When you are shopping for something specific but don’t have a particular brand in mind, do you tend to choose the one that looks the best from the outside? Have you ever avoided buying a certain product because the packaging is flimsy or damaged? Many of us – whether we realize it or not – associate quality with nicer packaging.
For mission five, we had our students share their thoughts on how the experience of packaging impacts a customer’s perception of a brand, and what types of packaging draw them towards – or turn them away from – one product over another.
Caroline: Packaging for the Experience
In today’s evolving consumer culture, packaging is not only designed to protect the enclosed product, but also provide an experience for the consumer. This experience creates a lasting impression that’s associated with both the product and the brand that supplies it. There’s been an increased effort to understand the role of packaging in consumer buying behavior due to the importance of this experience. Research in consumer buying behavior has found that often packaging is perceived to be part of the product and can be difficult for consumers to separate the two (Raheem 2014). This idea reinforces that not only does the product reflect a brand’s image but the packaged-product does so as well.
So, what components of a package impact a buying decision? Cues such as size, color, typography, illustrations and graphics can influence how a product, and thus the brand, is perceived. Adjusting these attributes can separate a product from competing brands by either sensory or logistic means. An example of a logistic separation would be to package for different serving sizes to extend a product into new target markets or help overcome cost barriers (Raheem 2014). Sensory separation has evolved and been supplemented by emerging technologies in the digital world. The future of brand presence involves merging the virtual with the physical, in this case package color and graphics, to unlock potential for hyper-sensory expressions of brand (Goodpaster 2013).
Packaging doesn’t just extend to the product or its’ brand, but all the way back to the company that manufactures or ships it. The entirety of a package, from how it’s sourced and made to how it looks on a shelf and functions after purchase, impacts a consumer’s thoughts on the company that owns it. This idea that packaging can influence how a company is perceived not only at the point of purchase, but every time the product is used, implies that packaging has a better reach than advertising does. The biodegradable or recyclable material showcases a company’s commitment to environmentally friendly practices, and the QR code gives you a glimpse of the lifecycle of the product to further connect you to the brand. On the other hand, insufficient packaging can negatively impact a consumer’s thoughts of the company that supplied it. For example, a package that is difficult to open or provides insufficient instructions for assembly or use would leave a buyer frustrated and likely to buy a different product next time.
To create a unique packaging experience, preparation to do so starts with the manufacturers. Manufacturers contribute by investing in innovative technologies that enable more information, exclusivity, customization, and engagement in the shopping experience. Some areas of focus include printing and material variation. By developing different poly coatings, a package can have a matte, glossy, or even a tactile appearance, which not only visually separates a product but also adds to the tactile experience. Printing technologies have developed new abilities in customization and customer engagement through digital, 3D, and even 4D printing.
Printed electronics is an advancement recently applied to packaging by enabling more affordable pressure- and temperature- sensitive packaging and a better visual experience. Anheuser-Busch used printed electronic pathways, paper batteries, microswitches and LED lights in a pressure-sensitive label design for a limited edition Oculto beer. This created a truly unique experience by revealing hidden messages and activating LED lights when the bottle got cold (Lingle 2015).
Unlike digital and 3D printing, 4D printing hasn’t resonated in the packaging industry but has promising potential to be applied in the future to make primary and secondary packaging better. 4D printing incorporates “shape-memory” polymer fibers into composite materials so that when later heated or cooled to a specific temp, will transform into a different 3D shape (Crawford 2014). Manufacturers can utilize this technology to create dynamic packaging materials that can enhance plastic forming techniques to reduce the need for unique molds, and push past the limitations of permanent deformation.
Packaging is a vital tool that contributes to a shopping experience that ultimately reflects and reinforces a brand. Despite similar attributes, no two packages are the same and for good reason.
Crawford, Mike. “4D Printing: The Next Level of Additive Manufacturing”. ASME: Setting the Standard,
April 2014, https://www.asme.org/engineering-topics/articles/manufacturing-processing/4d
printing-next-level-additive-manufacturing. Accessed 26 June 2017.
Goodpaster, Bryan. “Packaging as Media and the Future of Customer Experience”. UX Magazine,13
June 2013, https://uxmag.com/articles/packaging-as-media-and-the-future-of-customer
experience. Accessed 26 June 2017.
Lingle, Rick. “Smart Packaging adds more mystique to Oculto beer”. Packaging Digest, 15 Dec. 2015,
Accessed 26 June 2017.
Raheem, Ahmed Rizwan, Parmar Vishnu, and Amin Muhammad Ahmed. “Impact of product packaging
on consumer’s buying behavior.” European Journal of Scientific Research 122.2 (2014): 125-13
Kari: It’s all About the Experience
Packaging is often the consumer’s first experience with the product. The package should represent the product in the best way possible. If the product is expensive the packaging should represent the quality of that product and use higher quality materials. If the product is marketed to a specific target audience the package should represent that target audience in some way (i.e. a product that markets to kids would have more playful and colorful packaging). The consumer should get a good sense of the product inside just by picking up and looking at the package. A good brand will put a lot of thought into the way its image is conveyed through its packaging.
When a company puts significant thought into the package they manufacture it sends a positive message to the consumer about the product. The company backs their quality product with a quality package for the product’s protection but also to display that quality throughout. This exchange also creates a relationship between the company and its consumer. When the brand pays attention to the values and the interests of the consumer it creates a more personal connection. A consumer will be more willing to continue that relationship if they feel the company cares about their experience.
As quickly as packaging can send a positive message, it can just as easily send a negative message about the brand. One major thing that that gives me a bad impression of a product or brand is when the packaging is damaged. Often the damaged packages tend to be the last to remain on the shelf in a store. However, when the packaging is shipped directly to me, as long as the product is not damaged, I usually accept that product, but I still tend to have a less enthusiastic view of the brand. Another thing that gives me a negative view of a brand is when the product or primary packaging is loose inside of the container it was shipped in. Often times there are sizing issues or lack of protection inside the container that allow it to rattle around inside the container. These issues will make a consumer think twice about purchasing another product from that company.
Highly thoughtful companies can create an experience for their consumers with the packaging. Often, more expensive products will have layers of packaging that separate the components. These dividers help focus the consumer’s attention on one component at a time, helping to create an appreciation for each part. Brands may also include additional materials to develop a positive bond with their customer. Even adding promotional material for the brand can make it seem like a company is thoughtful. A company might also add a sample of another product they manufacture to help the consumer develop a relationship with that brand. Considering how the consumer will open the packaging is important to develop an experience for that consumer.
Companies are constantly improving the packaging of their products. The effort put into the package makes an impression on the consumer. It is good for companies to recognize that their packaging creates an experience and to put thought into what kind of experience reflects their brands. Overall, the packaging can help build a bond between the consumer and the brand. That can ensure that people continue to use quality brands, and companies benefit from putting effort into their packaging experience.
Tristen: Packaging from an End Perspective
It is reasonable to assume that out of all media and communication, imagery has the strongest impact on people. This ability that imagery has; to quickly convey and emphasize a story, elicit emotion and impact the viewer, is critical in the realm of marketing, because a customer’s decisions are driven by their perceptions of a brand. A consistent and recognizable brand identity has become commonplace, if not necessary for success in today’s digitally connected society, due to congested markets.
Package design plays a critical role in maintaining brand recognition and customer loyalty because of how important images and aesthetics can be. Every day I’m drawn to specific products over others because of how a product is displayed, among other things. In physical retail it is the most important, as package appearance is directly associated with perceived product quality. A poor looking product will often leave a bad first impression, and I would be unlikely to purchase from such a company in the future.
With the increasing congestion of markets, it has become increasingly vital that packages are not only well-designed and aesthetic, but most importantly unique. A unique package stands out and can provide customers with an experience, no matter how brief, that is superior to other duller packages. I believe based on the packaging, innovation will continue to rapidly advance.
” Editor, Ron Romanik Contributing. “12 Best Practices for Retail-ready Packaging.” Packaging World. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 June 2017. <https://www.packworld.com/article/package-design/retail-ready/12-best-practices-retail-ready-packaging>.”