Understanding Consumer Perception and Product Packaging

16/05/24 | Brandwell

Among hundreds of shelves in the supermarket, a person is more likely to reach for a particular product because of its packaging. People who have never heard of a product get the first impression only from the packaging, which is why it plays an important role in influencing brand perception and customer behaviour.

Packaging can be crucial in communicating brand values and missions, attracting environmentally conscious consumers with eco-friendly materials and innovative designs. It serves as a marketing tool, promoting sales and fostering brand loyalty by offering a distinctive product experience aligned with consumer values.

Elements such as vibrant imagery, appealing colours and innovative shapes are pivotal in capturing consumer attention and interest. Packaging distinguishes brands from competitors and reinforces purchase decisions, extending its influence beyond the point of sale.

Research suggests 82% of consumers are more likely to purchase after seeing or holding a product in-store. This emphasises the role of packaging as a critical differentiator, guiding consumers among options and influencing their buying behaviour.

This article will demonstrate how understanding the psychology of packaging can help businesses design packaging that resonates with consumers and distinguishes their products in the market.

Understanding Consumer Perception

Perception is how we interpret the world through our senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Amidst the thousands of stimuli bombarding us daily, we naturally gravitate towards those that intrigue us. Marketers face the challenge of standing out in a cluttered marketplace where consumers are exposed to around three thousand ads daily. Engaging consumers’ senses is essential for brand success, as it creates memorable experiences that embed the brand in consumers’ minds.

Perception also plays a crucial role in the consumer decision-making process, shaping attitudes towards products, services and organisations. It influences purchasing decisions and brand loyalty. Throughout the customer journey, perceptions are formed to contribute to consumer and brand sentiment. 

Research suggests packaging significantly shapes product perception and facilitates swift decision-making, especially for first-time interactions.

Perception, particularly regarding product packaging, is influenced by two key factors: stimulus factors like colour, contrast, and size, which activate sensory receptors and are processed by the brain, shaping consumer perception. Additionally, individual response factors, encompassing personal preferences, past experiences, cultural background, and psychological influences, play a crucial role in shaping how individuals perceive and interpret packaging designs. By understanding both stimulus and individual response factors, marketers can create packaging that effectively captures attention and resonates with their audience.

Understanding Product Packaging

Product packaging design is the process of designing and creating packaging to house for a product. This includes the materials used, the design, the printing and the assembly. Product packaging is the first thing potential customers see when looking at your product on the shelf. If your product packaging is not eye-catching or appealing, potential customers may not even bother to look at your product. 

Product packaging can also affect how customers perceive the quality of your product. If your product packaging looks cheap or flimsy, customers may assume that your product is of poor quality. On the other hand, if your product packaging appears elegant or luxurious, customers will likely perceive your product as being of higher quality. Choosing your product packaging carefully is essential to make an excellent first impression on potential customers and convey your product’s quality and value.

Each element of product packaging can influence consumer perception and buying behaviour. Product packaging elements, such as colours, fonts, and graphic elements, speak a visual language and can be used as tools that wield influence.

Colour

Each colour carries unique meanings, shaping emotions and attitudes, particularly in packaging. Blue, associated with calmness and trust, contrasts with neutral achromatic tones like black. Green evokes associations with nature and freshness, while white conjures notions of purity and simple ingredients for customers. Yellow is known to attract attention and is often used during clearance sales. Colours affect psychological distance and risk perception. Approximately 90% of buyers make snap judgments based on colour, highlighting its significant influence on customer decision-making.

Text & Typography

Visual content commands 95% of design-driven buyer engagement so the strategic integration of text within brand packaging is pivotal. Its role varies by product type, packaging shape and category.

The choice of typeface in packaging materials plays a role in consumers’ perception of brand credibility. Typefaces convey distinct personalities and moods; sans serif fonts feel friendly and approachable, while serif fonts evoke professionalism and formality. Typography information hierarchy in package design can also be crucial in communicating key information. Primary typography, like the brand name, instantly positions the product. Secondary typography can highlight the unique selling point, drawing attention from close range. Tertiary typography can include finer details like instructions and ingredients.

Images

Images and photographs play an important role in product packaging, conveying a product with greater detail and realism than words could ever achieve. Providing consumers with an idea of the product without requiring them to open the packaging is beneficial, especially if there’s no transparent window. This is particularly relevant for food packaging, with customers preferring clarity in their purchases. Visual elements in packaging design can also evoke emotions and trigger memories. For example, smiling faces induce feelings of joy, while natural landscapes evoke tranquillity.

Design

Studies have found that consumers are likely to find patterns with low visual complexity and minimal emotional resonance (abstract patterns) more credible than patterns with high visual complexity and strong emotional resonance (realistic patterns). The latest trends for package design focus on minimalism and sustainability, which customers see as a reflection of the brand’s message and value proposition. Simple packaging design makes an immediate impact in a crowded marketplace. Whether you choose a simple design or bold, energetic patterns, it is imperative that packaging design remains consistent across the brand’s product line.

Shape

The shape of the packaging can also influence consumer behaviour. Studies indicate a preference for ergonomic packages, facilitating easy handling, opening and pouring. The shape of the package can also contribute to perceptions of product quality and value. Unique vessel shapes, for instance, are often linked to luxury items, while square packaging is commonly associated with practical, budget-friendly products.

Materials

Packaging is a powerful indicator of product quality and influences consumer behaviour. Consumers overwhelmingly prefer products presented in high-quality packaging, shunning inferior counterparts. A velvet box will imply luxury and wealth, while a recycled cardboard box could indicate that this is an eco-friendly brand. Packaging made of glass is ideal for those wanting to see the product inside and has the added appeal of being recyclable. Plastic, while being a lightweight and a traditionally popular choice, is harder to recycle so environmentally friendly customers will tend to avoid this.  

Quality

Appealing, high-quality packaging has the power to attract and entice buyers, leading to increased sales. Premium packaging elevates a product’s image, granting flexibility in pricing strategies.

Sustainable options

Sustainability plays a pivotal role in consumer purchasing choices, with a growing preference for recyclable packaging products. With a growing concern about the environment and focus on eco-friendly living, consumers are looking for brands that practice sustainability. Consumers in APAC even ranked brand values, real world impact and sustainability initiatives on par with brand name. Brands that show continuing commitment to environmentally friendly options increase customer trust and loyalty. Recyclable packaging predominantly falls into two categories: paper and corrugated packaging. Paper packaging dominates the recycled materials market, constituting approximately 65% of all recyclable packaging.

How Product Packaging Influences Consumer Perception

The discussion of emotional packaging design and impactful colours inevitably involves the consideration of packaging design theory. This theory revolves around how consumers’ perceptions of a product influence their decision-making process. As consumers progress through various stages of their purchasing journey, emotional stimuli often serve as the decisive factor in sealing a sale or missing an opportunity. For instance, studies indicate that 71% of consumers lean towards purchasing from companies that resonate with their beliefs or values.

Additional examples showcasing how brands can strategically integrate various elements into their packaging to influence customer perceptions include: 

Visual appeal (getting the consumer’s attention)

Full Spectrum Coffee packaging depicts coffee-obsessed figures, filling their cup-like heads with streams of coffees. This distinctive imagery instantly embodies the brand’s playful, adventurous persona, setting it apart amidst the crowded coffee landscape and reinforcing the brands tagline. ‘coffee with character.

Brand identity (telling a story)

Lush exemplifies a brand deeply attuned to its core audience. Beyond reaffirming its commitment to animal protection, which resonates with conscious consumers, Lush infuses its product packaging with an emotional touch. Each bath bomb, packaged in a paper bag with a sticky label, proudly displays the name and face of the employee who packed it. This practice not only highlights Lush’s ethical ethos but also humanises the brand, acknowledging the dedication of its employees. 

Information and transparency

Pukka Herbs’ packaging distinguishes itself with informative features, empowering customers to decide on the tea blend’s ingredients and advantages. This fusion of aesthetics, brand identity and sustainability sets Pukka Herbs’ tea packaging apart in the market, appealing to conscientious consumers and tea enthusiasts alike.

Differentiation (stand out from the crowd)

Pringles‘ packaging design is instantly recognisable and distinctive. It features its iconic cylindrical tube shape, which stands out from traditional chip bags. The vibrant and eye-catching graphics on the packaging reflect the array of flavours available. 

Consistency  

Consistency is a hallmark of Coca-Cola’s packaging practices, evident in its globally recognised iconic design. The brand’s commitment to consistency is showcased through its unique contoured bottle shape, which has become synonymous with Coca-Cola. The vibrant red colour communicates energy and passion, while the prominently displayed logo evokes familiarity and nostalgia. 

Evokes emotions

Tiffany‘s iconic blue box exemplifies how packaging and the brand’s signature blue colour elicit feelings of joy, excitement, and love. The packaging embodies the brand’s essence, symbolising both love and luxury.

Reflects product quality

Tiffany & Co are the epitome of product packaging reflecting the quality with Tiffany’s jewellery boxes becoming as famous as their jewellery. The robin egg blue colour is synonymous with Tiffany packaging, with each box tied with a simple white satin ribbon. The Tiffany box is a symbol of luxury and elegance, but is also made from sustainable and recycled materials, a reflection of the class and sophistication of the brand.

Reflects brand values

Patagonia‘s packaging echoes its core values by employing unique and functional hexagon cardboard packaging. This eco-conscious approach, devoid of plastic or excess materials, underscores the brand’s commitment to sustainability. It represents a thoughtful and efficient means of product delivery, aligning seamlessly with Patagonia’s ethos of responsible business practices.

This article has demonstrated how research highlights the profound influence of packaging on consumer behaviour, making it a critical aspect of a brand’s marketing strategy. Effective packaging design communicates brand values and messaging, distinguishing products from competitors and fostering brand loyalty. Ultimately, perception plays a crucial role in the consumer decision-making process, underscoring the importance of packaging in shaping consumer attitudes towards a brand. By leveraging packaging as a tool to convey brand narrative and mission, businesses can establish a distinct brand identity and enhance their competitive edge in the market.

Let Brandwell elevate your brand packaging with our expertise in the packaging industry and innovative design solutions. We don’t just provide practical packaging solutions; we craft compelling stories that leap off the shelf and captivate consumers. Partner with us to transform your packaging into a compelling narrative that sets your brand apart.