More Than A Feeling

Leaders in the packaging field have long known the connection between visual appeal and a consumer’s desire to purchase a product. Strong graphic design that incorporates bold colors, and elegant use of fonts and illustrations work to reach directly to shoppers as they move down the aisle. But the effects of graphic design do not stop at increasing the impulse to buy.

Packaging, as well as other sensory components, can actually effect the way consumers experience a product. Many reports have suggested that the same food served from different packages appears to taste differently to consumers.

Euromonitor International, a London, England-based market research firm, has followed this phenomenon closely. As an example of how packaging can influence the way in which consumers enjoy a product, the company points to a recent experiment performed with yogurt. Simply put, consumers who ate yogurt from a heavier pre-packed bowl rated the yogurt as being more intense, denser and more expensive. This despite the fact that it was exactly the same yogurt served to study participants in lighter bowls. The same experiment shows that strawberry-flavored mousse served from a white plate was perceived as more intense, sweeter and was far more preferred than the exact same dessert served on a black plate.

Something as simple as just changing the color of a particular product, or its packaging, can have a dramatic effect on consumer enjoyment. A University of Oxford experiment found that people served regular popcorn, without any sugar, reported it was sweeter when they ate from a red bowl. When eating unsalted popcorn from blue bowls, respondents reported that it tasted saltier than the exact same popcorn when it was served in a white bowl.

Packaging experts have theorized that Coke’s decision to temporarily change the color of it cans to white was a commercial failure because the company’s usual color for its products, red, is for more associated in the minds of consumers with sweetness. The design decision was based on a fundraising effort for endangered polar bears but the company had to suspend the campaign when consumers complained that the Coke in the white cans did not taste as good, despite it being the exact same formula. Diet Pepsi Twist, which comes in a white can, has shown dramatic sales decrease from $21 million in 2010 in the United States to $3 million in 2015, according to data from Euromonitor.

Running a successful packaging converting operation has always been a challenging endeavor, and its gets increasingly more complicated as the demands of the supply chain grow. Converters must be more than just capable of producing boxes, they have to get inside the minds of the consumers. What drives them to make a purchase? What kinds of packaging designs work best? And now through multi-sensory integration, converters may also have a direct link to how much consumers actually enjoy a product.


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