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Marketing Insights

3 Rules of Product Packaging

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A previous blog article, What Makes A Winning Package, was about how product packaging influences how the consumer sees and feels about the brand and product. The next important consideration is the type of package.


There are three distinct parts of a package –– primary packaging, secondary packaging, and tertiary packaging. Most often companies invest only in primary packaging and don’t bother investing time or money in secondary and tertiary packaging.

Could this be a significant mistake?

Each type of package can play a significant role in developing brand awareness, recognition, and loyalty. Are you missing opportunity by ignoring the secondary are tertiary packaging?

1 - Primary

The package design consumers see on the shelf that holds your product is your primary package. It is visually appealing with a marketing message that pushes consumers through buying process and stands apart from the surrounding retail packages.

Apple deliberately broke the rules creating clean package like no one else was doing. iPod comes in a clear plastic case, Mac in a white box resembling a briefcase with a handle. The Apple brand is front and center even on the secondary packaging.

Portrait of Don Keller

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The design was radical when first launched and had to be part of their aggressive strategy for branding. Their process is intricate and secretive. Many other companies have emulated Apple's primary packaging.

2 - Secondary

Secondary packaging holds primary packaging and is used to transport it to distribution points or retail stores. Primary may be be kept in its secondary carton for warehousing or storage prior to unpacking on to shelves.

Bulk outlets like Cosco, BJ’ and Sam’s Club use secondary as trays on their shelves in store. These stores have great examples of branding secondary packaging and how different secondary can look from one competitor to another.

Scouting these stores, you'll see some brands stand out with great secondary examples while others prove the companies placed no importance on it.

3 - Tertiary


Tertiary packaging includes freight trains, delivery trucks and any shipping containers that hold secondary packaging and they too can be branded. You see them as you drive. Trucks delivering popular soda brands are usually embelished with the brand logo. When was the last time you saw Coca-Cola logo on the side of a truck?

The first purpose of all forms of packaging is for one purpose – protect the contents or it is useless. Branding is meaningless if the product is damaged.

The second rule is to fit on the store shelf. Merchants want to efficiently put inventory on the shelf and in their warehouse. The fronts of packages are not always the side facing out on the shelf. The side or top can also be facing the consumer so the store fits the quantity they need on the shelf.

Rule three is the package design has to strongly convey USP (unique selling proposition) and stand out on the shelf. Package solutions must do all these three things or they will fail.

Simply put, packaging begins as a functional necessity and transforms into a marketing opportunity for customers to see, read and feel. If your package gets picked up and engages your consumer you have a successful package.

Don’t hesitate to comment should you have any questions.

Additional articles you may find helpful
Unique Packaging Will Make Your Product Stand Out
Packaging Success - Covid Case Studies
Rigid Boxes Manufacturer - An Overview Of Luxury Packaging

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Topics: Branding, Packaging Design


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