The Nerd Alert is a monthly column from Theory Associates all about consumer tech packaging and nothing but. I’ll be analyzing the retail environment where products go to battle every day, and reviewing the challenges and the design languages that stands out. We will travel to big box stores like Best Buy, smaller airport stores like InMotion and may even take a trip down the aisle of your local Walgreen’s. If product packaging is being used to create crave for techology then I’ll be showing you what works, what doesn’t and what trends are emerging.

I guess we should first start at the beginning. What exactly does make for “good” packaging and what are the driving factors that make something effective in this market? So, for our first column I’d like to pull out a few examples of some really good consumer tech packaging and why we thing so. Now, some of these examples have been around for awhile, but the fact that they are still relevant and very effective only reinforces the reason why they are making this list. Turns out even in retail packaging, there are oldies but goodies.

Lifeproof smart-phone cases

The primary function any phone case is to protect, but most case makers project their own marketing spin at retail. Speck is fun and creative; Incase is sophisticated and fashion-forward. Then, along came Lifeproof. This case, much like Otter Box, is all about protection. Which would make sense, given its brand name. So, did the brand try to spin you a story about its fabulosity? Nope, it went in the opposite direction and employed a visual language that actually shows the shopper real-life examples of the trauma your poor phone puts up with. The graphic style is nothing short of Photoshop porn for the eyes with potential phone disasters exploding out from their cases. It’s simple, well executed and extremely effective.

Yurbuds headphones

Other headphone companies make a line of athletic headphones, and most focus on an urban lifestyle approach (beats, SOL, Urban Ears, etc). Yurbuds in contrast has a far more simple position in the market: at least for now, it makes only water-resistant ear phones that won’t fall out when workouts get sweaty. The packaging shows a virtual 360 degree view of the athlete with the subject’s ears on the sides showing the product in use, and on the front a facial image with the product name written on their face like war paint. These are products that go to battle with you, glaring out on the shelf next to their competitors. It’s a great voice, almost daring you to be tough enough for its product.

Tablets by Wacom

Tablets enable a hand-rendered experience on a computer, and that’s exactly what their packaging depicts ... no explanation needed. Hand-drawn illustration eminating from the product, done and done. Granted this is not something that everyone needs or wants, but for the doodlers and designers out there this product packaging just nails it. The almost minimal voice means that there is an “in the club” approach to the box ... if you don’t already want or benefit from itsr product you might not “get it,” and that’s ok.

Logitech G peripherals

You’ll hear me talk about creating crave a lot in terms of how product packaging helps in spurring on sales. Logitech’s G (gaming) totally creates crave! The products look like space age weaponry, and the packaging is so sci-fi inspired that I’m ready to watch the movie and play the game. X-rays, space ships, laser vision ... where do I sign up? This is a great example of a company that has nailed the voice of its audience, and then hits it dead on without apology. Great job!
With all the choice, noise and commotion vying for your attention at your local Best Buy, it makes the act of choosing far easier when you can communicate what a product is all about quickly at a glance. Catch my eye, yes — but do it in a way that intrigues me and helps me understand why I should care about your product or your brand for that matter. Keeping things simple is a great start, but remember that you also need to keep things awesome! Technology is fun and people WANT to crave it, but as marketeers it our job to help them to do so.