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The Total Sensory Package

Lisa Doyle
  • Converging multiple sensory experiences in one beauty package can help it stand out on shelves. Touch and sight are standard, but sound and smell also are becoming players in beauty packaging.
  • Higher-quality materials typically visually signal a higher-quality product to consumers, as typically does a product that is heavy in the hand.
  • Engineering a sound for a product’s package may seem extreme, but it does help round out and tell the full story about a product and its attention to detail.
  • Although fragranced packaging can be tricky in beauty products, it is increasingly being discussed, and more brands are showing interest.

In most consumer categories, the package is the proverbial cover from which the book is judged—and beauty is no different. And a savvy brand realizes that it’s not only the look, feel and smell of the product inside that matters; when effectively put together, a package’s appealing multisensory attributes can influence consumers as well.

Taking a cue from other categories that do this well—wine and spirits, as examples—can lead to standout beauty packaging that does more than just look attractive.

“New technology will offer even more exciting hybrid products going forward, [and] innovation will come not only from beauty but from complementary categories such as textiles, devices, sensors, 3D and 4D printing, food and drink and automotives,” says Vivienne Rudd, director of insight, beauty and personal care at Mintel. “Of particular interest are new delivery systems and packaging, both of which will see significant advances. These will impact most beauty categories, but the sharpest focus will be on skin care, hair care and fragrance.”

A package that can awaken one’s senses can be essential to your brand’s message. “The personal care market is, in a great sense, a fashion business,” says Carole Grassi, marketing director, dispensing, Albéa Group. “The packaging we create, in partnership with customers, must communicate—and build upon—the brand essence. Beauty, pleasure, luxury, convenience—these are all characteristics that packaging can reach through cues to the consumer’s eyes, fingertips, ears and nose.”

Touch and Weight

A message of luxury is often evident in the materials chosen for packaging—the higher the quality and durability of the materials generally infers the higher quality of the product housed within. The weight of the package also often suggests the same.

“For prestige products, a heavier closure can help communicate a sense of extravagance and great worth each time the end-user holds the product,” says Grassi. “This is also true for certain lipstick brands that cleverly use metal to convey a certain classic sensibility.”

Jonathan Dudlak, general manager of Chicago Paper Tube & Can Company, agrees that weight imparts a sense of luxury. “People pick up one of our canisters and the feel is very different from a box or pouch—the natural columnar strength and weight of a round, rigid package imparts a feeling of quality and craftsmanship that makes a positive impression for the product within,” he explains.

It’s also important to note that for other products on the prestige spectrum, such as makeup brushes, the feel of the packaging should be quite different from those used for classic luxury. “The more reusable and multi-purpose the packaging design, the more the consumer will feel it’s worth spending the money,” explains Shana King, senior director of beauty and education at Anisa International.

Additionally, Grassi notes, “At Albéa Group, we are big believers in the nomadism megatrend—that is, personal care products are used around the clock in a variety of venues. Therefore, for certain products, ease of transport—lighter weight—takes precedence.”

These factors come into play particularly for brands that promote sustainable beauty. “Our Natural Collection features all-paperboard, entirely recyclable canisters with an organic, earthy look that is great for eco-conscious brands looking for more minimalist packaging,” says Dudlak.


Following the lead of other industries that use sound remarkably, beauty brands find incorporating predetermined sound also can be a benefit. “The automobile industry, in particular, is quite innovative in this area,” notes Grassi. “Engineers can tune the sound of engine exhaust to match the expectations of the buyer and design closures and controls that deliver a reassuring, solid sound or feel. Similarly, the ‘click’ of a cap, upon closure, is important. Engineering the ‘right’ sound communicates a sense of quality, precision and prestige that enhances the product and brand.”

Grassi notes the grouping of sound, sight and touch make for a complete sensorial package with Albéa’s Panache dispensing platform. “The soft actuation, the cloud effect of the deep and full fragrance spray, and the ‘whispering’ sound all combine to create a special multisensory experience that the consumers savors with each usage,” she says.

Indeed, involving all the senses works well for Anisa International’s Isotonic Brush Wand. “It features several brush heads on one handle that can be interchanged and stacked using magnetic force,” says King. “The strong, utilitarian look of the outer packaging, the clicking noise made when the brush heads are interchanged, and the feel of seamlessly switching the tool around to create the makeup look you want—all of these multisensory packaging elements mirror the ease, efficiency and compactness of the product itself.”


The smell of the product also is often of paramount importance, and the beauty industry may even be seeing scented packaging as a trend in the near future.

“We’ve been pitched the idea of using fragranced inks and coatings by some printer partners, so clearly there’s a push to involve more of the senses in purchasing decisions,” says Dudlak. “We rely strongly on the tactile experience, almost as much as the visual one, for our own packaging, so we’re always interested in new ways to communicate with the end user at this level. Incorporating new and unconventional materials is one way to get this done, and we’ve seen it happening already as designers get more creative and the technology improves.”

A Sensory Experience

Touch and sight are already of paramount importance in the development of good beauty packaging, but smell, sound and maybe even taste may be rising ways to help set your brand’s products apart on the shelves. Watch trends in materials and technology, as well as in other industries, to find ways to tap into unique elements for your beauty product packaging to help really get some attention.

Lisa Doyle was formerly the associate editor of GCI magazine and is a freelance writer in the Chicago area. Her work has appeared in Skin Inc. magazine, Salon Today, America’s Best, Renew and Modern Salon.

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