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To what degree do consumers manufacture their own mental associations with packaging? Studies show both the packaging material and the coloring play a huge role in attracting their attention. Here's a look at what research has revealed about metal packaging and how it affects the consumer mind.

Vibrant vs. Cool Colors

This century a consensus among multi-sensory researchers points to less vibrant and more cool-colored packaging consistently drawing an association with healthiness. Meanwhile, more vibrant and warmer designs are associated more with attractiveness. These perceptions have been shown to shape buying behavior, as consumers each have their own set of experiences and memories that turn into associations with people, values, emotions, colors, brands, packages and products.

Generally speaking the buying behavior of certain population groups can be predictable as significant percentages of people are in fact swayed by color schemes. A majority of consumers have claimed in numerous surveys that color is a big factor in their purchasing decisions for many different products. Consumers have a particular fondness for favorite color schemes when it comes to buying a new home, car or clothing.

One explanation why cool color packaging associates often with healthy food is over the years marketers and package designers have set standards together that guide shoppers to make those associations. For many years vibrant colors have been used in packaging to associate with high level emotional stimulation, such as with candy and soft drinks. Health food traditionally has been packaged in softer colors because consumer behavioral researchers have known about color psychology for several decades.

But packaging designers should never rely on these findings and perceptions as set in stone for every market. It's still important for researchers to conduct ongoing studies to find new insights on how consumer associations affect purchasing patterns for specific products. There actually might be a market, for example, among consumers such as athletes who place a high value on nutrition and also live upbeat lifestyles. This type of market segment might be more easily targeted with vibrant packaging.

Study Parameters and Limitations

Consumer taste studies are useful for comparing data that tracks the demographics, geography, economics and purchasing behavior of a market profile over time. But they mainly reveal basic observations and patterns that can be explained in numerous ways, which often makes conclusions seem vague. Taste tests can use 0-10 ratings scales to measure certain food consumption and perception responses relating to packaging, which triggers emotional associations. On other surveys consumers are asked to fill in blanks with conscious word associations perceived from packaging.

A key taste study limitation is that the structure often relies on the premise that consumers have complete conscious awareness of their consumption habits. The 2003 Fazio-Olson study on consumer purchasing behavior explained how the implicit automatic processing mode works within the human mind. The authors recommended researchers observe both explicit (stated clearly) and implicit (implied) responses from consumers on taste preferences and associations.

Whether consumers are asked about metal packaging or its design attributes it's possible for implicit responses to be misinterpreted. Both types of responses can be collected from marketing surveys. Metal commonly associates with strength, security and durability, which works well with health food packaging.

Implicit Food Knowledge

When consumers are given an Implicit Association Test (IAT), a brand can gauge the degree to which target patrons make associations with product evaluations. But these associations are usually automatic and may not be obvious to the individual. Every person develops habits they cannot necessarily explain, which makes it difficult to fully understand consumer intent on why they decide to choose one brand over another.

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[1 ] Colouring perception : emphasising attractiveness through packaging (2018), by Irene Tijssen

[2 ] Healthy by design, but only when in focus: Communicating non-verbal health cues through symbolic meaning in packaging (2016), by Nadine Karnal, Casparus J.A.Machiels, Ulrich R. Orth and RobertMai

Topics: Health, Design & Emotions, Multisensory Packaging Design