Studying the genus consumerous is an endeavor so huge and fractured that you can find some branch of consumer behavioral analysis in nearly every academic discipline. Customer habits are predictable and yet weird and illogical. In many cases, they’re based less on value and need as they are on immediate emotional comfort. Customers will universally describe themselves as being savvy and sharp, and yet their buying habits indicate that they waste huge amounts of money on products and services that are not only of little value, but might also kill them. So how can we determine what exactly will drive a customer to grab something from a store shelf? Here are five factors that play a huge role in how a consumer will view a product.
Consumers have always wanted more for their money, but modern consumers want environmental responsibility for their money, as well. A cool, sturdy package (jar, bottle or bag) that can still be used long after the product itself is gone is a major enticement to the thrifty and the hoarders among us. Large bags are especially valuable, since there are many large cities that are now forbidding the use of plastic shopping bags, and charging customers for paper bags.
Make the product look good. Even if we’re designing a package for salt, which can’t be made to look like anything but salt, we must make the product look good by any means necessary.
Creative package design isn’t just about showing off how closely we’ve studied the work of Viktor & Rolf; it’s about how tasty we make the food inside look, or enticingly the gadget is displayed, or how well we know the particular market. If we designed product packages exclusively to satisfy our own egos, most of us would be designing packages on our lunch break from our jobs as Walmart greeters.
There is much to be said for wildly inventive, out-of-the-box design, but there is a lot to be said against it, too. Human beings are hard-wired to feel comfortable with what is familiar. If we can associate a particular product or package design with good things, we are drawn to that product. The key is to integrate the two: award-winning packaging design and a familiarity that brings about consumer comfort.
This separates the design weak from the strong. How successfully can you integrate familiar elements into an innovative design concept?
Yes, we buy certain products because we want to impress. This is where creative package design becomes critically important. The package must convey quality, connoisseurship and success in order to get people to pluck it from the shelves. Moreover, we must be able to instantly identify the sports drink, smoothie, chocolate bar or coffee cup in the consumer’s hand, so that the consumer’s friends and associates can see it and leap on the bandwagon.
A huge number of our consumer choices are hinged upon the choices our peers make. Cultural phenomena has more to do with the products we buy than we would like to admit – if everyone has a Starbucks cup in their hands, then we must go to Starbucks. This has nothing to do with the quality of the product, but it has everything to do maintaining social veneer.
Not every consumer consideration is linked entirely to creative package design, unfortunately. When we recognize a brand as having been in existence since time immemorial, we are obviously more likely to trust it. After all – how could it have endured more than a century without having its merits? Most of the world would put our very lives in the hands of the Coca Cola Corporation for just this reason.
Unfortunately, new brands have to establish trust quickly if they are going to resonate with the Yelp-ing, Googling, Amazon-reviewing public. No, we’re not telling you to plant phony glowing reviews on consumer websites (shame on you!), but you will have to interact with your consumer base in a warm and loving manner using one (if not all) of the billions of social networking channels. Respond to them in a friendly and servile manner! Accept returns unquestioningly and thank the customer for alerting you to the problem! Make your workplace fun and frolicsome and then post whimsical photos on Facebook! Of course it’s nauseating! But it serves your brand.
A designer can tear out his/her hair trying to figure out exactly how to integrate every single relevant feature into a product package. Don’t worry! If you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do regarding the aesthetics and the functionality of your package, breathe easy. If it doesn’t sell, it’s probably more to do with the tasteless joke the CEO tweeted than anything you’ve done.