Supermarkets are inundated with numerous products, brands fight for the shelf space to attract consumers. Brands differentiate their products using colourful and creatively designed packages. By doing this, the brands fight each other silently to win over the consumer who walk across the aisle. However, there is no sales person standing nearby to explain the features of the product. Sonsino (1990) states that the transformation of retail industry demands customers to pick products on their own. Packaging play a huge role in grabbing the attention of the customer when they opt self-servicing. Sonsino (1990) called packaging acts as a “Silent Salesman” in stores. According to Vidales Giovannetti (1995), packaging conveys the benefits and qualities of a product. Additionally, packaging provides the last opportunity to grab the attention of the consumers (Mc Daniel & Baker, 1977).


A package to sell honey – Retrieved from

Importance of packaging:

Phil Barden in his book “Decoded” mentioned that our autopilot (unconscious brain) has capacity to process 11 million bits of information compared to the pilot system (conscious brain) which can process only 4 million bits of information. Hence, an approach to attract unconscious brain is needed. Because the superstores have a huge amount of information, hence marketers have a humongous task to attract the attention of the customers. Additionally, 90% of the purchasers adopt impulsive purchase occasionally (Welles, 1986). Moreover, package stays with the consumers for a longer time (Lindsay, 1997). Hence, creative packaging play a crucial role in achieving the purpose of the marketers.

Elements of packaging:

Packaging elements like texts, colours, structure, images, people, texture and weight play a key role in shaping the perceptions of customers (McNeal and Ji, 2003; Piqueras-Fiszman and Spence, 2012). Exploring into the elements of packaging reveal interesting information about how it can change the perception of consumer and their judgement. Studies have found that all the elements of packaging helps in making judgement about the product.

Colour and shape of the package:

A study conducted by Rebollar et al (2012) assessed chewing gum package colour and type. The study evaluated the four different attributes of the products such as: Functional, Sensory, Experience and Willingness to buy. Three different colour base like scales of grey, cool colours and warm colours were taken. In terms of package design – pill pack, slim pack and blister pack were taken for the study. (See the picture given below for details). The study revealed that the willingness to buy is very high for slim pack warm colour. This study shows the importance of colour and package design in consumer decision-making.


Retrieved from the article: Rebollar et al (2012)

Sensation Transference:

Another study conducted by Piqueras-Fiszman and Spence (2012) estimated the effect of texture of the package (see picture given below) and its influence on consumption experience. The researchers asked participants to take soggy/crunchy biscuits from smooth/ rough textured package. It is found that participants who tasted from the rough package said the biscuits are crunchy irrespective of either they are soggy or crunchy compared to the smooth package. Also the researchers tested whether the participants feel the same difference while consuming yogurt. However, there is no significant difference while participants consumed yogurt. The researchers stated that the amount time required to chew and consumer biscuits is longer compared to yogurt. Hence, the participants didn’t feel any difference when they consumed yogurt. This study shows  that the package texture can shape the perceptions of consumers. The researcher quoted that consumers were able to predict product crunchy nature based on the sensation they receive from the package. The name of this phenomenon is called  “Sensation Transference”.


Image retrieved from the study: Piqueras-Fiszman and Spence (2012)

Product package weight can also play a significant role in buying decisions. Researchers used two bowls of different weight and asked participants to taste yogurt from it. The results of the study found that the participants who tasted yogurt from heavier bowl said the yogurt to be dense compared to the lighter bowl. However, the yogurt remained the same in both cases. This psychological phenomenon is called as weight-density illusion. Companies like Apple use a heavier package to pack iPhones to convey the quality of the product. Apparently, they are using the weight-density illusion to convey the meaning about their brand.


Image retrieved from the study: Piqueras-Fiszman and Spence (2012)

Horizontal – Vertical Illusion:

Finally, we are going to see how the height of the package can influence consumers. This is explained through Piaget’s child development. Child who are aged around four, normally compare height of the liquid in a glass to quantify the volume. Children involved the study were asked to compare two glasses of water and say which one has more water in it. Intially they used two round glass water with equal level, the kid told they are of same level. Then the researcher transfer one glass of water from the round glass to a tall slim glass. Now, the kid told the researcher that the volume of water is higher in the tall glass compared the round glass. This is called as “Vertical – Horizontal Illusion”, this is also proven to exist in adults by Raghubir and Krishna (1999).

Companies normally use this psychological principle in developing the package. Even though, the quantity of the product is less. They pack it in a slim tall packs to make consumers to feel that they get by buying that particular product.

Future of packaging:

Retail industry is undergoing drastic change. The use of technology in retail industry is becoming prolific. Technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality can create a shopping floor in consumers home itself. This poses a big challenge for brands to convey information to people. Tangible packaging elements like height, weight and texture can’t create similar effects in the digital world. Hence, the brands have to struggle a lot in conveying meaningful information through virtual packages. They will have to keep themselves ready to embrace the change and work out strategies to create attention in the crowded virtual space.

One possible way to tackle this problem is to see the eye fixation and movement of the consumers using eye tracking device. This will allow us to see whether the package design has created an impression in the digital world too.


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