Shelf Awareness: 3 Killer Ways to Make Your Product Stand Out

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By: Seb Atkinson

One key role of packaging—especially that of premium products—is to capture the interest of buyers. The medium needs to instantly convey why your product is worth buying when compared to the competition. To achieve this result, the details are of paramount importance, and here are the three key factors that ensure your product has this vital and desirable difference.

The fabric of the moment

Changing colours and playing with the design of your packaging is the tried and trusted way of attracting your buyers’ attention. Standing out requires a clear and obvious difference. Selecting unconventional materials is one of the more innovative methods of creating a positive contrast between your product and that of the competition.

Unique materials not only stand out on store shelves, but give the buyer a specific tactile experience that can become synonymous with your product. Individuality confers value, creating a luxury feel to accompany the look, demonstrating that your product is the superior choice.

The 2011 move by Molson Coors to sell its Coors Light and Carling brands in aluminium bottles is a notable example of how this strategy can be successfully deployed. This polished metal not only presents an attractive profile on shop fridge selves, but also communicates the temperature of the beer when the customer reaches in and places it in their shopping basket.

Marketing is cyclical, with many fashions dying out due to mass dilution and then re-emerging for use by premium brands. In the US, aluminium cans became the mainstay of cheaper, budget beers. However, in recent years craft breweries have utilized this type of packaging, partially because the opaque nature of the material prevents light from spoiling the beer—but also because the versatile nature of the medium provides a backdrop for various branding techniques:

  • The wraparound design available on the can presents a greater, potentially more playful canvas for branding and product design when compared to the smaller labels on bottles.
  • Size and style of can, from skinny and tall cans through to stout tubby cans, can be used to give the can its own anthropomorphic character in line with branding.
  • Tactile printing allows for the can to be finished in a variety of textures creating a distinctive and memorable feel when resting in the drinker’s hand, which can form a very strong and specific psychological anchor.

If you were given an unlimited budget, and within the grounds of reason, what would be an intriguing and exciting material for your product packaging? How could this blend in with your branding and even communicate some of your key values to your customer? Even using biodegradable materials can be a selling point to growing green consumer.

Proper presentation prevents…

Marketing 101 time: Good design should absolutely embody and anchor the creative personality of the brand, effortlessly broadcasting your standards, values and aspirations. Often, however, it’s the fine touches that make the difference rather than the bold statements. Consider the following examples:

The Nike Stadium Shoebox isn’t only about standing out on the shelf. When the customer opens the box they are greeted with a miniature version of a football stadium, immediately connecting with the universal dream of becoming a sports star. This obvious suggestion from the packaging promotes a feeling of individual success before the shoe is even on the foot. Additionally the quality and imagination behind this idea convey the idea of intelligent design, which has long held a relationship with value.

Thelma’s Treats, a well-known US-based cookie brand, uses packaging that cleverly mimics an oven. This playful approach makes these cookies seem a little more out of the ordinary, but also inspires the buyer to imagine the fresh feeling of food straight out of the oven – something synonymous with taste and quality. The box can equally function as an ambassador for the brand on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

Keep it simple

Packaging is not a puzzle. People should not need to think about grabbing your product off the shelf; instead, they want to be inspired to do so. And key to making your packaging the inevitable buy is simplicity. If the consumer can’t discern your message in a split second, then your moment to “wow” them is gone.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that standing out is all about making the loudest noise with the brightest packaging. Imagine a world where all your competitors’ products are splattered with a spectrum of colour. In this instance a plain white approach would create an intriguing alternative and attract the buyers’ interest.

One quality example of distinction is the UrbanEars headphone packaging.

  • The simple and easy to use headphone design is reflected and communicated by similar aspects in the packaging. The character of the brand and its values are communicated in an almost unconscious fashion without relying on words or images.

  • Many of UrbanEars’s competitors use feature panels that are designed to deploy technical information about the product in an easy to read format. UrbanEars eschews this compromise to allow the packaging to put the product design front and centre.

  • Echoed through the design are elements that some buyers may associate with the famous Apple brand, creating a subconscious connection with quality in their mind.

Like anything in marketing, creating intrigue, interest and winning the attention of your audience is an art form—and one that relies on understanding the landscape and trends of your industry. To get the ultimate result and have the premium product that sits at the top of the ladder, you have to be prepared to take risks. And with a complete panoramic view of your sector and what’s working for others, you ensure that you have done all the necessary calculations.


Seb Atkinson
Seb Atkinson is Digital Marketing Manager at Selesti, an award-winning agency specialising in supercharged search marketing, web design and eCommerce.

Seb works with UK-based and global brands, growing their online visibility using SEO and Social Media.