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Brand Translation – Packaging Design Differences Between China and the West
Is a product still the same without its packaging? As said – looks are important, and without a properly designed package it’s hard to sell a product no matter how good its other features are. Indeed, packaging design represents what a brand is as much as other elements of a brand’s visual identity, and in some cases the packaging is just as important as the product itself. After all, what would Coca Cola be without its famous bottle?
In China, as in other markets, packaging design has a role not only to protect the product and explain its properties and benefits, but also to attract consumers. Studies show that shoppers usually decide what to buy at the point of sale. To help sell a product successfully, the package needs to be part of the product’s uniqueness and character and ultimately the product experience.
But how can packaging help brands attract and attract Chinese consumers? What factors should be considered to design truly distinctive packaging for the Chinese market?
This article looks at Labrand packaging design for businesses in China and in particular the issues that product brand managers need to consider before falling into the “cultural trap” and developing packages that ignore China’s differences. and western markets.
We’ll look at the elements of packaging design in the order they are perceived by the consumer: color; labels and typefaces; images, patterns and shapes; and literature.
1. Color selection
Choosing the right color palette for packaging has a lot to do with the ultimate success or failure of a product brand. In fact, color plays an important role in a consumer’s purchasing decision. People spend little more than a minute making up their mind about a product they see for the first time, and a large part of this decision is based on color alone. Therefore, clever use of colors in packaging design can not only differentiate a product from its competitors, but can also influence moods and emotions and ultimately the attitude towards a particular product.
“We all have involuntary physical and psychological responses to the colors we see,” according to the Chicago-based Institute for Color Research, a group that collects data on human responses to colors and then sells them to the industry. “Colors…affect our appetite, sexual behavior, work life, and leisure time,” says Eric Johnson, the institute’s head of research studies.
In fact, the same color can be perceived very differently in different cultures. For example, green is not popular in Japan, France or Belgium, but it can be seen frequently on packaging designed for Turkish and Austrian consumers. People in Islamic cultures react negatively to yellow because it symbolizes death but like green because it is believed to help fight disease and evil. Europeans associate black with mourning and prefer red, gray, green and blue. In the Netherlands, orange is the national color and can therefore be used to evoke national feelings.
Colors are also very important in Chinese culture. Yellow, a color that was only worn by the emperor, and red, symbolizing happiness and good luck, are both very powerful colors for designing product packaging for this country’s market. However, this does not apply to every product category: Chinese consumers generally find these bright and shiny colors attractive for food products but prefer white and pastel colors for personal care and household items.
For example, General Mills adapts the colors used on its own product packages in the Chinese market by using brighter and brighter colors.
Kleenex, instead, has bright colors and slightly abstract flowers on its packages sold in the US but it designs Chinese packaging with pastel colors and small, delicate and realistic flowers.
2. Labels and typefaces
Labels and typefaces are important to attract customers as they are a key visual element on any package.
Different countries have different rules about what information should be on the product label, so the size and layout of the information on the label may need to be changed to allow the product to enter a particular country.
In addition to country specific regulations on labels, there is a typeface used on the package to market the brand to local consumers. This is especially true in China where foreign brands adopt Chinese brand names, and consequently Chinese typefaces, to better communicate with the market.
Coca Cola, to name a brand that has truly mastered the art of packaging localization, values the Chinese written brand name as much as the original English brand name. The Chinese typeface therefore becomes an integral part of the brand identity in China and gives an unmistakable shape to the packaging.
So much so that the Chinese side of the packaging is the same that is featured in Coke’s visual communications and advertisements in the country.
3. Images, Patterns and Shapes
Researchers estimate that more than 70 percent of purchase decisions are made at the point of sale. Here the consumer quickly takes in all the products on display – and just as hastily looks for clues to help him make a decision.
Product brands that are successful in the Chinese market clearly consider how images and patterns printed on packaging influence consumers’ decisions about their own products.
Mirinda, for example, not only uses bright colors but also uses locally beloved cartoon characters on its packaging to effectively reach out to the younger generation in the Chinese market.
Pepsi, instead, taps into local culture, people, symbols and activities as inspiration to capture and engage Chinese teenagers. Pepsi tin recycles all these ingredients and uses them to dress locally relevant packages.
Nivea offers a line of lip balms packaged in smaller solutions than those sold in the West. Because Chinese consumers prefer small size packages. This is especially true for food products, as domestic apartments have relatively smaller storage spaces and refrigerators than in the US or Europe.
The material used to make the package is also very important to gain the preference of the target customers. For example, a growing segment of the population around the world and in China dislikes using too much waste material for direct packaging due to environmental concerns.
Price-conscious consumers, in turn, are less concerned about packaging quality or recyclability and are generally more likely to consider other, more function-oriented factors when purchasing a product. However, these factors often depend on priorities that vary according to the category of goods, the specific product and the available budget of the buyer.
In other words, the material used to package the product reflects how well the company understands its market.
For example, when Colgate entered the Chinese market in 1992, it chose to differentiate its products in China by using packaging materials rarely used by competitors. Back then, most household toothpaste manufacturers used aluminum tubes. Instead, Colgate adopted the plastic tube that is now used by almost all toothpaste brands because it is more convenient, durable and safe for the user. New packaging materials have helped Colgate capture about a third of the market share over the past few years.
In contrast, Alpenlib, a candy manufacturer, uses the same shape, design and color on packages sold in both the West and China but, in the latter case, it wraps its own brand candies in two thick layers of paper because it is stronger packaging. Generally associated in China with high quality products.
Packaging has incredible power over what people buy. Just as people express themselves through the clothes they wear, they also make a statement about who they are through the products they buy. Indeed, we buy products not only for their functional properties but – and perhaps more importantly – because these products promise to satisfy wants and desires. The package that wraps the product is a big part of that promise.
The challenge when trying to create a locally relevant “promise” is to interpret the global brand identity and creative concept in a way that makes sense for the Chinese market. Package design needs to attract attention, arouse curiosity, create a connection and ultimately make the buyer think that the product offered is the best. China is a country with a long history and rich culture, which creates codes in the minds of consumers that should be considered during package design. To succeed in China, foreign brands need to redefine their identity through the eyes of Chinese consumers to truly understand how colors, patterns, imagery, typefaces and material choices can contribute to creating a meaningful product experience.
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