When we think about seasonal packaging, it’s always Christmas that springs to mind. It’s the biggest retail event of the year, and so the time when many brands invest in a new look to attract customers. But there are many other opportunities during the year for a packaging revamp!

Depending on your product range, smaller holidays might have greater relevance to your brand. Seasonal packaging refreshes elsewhere in the year are also less common. This presents a chance for small businesses to really stand out from the crowd!

Difficulties for small businesses

For small businesses, there has long been a barrier to seasonal packaging: high minimum order quantities. Whether you are brick and mortar boutique or an online vendor, what you need are much smaller runs of packaging than normal. Yet many packaging companies have minimum runs of 1000+ units. When the season in question might only run for a couple of weeks, this just isn’t feasible.

Any holiday period reaches a saturation point with customers. Continuing with outdated seasonal packaging can make your brand look out of touch. For example, a brand who is still using snowflake-patterned packaging in January is committing a serious retail faux pas! Your customers are far more likely to be thinking about the next holiday around the corner: Valentine's Day. No customer is going to be happy with the wrong seasonal packaging! Most likely, you'll be stuck with a pile of unused packaging that you cannot use…until next year.

This is where custom packaging comes in. Custom packaging companies allow for smaller runs, which is much more cost-effective for businesses. This allows you to incorporate your brand's personality into your design, without the waste or breaking the bank! Why does seasonal packaging matter?

Packaging has become a really important tool for brand storytelling. So, a seasonal refresh is the perfect opportunity to put your own unique spin on retail holidays. These are the moments in the calendar where every brand is grappling for consumers’ attention, and competition is fierce. For small businesses, it can feel difficult to stand out from the crowd. Seasonal packaging shows your customer that your brand is dynamic and changes with the times – which is very important in an industry so subject to the latest trends!

Valentine’s day
As the first holiday after Christmas, it's quite refreshing for customers to see a different color palette! It’s all that red and pink that sparks the most recognition in customers. It’s important however to let your brand’s personality shine through in your design. Otherwise, it’s very easy to get lost in the crowd. This custom tissue design by our customer Have A Nice Day captures the romantic feel of the holiday, whilst staying true to their quirky and fun aesthetic.

Industries well-suited to this holiday: We all know that florists and confectionary brands make a killing! But they aren’t the only ones that Valentine’s Day packaging works well for. Brands who sell any kind of gift merchandise can leverage the gift-buying for significant others that marks the holiday. Boutique stationery brands with unique Valentine's Day cards are also in high demand. It’s worth curating a ‘Gifts for Him/Her’ out of your existing product range to complement your packaging design!

Halloween usually means a commercial takeover of ghosts and spiders on product packaging. This is generally aimed at younger audiences. But we are starting to see approaches to the holiday that cater to a grown-up market. This excellent design is from our customer 1820 House. Their custom tissue combines two seasonal concepts: Fall and Halloween. The foliage with anatomical elements gives the design a spooky twist without dominating it, creating a very unique approach to the holiday.

Industries well-suited to this holiday: Although Halloween is quite a niche consumer event, it’s not only brands that sell candy or costumes that can benefit. Leveraging broader seasonal trends like 1820 House allows you to make a statement which isn't bound specifically to a 'spooky' theme. Lifestyle offerings such as beauty and home decor can channel a more sophisticated approach to Halloween by playing off these seasonal associations (think pumpkin-themed!)

Naturally, we cannot miss this one off the list! If you are going to invest in seasonal packaging at any time of the year, this would be it. You will definitely need higher volumes of this particular seasonal design. For one, you have a much longer window for when it’s in use. Also, as the biggest holiday season, it's likely your busiest time of year. In terms of design, it’s time to pull out all the stops; people want to be wowed by the packaging of their gift, and this is critical to a great unboxing experience.

To exceed expectations, consider something a little outside the traditional Christmas imagery. This is what will make your brand memorable to consumers. This minimalist tissue design by der kleine salon doesn’t use a Christmas color palette, but still has a festive feel that makes it very eye-catching. Their festive greetings inserts are also a great personal touch!

Industries well-suited to this holiday: All of them!

The (actual) seasons
It’s easy to overlook that the traditional seasons offer a lot of packaging inspiration. This is one of the most cost-effective options for small businesses, as designs will remain relevant for much longer. Try to think about the imagery that is most associated with a particular season, and which is most in tune with your brand. The above design by our customer Temple and Co, for example, both evokes the spring and its natural beauty product offerings through the fresh leaf print.

Industries well-suited to this holiday: Brands which have seasonal product selections can make the most of this packaging. Fashion, for example, traditionally has collections which change with the season. However, it’s also a great option for more modern eCommerce industries. Product presentation is incredibly important to subscription box serviceswho put a lot of emphasis on customer experience. Putting a seasonal twist on your presentation is a great way to keep your offerings fresh and exciting!
Top tips for seasonal packaging:

1. Reflect your own aesthetic

If we look at some of the biggest seasonal packaging ‘fails’ in recent years, there’s a pretty consistent theme that emerges:
Rebranding their cans white for the 2011 Christmas season backfired pretty dramatically for Coca-Cola. Many customers got this seasonal redesign mixed up with the regular Diet Coke because of the color choice. Due to customer complaints, they ended up pulling the design two months early.
In 2015, there was an uproar when Starbucks unveiled their annual holiday cup redesign. The plain red was an effort at the minimalist trend, avoiding the more traditional Christmas designs they had used in the past. But this was criticized as ‘boring’ by disappointed customers, who were expecting a livelier design.

These brands, in their efforts to do something ‘different’, ended up straying too far from the style that their customers associate them with. This led to confusion amongst customers, and in some cases frustration, which resulted in lost sales and wasted packaging. So, it’s vital that your seasonal design reflects the aesthetic that your customers are used to.

2. Have a strategy for promoting your packaging

So, you’ve have chosen your design. That’s a job done, right? Not quite. If you want to make the most of this investment, your packaging should be part of a broader seasonal marketing strategy. Packaging is a sophisticated marketing tool, and a perfect match for today’s mostly online retail environment. You can make a strong statement with your design if it’s part of some bigger brand storytelling.

For example, a summer-themed packaging redesign is a perfect complement to seasonal product promotion. Your packaging can tie in with exclusives on items which are likely to be in demand at that time of year. Putting together some flatlays of your seasonal packaging and products also makes for a powerful social media marketing campaign. If you have an on-site blog, running some seasonal content is highly beneficial for SEO purposes to leverage that increased seasonal traffic.

In sum, it’s important to know what you want your seasonal packaging refresh to achieve. Is it brand awareness? A sales promotion? A bigger focus on customer experience? This will help to dictate the rest of your seasonal strategy.

3. Seasonal packaging on a budget

If you can’t afford a total packaging revamp for each holiday, this doesn’t mean missing out on seasonal opportunities entirely! There are still many things you can do to give your packaging a seasonal twist.

If commissioning new boxes and wrapping is beyond your budget, there are smaller packaging accessories that you can still utilize. Custom stickers with a seasonal motif can really jazz up a simpler packaging design, and are a fraction of the cost of containers. Patterned ribbon or washi tape with seasonal designs is also very easy to source through sites like Amazon. This is a good tactic, especially for one-day holidays. Investing in some heart-patterned ribbon for Valentine’s Day will hardly break the bank, and will still give your products a lovely seasonal touch.

4. Focus on local symbolism

As a small business, you have a massive advantage in this area! Big brands need to be global in their appeal, so their seasonal designs are fairly generic. You have the ability to tailor your design to a very specific audience. This could be country-wide or regional if you are a local business. Channeling a ‘local’ approach helps make you more trustworthy to consumers. It says that you are ‘one of them’ rather than an anonymous corporate giant.
New Zealand brand Cookie Time is well-loved across the country. Their sharing buckets are a big tradition at Christmas, which in New Zealand is also the summer season. Traditional winter symbolism therefore isn't a good fit for their seasonal packaging design. It wouldn’t resonate with any of the ways that their customers are likely to enjoy their product.

Their design features a native New Zealand tree which flowers during December, so it's seen culturally as an alternative 'Christmas tree'. By channeling the ‘local’ experience of Christmas, this feels much more relevant to consumers. This also gives the brand a much longer-lasting ‘summer’ design they can use elsewhere in their marketing The Wrap Up:

Seasonal packaging can be a brilliant marketing strategy for any brand. The secret to success is choosing holidays which resonate best with your brand’s offerings. If you are going custom with your packaging to take advantage of small order sizes, make sure you choose a unique design that helps you to stand out. If you combine your packaging refresh with a wider seasonal strategy, you can really amp up your sales figures and spread the word about your brand!