When someone says the word “toy”— what do you think of? Child, game, play, FUN? The term “toy” has this sense of excitement, joy associated with it. Then why should its packaging be any different?
Packaging for toys should be as appealing as the toy itself. In an $88 billion industry, this very packaging can be the difference between you and your competition. It can make your toy seem desirable and get it off the shelf, into the hands of children.
Toy Packaging is not a child’s play. It’s more than just a box.
Like every other industry, the challenges involved in designing packages for toys revolve around three major factors— material, function, and messaging.
You want to pick the right material that offers the desired function and conveys the appropriate message to the target audience, which in this case are children and parents. Let’s explore each factor in detail.
Picking the Right Packaging Material
When it comes to the packaging material, the practicality, cost, printing and customization capability, are of importance. The material quality has an effect on consumer perception. You want the package to resonate with your brand image. You want parents to buy the package. If it appears shoddy, harmful, or flimsy, this impression will seep down to that of the product. Parents carefully examine the product based on a manufacturer’s display of concern for the end user’s well-being.
That’s because the consumer is a child.
Parents take certain factors into consideration when picking a toy. And in this decision, the packaging isn’t viewed as a separate entity, it’s viewed as part of the toy. The packaging material has to look and be a) child-safe b) hygienic c) BPA-free d) sustainable e) eco-friendly, to be considered good. Owing to these packaging products such as paper, mono-cartons, cardboard boxes, biodegradable plastics are preferred. You also have to think of the size of the packaging components to determine if there is a choking hazard.
Does the age of the child matter?
Yes. You have some flexibility when designing packaging for older children. For example, for children age 3 and below, plastic bags and wrapping are associated with a danger of suffocation. For older children, however, bioplastic bags and wrapping can be used. But, let’s steer clear of non-recyclable materials like plastic bindings or wire ties. Toy giants LEGO have pledged to use 100% sustainable packaging by 2025.
What about the ever-popular hard-plastic clamshells?
Plastic clamshells are affordable, offer security (they are hard to open even with a pair of scissors), while allowing the product to be showcased. All that certainly are in favor of the material, except that they are a biohazard. Instead, you have several innovative paperboard-based alternatives that offer the same advantages and have got our vote.
Making the Package Functional
The role of packaging is to secure and support the product during transportation and stacking. But it should also make it easy to unwrap and use the product, without the child throwing a tantrum (once again, a reason to avoid clamshells). The child should be able to easily hold the box, it should not have any sharp edges.
Now, when it comes to the shape of the packaging — usually dictated by the toy inside— think about the reusability of the box. That’s because one part of your consumers will be those who’ll want to stack their toys back into the box when storing them. Think about parents who want to re-gift or store away toys once the child grows. There are also toys like board games, card games that need to be stored in the packaging they are bought in. In these cases, the packaging material should be sturdy and long-lasting.
Displaying the product well is also a “function” that the package offers. Toys are intentionally packaged behind a clear window to display the toy inside and invoke desire. Interactive options such as buttons or speakers are exposed to allow for product demonstration without the need to open the package. Being able to see the actual toy rather than an image, to be able to engage with it before purchase, influences the buying decision.
The “Try me” button in the toy above invokes curiosity in every child (and parent)- “What does this button do?”
Can the packaging be a part of the toy experience? Or can the packaging be a toy itself?
In some cases, the packaging itself can be an interactive and engaging tool. You’ve got action figures, puzzles, DIY cars/animals, that build the toy as part of the packaging.
For action figures or dolls, you could have packaging that could turn into their secret layers or castles. For example, take a look at this interesting packaging can that is the part of the assembly to make the toy.
Boosting Appeal with Relevant Visual Communication
A very important factor to consider when designing packages are the marketing power the package has. You want the packaging to appeal to both parents and children. You want to use the packaging to sell your brand. Great packaging can give your toy a higher value. Adding images that connect with your audience, like a child playing with the toy, a smiling child holding the toy or similar can excite young minds.
The packaging should also be unique to be able to stand out in an extremely competitive toy market. It should communicate with your audience on an emotional level, and boost the desirability of the toy; it should be eye-catching and vibrant. Think about the color and its perceived meaning. You might want to always pick the ever-attractive red- but red can also seem alarming or mean danger, white can be viewed as dull or drab.
Experiment with shapes, but make sure the packaging has enough space to add supporting content (logo, age group of consumer, the functionality of toy, contents, toy rating, brand details).
When it comes to innovation in shape packaging designs featured in R&CW conference can be of great inspiration. Like the Planet O box design that makes the packaging appear as space pods for aliens as toys.
Sometimes simple works too- like a basic rocket shape given to the package by Lego.
If you’ve watched a child unwrap a toy, you’ll have noticed that children are as excited about the box the toy came in as they are about the toy (and in some cases even more so).
But there is a little thing like too much packaging. Biggies like Amazon and Walmart have adopted the “frustration-free packaging” mantra. This involves using less amount of packaging materials to make it easy to unpack and use the eventual product.
You need to think like a child to design the packaging. The age of the child, the functionality of the toy, the branding, all come into effect when creating the final package. You want the child to connect with the box and pick it from that shelf in the toy store, where every other product is your competition.
What about you? What is it that you look at first when you give a glance to toy packaging in a toy store? Let us know in the comments section below!1