You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

5 Creative Packaging Ideas to Delight Your Customers You may not have the budget or visibility of larger brands, but you can still capture customers' attention and create buzz with your product. Here are tips for (literally) thinking outside the box.

By Jane Porter

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Crown Maple

Small companies may lack the marketing dollars and visibility of larger brands, but they can still stand out on the shelf by thinking outside the box—literally.

While small businesses often see packaging as a cost they need to minimize, they may be overlooking its potential to help sell their product, says Rich Cohen, founder and president of Distant Village Packaging, a Chicago-based sustainable packaging design and production firm. "Look at packaging not just as a way you are holding what you are producing, but as the silent salesperson. Your packaging is on the shelf communicating to people."

But what exactly should it be saying? Here are five packaging design tips to help you get the attention of customers and even delight them.

Go for a handmade look. Customers are drawn to packaging that feels personalized—it's almost as if they're holding a handmade object. For example, Peter Hewitt, founder of Tea Forté in Concord, Mass., wanted to personalize his packaging to stand out from the flat paper packets most tea bags are wrapped in. When he founded his company in 2003, he developed a pyramid-shaped package instead. "The tea bag was this wet soggy thing on the side of your saucer. …. I just wanted to give it personality," he says. A thin wire running through the string poking out from the pyramid has a small tealeaf at the end, and the brand name is understated, printed only on the bottom of the package. "It looks a lot closer to an art object than a commercial product," Hewitt says. Today, Tea Forté is sold in hotels, restaurants, and food and department stores in 35 countries.

Related: 3 Creative Ways to Improve Your Supply Chain

Take a sustainable approach. Consumers want to feel good about their purchases. Using sustainable material, such as organic, fair-trade or recyclable paper, will send an environmentally positive message about your brand, Cohen says. For products that are themselves organic or fair-trade, it's a given that your packaging should follow suit. But these days, many customers come to Cohen for sustainable packaging designs regardless of what they're selling. He uses such materials as wild grass paper, mulberry paper and hemp paper labels in his designs.

Use surprising materials and shapes. When Robb Turner, owner of Madava Farms in Duchess County, N.Y., began selling maple syrup in 2011, he wanted the shape of the bottle and packaging to create the image of syrup not just as a breakfast condiment, but also as a high-end culinary ingredient. Rather than using a flat wide-bellied or maple leaf-shaped bottle as most syrup producers do, Turner chose a round bottle resembling something you might find a fine liquor in, wrapping the neck in black matte foil and using an elegant rectangular label. "Shape has a very strong influence on people's perceived value," Cohen says. A distinctively shaped package or one made of nontraditional materials can signal to consumers that your product is different from the competition.

Related Video: Fresh Founders on Packaging a Product for Success

Add in functionality. Customers like packaging that's functional because of its added value, says Marianne Rosner Klimchuk, professor and associate chairwoman of the packaging design department at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She gives the example of Boxerchips Co., a Dublin, Ireland-based potato chip maker whose package opens up to work as a serving bowl. "When you're thinking about design and functionality, it's important to look at it in terms of competitive offerings," Klimchuk says. Elyissia Wassung, who opened her chocolate shop 2 Chicks with Chocolate in South River, N.J., in December, realized she could make her bon-bon boxes more functional by starting a refill program. Customers who bring in their empty chocolate boxes get unlimited $15 refills, a reduction from the $25 to $40 they originally paid for each box. Not only does the refill program give her boxes a whole new function, but it also encourages repeat purchases.

Related: 7 Effective Ways to Promote Free Shipping

Let your package tell your product's story. Some companies think of creative, playful ways to give customers a clue to what's inside the package. For example, when Wassung developed packaging for her wine-infused chocolate collection, she chose a wine bottle-shaped box and placed it inside a wine bottle bag. The wine-infused bonbons look much like the other flavored chocolates her shop offers, but the distinctive packaging has helped the collection stand out and become one of her bestsellers. "The packaging needed to deliver as well," Wassung says. "Packaging is really everything to you and your brand."

Jane Porter

Writer and editor

Jane Porter is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. You can find more of her work at Janeroseporter.com

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Side Hustle

This Dad Started a Side Hustle to Save for His Daughter's College Fund — Then It Earned $1 Million and Caught Apple's Attention

In 2015, Greg Kerr, now owner of Alchemy Merch, was working as musician when he noticed a lucrative opportunity.

Business News

I Designed My Dream Home For Free With an AI Architect — Here's How It Works

The AI architect, Vitruvius, created three designs in minutes, complete with floor plans and pictures of the inside and outside of the house.

Business News

This Fan-Favorite Masters 2024 Item Is Still $1.50 as Tournament Menu Appears Unscathed by Inflation

The pimento cheese sandwich is a tradition almost as big as the tournament itself.

Business Ideas

7 Link-Building Tactics You Need to Know to Skyrocket Your Website's Rankings

An essential component of SEO, link building is not just a 'Set them and forget them' proposition, but a dance of skills and strategies.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Here's One Thing Americans Would Take a Pay Cut For — Besides Remote Work

An Empower survey found a high percentage of respondents would take a pay cut for better retirement benefits and remote work options.