Understanding the relation between packaging design and consumer response

by Alex Cosper on May 15, 2017

Even long before packaging design became a focus among marketers, there has always been a sense that aesthetics has had something to do with why people are attracted to certain products. Now in the new millennium a growing body of evidence confirms that visual stimuli is a huge factor in purchasing choices at physical stores. Here's a deeper look at how consumers respond to packaging design.

Design Goals and Constraints

The product's form is based on a designer's goals and restraints due to a collection of factors, many of which deal with management approval. The form must meet expectations of performance, compliance with regulations and fit into the marketing program as efficiently as possible. The design team works with the following elements to create a successful form for the product:

  • purpose of the product
  • target market of the product
  • desired performance specifications

Outside influences will also have an effect on the product form. Attorneys and government agencies, for example, contribute to the form that a product will eventually take. Other constraints include shelf life, maintainability and service life. In certain lifestyle products such as jewelry and music, aesthetic performance is all that matters. Technical constraints further limit the form.

Psychological Responses to Packaging

Moderating influences include individual tastes and preferences that revolve around factors such as social setting. The psychological responses to the product form are divided into cognitive responses and affective responses. Shaping cognitive responses are product perceptions and categorization. Affective responses are either positive or negative. Cognitive and affective responses merge to generate behavioural responses in which the individual either approaches or avoids the product.

Designers make decisions about products based on shape, scale, tempo, proportion and materials. They also look at colour, reflectiveness, ornamentation and texture to help give the package a unique presentation. Ultimately, the packaging design must become congruent with consumer experiences to convey a complete product identity and desired psychological responses.

Tastes and Preferences as Moderators of Consumer Response

Understanding the relation between packaging design and consumer responseConsumer reactions to product form are based on individual tastes and preferences as well as how the product is presented. Consumers react positively when the product form is congruent with individual tastes and preferences and negatively when the form is incongruent. Conventional marketing theory, however, usually does not explore taste as much as it should. More research should be conducted, for example, that seeks to find out how tastes are developed.

There are multiple ways consumers can develop appreciation for a product. They may have followed a sequence of news events that exposed the product. Some people are influenced by friends and people around them. Others respond to sales and promotional offers. Many times taste is developed over a long time frame as brand familiarity becomes part of the reason for customer loyalty.

Multiple Layers of Product Influence

The ideas for packaging design must converge to meet the goals of designers, marketers, production people and engineers. Conflicts may help improve the product by reshaping the product, based on constructive criticism. Through routine evaluation and refinement, new ideas can enhance the product even more over time.

Ergonomics - the study of maximum safety, efficiency and comfort of product use - plays a huge role in determining what the final product and package will look like. It can directly affect the weight, texture and shape of the product. Marketers that compete on "ease of use" performance have paid close attention to ergonomic properties. Sometimes the ideal product is not the most attractive, as its form is compromised to favor usability rather than aesthetic appeal.

 Packaging Design and Consumer response

Source: Peter H. Bloch (1995)

When lack of attention is paid to ergonomics, it can lead to customer dissatisfaction. Many consumers are swayed by utility and practicality rather than aesthetics, so it depends on the degree that the product demands ergonomics. Sometimes production and cost constraints have the most impact on the form of a product.

Another factor that shapes product form is the set of constraints surrounding the marketing program. The conditions for storage, handling and transportation must be sufficient for product distribution. The way retailers display the product is also taken into consideration. In some cases designers must maintain a certain consistency to a design just because it has become very familiar among consumers.


Designers and marketers must work together to create the form of a product, although neither can expect to envision the perfect design. Both should arrive at an understanding of the best alternative based on its ability to evoke positive beliefs and emotion among members of the target market. The number of factors involved with shaping design form makes it a complex process. The resulting product and packaging design are determined by goals and constraints of marketers, designers and a variety of other influences.


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

References and Further Reading




Topics: Caviar Packaging, Pharmaceutical, Chocolates , Biscuits and Confectionery packaging, Cosmetic Packaging, Tea, Coffee and Spices

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