Do judge a book
by its cover


I recently attended the launch of Erin Kelly’s latest psychological thriller ‘He Said, She Said’, and it got me thinking.

Image courtesy of Amazon

As marketing continues to become increasingly complex, with the fragmentation of shopping channels and the growth of online media, the conversation around brand has increased, but talk of packaging has significantly decreased.

So where does this leave packaging? The world of storytelling and publishing has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades. With Amazon, the growth of e-books and the self-publishing phenomenon, the role of the physical book is constantly questioned.

Stories and storytelling hasn’t changed, but the medium has. And the role of a book’s ‘packaging’, the cover, is no different, although it has evolved.
Like the book cover, the role of FMCG packaging has not changed, and remains as important as ever, as consumers make purchase decisions increasingly faster. Simple, clear communication of the rational and the emotional is paramount.

As with books, first impressions are critical. Will your brand lay out its stall sufficiently for a shopper to pick it up off the shelf?

Can the shopper immediately recognise what category it is in? Will the colourways and graphic design make a shopper say “not for me” without even reading any copy?

Does your brand name have the right reputation; I liked it last time, so I might enjoy this new offering?

And the rest of the copy on front of pack? Does it excite, promise something, make the shopper want to turn it over to read more on the back? Bar opening a book and reading the first paragraph and then deciding to buy, the decision-making process is the same.

Just as thumbnails of book covers on Amazon need to work harder and differently to a book cover on the shelf in Waterstone’s, we should be creating packaging design with every channel in mind.

As marketers we can learn from the storytelling industry. Should we just be designing packaging to be judged on shelf and in the hand? Or would an online thumbnail be a more relevant test today?

Image courtesy of Amazon

Elizabeth Finn - Managing Director - Cowan London
13th March 2018