FOMO and successful limited edition packaging strategies


The unique power of using limited edition packaging to induce FOMO is that it turns what can be quite negative feelings – regret and exclusion – into a positive experience when a customer purchases the product

What can you do in 19 seconds?

For brands, the answer is everything you need! On average, it takes just 19 seconds for a shopper to make a purchase decision. And, according to research by NielsenIQ, consumers notice just 15 POS materials out of every 450 in a physical storefront. So, how can you make sure your packaging is one of those 15 that makes an impact inside those crucial 19 seconds? By making it something the consumer cannot afford to miss. This is where limited edition packaging really shines.

Making use of FOMO

FOMO – meaning the Fear of Missing Out – is a relatively recent term, but as a concept, it’s been around for as long as humans have. We are a risk-averse species, and we tend to register negative emotions more acutely – it’s what psychologists call the negative bias.

This inclination towards negative ideas, hard-wired into all of our brains, is why FOMO proves to be such an effective marketing strategy time and time again. Brands can leverage our natural worries that we’ll regret missing out on a unique product, and when we buy that product, it gives us a sense of fulfilment.

This is the science behind the success of limited-edition products. It’s a tried-and-tested formula that can be as effective now as it ever was. The problem is that everyone knows it – including the consumer. Data firm Instantly found that 57% of consumers are aware that brands use limited-edition products to increase sales, which can blunt the effectiveness of that primal, impulsive FOMO reaction. A magician’s act is less convincing when you know how the tricks are done, after all!

And yet, even though consumers are increasingly savvy about the psychology behind limited editions, they can still be successful. That Instantly study also found that “unique or cool” packaging was a huge factor, playing a part in 42% of limited-edition product purchases.

What all this means is that special edition packaging now has to be extra special. It needs to instantly grab the consumer, whether it's viewed on a shelf or on a digital storefront.

By leveraging FOMO, limited edition packaging can be a year-round sales success – but while it is often a successful strategy, this is far from a given. It must be deployed as part of a carefully considered strategy.

Go all-out and all-in

If you get the packaging right, your product can market itself. Go all-out with premium packaging and you might find that the rest of your marketing strategy isn’t necessary – a high-quality Instagram-friendly pack, a little word of mouth, and a touch of confidence to create scarcity with a genuinely limited-run product are all you need.

Much of the impact of special edition packaging is in the detail. Adding exquisite details that mark packaging out as something special such as foiling, embossing, ribbons, or even contrasting textures using matt and gloss varnishes, are just a few examples of finishing techniques that can say a lot with a little. In an increasingly crowded CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) space, these flourishes can be the difference between a consumer choosing your product over a competitor’s.

Of course, your packaging’s journey doesn’t end once it lands in the customer’s shopping trolley. Opening special edition packaging should be an experience; a reward in and of itself.

In the social media age, 55% of online shoppers felt more intrigued about a product after watching an unboxing video. Think outside the box about what’s inside the box – techniques as simple as printing on both sides of your carton can be used to guide your customer on a journey as they open their purchase.

Luxury liners, premium litho, or foam inserts can be used to display the product like a priceless museum exhibit – anything to make your consumer feel like they’ve made the right choice in giving into that irresistible FOMO urge.

The importance of scarcity

The branding and production of limited-run products need to be carefully planned. Slapping a limited-edition label on standard packaging as part of a poorly thought-out strategy won’t go over well with anyone. Have the confidence to keep your limited run products truly limited.

It can be tempting to extend product runs when sales are strong, but the short-term gains of doing so can do long-term damage to future limited edition lines. FOMO is like a magic spell that relies on triggering a specific impulse in a consumer. If that consumer starts to doubt the legitimacy of that limited edition label, even subconsciously, the spell is broken!

An important point to remember is that the concepts of luxury and scarcity are intrinsically linked. If a product feels exclusive, it assumes a certain aura that makes it extra fulfilling to your customer.

Consumers know when they’re looking at something a little more extravagant than a basic carton or flexible pack – and often, the very act of doing so makes each pack feel exclusive. You can’t create FOMO unless, on some level, the consumer feels like they might genuinely miss out on your offer. If you can create a luxury pack that screams exclusivity, you’re creating a club that your customers will be desperate to join.

Brand alignment

Every success story starts with an idea. Maybe a luxury perfume brand decides they want to collaborate with a fashion house, or a beverage company comes up with the idea for a gift set for new warming autumnal drink. Before you start designing limited edition packaging, you should think about your brand identity and the message you want it to send.

Collaborating with celebrities or other well-known brands might sound great, but unless there is some sort of link between the collaborating parties, it can leave consumers cold. The same advice applies when tying your brand to events or seasons.

If you’re a beverage brand, should you really tie your new fruity cider to the festive season just because you can, or do you have another product that would fit better? If your product offer is confusing, it won’t take its share of voice – and it’s hard to create FOMO when no one is talking about your product.

The key is to find your brand alignment rather than force it. Packaging can make these existing links explicit, forging an instant bond with the consumer – but it can’t create a link out of thin air.

Consider your plans carefully before you worry about how you’re going to execute them and use limited edition lines to enhance your brand’s story – don’t hide it or try to alter it!

Turning those negatives into positives

The unique power of using limited edition packaging to induce FOMO is that it turns what can be quite negative feelings – regret and exclusion – into a positive experience when a customer purchases the product.

By making sure every detail of your packaging is in order, from its construction to the inner packaging to those finishing flourishes, the pre- and post-purchase experiences form powerful connections between the brand and the consumer.

It can accomplish all of this in just 19 seconds. That’s the power of FOMO.

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