How Product Packaging Helps Market Your Brand on Social Media

Smart marketers put a lot of time, energy and budget into carefully controlling how their products are visually presented to consumers, but what happens in the real world?

Smart marketers put a lot of time, energy and budget into carefully controlling how their products are visually presented to consumers. Designers, for instance, labor endlessly over any changes to product packaging and the product itself, focus-grouping even the tiniest of tweaks. And ad production can involve sprawling teams of directors, photographers, lighting experts, stylists and prop designers who all labor to put the product in the best possible light.

But what happens when your product is seen in the real world, far from the best possible light? Specifically, muddy indoor light—average household light—and in an authentic context lacking the awesome perfectionism and state-of-the-art equipment deployed by pros?

Does your product still pop? Does it stand out? Does it still seem special?

As visually driven social platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr continue to grow, one thing is certain: Consumers, rather than marketers, are increasingly at the forefront of the visual presentation and dissemination of product images.

To give you a sense of just how prolific consumer-photographers have become, consider the fact that Canon, in its recently released 2016 Photography Trends Study, revealed that nearly one in four consumers (24 percent) are taking up to 300 photos per month.

Consumers are creating and sharing images of everything, constantly, which means that your brand is likely taking on a visual/social life of its own.

Until recently, to get a sense of how their brands appear in the real world, marketers had to use traditional social media listening tools to attempt to pick up on text mentions—captions and hashtags—referencing their products that might appear alongside consumer photos of those products on Instagram, et al.

But over the past several years, image-recognition technology has been growing in power and sophistication, and now marketers can easily find and analyze consumer images of their brands “in the wild”—even if consumers make no mention of the brand name in accompanying captions or hashtags. Image-recognition technology can detect even partially obscured logos, even in less-than-ideal images.

What can marketers learn from finding and studying such less-than-ideal social media images of their products? Some of the most essential lessons relate to the core, first-line messaging done by brands via product packaging and logo design and placement.

For starters, typography used on packaging to tout product benefits and ingredients might not be as readable in real-world contexts as it is in advertisements and in well-lit retail settings. A description—for instance, “body lotion with self-tanners for a natural bronze glow” on this consumer’s Twitter image of a Dove product—that looks elegant and is easily legible under a store’s bright fluorescent lights might be harder to make out in household lighting (and in consumer images).

For information that’s considered essential to quickly convey, product packaging designers would do well to consider font sizes and weights that maximize readability not only in social-media contexts, but in mobile-sized images (which is where most social-media activity takes place).

For an example of a product that is instantly “readable,” consider this photo of a box of Cheerios Protein from Instagram user bigup_sports, who added a caption that reads, “Look what wifey got. Awesome,” along with plenty of hashtags including “#gymlife,” “#motivation” and “#happy,” but no mention of Cheerios itself. (The post was surfaced using image-recognition technology.)