• Transform magazine
  • May 26, 2024

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How to stand out amongst seasonal sameness in Southeast Asia

Rachel Barton Design Bridge

Rachel Barton, senior strategist at Design Bridge Singapore, advises on what counts as effective seasonal packaging. With brands quick to throw away their distinctive assets at this time of year, she believes they are all destined for sameness.

‘Tis the season when festive packaging takes over the physical and virtual shelves, creating a wallpaper of red and gold in almost every category. A cheerful time for consumers and marketeers alike, with the hope of good fortune. If done well, it can be one of the most effective marketing tools to generate sales, awareness and recruitment, at times of the year when consumer spend is at its highest.

Gifting occasions are abundant in the SEA region. From Tet to Mother’s Day. From Chinese New Year to Valentine’s Day. From Christmas to Ramadan. Each representing a wealth of opportunity for brands. The pandemic only fuelled the behaviour with consumers wanting to connect from afar, unwilling to compromise on their festive celebrations. Unlike in western markets where gifting is typically seen in treat like categories such as chocolate and alcohol, in southeast Asia, gifting can extend to functional items such as personal care, as well as more symbolic gifts such as fruit.  

Regardless of category, the rules of good seasonal gift packaging still apply. Make it meaningful, memorable and distinctive.

Firstly, meaningfully connect with the occasion and the consumer emotions. Carefully considering the role your brand and product can play in the moment. This can be a great time to put your purpose and personality into action to create deeper consumer connections.

Next, make it memorable. These short-term packaging designs can be a low-risk way to create impact with well spent investment. Brands should go beyond typical and often wasteful ways to add value and think about how they can create a truly engaging opening experience through sustainable materials, sounds, rituals, messages and digital content. The experience should not be limited by the bounds of the box and should extend across touchpoints, activations and digital content to create a lasting impact. Look to Cadbury and their Celebrations gift box in India, that combines distinctive festive patterns with personalized messages through a QR code. 

Lastly, and most importantly, everything you do must be distinctive. Brands all too easily overlook their distinctive assets when wanting to tell a festive story, believing that using semiotic codes of the festival is the most meaningful way to connect with the audience. However, this approach results in an unnavigable sea of sameness for the consumer. We say, be proud of your brand. Use your distinctive assets to tell stories of how your brand and cultural moments meet. You can see this in action in the award-winning Singleton Chinese New Year gift packaging that uses its distinctive teal and recognizable salmon to tell a story of migration home.

Remember, festive celebrations can be fleeting, but the best gifts are not. Use these principles to consider how you can make a lasting and distinctive impression with your next seasonal limited-edition packaging.