Brand Translation – Packaging Design Differences Between China and the West

Is a product still the same without its packaging? As the saying goes – looks matter, and without a properly designed package a product is hard to sell regardless of how good its other attributes might be. Indeed, packaging design represents what the brand stands for as much as other elements of the brand visual identity do, and in certain cases the packaging is almost as important as the product itself. After all, what would Coca Cola be without its famous bottle?

In China, as in other markets, packaging design does not only have the function of protecting the product and explaining its attributes and benefits, but it also has the role of appealing to consumers. Studies show that buyers generally decide what to buy at the point of sale . In order to successfully help sell the product, the package needs to differentiate and characterize the product and ultimately product package design to become part of the product experience.

But how can the packaging help the brand engage and attract Chinese consumers? What are the factors to take into consideration to design a truly distinctive packaging for the Chinese market?

In this article Labbrand looks at the impact packaging design has on the businesses operating in China and, in particular, at the issues product brand managers need to consider before falling in the “cultural trap” and developing a package that overlooks at the differences between China and Western markets.
We will look at the components of packaging design in the order a customer may perceive them: colour; label and typeface; images, patterns and shapes; and material.

1. Colour Choice

Selecting the right colour palette for the packaging has a great deal to do with the ultimate success or failure of a product brand. In fact, colour plays an important role in a consumer’s purchase decision . People use a little more than a minute to make up their minds about a product they see for the first time, and a big part of this judgment is based on colours alone. So, clever use of colours in packaging design can contribute not only to differentiate the product from competitors, but also to influence moods and feelings and ultimately attitudes towards a certain product .

“All of us have involuntary physiological and psychological responses to the colours we see,” according to the Chicago-based Institute for Colour Research, a group that collects information on the human response to colour and then sells it to industry. “Colour…impacts our appetite, sexual behaviour, business life and leisure time,” says Eric Johnson, the institute’s head of research studies.

In fact, the same colour may be perceived very differently in different cultures. For example, green enjoys no popularity in Japan, France, or Belgium, while it can be frequently seen on the packaging designed for Turkish and Austrian consumers. People from Islamic cultures react negatively to yellow because it symbolizes death but like green as this is believed to help fight off diseases and evil. Europeans associate black with mourning and tend to prefer red, grey, green and blue. In the Netherlands, orange is the national colour and therefore can be used to arouse nationalistic feelings .

Colours have a strong significance in Chinese culture as well. Yellow, as the colour that was only for the emperor to wear, and red, as symbol for happiness and good luck, are both very powerful colours for designing product packaging for this country market. However, this does not apply to every product category: Chinese consumers generally find appealing these bright and shiny colours for food products but tend to prefer white and pastel colours for personal care and household items.


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