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Marketing Insights

The Psychology of Packaging: What Consumers Respond To

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Retail consumer buying behavior is a complex topic that has been studied extensively and likely will continue to be the focus of industry and academic surveys for some time to come.

As existing markets mature and new ones come online, competition intensifies as companies naturally seek as many advantages as possible.

One area companies focus on is their product packaging, in both retail outlets and e-commerce outlets. Product packaging serves many roles besides its core purpose of housing and protecting the product.

Once the product is manufactured, it may be shipped to a warehouse where it may sit for days or weeks before final delivery to retail store shelves and your packaging provides protection at this stage of the journey.

Once placed on the shelves, the packaging's other potential strengths come into play. The hours of work dedicated to designing a package that piques consumers' interest are tested here and can have a major impact on the overall success of the product in question.

•  How will customers judge the packaging?

•  Will they impulse buy?

•  Do they immediately recognize the brand from the colors and logos on display?

These questions are the keys to the psychology behind modern product packaging.

Continue reading to learn how the packaging you choose for your products affects consumers' buying habits.



Studies consistently demonstrate that consumers seek familiarity and brand recognition when shopping for products, especially ones they depend on for their health and safety.

For almost identical products, if given a choice between a brand they've already heard of, or an unfamiliar name, most consumers are much more likely to choose the familiar branded product assuming the difference in cost isn't drastically different.

Companies already using significant print and television campaigns have the advantage here compared to lesser-known brands.

Consumers with a history of purchasing from stalwart industry brands do so because of the inherent trust they've established from using these products over a long-term duration.

The product packaging reinforces this trusted relationship by aligning perfectly with the company's TV and online ads for these products, helping to build even more connected to the brand and its offerings.


Brand, Vision, Values

Newmans-Values-Profit-Proceeds-PackagingFamiliarity is great, but some consumers need more before they commit to a brand.

Product packaging often can and should project your company's overall values and vision as a brand in the marketplace.

Many organizations display their mission statement (or a shortened version thereof) directly on their packaging if the size and dimensions of the product and shell containers allow for it.

Offering a concisely drafted phrase or paragraph that describes the company's vision for its products and target market allows consumers to decide whether their product needs and desires align with this company's products and societal values.

Some topics might include their approach to raw material sourcing, manufacturing methods, geographic product availability, and stance on various political issues.

Many of these topics resonate strongly with segments of the consumer market and very well may trigger buying behaviors that competing brands miss out on.



According to a 2006 study, many consumers make buying decisions in as little as 90 seconds, and roughly 60 to 90 percent are based on the colors they see associated with the product or packaging.

People respond emotionally to questions about their favorite colors, aromas, shapes, music, and fabrics because they affect their feelings.

They invoke certain moods and thoughts; thus, these choices significantly impact consumers' shopping behavior and decision-making.


Companies hoping to get their products noticed on crowded retail shelves use brighter colors to stand out from other packages.

Food packaging is one common niche where bright colors can have a big impact because these colors are usually modeled directly from natural foods.

Candies, for example, are flavored to mimic sweeter fruits like strawberries or raspberries. Candy makers naturally use packaging to reflect what the candy represents and use packages designed to increase appetites and thus improve consumers' moods.

They create bright and vibrant red colors for candy wrapping that match their brand/logo to evoke an intense craving in consumers' taste buds for that specific fruit, usually including a mouth-watering picture of a fresh strawberry to make their products irresistible to impulse buying.

So, color is one specific attribute used in packaging particular product types.

The color you choose depends on the products offered and the emotions and thoughts you hope to evoke in potential consumers.



Packaging design is vital in determining consumer reactions and buying behavior.

Upscale products like smartphones, tablets, and high-end watches are commonly known for their forward-thinking packages.

Technology companies want to project quality and exclusivity when they market their latest gadgets and their product packaging choices go a long way toward achieving those goals.

Using high-resolution photography, materials pleasing to the touch, and specific angular design for outer packaging means consumers have a source of pride they'll likely want to share with friends and family, thus giving even more exposure to the product for companies to capitalize on.

This type of package achieves many objectives. It protects the product, conveys pride in ownership through its perceived exclusivity, and never stops promoting because of the inherent beauty of the carton itself.

The science of premium-designed packaging is also backed up by industry analysis. One study even showed that packaging hugely affects repeat buying; 61% of consumers surveyed said they are more likely to buy again if the product comes in a premium package.

In the same survey, 32% of those consumers said that well-designed, premium packaging would encourage them to post and share information/photos relating to the product on their social media platforms.

Indeed, many consumers can't resist showing off these items to their followers, which only benefits the manufacturer in the long run.

This exposure is worth its weight in gold providing positive feedback to potential consumers who might be sitting on the fence as to whether to buy or not.



Dawn-dishwashing-duck-Helps-Save-WildlifeEnvironmental issues are increasingly relevant in the minds of consumers, and one area where this concern intersects with buying is the packaging.

College-educated consumers aged 30-44 are most concerned with packaging sustainability.

And, a whopping 34% report they prefer to buy from manufacturers who package their products in premium, eco-friendly recycled materials.

Next in line to that group are buyers aged 18-29. 40% of those shoppers echo the sentiments of the generation ahead of them; they also prefer to patronize companies who've invested in initiatives to protect the environment from industrial waste by using recycled paper products wherever possible.

Recycling doesn't mean low quality. Modern recycling machinery allows for premium packaging that rivals brand new and most consumers won't be able to tell the difference.




Dukes-mayo-unique-pour-spout-packageAnother factor that determines the quality of a package is its ease of use. Is the box easy to open, regardless of physical ability?

Your product packaging should strike a balance to ensure that all consumers can interact with it safely and effectively.

The package should be easily opened and closed without causing damage to the contents or causing any injuries to consumers while they use the container.

Concise instructions for using the package should be included on or in instructions contained within the shipment to ensure the unpackaging experience is as straightforward as possible for the consumer.


Instructions for products sold in different jurisdictions should be provided in the prevailing languages used within that area or in attached packets, along with applicable warranty and return shipping information.

Links to any further online product documentation should also be provided on the package and within the documents included.


Product Information

The goal of great packaging is to educate the consumer enough about your product to decide to buy while providing that information within the limitations of your packaging's design.

Every detail about the product doesn’t necessarily have to be displayed on the outer package so you have some room to work with here depending on what you want to highlight.

How you present the information is important too.

For example, if consumers have to squint or don strong reading glasses to read the information, they'll quickly lose interest and look elsewhere. Instead, offer clear and concise labeling that provides sufficient information allowing consumers to buy now or direct them to your website if they need more detail than what you can provide in the limited space on your packaging.

QR codes are a great tool for this and can be incorporated into your design, graphics, or even logo seamlessly with the help of the right packaging design expert.


Strong Product Packaging Is Essential For Many Reasons

Velveeta-Multiple-Package-sizesOptimal product packaging is an aggregate of many objectives.

Of course, the first goal is to properly contain and protect the product from damage during shipment and storage, allowing your customers to receive it intact, quickly unpack it, and begin to learn about it by reading your instruction manual.

Next-level packaging fulfills this objective while adding all the benefits of branding, logos, color, and design, that help to build familiarity, trust, and recognition of your brand. It should also provide pertinent information about the product, and accessibility to all users of the product, while still being friendly to the environment.

Studies have repeatedly shown consumers respond to expertly designed, environmentally friendly packaging.

They become loyal to brands that strive to provide the most upscale yet pragmatic designs for presenting and shipping their products.

Great products need packaging that lives up to the contents contained within and that gives consumers the emotional and logical decision triggers required to purchase from you now and into the future.


Get in touch with our packaging experts at Catalpha today to learn more about how we can help you to achieve your packaging design and get the best possible return on your investment in product packaging.

5 Packaging Tips You Must Know -- Download Now!

Topics: Packaging Design, Rebranding, Luxury Packaging, Package Copywriting, Food Packaging Design, Package Printing


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