The direct to consumer (D2C) sector has exploded in recent years. The ever-increasing accessibility of technology, alongside new shopping channels such as social media, has made it easy for anyone to start selling online directly to customers. With the rise of D2C has come new thinking about packaging.
D2C is often digital-first which means designers need to focus on how a product looks on a website, rather than a physical shelf, but also that it makes an impact when it arrives at the customer’s home. Packaging is everything for D2C brands because there is often no in-store experience to help sell the products. If storytelling is what makes people buy into products, then that story must be told via the packaging. In turn though, D2C does offer new opportunities for packaging designers to innovate and do something different. D2C products don’t have to fit in with the aesthetic or functionality of other brands in their sector because the only person they have to appeal to is the customer.
With that in mind, here are 10 inspirational product packaging designs from D2C brands.
- Magic Spoon
Magic Spoon launched in 2018 with an aim of creating a healthy cereal for adults that played on the nostalgia of brightly coloured children’s cereals. Its products are high in protein, low in sugar and have no artificial sweeteners. They also don’t contain gluten, grains, wheat or any GMO ingredients. While there are existing ‘healthy’ cereals marketed at adults, the contents and packaging are largely quite bland. This is in complete contrast to children’s cereals which use fun graphics and colours to draw attention.
With Magic Spoon launching as a D2C home delivery brand, the company didn’t have passive supermarket shoppers to rely on. As a result, it created a fun, vibrant packaging identity that would catch people’s attention. This isn’t just in terms of getting the customer to initially buy the cereal. Magic Spoon recognised that you have to keep customers interested in your product if you want them to keep buying it. A bright packaging design stands out in the cupboard and makes customers want to reach for it again and again.
- Dirty Lemon
Since launching in 2015, Dirty Lemon has pioneered a new approach to D2C retail. It sells a range of lemon-based drinks that combine with other ingredients to offer health benefits such as help with digestion, increased hydration and anti-aging.
While the company does operate a website, the majority of Dirty Lemon products are ordered via text messaging. Once customers have registered for an account, they can simply text Dirty Lemon whenever they want to order, and payment is taken automatically. As well as its unique ordering system, Dirty Lemon also sets itself apart from other drinks offerings with its bold packaging designs. Each flavour comes in a different colour bottle with Dirty Lemon also using simple stripes and graphics to distinguish between varieties. The branding and product details appear at a relatively small scale with the colour doing most of the talking for the brand. The design makes Dirty Lemon’s products instantly recognisable which is important for D2C brands looking to build an identity. They’re not only appealing for customers to have in their home, but also to photograph and share on social media which helps to boost Dirty Lemon’s reach.
- United Sodas of America
Another D2C beverage brand shaking up the drinks market is United Sodas of America. It offers a range of naturally flavoured sodas which have no artificial sweeteners and are low in calories. United Sodas also focuses on colour to distinguish its sodas among competitors. While most soda can designs prominently place the brand name and logo, United Sodas takes a very minimalist approach. Each flavour uses just one colour on the can making it easy to identify what it is at a glance. The matte finish gives the product a premium feel over the typical shiny soda can design. While the individual can colours are impactful on their own, United Sodas has also recognised that grouping them together by colour or theme increases this impact.
The rainbow box, which includes all 12 flavours on offer, looks more like an artist’s palette than a selection of drinks which helps to entice potential shoppers. It’s also perfect for photographing and sharing online which gives United Sodas free additional marketing.
- Who Gives A Crap
Who Gives A Crap is a D2C toilet paper brand born out of a desire to give back. The company donates 50% of its profits to fund the building of toilets and sanitation projects around the world. It also focuses on sustainability in its products, which include toilet rolls, tissues and paper towels, including using recycled materials.
Its ethos of doing things differently is reflected in its packaging. Most toilet paper comes wrapped in plastic to protect it during transportation and on supermarket shelves. Because Who Gives A Crap is delivering directly to the customer, it wraps its rolls individually in paper, which allows it to play with colour and fun graphics. While toilet paper is a product that traditionally would be shut away out of sight, Who Gives A Crap has turned it into something that people are happy to have on display. The brand has transformed a necessity product into something customers enjoy purchasing and using.
Glossier is one of the best known D2C beauty companies in the world. The brand was born out of a successful beauty blog and as such focused heavily on community. It’s this close connection and knowledge of its customer base that has helped turn Glossier into a billion-dollar company. The company has developed its own unique aesthetic among the beauty world with a heavy focus on a ‘millennial’ pink colour scheme. But it’s not just the individual product packaging that Glossier approached in a new way.
Whether the products are bought in one of Glossier’s stores or pop-ups, or ordered online for delivery, the order comes packaged in one of Glossier’s signature pink bubble wrap pouches. The simple design uses a resealable zip closure to keep everything together and the bubble wrap helps to ensure the products are protected. What’s more, the pouches are aesthetically pleasing and useful enough for customers to want to keep them and use them again when travelling or for storage. They’re also highly recognisable as belonging to the brand which turns these reusable pouches into an ongoing marketing opportunity.
Founded in 2017, Billie started life as a brand reinventing women’s shaving. Following in the footsteps of successful D2C shaving brands like Dollar Shave Club, Billie offers a female-focused shaving subscription service that combines minimalist design and a modern colour scheme.
As well as razors, the company has branched out into a range of beauty and body products. All of them follow the same design template which puts the brand’s name first. By using a plain white background, Billie is able to make a recognisable brand statement without a lot of fussy details. The design is also careful to not be over gendered and would tie in well to most bathroom colour schemes.
Billie also offers inspiration for brands looking to offer gift sets without the need for additional packaging. Its gift sets are packaged in simple, coloured paper bags that close without the need for any tape. Although the Billie brand name is featured, it’s a simple embossed design in the same colour as the rest of the packaging. This means it doesn’t overly stand out on first glance, which reduces the chance of spoiling the surprise of what’s inside and makes it less likely that a gift giver would feel the need to put another layer of wrapping over the top.
- Ritual Vitamins
Ritual Vitamins is working to shake up the huge global multivitamin market with an approach focused on transparency. The company offers a range of targeted multivitamins and supplements that are clinically backed and made using traceable ingredients. Its commitment to transparency around what’s inside each vitamin has led to an innovative new see-through capsule design that lets customers see what they are taking.
This approach has also carried over to Ritual Vitamin’s packaging design. While multivitamins typically come in opaque plastic bottles, Ritual has opted for a clear design that lets the customer see the capsules inside. It not only makes it easy for customers to see when they are running low but by being able to see their vitamin it serves as a visual reminder to take it each day. The design also serves to make the contents the focus rather than the packaging itself. This recognises the importance of knowing what is going into our bodies and positions Ritual as a company that doesn’t hide that away from the customer. The vitamins are delivered to the door in a cardboard box that, again, puts the bottle front and centre once opened.
Haus is a US-based D2C alcoholic aperitif brand. It sells an array of different flavoured aperitifs that draw from fruits, spices and herbs. The company takes a minimalist approach to its packaging design, but with great impact. Each bottle simply features the Haus brand name in big letters on a white background.
The colour choices for the lettering are muted, sophisticated tones in recognition of the fact that unlike wine, the aperitif is likely to be drunk over a number of sittings. As such, Haus has worked to craft something that customers will be happy to have sitting on a shelf or the side. The uniform design also lends itself to multiple bottles being placed alongside each other. No matter what flavours the customer chooses, each bottle will complement the others alongside it. The Haus brand name can also be spelt out by placing four bottles next to each other thanks to the layout of the lettering on each bottle. Haus slightly deviates from this design style for its mini sampler bottles opting for a transparent glass rather than the solid white of the larger bottles. This is a smart decision as it allows new shoppers to see what the contents looks like, which can help increase conversions by overcoming concerns about the unknown.
- Care/of vitamins
Care/of is a D2C vitamin and supplement brand that helps customers find a personalised mix of vitamins based on their goals and lifestyle. Customers can fill in a quick online survey to receive personalised recommendations. There are over a million different combinations that Care/of’s algorithm can create depending on the responses of the customer.
The personalised mix is then shipped to the customer’s home every month. The packaging is designed to reflect this monthly cycle. Each day’s allocation of vitamins comes in an individual paper sachet. These are personalised with the customer’s name to reiterate that the contents have been tailored just for them. All of the sachets are contained in a slim cardboard box with an opening at the bottom. This allows a sachet to be easily removed each day and another to drop down to replace it. The box has an attractive, understated terrazzo design with the only Care/of branding a simple C/O on the front. Given that customers have to live with the packaging for as much as 31 days at a time, concentrating on looks over the brand name makes it more likely that the box will be kept somewhere visible.
- Wavey Ice
Ice pops are associated with children, but D2C brand Wavey Ice has reinvented them for adults. Its ice pops include alcohol making them a convenient alternative to frozen cocktails during warm weather.
The packaging is a homage to the retro designs of traditional ice pops through the choice of fonts and graphics. It sparks a sense of nostalgia in the customer, but it also shows how D2C brands can use traditional design cues to reassure customers when buying from a new brand. Customers can instantly recognise and understand what Wavey Ice’s products are. It’s by using this familiar design language that Wavey Ice can then easily add its twist – the addition of alcohol – and keep the communication clear.
By Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at Insider Trends