It’s safe to say that most of our industry is struggling with the desire and real need to create high impact packaging without the high price tag. While more and more shoppers are on a budget, companies also are looking at the bottom line and assessing how they can achieve affordable shelf disruption and greater profitability. The answer to this dilemma might surprise you because it all starts with the people working on your team.

Below are some of the key points we’ve discovered for uncovering simple yet impactful solutions, and, in some cases, we took a bit of an unorthodox approach.

Stop looking for sex, and start looking for marriage.
Let us clarify. A lot of partners/vendors out there are great when it comes to the “project foreplay,” if you will. They put on a good show, have great case studies and work samples, and wine and dine you at the best restaurants. Who doesn’t like that? But what happens when reality sets in? When you’re choosing the people you do business with, you need to go beyond the dog and pony show. Ask about their unsexy projects — those projects where their hands were tied, dollars were low and clients were all over the place. How did they handle that and make it a success? How did they make something beautiful out of nothing?

Make sure your designer is an even better production person.
Good designers live design. They see it in every aspect of life. Great designers see past good design to how that design was produced. They embrace production and print techniques. They know that many designers can create something beautiful, but only a small percentage of those individuals can make it look as good (and sometimes better) on shelf as it did on paper. One of our “aha” production moments came with the redesign of Lionshead beer. Our creative director is a production geek of sorts and knew that we could take a stock six-pack and customize the handhold to have four “paw holes” instead of one.There was a lot of initial push back; however, a couple of simple tests proved the viability and integrity of the idea, and the “paw pack” was born. The result was a product that was so unique that distributors jumped to carry the brand and consumers loved it.

Strike the word ‘process’ from your vocabulary.
Process is a creativity killer. Although it’s a necessary evil in some cases, don’t get so hung up on it that it kills the magic. We often get asked about our process and the funny thing is that for most branding firms, the process is always the same — it just has a different proprietary trademarked name. Over the years, it seems that process has become synonymous with a way to charge larger fees and sell more services. I’d encourage you to focus less on process and more on creative solutions and results.

Develop a space that fosters creativity.
You'd be surprised at what your work environment does to either cultivate or squash creativity. Design an office space that allows for collaboration and impromptu brainstorms, as well as areas for private time and focus. Add in some humor and a good cappuccino machine.

Check your ego at the door.
A cohesive group is more than the sum of its parts. None of us has all the answers. In fact, at any one time, we may have a dozen companies working on a job — client, agency, printers, manufacturers, pre-press, etc. With many jobs, it can feel like we’re all jockeying for the No. 1 position, but the reality is that we all rely on each other to lend expertise and create the best outcome. 

Knowledge is power.
Whatever your function, educate your client and yourself on new materials and production techniques. Ask questions — lots of them. You never know when the answer might bring an unexpected result. For instance, we happened to ask one of those random questions when speaking with a printer about our Yardley soap client. They had mentioned that a mold inhibitor was added to the inside of the soap cartons, and we asked if it was possible to add color to the mold inhibitor. The result was illustrations that start on the outside of the box and carry through to the inside, giving this value brand an ultra-premium feel.

Trust your allies.
Find and align with vendors that have your vision. Be wary of partners that say, “It can’t be done.” It can always be done, and good partners will leave no stone unturned to find a way to do it, and do it within project limitations. We were extremely lucky to have such partners on the relaunch of the Wisk brand. Our vision was to use foil to reinforce the science behind the brand and create maximum impact around the relaunch. However, many said that foil on an in-mold label couldn’t be done. Our printing and production partners were committed to finding a way, and the result was a high-tech look that jumped off the shelf. 

Ask the mailman.
Good ideas come from everywhere and everyone. We brainstorm, do creative reviews and ask for opinions from our entire staff and beyond. Think broadly about those who can lend an idea or a thought about a project. You never know where inspiration may come from.

At the end of the day, nothing in this article is out of the ordinary, but hopefully it will serve as a reminder to take a chance and break out of the mold on occasion. Whether that means hiring an unexpected vendor or nudging a colleague to find a unique solution, I encourage you to embrace curiosity and maybe even be a little fearless. Greatness awaits you.