How Packaging Influences Buying Habits
Sorry to break it to you Comic Sans-lovers of the world, but we all judge books by their covers–especially when it comes to packaging. First impressions count for a lot, and most people’s first impression of a product will be based primarily on its design. From colors to patterns to typography to print finish, every element influences consumer buying behavior in a myriad of ways most of us aren’t even aware of.
Picture a trip to the grocery store, for example. Let’s say you’re about to check out when you remember you need to pick up something to bring to a friend’s dinner party that night. You head to the candy aisle and start scrolling through the chocolates. Not being a huge chocolate fan (your hypothetical self is a bit of a monster), you don’t recognize any of the brands and have no idea which one tastes the best. They’re all within roughly the same price range, so going entirely off of looks you grab the one that appears to be the highest quality. This seemingly innocuous split-second decision for you as a consumer is the moment that can truly make or break you as a brand. Your product could be objectively superior to everything else on the shelf, but if your packaging sends the wrong message, it’ll either appeal to the wrong demographic or not sell at all.
Take our client McCrea’s Candies, for example. Based in Boston, the small, family-owned company specializes in all-natural, handcrafted caramels. When it comes to taste, McCrea’s caramels are in a quality class all their own. On the shelf, however, the generic–and slightly dated–packaging was making customers pass it by. Working with the owners, we created a new look that reflects the simple, upscale quality of the product. In the first six months following the redesign, McCrea’s has received a flurry of new attention at tradeshows from major national retailers and has experienced over 150 percent increase in sales. They were a finalist in the 2015 Martha Stewart American Made contest and are now carried by luxury retailer Barney’s.
Why was McCrea’s such a wild success? Well, it wasn’t just because the packaging was pretty (humblebrag alert). McCrea’s caramels are flying off the shelf now because every element of the packaging–from the design to the shape to the material–is truly reflective of the brand itself. Good product packaging isn’t just about sending the loudest message, it’s about sending the right one. Once you’ve figured out who you are as a company, you need to make sure your packaging reflects your identity. Customers trust brands who put their money where their mouth is. If your company is all about being green and promoting an organic lifestyle, for example, then maybe your product packaging should be made from 100 percent compostable materials.
If picking the right product packaging for your brand seems like a complicated science, well, that’s because it is. Hundreds of academic studies have been published on the effect color has on emotions alone! But don’t let that overwhelm you. Once you’ve got your brand identity figured out, a good design partner will be able to help you translate it into your product packaging and harmonize the consumer experience.