavily on digital sales pour heavy resources into designing product packaging that is intended for an amazing unboxing experience. In fact, many packaging styles out there can be described as downright artistic.

People who have satisfying unboxing experiences are more likely to share photos of the product they’ve received online. Repeat customers who already know that an unboxing experience is amazing are more likely to “go live” to stream the experience for friends and followers. That means that good packaging can be incredible for your “social” marketing efforts by drumming up organic views. What’s more, influencers in need of content are always looking for brands that offer watch-worthy packaging.

The Secret to a Successful Packaging Plan: Making Packing and Packaging Work Together

When your brand has a cohesive, logical packaging plan for keeping items safe at every stage, packing and packaging are never at odds. Packing and packaging aren’t interchangeable. However, they can be used together to create secure, flashy packaging that truly covers all of your brand’s bases in terms of safety, security, product integrity, brand recognition, and a satisfying unboxing experience.

Avoid Excessive Packing at All Costs

The key thing to remember is that packing needs to be done in just the right dose. Too little packing can leave a product appearing to be compromised. Too much packaging can actually cause your brand to come across as being wasteful. That’s because common packing materials like tissue paper, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts can appear excessive if they are overflowing from a package. Brands need to be careful when it comes to overstuffing packaging because customers are increasingly turning against brands that use wasteful packaging practices. In fact, research shows that consumers hate waste so much that most are actually willing to pay more for products just to avoid it! Ultimately, brands should conduct a post-opening waste audit to see just how much waste they are leaving customers with after products have been removed from packaging. Your packaging isn’t successful if customers are being left with piles of used packaging and packing that they cannot recycle sitting at their feet. The feeling of wastefulness that is experienced when tossing excess packaging in the trash will translate to negative feelings about your brand that can drastically reduce the chances of repeat sales.

There are some more golden rules to follow when integrating packing into your packaging beyond just controlling “portions.” First, packaging shouldn’t make customers feel like they need to “do battle” with your packaging just to get it open. Yes, packing materials like tape can be vital for keeping packaging securely shut. However, excessive tape can cause customers to experience “wrap rage” when they cannot easily open packaging without the use of sharp tools.

For brands struggling with excessive tape usage on their product packaging, self-closing options should be considered to add extra protection without the need for external tape. An option like glue that creates self-adhering packaging is great for drastically reducing the amount of packing material needed.

Still Have Questions About How to Use Packing and Packaging?

Do you need help figuring out the delicate balance of packing and packaging that is needed when making a plan for displaying your product in the best light possible? It’s time to create a custom plan for using the right materials and ratios to dress products up for sale! Reach out to Mid-Atlantic Packaging today for a free custom packaging quote.