Why Your Business Shouldn’t Skimp on Retail Packaging

Branded bags turn customers into advertisers. And they don't cost as much as you might think.
Ditch plain brown bags for customized ones and turn every customer into an advertiser. (Photo: Nan Palmero/Flickr)

Save the plain brown bags for your lunch; promoting your business with custom retail packaging, including bags, is a branding opportunity you shouldn’t miss.

“Put guerrilla marketing in the hands of the customers, literally,” advised Mitch Dowell, founder and creative director of marketing and branding company Branding Experiences in Point of Rocks, Maryland.

“Let them do some advertising for you as they walk out of your business and beyond.”


“Over-marketing on packaging will reek of desperation to the consumers.” -Lisa Chu (Photo: Lisa Chu)

Branded packaging sends a subliminal message to consumers that the business cares about the little details, said Lisa Chu, owner of Black N Bianco Kids Apparel in El Monte, California. Plain packaging, on the other hand, may give off an inauthentic or cheap vibe, even if the product inside came with a hefty price tag.

Branded bags can particularly help to build brand awareness when attending industry trade shows and special events, noted Madeline Johnson, a marketing, PR and digital content strategist in New York City and creator of the course The PR Playbook. “Here you have ‘high-quality attention’ or low hanging fruit.”

6 ways to get your packaging right

Follow these tips, and effective store branding will be in the bag.

Choose a bag that reflects your business. The bags should be sturdy enough to hold the products and remain intact for future use, of course. But also think about how the bag represents your business and perhaps the values it stands for, said Dowell.

“For example, a natural food store might go for a sturdier, eco-friendly recyclable bag,” he said. “A retailer that sells high-priced items like jewelry might instead go for bags that have a certain sophisticated look and weight to them.”


Branded stickers are trending for businesses says Madeline Johnson, a marketing, PR and digital content strategist. (Photo: Madeline Johnson)

Get the size right. Regardless of the design, the bag shouldn’t be too small, noted Johnson. “Make sure it’s big enough for people to reuse for books, community, shopping, etc.” The more they reuse the bag, the better for you.

Less branding is more. Stick with a logo and website address, recommended Dowell. If you have a social media handle you want to share, use it on promotional pieces that go inside the bags. “Over-marketing on packaging will reek of desperation to the consumers,” noted Chu.

Work with design pros. When designing the artwork for the bag, work with a trusted graphic designer and send the highest resolution files, said Johnson. She also recommended getting samples before making any agreement with the manufacturer, and another sample post-production before a large run to check the print quality.

Shop around for the best price. Small business owners can find reasonably priced bags as long as they do their research. “A simple one- or two-color imprint is often not as cost-prohibitive as many small businesses might think,” said Dowell.

Chu agreed. “If you purchased them by the thousands, it will shock you how inexpensive they can be.”

Consider stickers. Not convinced you should spring for custom bags? Johnson sees a trend toward branded stickers as standalone promo items. She said customers could put them on their laptops. Or you could put them on generic shopping bags to customize them.

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