In my recent infatuation with a startup software company, I discovered their new venture into creating physical products. Across all the products, the design was simple, utilitarian, yet sexy. Obviously, I was in love and quickly placed an order.

When I received the product in the flesh, I believed there had been a mix-up at the post office. The plain, brown packaging soiled the joy of finding the attractive product inside. Although I certainly loved the product, there was a certain injustice done to the beauty of the product and, ultimately, the brand.

Oftentimes people forget that the first experience a consumer has with the brand isn’t actually the product, it’s what holds it- which is why your brand’s packaging is so important. As much as we all try not to judge a book by its cover, there is a reason why the saying exists: because we naturally do. When looking at your product, ask only one question: “How will the customer feel?” If the answer isn’t the one you’re looking for, then perhaps it’s time for change.

Here are the two things you need to concentrate on to package the perfect product:

Focus on the Message

If your packaging hasn’t been updated in awhile, there is a good chance that it suffers from information overload. Potential customers today have a new baseline for content attentiveness, one that is much lower than most companies would like. When considering options for a redesign, focus on one core message that should be crystal clear from the packaging. Reducing content allows consumers to immediately connect with the intended message without having to visually search through useless clipart or obvious text.

An added benefit of converting the message into imagery alone not only brings clarity to the product, but makes international appeal a seamless process. Famous brands like Starbucks have already made this adjustment by relying on their logo for universal recognition, rather than having English words limit their brand. Although this approach might feel risky or vague, trust your brand enough to let it draw attraction on its own accord.

Craft the Experience

When Steve Jobs designed the iPhone packaging, some questioned his characteristic obsessive nature as he scrutinized over how fast the bottom would separate from the top cover. While such measures may be extreme, the genius was in crafting the experience for the consumer.

The exhilaration from a purchase doesn’t end with the swipe of a credit card. The joy of something new continues with the unboxing that can only be compared to tearing the wrapping paper off a present. Humans are emotional creatures, and we love presentation as much as we do the item itself. Without it, the overall impression of the brand sours. Take the time to open current products and decide if the packaging presents the item with the magnitude it deserves or if the emotion is underwhelming.

Good design means being simple and honest with the customer. Showcase without overselling, and always keep the message razor focused. Remember that not all consumers are subjected to online content, which means in some cases the package itself is the first and only chance a company gets to make the right impression. However there is a reason why there are guidelines rather than “to do” lists for package design, because not every product needs to come out of an iPhone box. Stay true to emotional impact, and your customers will certainly feel what was intended.

A box is never just a box.

Hilary Smith is an online writer and business journalist from Chicago, Illinois. In addition to covering the many aspects that make a successful brand, her writing also covers entrepreneurship, small business, unified communications, and globalization. Connect with her on Google Plus today.