In an initial test, supermarket shelves were stocked with genuine but unfamiliar foreign confectionery brands. Study participants wore special eye-tracking glasses to gauge which products attracted their attention and were asked to judge the best and worst product packaging.
The researchers found that deeper colours worked to suggest a full-flavoured, high-quality product, while white packaging suggested freshness, hygiene and better taste. Participants also responded well to unusual shapes and large front-of-pack windows through which the product was visible. Grey or ‘ugly’ designs prompted a negative reaction, as did cartons that were perceived to be ‘too small’.
Vice president or marketing for M-real Consumer Packaging Riikka Joukio said: “Increasingly packaging is required to act as a ‘silent salesman’ for a brand, especially with the rise in retailer own brands and when as many as 70 per cent of purchase decisions are made at point of sale. Lasting impressions can be made at first sight, but we felt it was also vital to find out if opinions change at a later point in a carton’s life cycle.”
In a second test, participants were asked to handle variously shaped cartons, all with the same print design. The researchers found initially positive impressions – considering an unusual shape to be innovative and tempting, for example – changed if it was found to be tricky to open or close.
They also noted that many consumer comments referred to the product itself, even though they were only asked to evaluate the packaging.
“The outcome of the consumer perception test was clear: the package is an integral part of the product itself and both need to be complementary,” they concluded.