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Importance of Product Packaging in Marketing
Whether you’re getting ready to create packaging for a product you’re selling or you’re considering changing the packaging of an existing product, you may be wondering if the appearance of a product’s package is important. Many product providers may think that the product and its performance is more important than what the packaging looks like, but the product packaging can play a role in the success or failure of the sales of the product.
The purpose of product packaging is to protect the product from damage. Product packaging not only protects the product during transit from the manufacturer to the retailer, but it also prevents damage while the product sits on retail shelves. Most products have some form of packaging. For example, soups must have a container and package while apples may have packaging for transport but not to sell the product from the produce department of the local grocery store.
How a product is packaged may be what attracts the consumer to take a look on the product as is sits on store shelves. For this reason, many companies conduct extensive research on color schemes, designs and types of product packaging that is the most appealing to its intended consumer.
Packaging also plays an important role for portraying information about the product. Outside packaging may contain directions on how to use the product or make the product.
Facilitates Purchase Decision
Packaging may also contain ingredients and nutritional information about the product. This information can help to sell the product because it allows potential customers to obtain the necessary information they need to make a purchase decision. Information contained on a package may propel the reader to buy the product without ever having to speak to a store clerk.
Packaging can also differentiate one brand of product from another brand. Because the product packaging can contain company names, logos and the color scheme of the company, it helps consumers to identify the product as it sits among the competition’s products on store shelves. For example, as a shopper walks through the coffee aisle of the local grocery store, the bright orange, pink and white packaging of the Dunkin’ Donuts coffee brand may be easily recognizable for the consumer to grab on his way by the coffee shelf. The shopper may identify with the company brand, which propels them to buy the product. If the product packaging changes, it may alter the brand perception of the company, which doesn’t mean that the consumer would not still purchase the product, but it may delay the purchase until the person is able to identify the product according to its new packaging.
Packaging and labeling do more than protect and identify your company’s products. They play a vital role in developing your image and brand within your target market. Failing to pay attention to the design of your packaging and labeling can decrease the visibility and attractiveness of your products, which can be devastating for sales.
Your product’s label delivers your sales message. You can explain what benefits you offer that competitors don’t, for example, or promote a prize or discount. You also can develop brand goodwill by showing customers you share their values. For instance, images of happy families, healthy athletes and green pastures each speak to different types of consumers. Labels also must fulfill your legal obligations. Food manufacturers, for example, must publish detailed nutritional information in a specific format and employ marketing terms — such as “low-fat” or “reduced cholesterol” — that conform to federal regulations. Finally, your product might need a UPC, or universal product code, especially if it will be sold in high-volume retail outlets.
A notable logo and color scheme can help differentiate your product from those of your competitors, as can the shape of the product packaging. Bright colors attract attention and draw the customer’s eye — unless all your competitors have bright packaging and labels. In that case, a subdued design scheme might stand out more. For example, some potato-chip companies use understated designs on gourmet-style products to differentiate themselves from brightly colored, mass-appeal items on the same shelf.
Novel packaging can attract consumers, but practicality is equally important. For example, if your competitors use resealable packaging for their food products, consumers might favor those products over yours simply due to their practical benefits. Inconvenient packaging — for instance, if the item is huge or hard to open — also can hurt sales.
When people see your product, they should think of your brand. The packaging and labeling of each item in your product line should match all others so your promotion efforts can coordinate. For example, suppose you promote one type of product with a magazine advertisement. All the other items in your product line will benefit from the exposure if they share similar design characteristics and a recognizable logo.
Ask people to define marketing, and some may still give answers strongly weighted toward advertising, especially in the form of TV commercials, magazine and print ads, and online ads. As any inbound marketer knows, however, this is definitely not the whole picture. Marketing encompasses everything around the sale of a product or service, even down to the parts most people never give thought to — including the packaging a product is wrapped in.
Packaging is a vital part of marketing. In many cases, it is the last “ad” a person will see for the product as they browse store shelves before deciding what to buy. Effective product packaging attracts attention in a positive way and entices consumers to buy. As such, every marketer and entrepreneur needs to understand the power of packaging for driving sales.
What Is Product Packaging?
At its simplest, product packaging is simply that: the manner in which a product is enclosed before sale. Some products may require specific packaging types for safety, such as food items. Others mainly use packaging to convey information to the buyer.
In a broader sense, product packaging refers to the entire process of design, production, and use of packaging to both enclose and sell items. Thinking about it in this way makes it easier to see that product packaging has a very impactful marketing component.
Why Does Packaging Influence Buying Behavior?
Even for highly rational people, there is always an emotional aspect to buying something. Many people are not consciously aware of the degree to which their emotions drive purchases, especially impulse purchases. Product packaging designers, on the other hand, are well aware of this propensity to make emotionally-driven buying decisions — and they use it to guide their efforts.
The ways in which packaging influences positive and negative emotions, and subsequently buying behavior, has been the focus of much research. For example, an article from the journal Psychology & Marketing published in October 2013 describes how researchers used an fMRI machine to measure brain activity while study participants viewed different types of packaging.
The study discovered that viewing attractive packaging caused more intense brain activity than neutral packaging. Attractive packaging also caused activity in brain areas associated with rewards, while unattractive packaging caused activity in areas of the brain connected with negative emotions. Clearly, product packaging has a real influence on how we feel about products, which directly connects to our choices about what to buy.
What Consumers Want
Even though consumers may not consciously recognize all the ways in which packaging affects them, there are some things consumers actively look for. Making sure packaging succeeds in giving consumers what they want in these areas will help make more sales.
- Packaging needs to clearly identify the product and brand, especially to help loyal consumers find it easily. The most relevant information about the product should also be clearly explained, such as the size of clothing or ingredients of food products.
- Some packaging has a storage or protective function for the product, even after purchase. If packaging can double as a storage or carrying case, it should be durable, compact, and easy to use.
- With growing awareness of the need for sustainable living, many consumers are looking for “green” packaging, i.e. packaging that can be recycled or reused. Minimalist packaging is also a plus, as it uses fewer materials.
- With the wealth of different products on the market in nearly every category, a fresh, new idea always helps a product to stand out. It’s often better to make packaging that is attractive and unique in some way than to stick with familiar designs. Some caution is needed, however. A package that is too unusual may turn consumers off.
Some Examples of Great Packaging
One of the best ways to learn what great packaging looks and feels like is to study successful brands and see how they package their products. Here are two well-known brands that consistently succeed when it comes to packaging.
- Coca-Cola — Coke could be considered the grand-daddy of great packaging design, as its iconic logo has been familiar for decades and is recognizable in languages around the world. But Coca-Cola is also pushing forward new ideas for packaging design that combines the best of modern innovation with its classic design strategy. An example: the recent rollout of Cokes with familiar first names on the label.
- Apple — Apple has also refined its packaging to support its products in a big way, with the company’s philosophy of simplicity and beautiful design represented in the boxes its computers, tablets, and phones are encased in. The packaging always feels high quality, appropriate for Apple’s premium products, and uses no distracting graphics or information — just images of the products inside, which consumers can’t wait to break out and start using.
There are successful packaging stories to be found everywhere, produced by giant corporations and scrappy startups alike. Successful packaging is always attractive to the consumer, helping to draw them in by promising a great experience with the product inside.