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The Visual Signal

By: Len Loffler
Posted: April 27, 2012, from the May 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

How does the shape, color and texture or “look” of a package relate to the product, its brand, and the market and consumer being targeted? Before exploring the answer to this question, look at the more general topics of the role of packaging in the beauty market and packaging’s importance in society.

One of the definitions of cosmetics is “superficial measures to make something appear better, more attractive, or more impressive.” That’s the industry—superficial and really not that important, right? The proverbial “lipstick on a pig”—an expression many American’s first heard in a speech during a recent presidential campaign. Now that’s a really important industry, politics! But consider, if it were true that the beauty industry is not very important, why would political candidates have their own makeup artists? And why do we often, as a whole, tend to prefer the better-looking candidate? Have you ever heard someone say “I love Candidate X’s platform, but I won’t vote for him because he’s not electable”? Why is that? Maybe cosmetics is more important than many think or admit. How people look and smell might not seem very important until you end up stuck in an elevator with a presidential candidate after a long day on the campaign trail.

Let’s face it though, the beauty industry and its products won’t change the result of a caucus, but the beauty industry and its products play their role. In fact, in the everyday lives of people, beauty products are very important—they play a role in how we feel about ourselves and, in turn, how others interact with us.

To illustrate, I’ll use a typical candidate’s ploy—I’d like to tell you a little story ...

Linda was a scientist who, on the morning that she was on the verge of unlocking the secrets of nuclear fusion, discovers she’s out of foundation. Without, she goes to work feeling naked and self-conscious, her colleagues comment on how tired she looks, the whole thing affects her concentration and she spills her coffee over notes that contained the calculations that would have led to the breakthrough of the century! If only she had bought the larger size foundation.