Purposes of Cosmetic Packaging

by Alex Cosper on September 16, 2016

Packaging in the cosmetic industry is based on deep studies that penetrate the human psyche. Here is a deeper look at the purposes of cosmetic packaging and how it helps gain an edge over competitors.

Packaging is the core foundation for marketers to understand how consumers will respond to a new package. Random or bland packaging will likely get lost in the shuffle, so beauty products must be pleasing to the eye immediately. 

Foundations for Packaging

Without comprehensive studies on how people react to cosmetic products, the industry would be like a game of roulette. Selling beauty products is not about luck, as it is more about capturing the imagination. Some of the ways researchers learn about what type of packaging will work for cosmetics include:

  • motivational research
  • color testing
  • psychological manipulation

Budgets for these studies have been large for a reason: they reveal the connection between stimuli and human behavior. Finding out what motivates people to make purchases is only part of the puzzle that leads to sales. According to Fast Company, psychological manipulation is about the science of persuasion based on how individuals respond to stimuli, such as social influence, attitudes, information, priming, favors and scarcity.

Making Colors Count

Color testing is important because it taps into how individuals react emotionally to certain colors, shades and color schemes. But it's important to remember that the data can be mixed since each respondent has their own personal experiences with colors. Here's what researchers have found what colors mean to a general cross section of consumers:

  • yellow: optimismDownload Ebook 2
  • orange: friendliness
  • red: excitement
  • purple: creativity
  • blue: trust
  • green: peace
  • gray: balance

Interestingly, a study at the University of Winnipeg, Canada, found that 90 percent of quick purchasing decisions are based on color alone . Another study published by Sage Journals found that the relationship between brands and color depends on perceptions of appropriateness of how colors fit brands. It turns out blue is by far the most popular color for both men and women, according to research by Joe Hallock, published in Entrepreneur.

Graphic Design and Other Aesthetics

The design of the cosmetic container must be more than just practical. It should be artistic to the degree that it is memorable and evokes emotion. While color is a top concern, designs must also draw attention to the various messages printed on the package. Think of aesthetic beauty as the front end of the purchasing process, since it's usually what makes a first impression. Consumers will eventually judge the overall quality after the purchase, based on utility.

Another reason why care must be put into the aesthetics of the packaging is that the product needs to stand out in displays at the store. Out of hundreds or even thousands of items, consumers need to recognize the item instantly so that they aren't distracted by the multitude of other marketing displays and messages inviting them to make a purchase. It's important to remember that any given consumer may want to buy several products, but does not necessarily have the budget to go on a massive shopping spree.

In order to establish a competitive advantage, a cosmetic product needs to convey beauty right away. It also has to communicate how the product is used in an appropriate way. Eye makeup should depict beautiful eyes, just as lipstick should paint the image of beautiful lips. Hair products need beautiful hair imagery.

Transmitting Information

One of the key elements of packaging is how labels resonate with consumers. The most effective labels encourage prospects to buy the product, but also influence people in ways the product is used, transported, recycled or disposed. These relationships must be communicated clearly on the labels. Fine print is often ignored, but visible text can be eye-catching and motivating.

Certain products require more information than others. Pharmaceuticals, food and medicine are examples of products in which people want to read ingredients before they buy. Some people are allergic to specific ingredients while others try to avoid questionable chemicals.

Security and Product ProtectionDownload Ebook 1

It's imperative that a product gets from the manufacturer to the supply chain to the customer safely. At every stage of the way, whether it's shipping or stocking, the product must remain undamaged or it will likely register as a lost sale or return. Packaging helps protect the product throughout the process, especially if it's made of glass or other breakable materials. Some of the main concerns should be that the product is protected from the following reasons of damage or deterioration:

  • mechanical
  • thermal
  • biological
  • chemical
  • by radiation (e.g., UV light)
  • malicious human tampering
  • electric
  • compression

Barrier Protection

Just as important, although not talked about much outside the industry, is barrier protection. The product must be protected from oxygen, water vapor, dust and other elements that can cause degradation. Certain perishable products, such as food items, require controlled atmospheres in order to stay clean, fresh, sterile and safe. Shelf life depends on these factors.

Buyer and Seller Convenience

Another role that packaging plays is convenience for both consumers and all the entities involved with manufacturing, distribution and marketing. Everyone who touches the product from the points of packaging to purchasing must be able to handle it with care so that it remains a marketable product.

From shipping and handling to stacking and putting the product on display in a store, the packaging must maintain a fresh and shiny new look. Even small damage to the container or package can look suspicious to consumers. Then once the customer makes a purchase, the product and the packaging must be durable enough to withstand opening, using, reusing, dispensing and recycling. It must also be easy to dispose so that it doesn't cause any inconveniences.


Since a typical supermarket carries hundreds of items spanning several product categories, it's essential for a cosmetic product to stand out more than blend in. While beauty products are popular, they do not add up to the same type of needs as food, so they must make a greater appeal to emotion.

The packaging works best when it provides a convenient practical solution that comprises the product and surrounding space within the package. Make sure that the exterior provides useful information and attractive imagery in order to be compete for attention.


Disclaimer: The postings in this blog section do not necessarily represent Desjardin's positions, strategies or opinions. 

References and Further Reading


Topics: Cosmetic Packaging

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