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Brand Translation – Packaging Design Differences Between China and the West
Is the product the same without the packaging? As the saying goes – looks matter, and without properly designed packaging, a product is hard to sell, no matter how good its other features are. Packaging design represents what the brand stands for just as much as other elements of the brand’s visual identity, and in some cases the packaging is almost as important as the product itself. After all, what would Coca Cola be without its famous bottle?
In China, as in other markets, the function of packaging design is not only to protect the product and explain its features and benefits, but also to attract consumers. Studies show that customers usually decide what to buy at the point of sale. To sell a product successfully, the package must distinguish and characterize the product and ultimately become part of the product experience.
But how can packaging help a brand to interest and attract Chinese consumers? What factors should be considered to create a truly distinctive packaging for the Chinese market?
In this article, Labbrand examines how packaging design affects businesses in China, and in particular the issues that product brand managers need to consider before falling into the ‘culture trap’ of developing packaging that ignores China’s differences between. and in Western markets.
We examine the components of packaging design in the order in which the customer perceives them: color; label and font; images, patterns and shapes; and material.
1. Color choice
Choosing the right color palette for your packaging has a lot to do with the ultimate success or failure of your product brand. In fact, color plays an important role in a consumer’s purchasing decision. People take a little more than a minute to decide what product they see first, and much of that judgment is based solely on color. So, the smart use of colors in packaging design can not only help differentiate the product from competitors, but also influence the mood and feelings, and ultimately the attitude towards the given product.
“We all have involuntary physiological and psychological responses to the colors we see,” says the Chicago-based Institute for Color Research, a group that collects information on human response to color and sells it to industry. “Colors … influence our appetite, our sexual behavior, our business life and our leisure time,” says Eric Johnson, the institute’s research director.
In fact, the same color can be perceived very differently in different cultures. For example, green is not popular in Japan, France or Belgium, while it is often seen on packaging for Turkish and Austrian consumers. People from Islamic cultures have a negative reaction to yellow because it symbolizes death, but it is like green because it is believed to help ward off disease and evil. Europeans associate black with mourning and prefer red, grey, green and blue. In the Netherlands, orange is the national color, so it can be used to evoke nationalist feelings.
Colors are also very important in Chinese culture. Yellow, as a color that only the emperor could wear, and red, as a symbol of happiness and good luck, are both very strong colors for product packaging design in this country’s market. However, this does not apply to all product categories: Chinese consumers tend to find these bright and shiny colors attractive in food products, but tend to prefer white and pastel colors in personal care and household products.
General Mills, for example, adapts the colors used on its own product packages in the Chinese market with bright and flashy colors.
Instead, Kleenex features brightly colored and slightly abstract flowers on packages sold in the US, but designs Chinese packaging with pastel colors and small, delicate and realistic flowers.
2. Label and font
The label and font are critical to attracting consumers as they are a prominent visual element on any package.
Different countries have different regulations regarding what information product labels must or cannot contain, so the size and layout of the information on the label may need to be adjusted in order for the product to enter a certain country.
In addition to country-specific regulations on labels, the key to selling a brand to local consumers is the typeface used on the packaging. This is especially true in China, where foreign brands adopt Chinese brand names and consequently Chinese fonts to better communicate with the market.
Coca Cola, to quote a brand that is truly a master of packaging localization, attaches the same importance to the Chinese written brand name as the original English. The Chinese font thus becomes an integral part of the Chinese brand identity and shapes the packaging in an unmistakable way.
So much so that it is the Chinese side of the packaging that Coke’s visual communication and advertising in the country presents.
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 quickly searches for clues to help make a decision.
Product brands that are successful in the Chinese market clearly take into account how the images and patterns printed on the packaging influence consumers’ decisions about their own products.
For example, in order to effectively reach the younger segment of the Chinese market, Mirinda not only uses brighter colors, but also includes locally popular cartoon characters on the packaging.
Instead, Pepsi drew inspiration from local culture, people, icons and activities to capture and engage Chinese teenagers. Pepsi tin recycles these elements and uses them to create locally relevant packaging.
Nivea offers lip balms packaged in smaller solutions than those sold in the West. This is because Chinese consumers prefer smaller packages. This is especially true for food products, as domestic homes have relatively smaller storage areas and refrigerators than in the United States or Europe.
The material used to produce the package is also extremely important in order to favor the target consumers. Around the world and in China, for example, a growing segment of the population dislikes products that use too much waste material for packaging due to environmental concerns.
Instead, price-conscious consumers are less concerned with 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, which vary depending on the product category, 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 knows its market.
Colgate, for example, chose to use a packaging material in China that its competitors hardly used when the company entered the Chinese market in 1992. At that time, most domestic toothpaste manufacturers used aluminum tubes. Instead, Colgate used the plastic tube now commonly used in almost all toothpaste brands, as it is more convenient, durable and safer for the user. With the help of the new packaging, Colgate has gained about a third of the market share over the years.
On the contrary, Alpenlibe, the candy manufacturer, uses the same size, design and colors on the packaging sold in the West and in China, but in the latter case it wraps its own brand candies with two layers of thick paper, since strong packaging is usually associated with higher quality products in China.
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. In fact, we buy products not only because of their functional properties, but – and perhaps even more importantly – because these products promise the fulfillment of desires and wishes. The package that wraps the product carries most of this promise.
The challenge of building a locally consistent “promise” is to interpret the global brand identity and creative concept in a meaningful way for the Chinese market. Packaging design should attract attention, arouse curiosity, create a connection and ultimately convince the customer that the product is the best they have to offer. China is a country with a long history and rich culture, which creates codes in the minds of consumers that must be considered when designing packaging. To succeed in China, foreign brands must reinterpret their identity through the eyes of Chinese consumers to truly understand how colors, patterns, images, typefaces and material choices can contribute to a meaningful product experience.
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