Packaging’s Impact on Purchasing Decisions; Responding to a Trend

GCI: How does packaging influence purchasing behavior?

Carafa: Studies have indicated that consumers buy products for the first time with high visually appealing graphics instead of those with bland packaging. However, once a consumer has developed loyalty to a product, packaging becomes less of a factor in the purchasing decision. Companies are now employing tactics such as high-contrast packaging, foil packaging and packages that have a unique feel or scent to win a brief opportunity on the store shelf.

Rusch: It’s all about shelf appeal. Because consumers so closely relate themselves to the brands and the packaging they purchase, the cosmetics and personal care industry is invested in innovative packaging that is fashionable and forward-driven, consistently challenging itself to reinvent the trends. Being so fashion-oriented, things change and consumers are constantly looking for something that is new and innovative. This is what pushes packaging to drive trends.

Hutson: Consumers make subconscious decisions regarding packaging based on the way it feels or functions. If a package feels uncomfortable to handle or use, a consumer may subconsciously build a negative impression of the package no matter how well the formula performs. Attention to detail and the way a consumer holds and uses a package are paramount criteria for a successful design. Bielefeldt: If you have two, identical products on the shelf at similar price points, but one is offered in an attractive package with a convenient dispensing closure, and the other one is offered in a plain-looking package with a less convenient dispensing method, consumers are going to choose the package that looks better and makes it easier to use the product inside.

McGee: Visual impressions are always important to selling image but are especially important when selling cosmetic and beauty products, where image is often key to a brand’s success. As a result, beauty product marketers spend a great deal of time and money developing primary packaging that support their brand image and product positioning and that evoke emotional responses from consumers. With clear or visual secondary packaging, ties to those prestige primary packages are maintained and can be enhanced with well-designed, exciting visual packaging products. A 3-D view of the product or primary package itself is much more impactful than a printed image. Nowak: There are many different consumer drivers. Sometimes it’s “the look.” Sometimes it’s the practicality and functionality—perhaps a gesture that appeals to the consumer. Sometimes it’s simply the effective communication of the brand’s attributes, which makes the end-user feel special with every usage. Either way, the best packaging solutions build brands, deliver ROI and help beat the competition.

Jackson: Seventy-four percent of consumers say that packaging is critical to make their final selection, and that’s why brands naturally come to us to find a way to differentiate. They know that packaging is a key asset to reflect the brand image and stand out on the shelf. Packaging allows personalization of the product, but also brings a real added value when formulas are most of the time equivalent in terms of quality.

GCI: Regarding packaging, what traps can brand owners fall into if they respond to the wrong trend—or if they respond to the right trend in the wrong way?

Hutson: Consumers are more and more savvy these days and know what they want—they will not buy a product if it does not fulfill their need or they may buy once but will not buy again. Consumers are also checking the Internet to see if a product really performs as advertised by scanning user reviews and blogs. Poorly designed products or poorly performing products will gain a bad reputation. This can result in stockpiles of products that just don’t sell or sell too slowly for retailers to justify keeping it on the shelves, leading to expensive inventory issues and returns for brand owners.

Bielefeldt: Perhaps the biggest risk that brand owners face is investing in a new graphic identity or structural package design that does not address the needs or preferences of their target market. For example, a hair care company with a young customer base may try to introduce a retro-inspired brand identity that is unfamiliar to its target audience, and the packaging ends up looking old-fashioned instead of cool. At Alpha, we offer a lot of package development options that help big companies develop custom packaging in relatively small volumes, and at a cost much lower than large-volume tooling, so they can test a product line with much less risk. Then, as volumes increase, we can scale up and grow with their needs.

Jackson: As with most trends, timing is everything. Be in front, take some risks, look carefully at the packaging companies and evaluate their innovations. Some will fit the brand perfectly. The message is to keep in tune with innovation and the packaging business, which focuses on innovation, before it gets to a stock offer.

GCI: Which packaging trends are ones to watch in 2012?

Carafa: Given the public’s growing awareness of various environmental issues, sustainability continues to be high on the list. Studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for products and packages that are environmentally friendly. As a result, biodegradability and packages that minimize their carbon footprint should be explored and implemented when feasible.

Rusch: Throughout 2011, there has certainly been an upgrade in packaging. Premiumization is a hot topic and we have had a lot of interest in upgrading packaging by adding metal. As more consumers become aware of the advantages of anodized packaging not only in design characteristics but also its environmental properties, we anticipate the trend of replacing lacquering and metalizing with anodizing to continue. It’s worth noting, anodized aluminum is infinitely recyclable and approximately 45% of the products manufactured at Anomatic contain at least 80% recycled content.

Hutson: 3-D architecturally structured designs that combine fantasy and reality, sustainability, customization, and multi-sensorial, microsized products are strong trends to watch for 2012.There will also be a return to handcrafted techniques and more “authentic” designs.

Bielefeldt: Custom colors for stock packaging styles are one of the trends we’ve been noticing at Alpha Packaging. Through the first six months on 2011, we have already had as many custom colors approved by brand owners as we had through all of 2010, and the color palettes we’ve seen in 2011 include a lot of purples, yellows, deep oranges and beiges. Metallic or pearlized custom colors have also been a popular trend.

McGee: We see a renewed interest in the use of secondary packaging of non-traditional geometries: something other than a six-sided box. Our InSight packages combines printed and scored plastic sleeves with injection-molded end caps to form a very distinctive visual package. They are essentially tubes where the end caps’ shape determines the packages’ overall shape. In addition to the distinctive “cat’s eye” or “pillow pack” profile used by Olay and others, InSight is available in oval, round, rectangular and many other profiles.

Nowak: We can anticipate greater use of mini-product programs, for new launches, established brands and in emerging markets. Second, the heightened appeal of true airless systems, to protect advanced and hybrid formulations. Third, the combination of eco-consciousness and cost pressures will gradually reduce the appeal of secondary packaging and heighten the demand for innovative primary packaging that delivers ROI and communicates key brand attributes.

Jackson: There are three main trends to watch in 2012: providing more professional tools adapted to the consumer use; eco-design will stay a major work line because consumers are more and more mindful about packaging consumption and brands are ready to take concrete actions to reduce the environmental impact of their products; and nomadism, because consumers are always on the go and they need packaging adapted to their way of life. The goal is to allow the consumer to use every packaging in any circumstances.