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There’s a “like” waiting under every package lid! While social media has taught the world many different lessons over the past decade, one of the biggest takeaways for marketers is that people love to share their experiences. In fact, the concept of the “shared experience” is what has helped countless YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok stars to gain millions of fans while doing ordinary, everyday activities. Social media stars and influencers are especially fond of sharing products that they’ve purchased online. A trend that became known as “unboxing” has generated thousands of videos that attract millions of views. As the name suggests, unboxing is really just a phenomenon where audiences watch people remove products from packaging while discussing their first impressions. Inspired by the fun of unboxing, non-influencers are also simply sharing fun finds from their “shopping hauls” online with casual unboxings or product photos. During quarantine, people haven’t been shy about snapping photos of boxes that arrive at their doorsteps out of sheer excitement. There’s also the urge to show off perfectly packaged gifts that arrive for birthdays, anniversaries or other milestones with polished, editorial-level photos among everyday users on social media.

For brands, this creates both opportunity and pressure. If you can craft beautiful, snap-worthy packaging, social media is your oyster. If you get it wrong, reputation damage can spread quickly. Take a look at what makes packaging shareable on social media for all the right reasons.

Choose Packaging for the Right Demographic

The first rule for brands to live by when creating shareable packaging is to know your demographic. That means understanding customer habits and preferences. Clever, shareable packaging that doesn’t actually connect with the demographic you’re selling to may not get the screen time it deserves simply because the effort will be lost on the recipients. Here are some points to cover based on your demographic:

  • Over-the-top, novelty elements that make social media users confident they will get likes and reactions by sharing!
  • Nostalgia that strikes up an emotional connection to something that was popular or meaningful in your demographic’s youth.
  • Elements that point toward luxury or good taste. For customers, this message serves as an extension of their lifestyles and habits.
  • Natural, holistic elements that make people want to “share a good thing” once they’ve found it.
  • Positive, encouraging messaging.
  • Elements that soothe, relax or calm.

There are some big goals to strive for when designing packaging. The first is to make some type of emotional connection. The second is to actually solve a problem for the customer. Ultimately, you need packaging that creates a message your demographic can connect with.

Get Clever

You’re wasting real estate if you’re only applying messaging, graphics or design elements on the exterior of the box. Nothing is more exciting than discovering that a box is a treasure trove of hidden messages, suggestions or directions. Nobody is snapping a photo of an ordinary box to share with friends and family on social media. People are eager to show off things that are “neat” enough to photograph. Here are some clever elements to add:

  • Use double-sided printing to make the interior just as interesting as the exterior.
  • Make a box durable enough to be repurposed as a way to get people to share how they’ve “upcycled” their boxes.
  • Put a funny message inside the box.
  • Put an encouraging message on the box.
  • Add an exterior joke with an internal answer.
  • Use red to create a sense of urgency. There’s a reason why “buy now” buttons are usually a red. A red box in a photo serves as its own oversized “buy now” button that signals action cues to the brain.
  • Use black lettering to indicate luxury.
  • Use green to make associations with both naturalness and wealth.

The goal is to convey the message that your brand goes the extra mile to make every single element of the experience meaningful. Subconsciously, this sends the message that you develop your products with the same level of detail. You’re also making your demographic feel like your brands “gets” them on a level that goes beyond a seller-buyer dynamic because you’ve prepared a unique experience for them.

Use Colors That Make People Stop Scrolling

It’s important to anticipate how your packaging will look on the screen if the goal is to get more online interactions. The reality is that social media is a crowded space. It takes bold, outside-the-box colors and designs to get a person’s eyes to go to your product. Here are some ideas that will help to get eyes to land on your packaging:

  • Bolded fonts.
  • Primary colors.
  • Neon colors.
  • Photos or graphics of animals.
  • A photograph of a human face.
  • A bold question in bold font with a big question mark.

While it may seem unconventional to use a human face on product packaging, research shows that seeing people on a package can improve product sales. While many brands do this with ads, they tend to shy away from adding that human touch to actual product packaging. That’s good news for your brand because it means that your packaging will really stand out on social media. What’s especially interesting about this finding is that consumers are actually more likely to purchase products with faces on the packaging when they feel lonely. The fact that scrolling through social media is typically a solitary activity means that adding a human face to your packaging could be the perfect way to make a connection!

Add Hashtags and Social Media Handles Directly to Your Packaging

There’s no need to always be subtle about the fact that you’re trying to connect on social media! Many brands are able to successfully encourage sharing on social media by supplying fun hashtags that invite customers to “join the party” online. It can also be helpful to encourage customers to follow your brand on social media for exclusive deals and offers. There is also the option to invite customers to tag your company in a photo where they are wearing, using or showing off a product.

Build Your Own Dynamic Presence on Social Media

Brands can’t always rely on customers to organically build a social media party for them. This is a case where a brand that wants to turn its packaging into a brand signature really needs to do the legwork. This can include organic-looking campaigns where your brand uploads posts of brand ambassadors posing with its packaging. You may even want to build an entire social media campaign around the thrilling, satisfying experience of receiving your products. Here are some tips for compelling social media engagement centered on branding through packaging:

  • Use video to engage the senses with all of the sounds, textures and colors of the experience of removing your product from its packaging.
  • Use photos of people holding your product packaging while looking excited.
  • Share content that shows the journey of a high-quality product being carefully crafted or curated right through to the actual delivery into the hands of a customer.

The backgrounds of your social media posts are also important for creating context. Put the product packaging on display in an environment that is representative of its value or purpose. For instance, a candle with a relaxing scent would be featured next to a relaxing bubble bath. A brand that sells stylish cowboy boots might show packages stacked up next to an old-style barn. A brand that sells suntan lotion would stage packaging next to a beach bag with sandals and a sun hat. These are visual cues that indicate that a product will “transport” you to these places!

Don’t Forget the Large Font

If you’re designing packaging for social media, leave the small print back with the print ads. Social media visibility is all about stamping your message across the eyes of viewers during a split-second window for making decisions about engagement. What’s more, social media users aren’t likely to share photos of your packaging if there’s no clarity about what they’re actually sharing.

Final Thoughts on Designing Shareable Product Packaging

The package is the product if your goal is to get people on social media to share photos of what they’ve purchased. Of course, you don’t want to simply focus on designing packaging to look good in pictures. Keep in mind that only a very small portion of customers will ever actually upload photos of your product packaging. The main goal still has to be creating a convenient, practical and satisfying “in person” experience for your customers. It’s the perfect time to start getting your packaging seen on social media! Tag us on Facebook and Instagram using #myretailpackaging to share your packaging!