Industry Insights

Packaging Psychology & Consumer Behaviour

Industry Insights

Packaging Psychology and Consumer Behaviour

Packaging. It’s essential and for many brands it is the core of their proposition and their only truly direct point of contact with consumers. So with every brand fighting for space against its competitors, how can you use the psychology of packaging to ensure initial and repeat purchase?

The average consumer makes around 10,000 decisions every day, and many of them revolve around purchases. It is commonly quoted that buying decisions are made in as little as a third of a second, so how can you make your packaging stand out and have instant emotional appeal?

Familiarity is crucial and when a consumer first encounters a pack in store, it is a major advantage if they recognise it instantly having previously seen it on social or traditional media or through advertising. It’s what makes PR and marketing so essential, particularly for new or repositioned brands. Consumers’ trust levels are increased if they feel they already know a brand.

And the pack, as the tactile heart of the brand, needs to be reflected in everything else you do. If a consumer picks up a package in store and wants to find out more, they should gain a matching experience in terms of look and feel when they visit your website or access your social media channels.

The essential design elements

Each element of packaging design needs to be considered, from colour, design and typography on the one hand, to shape and material on the other. Certain colours suggest specific things in consumers’ minds, while material choice can instantly align a pack with aspects such as environmental sustainability.

Colour is quite an obvious starting point. Black can imply luxury and authority, while also aligning with products aimed at men. Adding gold or any metallic finish can further imply a premium product. Alternatively, white delivers pure, clear simplicity and cleanliness and can be the perfect backdrop for powerful imagery and typography. Green screams fresh, eco-friendly, health and wellness, sustainability and natural. All immediate and important consumer triggers. Yellow is often judged to be the most stand-out colour, while blue implies trust and reliability. Alternatively orange shouts ‘fun’ and seems to be a trigger for choice by children.

While talking of colour, the choice to have clear packaging or transparent panels should never be overlooked as consumers love to see exactly what they are buying. Where this isn’t possible, high quality photography or illustration can be a hugely successful alternative.

Alongside the look and feel of a pack, delivered through great design, messaging is crucial. The simpler the better. Using clear and carefully considered typography is certainly important, but if you can go beyond the simple message and get consumers to pick up the pack, you can go further, engaging them with your story, making them smile or making your brand a talking point. With appealing on pack messaging, matched by equally engaging digital and social media output, some brands are able to create an almost cult following. Again, the pack ideally needs to be aligned and supported with the rest of the brand’s presence and, critically, delivered through a properly planned PR and marketing strategy.

The physical aspects of a pack can psychologically influence purchasing decisions too. Shape and obvious ease of use can subliminally affect consumer choice. Hard-edged packaging can appear more masculine, while soft edges seem more feminine. A product which is obviously easy to open will appeal to older consumers while those that are clearly spill-proof will satisfy the demands of parents of young children. So ensuring packaging aligns with the target audience at every level is essential and can be backed-up with colour and typography choices delivered through good design.

Size too can influence decisions. Portability is often a trigger to purchase, and while smaller packs can imply premium, larger packs often infer value for money.

Labelling and logos also help to produce instant consumer recognition and buy-in. The trend to, and in some cases the legal requirement for, front of pack calorie and ingredient information has helped change the approach to packaging design in the past few years, and logos which clearly define products and packaging as Fairtrade, recyclable or made from environmentally friendly materials are becoming increasingly important.

Beyond labelling, the packaging material choice can have a major impact. With the current media focus on environmentally friendly packaging and recycling, stating clearly that a pack is made from a recyclable, compostable or renewable material, can bring an immediate connection for consumers who are seeking products which satisfy their desire to choose eco-friendly packaging.

Targeting the right consumers

Having defined the target audience for each product, the time and cost taken in carrying out in-depth consumer research can pay dividends in ensuring a ‘match’ at as many levels as possible. Yes with packaging design as the priority, but also with helping to inform your PR strategy so that the brand quickly and efficiently reaches its precise consumer group.

If you’re planning a new brand or product launch, then designing the packaging to ensure it delivers against consumer expectations, through understanding the psychology of the purchasing decision making process is important, but communicating it is perhaps even more essential. And that’s where a business such as Suzanne Howe Communications comes in. We like to be involved at the earliest possible opportunity, using our collective experience to advise and steer towards an approach which integrates emotionally engaging pack design with truly effective and measurable communication.

So talk to us!

If you’re as passionate about this subject as we are, you might also like to read our earlier blog post entitled
The Psychology of Packaging.