The Psychology of Product Packaging

Coke Bottles

Marketers know that packaging is one of the keys to selling a product, and they package goods with this end goal in mind. Marketers also rely on psychologists who have identified what causes products to jump off shelves and into consumers’ hands from product label printing and design to packaging as a whole.

The Use of Color

Psychologists think that color may be the most important factor in creating packaging that will appeal to consumers. Colors quickly attract the eye and create assumptions in people’s minds even before they can read what is inside. Earthy colors are often used to connect potential consumers to products that are assumed to be organic, natural or healthy.

Tans, greens and watery blues are found on boxes of granola bars, teas, whole grain products or vegetables. On the other hand, products such as energy drinks, toys for young children, candy and other products that inspire ideas of high activity are more likely to sport bright unnatural hues, and consumers are more forgiving of unusual colors when used in this way.


Iconography is also made to appeal to the intended consumer. Cereals for children are more likely to be packaged in boxes presenting cartoon characters or offers for online games, while cereals intended for adults will more likely show athletes or older couples, giving the impression that the cereal promotes health and longevity.


The shape of packaging can also have a profound effect on the sale of an item. If consumers can be persuaded to pick up a product, compelled by an unusual shape or texture, it’s more likely they will purchase that product. Unusually slender cans of soup and smaller cans of soft drinks attract consumers with their novelty and the implication that the more slender the can is the healthier–and more slender–the consumer may become. The shape of dish washing liquids is another example of how shape is used to attract consumers. Most dish liquids come in bottles that resemble a woman’s stylized form, from a rounder base rising to a smaller waist and into a wider shoulder area. This is assumed to subliminally attract the most likely purchasers —women.

Even the sound of packaging can inspire–or inhibit–sales. Think of the cold crack of a soft drink. This sound is part of the mystique of canned beverages and creates a familiarity, or even an emotional response, to the drink. Sound can also be a drawback, however, as in the case of Sun Chip’s biodegradable bag. The bag, introduced in 2009, made such a loud and unpleasant ruckus that consumers complained and sales of the chips plummeted 11%. The bag was discontinued in 2010.

The experience of purchasing a product can hinge on packaging, and it helps if the package appeals to the senses and emotions of the buyer. Logic and reason, while admirable, do not typically drive purchases, and mining the science of psychology helps marketers to lure the money from a consumer’s wallet.

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