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Designing Luxury Packaging by Telling a Story

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 05/24/2017 | 5 Minute Read

By: Ivona Baxter

Many things go into the running of a successful business, and the most important is an in-depth understanding of the purpose their packaging serves. Standard packaging is designed to protect its contents, provide information, and convey an idea of price range. But with luxury packaging, it’s a different story.

A pack must do everything described above and, at the same time, go beyond; it needs to not only perform aesthetically and practically, but take the consumer on a journey. As MW Luxury Packaging COO Toby Wilson puts it, “In the world of luxury packaging, a pack has to perform on a far higher level—engaging, enticing and absorbing the consumer into the brand, its provenance, its beliefs and what it stands for.”

The question is: how does a company achieve such an ambitious goal? Often, it comes down to something as simple as telling a story.

Take, for example, the unique presentation box for La Mer beauty brand’s Hydrating Serum. While you might expect inspiration for such a pack to come from luxury materials, the real source was surprisingly humble: a children’s pop-up book. Using a hinged box for the exterior of the pack, an accordion of illustrated pages explaining the product was constructed, which itself lay nestled at the base of the box surrounded by watercolour imagery.

It’s a design that ensures a sensory experience, shaping your understanding of both product and brand before you’ve even opened the bottle. Without realising it, you’ve been told a story.

Designers can achieve sensorial experiences on many levels. Different textures can be created using special substrates, raised varnishes or embossing. Strong magnets on a door give a pleasing, audible click to show that the door has engaged. Even scent can be introduced into a pack to draw in the consumer and set them off on their journey.

Sometimes, a pack tells its story in a more tangible way, through the items it contains. The Jägermeister VIP Founders Kit drew on the old world in its design and manufacture, incorporating hunting-themed gifts and aged copper detailing. A similar theme was channelled in MW’s carry case for Buchanan's Red Seal; the pack contained two spun steel cups, a bespoke hipflask and a cup holder, allowing its lucky owner to enjoy a dram with a friend wherever they may be. It’s not about freebies; it’s about giving the consumer another way to engage with the brand and experience it in the manner envisaged by the brand owner. Accessories or relevant items serve to enhance not only the brand ethos but the consumer’s understanding of the product.

The most powerful of stories, however, are evoked through the materials used—something which gives the consumer a true understanding of where the product has come from. In the world of whisky, the barrels in which the liquor is kept play a huge part in its unique story. Once used these could be utilizes and form a part of the packaging or become a discovered detail which enhances the story.

A wonderful example of this is the Ledaig 42 Limited Edition which tells the story of the old stills in which it came to life. Now retired, the stills is which this precious whisky was distilled even made their way into the pack itself in the form of an individually numbered copper card. It’s a pack that MW Senior Development Manager Nikki Gooderham feels particularly proud to be associated with: “A project such as Ledaig 42 really shows how designers and manufacturers are pushing the boundaries of luxury packaging and creating pieces that almost stand alone. Each part told its own story.”

Ultimately, a luxury pack that tells a story has the power to exceed your consumer’s expectations. Wilson is of the opinion that “if the journey is inspired and engaging, you not only get the consumer to purchase the product but they are very likely to also become ambassadors of the brand.”

Of course, while the crafting of such innovative packs poses its own set of unique challenges, it’s also the kind of work that really stimulates packaging experts. So it looks like a storytelling philosophy might just be the key to packaging success.


Ivona Baxter, PR & Marketing at MW Luxury Packaging

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