How Does Packaging Influence Food Choices?

by Alex Hunter
Food Packaging

Few would argue that marketing and advertising has gained a deep understanding of the consumer mindset over the last 50 years. We are as well armed as ever to driver consumer demand. However, this quote by Rory Sutherland, Vice Chair of Ogilvy & Mather and famous behavioural economics author shows that we may not always be looking in the right places to solve our issues of growth.

“I’ve always argued you should start by optimising the end of a journey or process and work your way back. You could have the best advertising in the world, but if your conversion is no good, or you’re not available on shelf then advertising isn’t your problem.”

It’s because of this that we often focus our attention on the in-store environment as a start point to answering brand challenges. It’s the behaviour of shoppers inside these environments with a shopper mindset that changes the fortunes of brands.

Brands can often focus attention driving brand awareness and creating fantastic campaigns which change the course of the brand purely by having an effect on retail buyers who give brands greater space in store, or better positioning. This deliverance of the second half of Byron Sharp’s availability equation; physical availability equates to much greater sales. But what if you could achieve all this without the huge ad spend? What if there was a way to understand the psychology of the shopper and influence them with media which you already buy; packaging and SRP?

These days with ecommerce being such a core driver of growth and being a channel where the consumer can swiftly go from unaware to advocate in an instant, it’s essential to understand the journey that people go through to get to purchase and what drives them along the funnel.

On this basis, if you only do one thing from this article then let it be this: Spend an hour in a store watching how people interact with the products. From this you will learn everything you ever need to know about how to grow a brand or category in store. You will be inspired (and horrified) by the behaviour you see. The learnings you get from that behaviour will be applicable to online and offline.

I’ve witnessed people put their faces to bottles and rub them on their cheeks, subconsciously tilt milkshake bottles to feel the viscosity, and surreptitiously unscrew washing liquid lids to inhale the aroma. People squeeze bread habitually and rub apples on their trousers. That’s just the simple stuff.

Now, when you take all that experience and try to translate it into a website where the only sense you will activate is sight, you need to truly understand the fullest extent of that experience, so you know exactly how to bottle it.

What Happens Inside Their Heads

The reality is that very little is going on in our conscious minds when we shop. The average person will walk past thousands of products even in a small store. It’s impossible for us to take in every individual opportunity which tries to capture our attention. So, we use heuristics to help us navigate. It’s one major reason why individuals tend to have a preferred shop. They are stores which we are familiar with and therefore can navigate freely. If you stand in a shop on the first day of moving everything around, especially if it’s a significant change then you will be greeted with outrage. The conscious brain doesn’t like being made to work hard and so it’s furious when expectations don’t meet reality.

The average person whilst shopping instead spend much of their time moving from one part of a store to another (online or offline) and then making quick and efficient purchases. The travel time between one category and another on ecommerce websites tends to be a little more efficient, but the mechanics are still the same.

So, what can we do with this knowledge? Firstly, we must acknowledge that the vast majority of our work will go unnoticed. Secondly, we must design to meet the needs of the subconscious mind.

Creative Engineering and Design Hierarchy

There is nothing better than well-designed packaging. But, to different people a great design means different things. Some look purely at the aesthetics of the packaging and how it feels in the hand. It’s important however to go much further and look at matching the design hierarchy with the needs of the journey in store. From a distance the pack must stand out against competition and the shelf. It must then be recognised for the brand or category.

We call this process of identifying the needs which must be designed to ‘creative engineering’ as it seeks to create the right framework within which the design must fall. When building this picture prior to design phase we have seen up to 100% more conversion at fixture. That is double your sales.

However, to deliver even greater rates of conversion it’s important to consider the different parts of the brand journey which people must go through and delivering messages outside packaging. This means utilising things like FSDUs and SRP to reach different parts of the journey with the right message for that stage. An example being using an FSDU to signpost that the category is nearby and using an SRP to help someone locate it, or even to distinguish variants.

We can do it for you

By truly understanding the buyer journey and optimising your efforts with a focus on design hierarchy on packaging, you can deliver growth rates which simply defy the spend which is required to drive consumer demand through advertising alone. Get in touch today to find out how we can help.

Please visit our contact us page for details.

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