It’s All In How You Package It

rethinking the gift

Part IV- Rethink the Wrapping

Anticipation, n. The feeling of excitement, as if something is just about to happen.   

Used in a sentence:The business went under because there was no plan to build anticipation around the product.  Note- It happens all the time.

It is common for start-ups to put all initial investment into infrastructure, and end up with leftovers for Branding. There. I said it. Note- It happens all the time. We frequently hear, “I only have $X amount left–is there anything that I can do with that?”

Building anticipation for your product is called Branding. Budding Entrepreneurs come in to buy advertising, when they have yet to divine their Branding. It is impossible to create effective advertising without Branding. Oh, you can try. But it is easier to roll down the window and throw your money out.

It is such a common experience in the startup world to run out of cash right before the branding phase, that our company is launching an all-out guerilla war to stop entrepreneurs in their tracks and help them to reverse-engineer their game plan. My job is to help them think like a marketer. See the chart below? Advertising is the little red triangle at the top of the pyramid. Branding is everything else. Branding supports the advertising–not the other way around.


brand pyramid

Branding is not a nicety. It is not an extra thing you do after you start a business and once you get to a certain size. Branding is your entire relationship with the very person who keeps your lights on. Nice. Lights are really nice.

If only entrepreneurs put as much time into creating customer anticipation as they spend crunching numbers! If only they stopped long enough to think about what their customer truly wants. They would not have to be just another pretty face in marketing land. They might find out that no one wants the product as they have planned to make it. They might find out–and in advance of production– that people would like the product much better if they tweaked this one little thing. They could avert the lethal blah blah blah marketing drone. They could spare the whole marketing department the suicidal thoughts that accompany the plastic world of stock photography.

Alas, despite the alarming demise of small business, the great majority of entrepreneurs decide to work on Branding later. They end up looking like a cardboard box.

Diamond Ring in a cardboard box

If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, this is not the way you should present one. The whole experience is totally devoid of anticipation. Anything could be inside a cardboard box. If someone gave you this box, you might even decide to delay opening the package until after work. Even if you told me there was something valuable inside this box, I might not believe you. Because the verbal message is contradictory to the visual message. The packaging totally degrades the contents. I am not engaged. 

My opinion?  Cardboard wrappers surround many languishing businesses. Their branding does not do justice to their product. I once worked with a business with a completely wonderful product. Despite my urging to revamp their marketing, they decided to stay on their old path. Their old school delivery only resonated with an old school audience. That old school audience died off. Literally. The company sold out, and their original investment lost much of its potential and future opportunity for another entrepreneur. Sad.

Everything you do in business is branding. Every customer interaction expresses your brand. Many entrepreneurs market in pajamas. You would never go to a sales call in pajamas because no one would take you seriously. So why do your marketing in your pajamas?

The great news is that you can craft the exact expectation you want your customer to have. How can you build the right anticipation?You can do it by design. It is not marketing mumbo jumbo. It is finding a way to tell a story, and to tell that story in an engaging way about your product and service.

Last week we were thinking out loud about your product–thinking about it as if it were a gift. What if you were to upgrade the outside appearance of your business to match all that it really is inside the box?

Does the wrapping fit the gift?

With the help of a professional designer, you can figure out how to support the right message with the right visuals. Your marketing can create a sense of place, a sense of person, and plan for the customer’s anticipations.  Your marketing department can empower the sales department, making their work ten times easier. Your marketing can return ten times higher yield, all because you have planned to engage the customer!!!!

Engage. v., To occupy the attention or efforts of a person, to attract, to promise, or please.

Used in a sentence: When every competitor is shouting for the customers attention, Branding is the only way to engage your customer.

Branding creates the right wrapping for the right gift.

Big box or little box, rethink the wrapping. Craft the customer’s anticipation and watch the value of your product climb higher and higher. After all, they keep the lights on for you.

Like this article?

Read Part 1- Rethinking the Gift Economy

Read Part II- What Were You Born to Do?

Read Part III- Rethinking Your Product As If You Are Giving A Gift


Why do we at etc!graphics inc, a graphic design company, care about your business strategies?  Because no matter how beautiful we make your visuals, your graphics will never make more sense than the clarity of your own vision. The clearer your target, the more lucid your marketing will be, and the better connection you will create with your visual graphics. We want to help you become the best you can be. Join us all this month as we share ways to help your small business sustain and grow in a crowded marketplace.

Etc!Graphics is devoted to helping you, the small business owner, think like a marketer.