How Unique Packaging and NYC Nostalgia Sets This Company Apart

Founder Erica Werber is a born-and-raised New Yorker. So when the pandemic hit and the city began to empty, she was inspired to capture the things she loved about New York.

“I'm going to launch this brand as a love letter to New York City and remind people of all of the moments or experiences that got them to come here in the first place through scent,” Erica says.

Don't miss an episode! Subscribe to Shopify Masters.

 Erica launched Literie Candles, a brand of candles with names like “brunch in the West Village” or “hot roasted nut cart.” She began with five scents and a goal to sell 2,000 candles in her first year. She surpassed that goal, selling 10,000 in the first nine months.

Erica had no experience in the candle industry or in entrepreneurship, but she attributes some of the success to the packaging, a collaboration with a designer friend.

Three candles stacked on candle boxes
The hot roasted nut cart is a personal one for Erica. Her dad loved visiting them. Literie Candles

“The first thing we worked on was packaging before we even had a prototype or a scent sample,” Erica explains. “People purchase our boxes, not our candles. They're so pulled in by the name of them and what they represent, and then they're pleasantly surprised when it's a high-quality, great smelling candle.”

Ahead, Erica shares some of the lessons she learned about packaging. Learn how to apply these tactics to your own brand.

1. Choose the right paper type for labels

Different products have different needs in terms of the adhesiveness and durability of the label. On one of her first orders, Erica and her family had labeled about 1,000 candles before they realized that the labels were made out of the wrong type of paper.

“They started bubbling and peeling and we had to rip all those labels off, order new labels and relabel again, which took weeks,” Erica says.

2. Make sure the packaging will protect the product

In the early days, Erica’s dining room was the fulfillment center. The whole family would pitch in labeling candle jars, stamping boxes and wrapping candles.

“About a week after we started doing that, we got a few complaints from people that their candles had arrived shattered, and it clearly dawned on me that my son was using the tiniest amount of packaging as possible to ship these candles in,” Erica says.

That realization led to some quality control checks before Literie Candles eventually switched to a third-party logistics company to handle shipping and fulfillment.

Three candles on a green background
Erica says customers sometimes keep the box or jar as a keepsake because they like the designs. Literie Candles

3. Lean into your team’s talents

Erica has been working with the same designer, Kasey Bohnert, since the beginning of Literie Candles, and she says that it’s Kasey’s style that gives the candles shelf appeal.

“The packaging has illustrations that Kasey draws and designs, and I think it was just tapping into the fact that she was so good at that,” Erica says.

4. Capture the brand’s tone through colors

The candle boxes not only have illustrations, but a color that helps evoke the memory. Overall, Erica wanted the colors to feel good.

“My outlook on the whole brand was just to have fun. All of these experiences we're trying to highlight are fun experiences,” Erica explains. “Being in Central Park for someone's birthday or going to a bottomless brunch with your best friends, it's supposed to feel good and lighthearted, and I think that's what we accomplish with the packaging.”

5. Surprise your customers

One of the most successful Literie Candles’ marketing campaigns actually involved switching up the packaging as well. As an April Fool’s Day prank, the company posted that they were making a “Summer in the Subway” candle that smelled like trash.

“We took a photo of it with an old slice of pizza and a crumpled up metro card and popped it up on social media on April 1st, and it went viral,” Erica says.

Instead of making a whole new product, Literie sent customers who bought the joke candle a surprise candle instead and donated the proceeds to a New York charity.

To learn more about how Literie Candles pays tribute to the city of New York, listen to Erica’s full interview on Shopify Masters.