Packaging: The Last 10 Seconds of Marketing

Package design has a crucial role in the last moments of a consumer's decision to make a purchase. This article points out several features of good packaging that influence purchase decision.

Package design has a crucial role in the last moments of a consumer's decision to make a purchase. This article points out several features of good packaging that influence purchase decision.


Packaging is often the most important and most overlooked aspect of marketing. In the last 10 seconds before the purchasing decision, consumers view packaging as a motivation to buy. Market research supports this. It's the packaging and the last 10 seconds before purchasing, not getting onto a shopping list, which is most crucial for marketers.

Research on good packaging reflects several rules-of-thumb. First, good packaging reflects the conditions in which it will be sold. It means that fast food restaurants and beverage containers are creating packaging that reflects the customers’ purchasing and usage of the product. For example, V8 is making their packaging fit into vending machines. On this note, effective packaging must reflect product benefits. For example, McDonalds is emphasizing food quality now with boxes emphasizing how high quality the food is.

Secondly, unique shapes, structures and delivery systems help differentiate products from competitors. With many products on the shelf, it is important to stick out to consumers. The reason is that research has found that good packaging contributes to convenience, which improves customer satisfaction. It also breaks notions of how much customers are willing to pay. An example is “Simple Orange” juice presented in a carafe bottle, generating a premium price. Another example is Imperial Sugar Company’s “Redi-Measure” brown sugar cup-packets, intended to make measuring easier and to prevent their customers from baking too much or too little ingredients in the baking process.

Thirdly, packaging should include the brand’s personality with branding and characters. An example of this is Toucan Sam, which immediately indicates product benefits like Fruit Flavor and fun times. This brand heuristic helps invoke the emotional component in purchasing, and subordinates the rational price considerations in purchasing.

Customers need simplicity in messaging due to many conflicting messages, competing products like private labels, and complicated products. Good packaging often reflects simple brand values and product claims. A way to do this is to remove much of the clutter and only print what is essential. As such it should easy to read and not confusing. Research indicates that customers are increasingly noticing more scientific claims written on the packaging that confuses customers. Also companies can return to past successful taglines, to help the customer strengthen their buying heuristics.

Fourth, packaging needs to highlight compelling and believable claims on product differences. An example is of some cereals proclaiming they use organic ingredients and no preservatives, unlike competing products. This can help justify a premium price and draws attention to products. Fifth, direct comparisons to a competitor product can be effective. For example, a cereal can say that it has 50% more milk than another product. Price should not be the only differentiating characteristic.

Sixth, packaging is read not up and down, but at the left and right corners of packaging. Thus, reassuring claims should be put in these corners, while primary claims should be in the center of packaging. Along these lines, fewer words are better, as consumers tend to look at images and visuals instead of evaluating written claims.

Seventh, effective packaging can target “Rejuveniles” who are middle aged people young at heart and somewhat nostalgic. This packaging is more kid-like, similar to toys and has bright graphics.


This article was written by Michael Stanat, Research Executive at SIS International Research. Visit the company website at

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