Getting noticed and chosen: the secrets of good packaging design

Day-to-day we are bombarded with countless brands, but interestingly we only remember the ones we really love.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that consumers decide to buy products based on quality alone. But according to psychologists and retailers it’s often the bolder, flashier product packaging that wins through.

Twenty years ago, when I was working for the Co-op I observed shoppers’ behaviour first-hand. I learnt what influenced their decisions and which brands were better at effective communication. Making a great product is only part of the formula for retail success. Perfect packaging, eye-catching colours and graphics are all equally as important to get the tills ringing.

As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there are some universal truths regarding shape, colour, imagery and messaging that can be applied across all product categories to grab the buyer’s attention.

In this blog, I’ll be sharing the secrets of how to successfully design product packaging in order to target and influence consumers. Selecting the right colour, shape, images and words is crucial, and here’s why…

1) Colour

Many branding and packaging designers attribute colour as the most powerful visual cue for a product, and psychologists agree, accrediting colour as key to creating appealing packaging. Colour is the first thing the customer will notice and makes the biggest impact. More than 90 per cent of shoppers make snap judgments about products based on colour alone (Gopikrishna and Montosh, 2015).

For instance, when shopping for milk we will scan the aisle for the blue, red or green top bottle rather than look for the word ‘milk’ or the image of a cow. The same applies when we are searching for products like chocolate or baked beans – the purple colour of Cadbury and teal green colour of Heinz were purposefully chosen to differentiate those brands from their competitors and help shoppers easily locate them on shelf.

When we’re looking to buy a new product in the supermarket, the colour of the packaging leads us to create assumptions about it, even before we learn what it is. Designers will often use earthy colours to convey perceived organic or healthy product benefits to potential consumers. Colours such as browns, greens and pale blues are often found on boxes of cereals, teas, pulses or vegetables usually indicating wholesomeness. Red and orange make us feel hungry and are typically used for hearty and satisfying foods. Whereas, products aimed at performance or snacking such as energy drinks, crisps and sweets are more likely to feature brighter hues, as the brain releases serotonin at the sight of yellow.

2) Shape

Defining shapes is another tool brands use to enhance their identity. This shouldn’t be overlooked, as the graphic shapes of a product are essential to planting the brand firmly in the consumer’s mind.

Heinz ‘flagstone’                                             Coca-Cola ‘swoosh’

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 15.51.25                                Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 15.54.36

The 3D shape of a product’s packaging can also have a significant effect on sales. Products that encourage tangibility due to unusual shapes or textures, such as a Toblerone bar or Orangina bottle, are more likely to lead to a purchase as well as creating impact on the shelf. Shape is so vital to successful marketing that many companies even trademark their bottle shapes.

Orangina unique bottle shape              Toberlone triangular shape product and packaging

985f1b7907a3613ca8c5a58fde205f98                        toblerone-hero

3) Images

Incorporating illustration, photography or iconography into your packaging design should be with the consumer in mind. Children’s packs of yoghurts may display cartoon characters, whilst packaging aimed at adults often shows natural ingredients or scenes of vitality, alluding to health and longevity. It helps to simplify brand choice for the shopper.

IDShot_540x540-1                Dannon-Activia

4) Words

A well-chosen name and good copywriting can help brands stand out and truly be themselves. Innocent Drinks is a great example of how the right words on pack can be really effective. Not only is the packaging original and fun, they’re entertaining which keeps customers engaged so they buy it for the experience, not just the taste. Another notable example is This Works skincare packaging. Their copy-led approach and tone of voice portray a brand with boldness and confidence to deliver what it promises.

Innocent                                                                                                  This Works

static1.squarespace      6a00d8345250f069e20112790c254428a4-550wi

It just goes to show how valuable packaging design can be when it comes to winning business. The colour, shape, images and words give consumers clear signals relating to a products premium positioning or value, taste and quality. Brand personality can all too easily be misinterpreted by consumers if some of these visual cues have not been properly thought through.

It’s an emotional response that drives purchases, and the psychology behind consumer behaviour helps marketers to influence customers’ perceptions about their products and ultimately whether it’s destined for their shopping trolley.

At Jackdaw we put the customer at the heart of packaging design and it’s critical to every design recommendation we make.

Gopikrishna, K and Montosh, K (2015), A Conceptual Study on Psychology of in Marketing and Branding, Sathyabama University, Chennai, India