Packaging of luxury food products and cosmetics involves appealing to multiple layers of emotional meaning. Designers must understand how to embed these emotions in their packaging designs. Here's a deeper look at how knowledge of the five dimensions of product emotion can create a more attractive and appropriate package.

What are Product Emotions?

Human emotions cover a wide range, but can be summarized as pleasant or unpleasant. Many times emotions are evoked by cultural products, which have lifestyle imagery and values baked into the branding. Sometimes emotional response is what drives a customer to choose one brand over another within the same product category.

Traditionally, designers have considered emotional response to the appearance of a product as intangible. Due to the fact that products can trigger various emotions, there has been a preconceived notion among designers that it's impossible to predict how consumers will respond emotionally. Responses are driven not only by appearance, but also by the product's aesthetics, function and behaviour. Adding to this complexity is the fact that associated emotional  meanings may vary from person to person. Another factor is that a given individual may experience more than one emotion for the same product. 

So even though it's difficult to determine how people will respond, designers can still create designs that stimulate emotions based on theories of unique patterns of eliciting conditions. Research by Lazarus and Desmet suggests that there are 14 relevant emotions that make up these patterns. These studies have narrowed classifications to five emotion types:

      1. instrumental product emotions
      2. aesthetic product emotions
      3. social product emotions
      4. surprise product emotions
      5. interest product emotions

1. Instrumental Product Emotions

Every product on the market is designed to serve some kind of purpose that often involves solving a problem or enhancing an experience. In that sense products are instrumental in meeting people's needs and desires. Products that help consumers achieve their goals evoke the emotion of satisfaction, whereas products that are not compliant with motives generate a feeling of dissatisfaction. 

Once people become familiar with a product, they can predict the type of experiences and emotions that will result from purchasing it. Appearance, price and packaging all factor into shaping perceptions and emotions about the product. Consumers will likely be loyal to products that comply with their motives, while discarding items that fail to be motive compliant.

2. Aesthetic Product Emotions

Human senses of sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing play a big role in product aesthetics. Objects may encompass each of these characteristics, leading to either positive or negative experiences for each of the senses. These sensory perceptions, along with colour and style, ultimately contribute to attitudes and goals associated with the product.

If a product resonates with consumer attitudes, it will elicit positive emotions as well. However, if the product doesn't connect with the shopper's attitudes, it may evoke an emotional response of disgust. Keep in mind it's possible for the individual to have positive responses to certain models simultaneously as negative responses to different models of the same brand. The consumer, for example, may be reminded of a bad experience when they see a model that didn't meet their expectations once or was linked to a painful memory.

Due to the complexity of emotions and attitudes projected on products, the aesthetics of package design cannot afford to be based on random marketing data. The designer should think about how the product is supposed to work, look and feel as it relates to lifestyle and values of the target market. Getting sidetracked by data that contradicts what target customers want can be risky. That's why the designer should intimately know the product and who identifies with it. 

3. Social Product Emotions

Standards "how things should be" are another dimension to how emotions connect with products. In other words, people's sense of morals can influence what they purchase. Many of these social standards or morals are learned from friends and other surrounding influences, which helps define cultural landscapes. This dynamic shapes attitudes as to whether or not the product is legitimate within a social context.

4. Surprise Product Emotions

New products that disrupt the market or satisfy a unique niche tend to be appraised as "novel" and generate surprise emotions. Unlike the previously mentioned product emotions, this type of emotion is not accompanied by the concerns of goals, attitudes or standards. Completely new products or features can create fresh responses that shake up existing paradigms. However, this surprise effect is usually only temporary and wears off as the item becomes more familiar. 

5. Interest Product Emotions

When the marketer combines challenge and promise, it can stimulate consumers through emotions such as admiration or happiness. These interest products often motivate people to take some form of action or persuade them to visualize something. People often strive for upbeat stimulation through embracing challenge or promise. But when an interest product fails to stimulate, it can lead to boredom, especially if it does not produce a pleasant sensation in the body or lacks imagination. When the product requires further exploration, it may arouse fascination and inspiration. 


These five key product emotions are just some of the many dimensions that connect consumers with products. They cover a broad area of human psychology that gives designers a roadmap for matching products with target consumers. While individuals each have their own emotional responses based on experience or sometimes surprises, the designer must also maintain a clear focus on the product's purpose. Meeting or exceeding customer expectations remains an essential part of the packaging puzzle. 


References and Further Reading

Cover photo "smile" courtesy of Luciane Lazzaris / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Topics: Caviar Packaging, Luxury Packaging, Colors & Emotions, Design & Emotions, Chocolates , Biscuits and Confectionery packaging, Cosmetic Packaging, Tea, Coffee and Spices

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