The Definitive Guide to Custom Boxes and Branded Packaging
Admit it. We’ve all done it. You’re not meaning to be nosy, but you can’t help but notice the package your neighbor has sitting on his doorstep.
It might be that distinctive, smiley box from Amazon, or one of those Blue Apron boxes that seem to crop up everywhere—or maybe it’s something you’ve never seen before.
Just the other day while driving in my neighborhood, I saw a bold, purple-colored box with the words “Purple Carrot” emblazoned on the side. What’s a Purple Carrot? I’d never heard of the company. But the vibrant colored box was enough to capture my attention and stick out in my mind.
Guess what I did when I got home? I googled Purple Carrot and found out they’re a plant-based meal delivery service. Talk about effective marketing.
By merely using distinct, recognizable packaging, Purple Carrot piqued the interest of a casual observer (me), and eked out a little free advertising too.
For businesses of all sizes, effective custom packaging can yield impressive marketing results.
Just consider these stats:
- In a Dotcom Distribution study, over 60% of those surveyed said that gift-like packaging gets them excited about what they ordered.
- 40% of these online shoppers said they would be more likely to purchase from a retailer again if the retailer used premium packaging.
And pretty packages can lead to social shares:
- 50% said gift-like or branded packaging makes them more likely to recommend a brand to others.
- People obsess over packaging. In 2018, there are more than 92 million “unboxing” videos on YouTube.
Suffice it to say, custom packaging is an easy way to spike interest in your products and build excitement for your brand. Not to mention that your competition is probably already putting effort into how they package their products. Don’t get left behind.
So how can your business stand out from the crowd?
Let’s take a look at how you can incorporate custom boxes and branded packaging into your marketing arsenal.
And fear not, there are price points that will work for every size business.
Why Go Custom?
Gone are the days of haphazardly tossing some goods in a post office box and calling it a day.
The physical box you put your product in is important, so put some thought into it. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Don’t miss this opportunity.
Making a memorable brand experience is especially relevant for one very important consumer group—millennials. Millennials now make up nearly 25% of the US population and possess an annual purchasing power of over $1.3 trillion dollars. For millennials, feeling a connection with a brand is of paramount importance when making purchasing decisions.
Unique packaging is a great way to initially wow your customers and make them feel special. When done right, you’ll increase brand exposure, through social sharing, and directly pump up brand loyalty and sales.
Where To Start
It all begins with choosing the type of outside shipping box you need.
Boxes come in all shapes, colors, materials, and sizes, but cardboard and corrugated rectangular boxes are the most popular choices, because they’re sturdy and affordable.
When it comes to packaging design, there are two main types of packaging to consider: Fully customized boxes and printed stock boxes.
Let’s take a closer look:
|Type of Box & Packaging||Who Should Use It?||What Does It Cost?|
|Fully Customized Boxes & Packaging||Companies looking to create an entirely branded “unboxing experience”.
These types of boxes often include lots of little extras that set them apart from the competition, including stylish print designs, fitted inserts and dividers, custom wrap or tissue paper, and custom container boxes or bags inside.
|Can be a few additional pennies per box, but can increase to several dollars per box.
The cost depends on many factors, including the size of the colors used in printing, box material, number of boxes, inserts included and more.
|Printed Stock Boxes & Packaging||Companies who want to create the same kind of unboxing impact, but at a lower cost than ordering custom boxes.||Varies, but it’s typically less expensive than going fully custom.
As with custom boxes, the cost of printed stock boxes varies widely depending on specifications.
You can choose to go the fully customized route, but maybe a printed stock box will fit your needs. It’s always best to ask packaging companies for a quote. A lot will depend on your budget and the type of products you’re shipping.
With a custom box, you can pick any size you want, add fancy designs, fitted dividers, inserts, throw in some custom tissue paper, or make use of inner boxes and bags.
In other words, you can get exactly what you want and know that your brand will have something entirely unique.
When you design your custom box, don’t let the inside flap of your shipping box go to waste. Take a company like Loot Crate, for example. They use this piece of precious real estate by including “unboxing instructions,” as a way to encourage social sharing.
Also, you can add your own interesting elements inside the box. By combining your branded inner packaging with a stock box, your costs can stay pretty low.
Whichever route you decide on, make sure to research your options and find the right custom box manufacturer. Don’t forget to ask for samples before placing your order. You’d hate for any unpleasant surprises to crop up with a 10,000 box order.
Get Your Design Done Right
Successful packaging starts with a compelling design.
Your company probably already has a logo or a particular color associated with your brand. Try to incorporate these elements into your boxes or other packaging. It will promote brand awareness and help people remember you.
There are all kinds of variables that can inflate the costs of your packaging. When weighing your printing options, don’t forget to consider things like cutting dies, printing plates, flute size, dielines, and minimum orders.
Keep in mind printing costs are usually lower for bigger orders. So if you can, figure out what you’ll need down the road, and order accordingly.
And always get a printed sample proof before approving the job for production. You’d hate to place a large order only to have your company name misspelled, or the colors to be all wrong. That’s definitely not the kind of branding you want.
NOTE: We offer 100% free design for all of our customers who need help. Don’t have a design? Let us help you make it.
Choosing The Right Type of Box: Custom Boxes By Industry
You might be surprised to learn that there are custom boxes for specific industries. Some packaging is crafted to suit specific product box styles, and others to match unique retail box needs.
|Type of Packaging||Who Should Use It?||How Much Does It Cost?|
|Cosmetic Boxes||Anyone who sells cosmetic-related products that need to keep the products stable and safe during transit. These include cream boxes, eyelash boxes, eyeliner boxes, lipstick boxes, lip gloss boxes, hair extension boxes, makeup boxes, nail polish boxes and more.||Order minimum is typically 100 boxes, all the way to 500,000 boxes. Most cosmetic boxes are relatively low-cost compared to other box options, because the size of the boxes are smaller.|
|Display Packaging||Custom display boxes for store end-caps, cash register and checkout displays. These boxes can include cosmetic display boxes, display packaging for candy and other types of products.||Display packaging can be created with a minimum order of 100 boxes. It’s formulated with no-bleed inks, so the design will be crisp and vivid.
Pricing will range based on box dimensions, design and quantity.
|Eco-Friendly Boxes||Ideal for environmentally-conscious businesses, who want to help reduce waste from discarded boxes, eco-friendly boxes are made with crucial attention and care toward using sustainable materials .||You’ll enjoy considerable cost savings by using recycled bux board boxes or kraft stock.
Eco-friendly boxes can also incorporate raised ink and embossed patterns for a trendy, upscale look.
|Food & Beverage Boxes||These boxes are perfect for businesses in the food industry, where safety of the items inside the box is crucial.
These include bakery boxes, cake boxes, pizza boxes, popcorn boxes, wine boxes and more.
|Pricing will range based on box dimensions, design and quantity.
The high quality printing and paper used in the printing of food and beverage boxes is designed to help maintain freshness.
|Gift Boxes||Sending a holiday gift? Want to impress your customers with a high-end gift wrapped with ribbons?
Gable boxes, favor boxes, handle boxes and gift card boxes are great options.
|Pricing will range based on box dimensions, design and quantity.|
|Metalized Boxes||For anyone who’s looking to add a touch of sophistication to their products.
With gold foil boxes or silver foil boxes, metalized boxes can include embossing and raised ink to add a layer of dimension and pattern to the box.
They can also include a customized window cut-out to showcase the product inside.
|The cost of gold foil or silver foil boxes will depend on several factors, including the size of the box and any additional enhancements you’d like to add to the finished product.|
|Retail Boxes||Retail boxes are perfect for a most direct-to-consumer products.
Examples include soap boxes, candle boxes, product boxes, mailer boxes and much more.
|Minimum orders are usually 100 custom retail boxes, and can be produced in quantities up to 500,000.
Pricing will range based on box dimensions, design and quantity.
On A Tight Budget? Think Beyond The Box
Not every company has the budget to digitally print their logo on the side of their shipping boxes. But that doesn’t mean you have to forfeit all attempts at promoting your brand. The little things inside the box are an important component of adding that personal touch.
Looking for a little inspiration? It’s not hard to find.
Even a cursory search on Pinterest will have all kinds of packaging eye candy pop up. Many pinners devote whole boards to packaging ideas.
Here are some ideas to consider:
How about the thrill of receiving a personalized, handwritten note?
If you find one of those tucked inside your product box, you’ll take notice. A simple thank you note can go a long way. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. For mere pennies, you can print up some thank you inserts, and make your customers feel special.
You can get as fancy as you want, but if money’s tight, you can even print some out on your own computer.
Logo stickers are another way to promote your brand. You can even slap one on the outside of the box if custom printing is too expensive. A common use of stickers is to secure tissue paper together.
The cost of stickers will depend on the size, shape, and number of colors involved. Stickers come in either rolls or sheets. You typically have more options with sheets of stickers, but the trade-off is they’re more expensive.
Another option is to include inserts, such as special offers, coupons, care instructions, or clever descriptions of your products. Don’t be afraid to get creative and inject a little humor in your enclosures.
Remember that printing costs usually go down for larger orders, so you may want to stick to evergreen offers that don’t have expiration dates and are not seasonal. Save the festive Easter or Halloween promotions for when you have a bigger budget.
Tags and other embellishments can also give your goods a high-end feel. A simple stylish business card, attached with a little piece of rattan can add some style.
Bags, inner boxes, and colorful paper sleeves are other ways to set you apart from the crowd. Since your inside box isn’t used for shipping it doesn’t need to be as sturdy.
Go ahead and get creative with different inner containers. Try a coffee bean sack, a little Chinese takeout box, or a different geometric shaped box to add a little oomph.
Keep It Eco-Friendly
The days of packing your goods in ugly styrofoam peanuts that never break down are over.
You can’t watch the nightly news without seeing stories about how humans are destroying the planet. No one wants to add more unnecessary junk to our landfills or clog our oceans with more plastic.
Fortunately, today there’s an emphasis on companies being more eco-friendly—even with their packaging decisions. Using recyclable and reusable materials is where it’s at.
Look at these benefits you can enjoy by using eco-friendly packaging:
- Reduce shipping costs by using less packing materials.
- Attract more customers. (In a recent study, 57% said green packaging is important to them.)
- Easy disposal for customers, if packaging is made from compostable or recyclable materials.
Purple Carrot—the company I mentioned earlier—devotes an entire section on their website about how to reuse their packaging. They offer tips on composting and give seven suggestions on how to upcycle their meal kit packaging.
5 Examples of Effective Custom Boxes and Branding
Now that you have an idea for how to get started with custom boxes, let’s cover some examples. Here are five businesses that are effectively using custom packaging to promote their brands and values:
#1: Dollar Shave Club
Do you remember Dollar Shave Club’s amusing Super Bowl commercial from a couple of years back? I think that’s the company’s only commercial I’ve seen on TV, but it stuck with me. One viewing of their commercial and I knew that it’s a company that understands the power of branding.
I wouldn’t expect any less from their packaging. And I’m not disappointed.
Dollar Shave Club keeps it simple, but injects their irreverent humor. The outer box is your typical brown box with the logo on top. Inside a brown paper, packaging mesh covers the goods in the box. There’s nothing flashy, rather the emphasis is on sticking to the basics and keeping it entertaining.
The inside box flap has a quote that sets the tone. Boxes also contain some literature for light bathroom reading and a flyer that talks about other products in their line.
Vinebox is a subscription wine service that understands that a high-end presentation can go a long way.
The service starts at $72 per box, which includes nine glass-size samples of wines. It’s not cheap, so customers no doubt expect to be wowed by the whole experience of opening their quarterly delivery.
Vinebox’s shipment arrives in a simple cardboard box with Vinebox printed on the side, but inside is a gorgeous matte black box containing the wine samples in narrow glass containers that resemble test tubes.
In addition to the high-end box, and cool-looking vials of wine, are beautifully printed descriptions of each wine that offer details about where the wine is from, kind of grapes, tasting notes, quotes, etc. They’re the kind of card you’re likely to hold onto to refer back to later—keeping the brand front and center in your mind.
The novelty of Vinebox’s packaging is enough to encourage social sharing, and likely spur some repeat orders.
#3: Stitch Fix
I don’t know about you, but my social media channels seem to be littered with Stitch Fix unboxings. Stitch Fix is a subscription clothing and accessory company. When you sign up for the service, you’re assigned a stylist who picks out apparel items for you and sends them your way.
It truly is a gift-like experience because when you open your box you never know what’s inside. This uncertainty lends excitement to unboxings and makes them fun to share.
The box has Stitch Fix’s distinct blue-colored logo covering two sides of a typical brown corrugated cardboard box. The box is secured with packing tape with the company’s logo.
Inside the box, clothing items are neatly wrapped in colorful tissue paper, secured with a logo sticker. If you happen to get shoes in your order they come in a fabric drawstring bag printed with a design in Stitch Fix’s color palette.
A mailer for easy returns is also included with every order. But perhaps the most special element is a style card describing your items, along with a highly personalized note. The note reinforces that these items were picked out specially just for you.
Your packaging should represent your company’s values. Goodbeing is a natural beauty subscription service. They promote non-toxic, green, organic products, and their packaging reflects this sensibility.
The box is a simple brown box with the brand printed on top and a colorful chevron pattern on the side for added interest. Inside, the goodies are packed in understated crinkle cut paper. The packaging is simple, which reinforces Goodbeing’s natural vibe.
Each package has a card on top of the merchandise. This card includes an inspiring quote on one side, while the other side filled with special offers for subscribers.
I’d be remiss to write an article about custom packaging that did not include the eCommerce goliath—Amazon. Who doesn’t recognize the Amazon boxes with their distinct smile logo?
Amazon’s packaging varies with certain promotions, but for the most part, it’s simple—their logo on the box, with some branded packing tape. Inside, the goods are usually protected by kraft paper or recyclable air cushions.
But Amazon is concerned with the customer’s overall unpacking experience, not just a pretty box.
That’s why Amazon has what it calls Frustration-Free Packaging. This packaging is specifically geared for eCommerce, so it’s easier to open than traditional packaging and there’s less waste since it’s all recyclable. In fact, in 2017, Amazon reduced packaging waste by 16%, avoiding 305 million unnecessary shipping boxes.
One of the first products to use Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging was the Fisher-Price Imaginext Adventures Pirate Ship. Amazon’s website touts that with its Frustration-Free Packaging, you can unpack your new toy in 42 seconds. Now let’s compare that with the agonizing 11 minutes that was needed to get the item out of the traditional packaging.
There are many other companies doing it right. It’s ok to keep an eye on the competition. Go ahead and check out your social media channels to see who’s garnering the most unboxing buzz and get some ideas.
Don’t Forget the Practical Details
You may be so excited with your beautifully designed boxes, filled with your branded tissue paper and logo-inspired stickers, but don’t lose sight of the practical requirements for shipping your goods.
You’re ultimately running a business, so profits are key. It’s important to keep in mind shipping costs—which are impacted by size and weight.
Another priority is ensuring that your goods reach their destination in one piece.
Packaging must also be practical and protect the enclosed items.
You can have gorgeous high-end boxes, filled with beautiful wrapping, but if your items arrived damaged that’s all your customers will remember. And damaged goods definitely won’t go over well in an unboxing video.
Wrapping it Up
There are so many options for custom boxes and branded packaging. You don’t want to overdo it, but you want to make the most of this easy way to promote your brand.
Don’t sell your products short. Take full advantage of presenting your items in their best light, and use thoughtful packaging to give your customers a personalized, special experience they’re excited to share.