How Your Packaging Can Tell a Story

If you think back to your most cherished toys from childhood — it’s likely the toy was a character from your favourite film or storybook.  It’s likely your favourite toy was a character like a lion called Simba, or a superhero with a black cape called Batman or a red-headed doll named Ariel the Mermaid.

In 2016, licensed merchandise sales hit a whopping $262.9 billion and for a good reason. The best-selling toys, merchandise, and clothing often have a strong story behind them. Your product doesn’t need a blockbuster franchise behind it to sell, but like movie merchandise, your products could benefit from being a part of a memorable story.

Weaving a story into your product’s marketing efforts is nothing new, but it’s risen in popularity recently through a new field called content marketing.

Marketers are pushing out blogs, podcasts, and videos that aim to educate and inspire their consumers. So far content marketing efforts have been highly successful when executed correctly. According to a recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, ‘76% of B2C marketers have made content marketing an integral part of their strategies’. However, smart marketers take content marketing to the next level by applying best content marketing practices to their product’s packaging.

Those who grew up eating Wheaties at breakfast spent their childhood consuming some of the earliest forms of content marketing packaging— the stories of athletes such as Michael Jordan on the cereal box. Similarly, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes featured stories of Tony the tiger and his adventures.

Millennials, who grew up following the adventures of Tony the tiger on the back of cereal boxes are now one of the biggest demographics.  There are around 75.4 million millennials in the U.S. according to Pew Research. Millennials are gaining more purchasing power which means companies who fail to connect with millennials will be left behind.

Millennials value crave an authentic connection to a brand— such as a behind the scenes fashion show, or a look at the lab where their favourite lipstick is created. Digital content marketing has resonated with millennials. Now it is time to shift some of those principles offline by using content marketing principles on your packaging.

Tips to incorporate content marketing into your next packaging design

Include a compelling call to action (CTA).


Perhaps the CTA is to watch a video on your company’s website that continues the story on the packaging or a call to scan the packaging with a smartphone to read more and receive an exclusive offer. Recently Kashi cereal boxes featured the stories of the farmers who grow the grains for their cereal. The end of the story featured a call to learn more about the farmer through a video on Kashi’s website. Pick a call to action that is organic and gives consumers a value-add. Ultimately, strong content marketing drives actions.

Give the consumer an insider look at how your product is created to create an authentic connection.

Another learning from Kashi’s successful new story-centric packaging is that consumers love learning. “We got rid of all of the other things on the box that are category generics and highlighted what’s most ownable to Kashi—the food they’re providing and the people who create it,” said Tosh Hall, executive creative director at Jones Knowles Ritchie, the design agency for the Kashi packaging. People feel better about the product being able to put a face to the name. In the clothing industry, the same philosophy applies — take the time to tell the story behind the designers of your apparel. Perhaps the dress you sell was created with fine silk because the designer’s grandmother was a seamstress who used only quality materials from France. Or perhaps the designer uses vegan leather to create shoes because of her love for the animals. Whatever your brand’s story is, use the product’s packaging as an opportunity to give people insights on the history of your products.


Balance your company’s core messaging with writing that is human and engaging.


It is important to make sure the story’s messaging stays “on brand,” but good content marketing shouldn’t come off as an aggressive sales tactic. It should first aim to educate and entertain customers. Aim to have your story contain a “human interest” aspect — aim to tell the story from the point of view of a human character.