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Designing for the Individual: How to Leverage Personalization and Customization in Packaging Design

By Vanessa Doll

Three design devices that help bring to life personalization and customization in consumer packaged goods

Consumers are buying into the benefits of using tailor-made products — from vitamins targeting their unique nutritional needs to cleansing products formulated for their skin type.

As consumers seek products and experiences created for their distinct beauty, health and wellness requirements, brands looking to be valuable, relevant and helpful are meeting the demand with personalization and customization, often delivered directly to consumers’ doorsteps.

In these competitive beauty and wellness spaces, design is a key component of communicating the customized and personalized brand’s distinctive features. For a startup, in fact, design can be the difference between success and failure. Let’s look at three design devices that best communicate personalization and customization.

1. Made for you.

Care/Of and Curology both feel elevated, with a modern, clean aesthetic that conveys thoughtfulness and efficacy. Yet, beyond their design appeal, both brands have adopted a personalized approach to their product experience — most notably, by displaying the consumer’s name directly on product packaging. This small detail goes a long way in expressing confidence and reassurance that the enclosed product is specifically made for the consumer who purchased it — meaning it is custom-formulated to address the needs and goals of that individual.

Care/Of’s friendly salutation, “Hi [Name]!” on each packet of supplements is both affirming and refreshing — adding a playful element to the routine task of taking your daily vitamins. Care/Of and Curology communicate super-targeted relevance to their consumer with the most meaningful of devices: printing their customer’s name on it. So simple!

What’s the payoff for made-for-you branding? It cements the product in the consumer’s world. This design device might seem like a throwaway element, but it goes much deeper than being charming. It changes the consumer’s entire experience with the brand. Every morning when a consumer picks up a supplement pack or tube of moisturizer, the brand literally greets them by name. The product is no longer a commodity.

Personalization makes a chore less routine, more of a treat or a gift, a pat on the back for taking care of yourself. That’s powerful brand affirmation for a task as mundane as taking your vitamins.

2. Uniquely formulated.

In addition to including a consumer’s name on the package, brands can communicate customization by microtargeting formulations, so the product addresses the unique concerns of an individual. Some new skincare and haircare brands have embraced this approach. They start with an online or in-store expert consultation to identify the formula each consumer needs. Prose, for example, delivers hair products designed with “100% precision.” Kiehl’s positions its Apothecary Preparations more as a skincare service than a product.

These beauty brands aim to address specific concerns that mass-produced products simply cannot. This one-to-one approach promises to generate unique formulations based on factors like lifestyle, environment and the consumer’s concerns and goals.

Images from Prose’s Instagram

Both brands use design to translate their solutions-based methods for their customers. They create labels that speak to their formulations — stating who they’re made for, who they were made by and what the product promises (in its formulation) to deliver.

By staging the information — in fact, the Kiehl’s Apothecary bottle is a very well-dressed version of a pharmacy label — these brands are ensuring relevance and ease of comprehension for their consumer. Presenting key information about ingredients and effectiveness in an engaging and easily digestible way makes it easy for the consumer to see why the product is pertinent to them.

As a design device, formulation-style labeling offers utility, but also connection. By mirroring the consumer’s concerns back to them, the brand signals that it has understood its consumer’s needs and is offering just the right solution. Information staging is a concept from user experience design, an approach to design that helps people make decisions more easily. This presentation style has proven to make people understand the product’s promise and feel that it’s working hard for them. Brands outside the skin and haircare space can mimic these visual cues by focusing package design not on basic attributes but on what the product will do for the consumer.

3. Customized for delight.

Function of Beauty, a brand that offers personalized shampoo and conditioner, uses a questionnaire to determine a consumer’s hair profile and goals. But in addition to pulling from hundreds of ingredients to formulate hair care just for one consumer, Function of Beauty also allows users to customize their formulas by naming their bottle, choosing the color of their shampoo and conditioner and selecting a fragrance to their liking (how strong of a fragrance, too).

The chance to customize a product allows users to mix it up — to fight boredom and fatigue in their routine or express personality even in the daily monotony of hair-washing.

Function of Beauty’s packaging design, which also features the consumer’s name, is minimal — a transparent bottle with white typography. The design allows the product itself and its attractive pearlescent color to shine. The brand’s efforts to highlight personalization and make a consumer’s choices visible via a transparent bottle help reinforce that she had a hand in making the product.

Images from Function of Beauty’s Instagram

Consumers are far less loyal to brands than they used to be; they’re easily swayed by lower-priced competitors and the temptation to try something new. Even everyday products like shampoo can overcome the perils of being commoditized when they provide moments of delight for consumers. By offering a custom range of fragrances or colors — and providing consumers the pleasure and power to revamp their routines — brands can leverage delight to stay relevant.

To move your brand beyond mere package design trends, go deeper into customization and personalization, building a complete consumer experience around these concepts. When your brand speaks directly to consumers’ needs, with information staged to help them understand what the product can do for them, consumers will choose it again and again.

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