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Many companies use special or limited edition products and packaging as part of their marketing strategy.
Businesses like Starbucks utilize unique holiday cups during the Christmas season, and Nike regularly designs limited edition shoes and packaging that consumers highly covet.
But why are limited edition items so appealing to consumers? Why do limited edition campaigns work?
The answer is quite simple.
Limited edition items create a sense of exclusivity and prestige. These unique items are marketed as only having a limited number produced or being available for a limited time, after which they will no longer be sold.
Because there is a set time limit or a finite number of the limited edition product, consumers feel they need to have it before it is gone.
Scarcity naturally increases the demand and perceived value of items.
Companies tap into this mentality to create a highly sought product by utilizing these principles with unique and select products.
A Limited edition marketing strategy heavily play into the scarcity mentality of human behavior, where items that appear scarce generate more interest and apparent value.
However, offering limited edition products isn’t enough.
When you create limited edition products, you want to differentiate them from the other products you usually offer.
Designing limited edition packaging is also required to do this, but where do you begin?
Like all projects, planning is the first step.
By following the upcoming steps in this article, we hope to give you a solid understanding of all the requirements and planning needed to make your own special edition packaging while offering some tips and examples to help you succeed.
Planning Your Limited Edition Marketing Strategy
Before beginning any design, we must always start with thorough planning and research to maximize the chance of success and reduce the number of hurdles and bumps along the way.
We cannot emphasize enough the need to plan and research before beginning any project, so the first step of creating special edition packaging is:
Understand Your Target Audience
Different things appeal to different people. You cannot change this; no universal limited edition design or strategy will reach and appeal to all demographics.
Therefore, it is essential to know which audience you intend to reach and what is specifically effective at appealing to them.
For special edition products and packaging to be effective, it has to appeal to the audience you are trying to sell to.
So to do this, you need to do your due research!
If your business utilizes social media or a website, go through those analytics to help determine the target audience you should focus your marketing efforts.
Research demographic data points and know which products are popular with your audience and what packaging most effectively appeals to them.
A deep understanding of your audience protects you from overspending on limited edition marketing and will set the foundation for how you plan, design and present your limited edition packaging to the target consumer.
Let’s look back at Nike and their limited edition shoes as an example of understanding a target audience.
Nike has a collection of limited edition Chinese New Year shoes that feature unique designs based on that year’s Chinese zodiac sign. In 2022 the designs were based around the tiger, while in 2023, the designs are now rabbit themed.
These limited edition Chinese New Year shoes show that Nike is culturally conscious of their Chinese demographic and specifically caters to this audience through limited edition products that feature the year’s zodiac animal.
Nike also has special boxes designed around the zodiac animal and Chinese New Year festivities to accompany this limited product.
But while these designs are meant to resonate with Chinese culture, that same effect is lost to people of a different culture.
Yes, these Chinese New Year-themed designs may appeal to collectors and others who find the designs unique, but it is clear that Nike specifically targeted their Chinese demographic when creating the limited edition product and package.
This brings us to the next thing you need to know before designing limited edition packaging.
Stay Current on Packaging Trends
It is not just your audience you need a deep understanding of but also packaging trends.
Like Nike changes its Chinese New Year packaging and product to fit the current Chinese New Year zodiac animal, you must also consider overall industry trends with your limited edition packaging.
Staying current on packaging trends applies to all your packaging, but these trends doubly affect special edition packaging.
Your packaging design has to look current and fresh to attract consumers to your limited edition packaging.
Old, dated, or reused designs will be counterintuitive to the prestige and exclusivity limited edition items should elicit.
Some current packaging trends include:
Sustainable Packaging – Eco-friendly, biodegradable and recyclable packaging is becoming increasingly important for companies to pursue, with more and more consumers championing a healthier planet.
Minimalism – Simple and clean designs are a growing trend. Find a balance between eye-catching colors and graphics, but refrain from overstimulating the consumer with excessive designs.
Smart Packaging – Consider including technology like QR codes and RFID tags on your limited edition packaging.
Vintage Style Designs – As mentioned above, avoid using old or dated designs, but if done and marketed carefully can elicit positive feelings of nostalgia and familiarity.
Multi-Sensory Packaging – Packaging that is not only visually appealing but also caters to the sense of touch or smell can also be utilized to create a unique customer experience.
Localization – Consider packaging tailored for specific regions or cultures. Like Nike with their Chinese New Year collection, think of different cultures and cater to them. Use language, images and colors that resonate with the target cultures.
Reusable Packaging – Like sustainable packaging, reusable packaging is another eco-friendly option. This trend encourages consumers to repurpose or reuse the package instead of throwing it out.
Gender-neutral Packaging – The move away from traditional gender-specific packaging is helping brands appeal to a broader and diverse audience.
However, not only do you need to keep track of the overarching trends in the packaging industry, like the push for increased sustainability and eco-friendliness, but you also need to have precise timing.
When you market and launch your limited edition product, it must match its intended season or holiday.
The last thing you want to do is launch a limited edition item when the season or holiday has already passed.
Doing this will automatically make your product seem like old news and counteracts the feeling of exclusivity and prestige with a limited edition product, so plan your release schedule wisely!
Create a Sense of Urgency
Whether designing the package for a coming holiday or season, building and maintaining a sense of urgency is vital to a successful limited edition run of any product.
We mentioned earlier that the scarcity mentality plays a heavy role in the success of limited edition products and packaging, so lean into that behavior!
Consider adding a countdown timer on your webpage or posting on social media about your limited edition product’s impending arrival and departure.
Inform your customer base that there is only a limited amount of stock available.
Create a buzz around your product and increase the anticipation of your customers for its arrival.
If you collaborate with other brands and artists – more on this later – tell your customers that the collaboration is a “one and done” deal. Once the product is sold out, then there will not be a re-run.
An example of effectively creating a sense of urgency for your limited edition products can be seen in one of Starbucks’ campaigns.
Starbucks once added a visually appealing and social media-worthy unicorn frappuccino to its menu. The catch was that this drink was only available for a few days.
The drink sold out within the first day of the campaign, but the nearly 160,000 social media posts about the unicorn frappuccino speak for themselves!
Starbucks effectively built the buzz around their limited-time product through social media by stating that it was only a few days.
Further demand for this product was added with the unique visual appeal of the beverage and the creative name of a unicorn frappuccino.
We will delve more into the role social media plays with limited edition packaging in the next section, but first, there are a few other tips to consider before then.
Tips for Designing Your Limited Edition Packaging
Now that you’ve done your research and planning, you can now move on to the design of your limited edition packaging.
Like your limited edition product, the packaging must be unique and different from your usual offerings and competitors’ offerings.
As mentioned before, anything that is limited edition should elicit a feeling of prestige and exclusivity. Therefore, the packaging should reflect this and differ from regularly available products and packaging.
Limited edition products and packaging, especially uniquely designed ones, should naturally add value to a product because they become collector’s items.
With collector’s items, the package is just as important as the product.
The consumer commonly preserves a limited edition product inside its packaging to retain or increase its original value, so having a unique package will help create that need to collect your product.
But how do you make effective limited edition packaging?
Let’s look at some tips and examples to help get you started!
Combine Eye-Catching Colors, Graphics and Unique Features
The first tip you should consider is using a combination of colors, graphics and features in combination to catch the consumers’ eye and design unique graphics that have not been seen before.
This does not mean overloading the consumer with a flood of colors and flashy abstract designs but tastefully incorporating these unique ideas into a cohesive image.
Think of the limited edition product you are selling and design your package around it.
Consider starting with a strong brand foundation before branching out, experimenting and exploring the many design options.
Begin by incorporating any key colors, graphic elements, or styles synonymous with your brand.
Ensure that consumers know where the limited edition product is coming from.
Limited edition packaging is more effective when consumers can recognize the brand behind it. After all, a company’s brand plays a big part in increasing the consumers’ perceived prestige and want for limited edition products.
Just think of it this way, people are more likely to spend on limited edition products from recognizable and popular brands than ones they are unfamiliar with.
For example, look again at Nike’s Year of the Rabbit shoes and packaging.
The shoes feature a furry swoosh and an embroidered rabbit on the side, clearly representing 2023’s Chinese New Year zodiac animal.
But the product is further enhanced by the themed package it comes in.
The package tastefully incorporates a unique and eye-catching graphic design in that the entire box also looks like rabbit fur, along with a simple Asian-inspired graphic design of a rabbit on the top of the box.
They do not feature bold colors, but incorporating white text with a unique gray fur box and Asian-inspired rabbit design still attracts attention for its distinctive look and on-theme design.
Also featured on the packaging is Nike’s universally recognized swoosh, but it is not the primary graphic commanding attention from the consumers.
Though Nike featured their signature swoosh so consumers knew their brand was behind the package, the logo was not the primary focus, which leads us to our next tip.
Put The Audience First
Designing limited edition packaging should primarily focus on the consumers.
Yes, consumers need to know the brand behind the product, but that should be secondary for your limited edition packaging strategy.
Consumers do not need to know the complete history of your brand, nor do they need to know your branding claims and product story.
Keep it simple and stick to the key elements of your brand, as mentioned above.
Consider what the customer base wants in a limited edition product instead of cluttering your package with brand marketing.
The unique design of your limited edition package should speak for itself, and this is what limited edition is all about, something your consumers have not seen before!
Get creative with designs and themes. Experiment with your packaging and have fun.
Design your package to make the customer base want to keep and display it.
The ‘afterlife’ of your limited edition packaging is just as important as its first impression.
As mentioned earlier, being collectible is part of the limited edition experience, so reflect that in your packaging!
Collaborate With Other Well-Known Influencers
Considering a collaboration with a famous artist is another way to increase the prestige and exclusivity of your limited edition packaging.
Hiring a famous artist to put a twist on your usual design is a great way to reach a wider audience while also emphasizing how unique your limited edition product and packaging are.
Collaborating with famous artists is mutually beneficial as you can tap into their audience, and they can tap into yours.
In addition to the added reach of collaboration, the exclusivity of your limited edition campaign is further enhanced when a third party is involved. It is not every day that an artist collaborates with a company to create something memorable.
But you don’t have to limit your options to just artists!
Brand and pop-culture collaborations are also common strategies.
An example is when Lego collaborated with Adidas to create something memorable and unique.
The shoes and packaging designed by Lego and Adidas showcased both brands coming together and collaborating to make special edition products that oozed uniqueness and collectibility.
Both brands include their logo on the packaging, but they mashed their styles together to create an unforgettable box.
Featured on the package was a bright blue box resembling a Lego brick and the three white stripes synonymous with Adidas.
However, to add a little extra Lego flare, the Adidas stripes were jagged instead of straight, also resembling Lego bricks!
When did you last see a shoe and package designed with a Lego theme?
Another brand that effectively utilizes collaborations is Surpreme.
Supreme frequently collaborates with different artists, brands and influencers to create unique products in limited quantities.
They are a brand built upon the scarcity model and successfully leans into this by frequently collaborating and creating a sense of anticipation and urgency to purchase the next big thing they make.
Some notable collaborations Supreme has done recently include brands like Burberry, artists like Nate Lowman and fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto.
Supreme is one of the leading examples of how collaborations are effective for limited edition products.
Regardless of who you collaborate with, the extra buzz is bound to happen if you decide to collaborate with an artist or brand!
Packaging for Social Media
Looking back at the previously mentioned Starbucks example, designing your package to look great on social media is another factor you should consider when designing for special edition marketing and packaging.
When special edition packaging is visually appealing and unique, consumers are likelier to post them on social media and further expand your brand’s reach.
Social media is a huge tool for limited edition marketing, and even more so for limited edition products.
Not only should you utilize social media to increase the buzz around the eventual launch of your limited edition products, but you should also design your package around the idea that photos of it will be posted for a broad audience to see.
When potential customers see your package and product posted on social media, it will naturally add to the buzz around the product and make more consumers want to purchase your limited edition offerings.
Don’t Limit Your Limited Edition Packaging
Regardless of your business’s industry, limited edition offerings should always be unique and differ from your usual products.
Limited edition products and packaging allow brands to experiment, play and have fun with their existing customers and new customers while also building their brand’s reputation.
Understand your target audience and cater to their wants, but maintain your brand identity with your packaging. The audience comes first with limited edition packaging, but they should still know where it comes from.
Maintain a strong brand foundation and branch off from there. There is no need to plaster your logo all over the package!
As long as you stay current with packaging trends and build a sense of urgency with your upcoming limited edition product launch, it’ll be hard to get things wrong!
Don’t be afraid to add unique twists and experimentations, like collaborating with unexpected artists and brands.
The name of the game for limited edition marketing is to showcase your company’s creativity, so think outside of the box!