Canadian Packaging

Sensible packaging key to brand loyalty

Taking my little dog Bucky to our local PetSmart store is always an afternoon filled with excitement, with the little guy simply overjoyed to meet and greet new dogs and their dog-loving owners.


March 15, 2011
by Elena Langlois

Taking my little dog Bucky to our local PetSmart store is always an afternoon filled with excitement, with the little guy simply overjoyed to meet and greet new dogs and their dog-loving owners.

As we walk through the aisles and he takes in all the sights, sounds and smells this magical place has to offer, his eyes slowly start to acquire that special heartfelt gaze with which he communicates exactly which new toy he’d like to walk away with from this shopping stopover.

What strikes me about dog-toy packaging is how minimalist it is—with most of the packaged designed for being hung up on hooks for retail display. Some packaging consists of nothing more that a simple little plastic hook fastener to hang up a toy, with a small paper tag attached underneath to display the product name and the UPC number.

On the other hand, there is also a fair number of recyclable, formed plastic clamshells holding thee product inside in place with a firm grip—mostly used for products with multiple components or special mechanisms that could get damaged in transit or distribution.

Our last PetSmart visit rewarded Bucky with a new Small Sitting Duck from Toy Shoppe Playables. Distributed by the Phoenix, Az.-based Pacific Coast Distributing, the package contains a small plush duck fastened with three plastic barb tags to a colorful paperboard strip measuring only 25 by 11 centimeters.

Likewise, the rugged small Chuckit! Ultra Balls from the Seattle, Wash.-based Canine Hardware Inc. are safely secured between two pieces of 14×10-cm paperboard cleverly glued together to cup each ball around the circumference in order to hold them both steady in place. This kind of straightforward packaging easily allows pet-owners to inspect the toys closely for durability and quality, as well as to assess their safety in case of the dogs getting carried away and ingesting some or all of the toy’s contents.

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Sometimes I just don’t get the point of using different packaging formats for what is essentially the same product.

Take, for example, the Scrubbing Bubbles Extenda-Clean bathroom cleaning solution from S.C. Johnson and Son, Limited of Brantford, Ont. Standing 27-cm-tall, the so-called Power Sprayer is a plastic bottle featuring a 1-Touch Continuous Sprayer-r-r-r—an automatic click-and-hold dispenser trigger used to replace the traditional hand-squeeze manual trigger spray applicator.

For a busy consumer, trying to discern this products from the company’s Mega Shower Foamer—a 25-cm-tall metal cylinder can with a spray trigger that the user depresses with the index finger, much like a shaving-cream can—is not as easy as it should be on the fly.

Both containers feature the brand’s lime-green and royal-blue colors—using the same caricature image of the scrubber—and both promise to work their magic for up to four days.

While I can surmise that one product is a liquid solution and the other one is a foam, it remains a mystery just how much of each product I should use to achieve the same results, with their respective measurements of 739-ml and 567 grams offering little clue in that respect.

When you’re looking at a wall of similar cleaning products in the store aisle, making the right choice is suddenly seems a much trickier task than it really needs to be.

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Major sporting events like the World Junior Hockey Championship and Super Bowl offer fabulous promotional opportunities for beer companies and snack-food manufacturers savvy enough to use packaging design to maximum merchandising effect—along the lines of what Toronto-based JVF Canada Inc. managed to pull off with its Planters Original Style Pub Nuts brand of roasted peanuts.

Packed in a hefty 500-gram container that is shaped to resemble a beer keg, this product scores a natural hat-trick for size, flavor and, of course, packaging that draws an unmistakable link to beer—being topped off with a twist-off lid with a navy blue handle reminiscent of the handles atop beer kegs.

Securely sealed in thin plastic shrinkwrap, the keg-shaped aluminum container is smartly dressed up with a catchy product label featuring a thick red band that prominently displays an image of delightfully frothy yeast bevy, along with the renowned Mr. Peanut brand icon, product logo and name.

Not missing the opportunity for subtlety, the packaging designer gets an extra nod here for creating the appearance of condensation on the red band for a crowning visual touch, while the brand gets bonus points for the container’s versatile reuse possibilities.

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Receiving a gift is always a delightful treat, but the act of opening the gift plays a big role in the overall experience.

This past Christmas, I was taken aback when presented with my gift in a turquoise paper bag, with white corded handles, bearing the simple black text Tiffany & Co. Removing the tuft of white tissue paper, I felt a sense of exhilaration as I pulled from the bag a blue box tied with a rich red heavy-weight satin ribbon, with a tug of the end making the bow give way to reveal the New York City-based jeweler’s name embossed on the box lid.

Lifting the lid raised the excitement of anticipation straight up to the next level, as I carefully removed from the box a felt satchel to have a stunning bracelet pour out gently into my hand.

There is a saying that every girl remembers opening her first Tiffany’s blue box, and with sophisticated packaging execution like that, it’s well-earned praise indeed.

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Finally, a note of thanks to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. of Topeka, Ks., for a small but incredibly useful gift-with-purchase idea: a simple plastic lid that snaps onto their dog-food cans for easy storage of leftovers in the refrigerator.

Being on a strict diet, Bucky is allowed to enjoy exactly a half of a 370-gram can of the g/d Formula Prescription Diet mixture, so having this lid helps ensure that I don’t have to fuss around with transferring any of his meal leftovers into yet another container. At $3.50 per can, it’s a nice touch of value-added to take a little sting out of the hefty price-tag.

Elena Langlois is a Toronto-based freelance writer, communications consultant and a proud dog-owner.