Looks matter. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about human looks. For the sake of romance it’s probably best to keep believing that personality trumps looks. It does, however, go for product packaging. The truth is that I – the worst chef in the world – could make a completely uneatable dish, and it would still sell – with the right packaging of course. HA! That’s quite awesome! But how does it work?
Ok, so what you may or may not know is that the way we taste is not actually only defined by our tasting sense. Weird, right? Smell, sound, sight and touch also play a huge part in the way we experience taste. Don’t believe me? In 2011 Coca-Cola changed their typical red Coca-Cola cans to white ones with polar bears on them for charity. Now, of course, the drink inside the can stay the exact same, yet people actually started complaining that Coca-Cola had changed their secret recipe! So their taste experience of Coca-Cola actually changed because the cans did. Crazy!
There are a few basic elements underlying product packaging psychology (tongue twister – I know):
I’ve talked about colors in my supermarketing article as well: they are super important. The associations we have with different colors differ per gender, age and culture. In general though, we can outline it as follows:
- Blue and white: linked with freshness (we see these on toothpaste packages and cleaning supplies etc.)
- Red and yellow: evoke joy, ease and pleasure, perfect for the package of a snack. Red is also associated with a sweet taste; we tend to experience food or drinks sweeter when the package is red
- Green: signals health, we see this on organic and healthy food packages
- Black: is often associated with death and evil, probably not your best choice for – let’s say – a breakfast package. It is, however, also associated with power. Thus, in product classes like technology, it is often used.
- Brightness: the brighter the color, the more positive the product is viewed
Shapes of a product packing are also of influence on how we perceive the product inside.
- Shapey designs feel manly and powerful (Hasseroeder beer bottles have been made angular, just to improve manly appeal).
- Round shapes are more feminine, harmonious and soft.
And for the real crazy psychology: when we place something in a square package, the taste of it is perceive as intensified in relation to that same product in a round package. Say whaaaat!?
Images on a package can also influence perception of the product. Do you want your product to be perceived as luxurious? Just add some vertical stripes behind the product. The product inside will be eaten more of at one time if the package shows the product in large quantities.
Another fun fact about product package images: a lot of cornflakes packages have a picture of corn on them. Most cornflakes don’t even have corn in them though, but we associate it with being healthy.
Also, have you ever thought about the complete randomness of a puppy on a package of toilet paper!? I’m talking about Page here. They use the puppy to enhance the idea that their toilet paper is soft.
So, next time you consume (anything – really!), pause for a second and think about how your current experience is affected by the product’s look, rather than functional benefit to you. Have you seen any cool examples of product packages that caught your eye? Let me know in a comment!
Written by Kim van der Vliet