The First Step of your Package Refresh? Define, then Design

Posted on Jul 20, 2021 by

We have all heard the phrase, “your package is your brand on the shelf”. So as a brand owner, when you determine (either by research or observation) that your packaging has become dated or out of alignment with the consumer, doesn’t it make sense to ensure how you define your brand has also not gone out of alignment? Branding is a process of defining what you and your products are about, how you are different, and why the marketplace should care. We are not talking about just one definition but a group of definitions that form what we call a written brand platform.

First Define

Our branding mantra is “get the words right first, then build the design”. If your brand packaging design has grown dated, better make sure the words you have chosen to describe your brand are not dated as well.

Test Yourself on Your Brand

We suggest a quick review of your current brand platform or as we call it, your BrandCore™. So what makes a BrandCore? We work with 13 key definitions that we think best provide a comprehensive written idea of a brand. Go ahead and test yourself on your brand’s ability to check off these BrandCore definitions.

  1. Big Brand Idea aka Vision, Brand Driver Why does your brand exist and to accomplish what?
  2. Mission What is the “how and what” needed to deliver your vision?
  3. Values What drives the behavior of your business culture?
  4. Business DescriptionHow do you describe what you do?
  5. Our Brand StoryWhat background story do you tell about your brand?
  6. CompetenciesWhat can you deliver that is not easily replicated by others?
  7. PositioningCompared to competitors, what is your desired place in the market?
  8. Brand PromiseWhat is the key benefit(s) your brand offers?
  9. Brand ArchetypeWhat personality traits define you?
  10. Brand Audience To whom are you speaking in the marketplace?
  11. Brand PillarsCan you list 3-4 words that are the essence of your brand?
  12. Brand ArchitectureHow are your brands organized – internally, externally?
  13. Brand Tagline*What do you do/offer in six words or less? (*Note: Not every brand needs a tagline)

How did you do? If your package design team asks you to define your product brand in these terms (and they should), can you provide an agreed upon written response? This exercise in corporate self-examination is not easy but should point out areas where your brand may be out of alignment with your intended audience. As an example, perhaps your product has been very eco-friendly but little was said about it in the past. Now your competitors are flooding the market with eco-friendly alternatives. They are putting you out of alignment with your target audience and that needs to be addressed. So when a packaging refresh is on the horizon, remember to “first define, then design”. Because a designer’s role in the process is to interpret words (and data) they are given into a visual reality for your brand.

To borrow a phrase from Socrates, when you start any consideration of a packaging refresh it is key to Know Thyself. If he were alive today as a brand manager, he would no doubt be writing articles about the virtues of truth and transparency in brands and above all, he would convey that an unexamined brand is not worth promoting. More importantly, if done correctly BrandCore definitions can guide the entire package refresh process with clarity and help you avoid a lot of grief along the way.


If you are looking to get an outside perspective of your brand’s potential as it relates to your packaging, we invite you to start a conversation with us by contacting us at


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