Today you can order almost everything online, but when it comes to treating yourself or someone else, packaging may play a bigger role in the experience than you think.
For Nancy Kruger Cohen, president, co-founder and chief creative officer of Mouth.com—an online indie food store curating packages of unique products from across the U.S.—paper packaging plays a primary role in a customer’s experience, from protection to presentation. Here Cohen opens up about developing great packaging designs and unboxing experiences, as told to Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds®.
On Using Authentic Experiences to Inspire Customer Service Design
Mouth is about discovering the most interesting and delicious products made in the U.S. and then curating those products into interesting packages and gift collections that convey fun, joy and deliciousness. We wanted to replicate the experience of going to a market and interacting with the people who have devoted their lives to making that pickle or that jam. The people at farmers markets are really good at something, but we found that some of them may not be great at putting what they make in boxes and shipping them across the country.
That’s where we thought we could gather a range of these products in one place and create a highly branded unboxing experience. We wanted the box itself to be the gift and wanted the gift experience to start immediately upon opening the box. There was no better material to work with than paper packaging.
On Creating Packaging to Protect and Pack a Memorable Punch
At Mouth, we are shipping pickles and potato chips in a box, and they need to arrive looking beautiful, with chips ready to eat and without the pickle juice leaking out. That was a design problem to solve.
We looked at different materials, different thicknesses of cardboard and box sizes, and we played with the amount of paper that was going in the box. Paper packaging is the perfect solution for us because it’s tactile, it feels like the right sensibility for our brand, and yet at the same time it’s able to protect the products inside with great results.
When you open the box, you’ll see an envelope in orange, our signature color, with an introduction to the brand as well as highlights from our makers, and a piece of cardboard on top that says, “Happy Tasting.” This cardboard pad has a few functions: to keep everything in place, welcome you to the experience and serve as a keepsake. As you unbox, you’ll see everything is carefully and purposefully packed in crinkle paper, which is used like molding clay to work around every product’s shape.
On Making Your Box a Mouthpiece for Your Brand
Food is a joyful experience, and it should be visceral and exciting. We thought long and hard about how to communicate that voice on our outer box, and paper packaging served as a great blank slate for us to put our brand right on it. When our box arrives on your doorstep, you’ll notice right away that the company has something to say and a particular way to say it, but getting there took time. The design process is a little torturous; if you feel like “this is not good enough,” you have to keep going. One of the key components of our brand is that we try to be friendly and accessible. We like to have fun.
We played around with different designs, but none of it felt right until we started putting the words on the outer box. We’ve used puns like “Bacon me crazy” and “Jam on it” as a wallpaperlike design element that gives you a sense of not only what’s inside, but our attitude about what’s inside. This was a bigger investment, so we spent a lot of time on the sizes and thinking about how the box would feel in your hands and how it would be handled by the shipping carrier. We wanted to make sure the ink cover was enough but not too much; we didn’t want it to feel slick. We wanted this tactile, natural vibe, which goes with our brand.
What’s become really clear over the years is that we can spend money on marketing, but that box is truly the best marketing we could have. If you deliver something to someone and they are so excited by the whole presentation of how the box looks, the beautiful products inside and the stories about the products, you can’t replicate that unboxing experience in a two-second digital ad. Converting recipients of the box into customers is a loop we really strive for.