Kiana: Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s episode! Today we are going to be talking all about packaging in the lead up to the holidays and to help us prep for this, we have a very special guest on the show today; Kelley Kempel. Kelley is a packaging guru, designer, and adventurer. In her graphic design studio, Hidden Path Creative, she helps small businesses with logos, branding, and product packaging. Showing others the path to creating recognizable and meaningful brands is one of Kelley’s big loves.
I’ve known Kelley for the past year now, and she’s done amazing workshops for our maker community in Happening Hands, and also collaborated with me this year on creating an amazing Brand Strategy Workbook for makers that you can find in our membership portal and in our shop, which I’ll talk more about at the end.
So without further ado, a big welcome to Kelley! Thank you so much for being here.
Kelley: Thank you so much for having me Kiana. I’m really excited to chat with you all about packaging.
Kiana: Awesome! So I’d love to first know a little bit more about your journey to becoming a branding specialist. How did that all go down?
Kelley: Sure. I mean, I was one of those kids that was in the art room growing up, creating things, loved drawing. So I wound up, I went to college for graphic design, and what definitely drew me to that was like, having a structure and creating within the structure.
So, yeah. While I was in college, I found packaging design and that was really, that was kind of an unlock for me, like, okay. I really love this. I love taking those graphics, turning them into this three dimensional object, something that people interact with every day. And so I knew that I wanted to go down that branding and packaging route after school.
And I found an opportunity to join a retailer in house right out of school and joined a really small team. And was able to help, you know, build some private brands and private brand packaging for that retailer and grow my career from there.
Kiana: That’s awesome.
Kelley: Yeah. Yeah. It’s been a really fun journey though. Moving from in-house at a retailer to running my own business and taking what I’ve learned, works for bigger brands and sharing it with small and medium sized businesses.
Kiana: I love that. So I recently saw a post that you did, where you showed some of the visual inspiration behind your own logo. Which just threw me for a loop for a second, cause I was like, you had to brand your branding business. And so I’d love to hear about the creative process behind branding, your own branding business.
Kelley: Sure. You know, a lot of times doing like your own personal branding or your own business branding can be the most challenging. You know, for myself, I tried to just lean into the same process that I take all of my clients through.
Which was really getting clear on who I was and what, what I wanted to offer and what types of feelings I wanted my clients to connect with when they saw my branding. And when I came up for the name for my business, Hidden Path Creative, I knew I wanted to incorporate some of those outdoorsy elements into my brand without being an overtly outdoorsy brand, because I knew I wanted to have that sensibility to it, but I didn’t want my clients to think that I only work with outdoorsy brands.
Because I work with, you know, all sorts of different brands. And I think the post that you’re referencing was actually, I love taking photos of like signs and different graphics when I’m traveling. And a couple years ago I went to Centennial, Wyoming for the first time with my now husband.
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We were dating then. And his, family’s vacationed out there. He’s gone out there every other year like since he was a teenager, but it was my first time out there. And it’s National Forest land, really rugged, lots of really neat old wooden signs.\
But one of the campgrounds near where we stayed had this really beautiful “no camping” sign, I looked at the sign and, well, I know why everyone wants to camp here, because it’s such a gorgeous view. And then the sign looks beautiful, but it’s still telling me not to anyway. It just had a really unique shape. It had a beautiful script on it and I took the idea of the shape and the script and created a logo for myself that was inspired by this really beautiful sign.
And for me, I always like to find that authentic thing that I can design from and create meaning from when I’m creating a brand. So, you know, if I’m designing something that I want to feel a little outdoorsy, I’m gonna pull inspiration, that feels that way and take ideas from it.
So it still feels familiar.
Kiana: I love that story because it reminds all of us that branding doesn’t have to be super complicated, you know, the ideas and the inspiration can come from something that simple or, you know, something that you just happen upon in your everyday life.
And I just love that, and I love your business name because there’s a little bit of mystery to it. Like Hidden Path Creative. I’m like, oh, what am I gonna find on this path? Like, honestly, I love it.
Kelley: Thank you!
Kiana: So I know we’re close to the end of summer and it seems crazy to be talking about the holidays, but it really is an important time for.
Makers and product based businesses to be thinking about how to take advantage of holiday sales. Now, what I’d love to know is how can branding and packaging help product based business crush, their sales goals?
Kelley: Oh, man, I love talking about this topic because holiday packaging is one of the things that brands can have the most fun with, and can have such a big impact for their sales. And I think that not everybody takes advantage of it. But when you think about product packaging and gifts, like so many people buy products and then wrap them up as gifts to, you know, to give them. And so there’s so much inspiration in that.
And there’s also so many cues where you can incorporate those ideas into your product packaging, to visually tell a customer that your product is a great gift.
So you have things in your line all year long, but just by changing a little bit of how they’re positioned on the shelf on your table, on your website, by adding something to the packaging or changing the packaging just for holiday, shows the customer that, “Hey, wait, wait a minute. This is actually a great gift.” And “wait, this reminds me there’s somebody that I could buy this for.” So I find it’s really about using that packaging to queue that, and it can be really simple.
It can be anything, like adding a bow with a to-from hang tag, in your same brand colors. Because just like how people want to always answer a question, when you put a two from tag, people always wanna write on it, and they immediately look at that and go, “oh, who could I, who could I add to, like, who would I give this to?”
And then that gives you the opportunity to make a sale. That’s just one way to add something to your packaging that you already have. You can also add some sort of like sleeve with a wrapping paper, like a design that gives the idea that something is a gift. And it also, it creates a little bit of urgency, because when you put something in holiday packaging, it’s more of a limited edition. That holiday packaging is only going to be available for a short period of time. And it really just gets those gears turning for the customers, of like, “Oh, wait, I know I have people on my list that I need to buy for, does this fit in?”
Kiana: I could imagine even having like an email that goes out that like, shows photos of your product, packaging, your giftable packaging, and has that sense of urgency where it’s like, “Hey, I have giftable packaging available for X amount of time, order before this date, so that you can get the special packaging that you can gift our product to your friends and family.” I could imagine that would go over really well.
Kelley: Exactly. I mean, and, and it really does like, you know, that was one of the things that I learned working in retail every year, and because it was bigger retail, even earlier than this, we’d be picking out which products did we want to try and put in giftable packaging and how did we want to adjust the packaging?
So, depending on the type of product, you’re right, like take a photo and put it in your email blast or put it on your website. And then that special packaging becomes as much of a selling point as a feature about the product itself.
Kiana: Definitely. That’s amazing. Thank you!
So I have an art business and I know that I’m personally always looking for ways to save money on packaging, because it can get super expensive, really fast, especially if I’m buying packaging for multiple different sized products. And I’m just wondering what are some ways that product based businesses can save money on holiday packaging and maybe help it go a little bit farther.
Kelley: Sure. I mean, first thing is, is work with what you already have. So, let’s say your item comes in a box. You don’t have to print a specialty box just for holidays. You could, but that’s probably gonna be a shorter run, which yeah, the, the lower, the quantity, the higher the cost.
So think about what can you add to it. Can you add like just a belly band wrap that wraps around it, that’s one side printed? There are a couple great vendors that do wraps like that. No Issue is one of them, or, you know, a lot of times just adding a ribbon or adding a tag says to customers that, “Hey, this is a gift.”
But also shop around. When I’m working with clients and helping them find suppliers to print their packaging, I always get at least three quotes on the same item. I know sometimes it’s easy just to go to like whoever you usually go to, or you know, somebody that you know, but it’s always good every once in a while, especially if you’ve been ordering the same thing over and over, to requote it with three separate suppliers. One of the things I find is sometimes they’ll recommend a different material or a different technique that will change that pricing, or you might find somebody that just has, you know, a lower price for a higher quality. I try those combination of things, like how can we work within the parameters that we already have, or how can we re-quote things?
Another great way to do it is, if you can, use the same packaging for multiple items. Because then you can increase your order quantity, which brings your per piece cost down.
Kiana: Yeah, that’s a great tip, thank you. So I have a bit of a personal question for you! What is the best packaged gift you’ve ever received for the holidays and why?
Kelley: Oh man. So I’m, I’m gonna, I’m gonna throw you an, an interesting answer. I’m gonna go a little old school with this.
Kelley: When I’m thinking about holiday packaging, my gold standard is – I’m gonna sound totally cheesy, it is that Life Savers book. Did you ever get that as a kid? The Lifesavers Book.
Kiana: Okay. I don’t know. Describe it to me!
Kelley: So this was a, this was a box and, probably held about eight rolls of Lifesavers. So you know, small, like it’s in your hand. But it was designed to look like a book. And you could open it. So it would fold open so that there would be like four rolls of Lifesavers on either side. And there would be holiday illustrations. And don’t ask me why, but like anytime I see different holiday packaging, every year, in my mind, I always evaluate every piece of holiday packaging up against that, because in my mind it was amazing fun.
It was an experience – it was super memorable. Like this is something I would get as a kid.
Kiana: And that it’s nostalgic. It pulls at your heartstrings a little bit. You’re like, “Oh man. I used to get that as a kid.” That’s awesome.
Kelley: But it was a simple idea, right? They just bundled some Lifesavers into a box and called it a book. But yeah, it was really exciting.
Kiana: That’s awesome. For me, it’s like an old school box of chocolates. That has a little bit of gold somewhere in there, just because it reminds me of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
And I love that. So I ask for chocolate every year. I always get chocolate.
Kelley: You really can’t go wrong with chocolate.
Kiana: Okay. So, the next step is obviously coming up with some kind of plan to tackle all of these amazing tips you’ve given us. Right? So how can businesses create a plan for themselves around their holiday packaging so everything falls into place, especially when it comes to where to purchase packaging.
Kelley: So, I have something special to share with your listeners. I have a Packaging Field Guide system, and, you know, I built this based on the same process that I use with my clients to help them find packaging, printers, and suppliers, and really starting with that foundation of what that strategy is. What do you need? And, you know, where should you start and where should you spend your time and your money wisely? Because finding a packaging supplier, a right packaging printer, you could spend hours on Google and still come up with, “I’m not sure who to use.” So, I created this system.
It has six step-by-step modules that walk you through creating a packaging strategy, identifying what you need. It’s got a supplier directory. And a tool for collecting and analyzing all of your packaging and printing quotes.
Kiana: That sounds amazing, oh my gosh. Yeah, we’ll share the link to that in the show notes. And you had a coupon code for our listeners as well. So make sure to check out the show notes, to get a discount on Kelley’s Packaging Field Guide (use code HANDMADECEO15), because that sounds amazing.
And right now is the time to start thinking about your holiday packaging and, you know, buyers are already looking for gifts so it’s time to get on it.
So my last question for you, Kelley, is what are your top three favorite books on business and why?
Kelley: Do you know this changes like every day?
Kiana: That’s okay.
Kelley: Because I read all the time. But one that is always on my list is called The Naming Book. I believe the author is Brad Flowers and it is a step by step process on how to name your business or your product or anything else within your business. It’s very similar to the, a process, like the way that I’ve been doing naming for a long time.
And I know that, you know, so many people always have questions on how to name their business or how to name their brand product. It’s a book filled with tools and tips, and it’s like really a really great how to guide.
Number two, I just read Obsessed and that is a book on creating branding that customers are obsessed with the. The author, she’s the founder of the Red Antler Agency, which they’ve done the branding for brands like Allbirds and, Casper. So like the big, direct to consumer brands that have had a lot, a lot of, you know, success in the marketplace in the last few years. Lots of buzz, but you know, she has an interesting approach in that she feels that brands should get everything done for their branding upfront. Which I don’t always agree with that because I do think that branding can be an iterative process.
But I do love the like connection that she’s built into the brands that she’s created.
Kiana: That’s really interesting. I have to get that one read.
Kelley: The third one that I like to recommend is called Cultish and Amanda Montel that wrote it. She’s a linguist and it’s all about the languages cults use, which sounds odd for a business book, but she ties it into how that language is similar to marketing language, and how, you know, there’s good ways and bad ways to use that language, obviously. But I do think, you know, everyone’s always trying to figure out how to create a cult following for their brand.
And so it’s interesting to hear how that language can draw people in and create a community of brand followers for any type of group or business.
Kiana: Three books that are now definitely on my list. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here today, Kelley and sharing all of these tips with us!
Kelley: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a lot of fun and I wish everybody great luck with their holiday season.
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