Seasonal packaging: worthwhile or costly waste of time?

Seasonal packaging can deliver fantastic returns for results. Just make sure you do it properly. Image credit: malerapaso

By Trent Munro is the Product Manager for Coding Technologies at Matthews Australasia

We’re full swing in the silly season and retail shelves are full of red, green and sparkly gold as seasonal packaging takes over brands’ normal attire.

Sure, aisle after aisle of it certainly draws your attention, but do consumers really want seasonal packaging? And does your brand really need it? And probably most importantly: what happens if your numbers are wrong and your product doesn’t fly off shelves like Rudolph and his cohort?

For some brands, seasonal packaging can deliver fantastic returns, while for others it may be a bigger waste of time, resources and money than snow gear for an Aussie Christmas. Here’s how to work it out for your brand.

To help you work out if seasonal packaging is right for your brand, we’ve set out some pros and cons to weigh up:

PRO: Boost sales with seasonal excitement

Let’s back up a bit from Christmas to Halloween. Many kids love the fun of this event, which has its roots in paganism. While typically seen as “American”, it seems to be an increasingly popular celebration in Australia. Last year, Woolies reported that Halloween-themed-produce sales were increasing year on year. So it’s no great surprise then that brands are using more Halloween-themed packaging to cater for this.

In 2015 for instance, Coca-Cola launched Fanta’s Tastes like Halloween brand campaign to swallow up more of the market. A strong in-store presence was accompanied by “Spookalicious” packaging on selected Fanta Orange and Fanta Lemon Lift packs. The goal was to ensure consumers associated Fanta with Halloween, choosing that as their drink on the occasion.

So the key here is two-fold: create some fanfare around your special-edition packaging, and then create a story around the product that builds on your brand. Mars is brilliant at this with its M&Ms, often leveraging its much-loved characters and popping them in seasonal events.

PRO: Test new concepts

Seasonal packaging can be a cost-effective way to test new concepts. The magic of Christmas makes it a good time to do something a bit special. Ask yourself how far you can stretch the consumer’s imagination and engagement with your brand? Bringing a new product into your range by associating it with a relevant festive event can allow you to draw in new customers — and, hopefully, boost your bottom line.

Going a bit further, you could even change your actual product — say with a flavour twist for the season. A good recent example is Chobani’s limited edition Pumpkin Pie flavour for Halloween. Don’t cannibalise your regular sales, or put off your regular customers: always make sure you “real” products are still available.

CON: Unsold product

Because festive events only occur once a year, overestimating the demand for seasonal packaging can leave you with unsold stock. The result? Those products will be shunted to the discount corner and look like failed, unwanted products to any shoppers walking past. That will also impact negatively on profits.

However, there are several ways to circumvent this. Toblerone uses a seasonal-themed sleeve to slip over normal packaging around Father’s Day and Christmas. Any excess is just the sleeves, so no product is wasted. Another way to cut back on potential unsold stock is to give seasonal packaging a longer “expiry date” — such as using “summer” rather than the one-day “Christmas” event. This works well for beverages (say as “summer drink” packs), but is obviously a different choice to making Christmas your theme.

PRO: Showcase brand personality

Showing a different side to the brand’s personality can also catch attention. Just make sure you don’t leave any important brand values at the door. Putting your brand in the moment with smart packaging can tip consumers in your direction. But lazy or inept designs will have the opposite effect, so go beyond slapping a snowman or reindeer onto packs, use some clever insights and wit to catch consumers’ attention and you can boost the potential of boosting seasonal sales and your brand’s integrity in the long term.

A great example here is Toblerone when it replaced the brand name with ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!’ on its pack. This added some seasonal Christmas flair, but didn’t lose the brand’s recognition. Think it sounds too simple? It was highly effective for the chocolate maker, increasing yearly sales by 400% when it was first printed in 2006.

CON: Confused consumers

But seasonal packaging does have the potential to confuse your customers. Festive times already attract a lot of advertising “noise”, and this can be very distracting and overwhelming for consumers. In the middle of all this, it’s vital to be true to your brand strengths. Yes, try new things but stick to what works — otherwise you risk losing your brand identity and your customers. So make sure your key brand assets (think logo and font for starters), remain consistent. That way your loyal customers can quickly locate your product.


In the fight for consumer spend, clever packaging can be the deciding factor. Eye-catching packaging can be really important at Christmas, but make sure you can afford the fallout should things go wrong as per above. So plan early, stay true to your brand, and the rest should follow. Merry Christmas (Packaging).

 For guidance on coding and labelling technology to mark seasonal packaging, please contact us for a chat or call 1300 CODING (1300 263 464). And don’t forget inspection equipment: now is not the time to lost profits with out-of-spec goods!

Check out Matthews’ great resource library. It has a host of great information that’s all free to download!


* Trent Munro is the Product Manager for Coding Technologies at Matthews Australasia, and an accomplished business strategist, marketing innovator and speaker specialising in business development and optimisation. Over the past 18 years, he has worked across a range of blue-chip and medium enterprises including Goodyear Automotive, Clariant, Corona Manufacturing and Matthews. Trent holds a range of post-graduate and graduate qualifications in Commerce, Psychology, Project Management and Science. At Matthews, he has overseen market development locally and abroad, launching class-leading traceability and automation technologies across manufacturing, healthcare and logistics.