We know that consumer purchase decisions are often made quickly and subconsciously, but there are opportunities where it’s possible to influence a consumer’s perception of a brand. People often make buying decisions by using all five of their senses and once product designers discover what each of these sensory influencers are, they can develop packaging that strategically speaks to consumers at each stage of the decision-making process. It’s ultimately about designing a complete experience—one that supports the brand every step of the way.
At my company, we developed the 4sight Sensory Lab, pictured above, to uncover these answers. Here, for example, cold beverage drinkers known to prefer their drinks not simply cold, but chilled to the perfect temperature, are taken through a progression of exercises that mimics the various points of contact that consumers have with a product.
We identify which bottle shape, size, color, material, and texture promises that sense of cold refreshment at first glance. As the test subjects move closer, details such as condensation and frost become evident and when they are handed several bottles, each chilled to the exact same temperature—but made of different materials, textures, shapes and finishes—they provide feedback on which one feels like just the right cold.
In the Sensory Lab, our process helps us ensure that at each stage of interaction with a brand, consumers receive the right information, enabling them to see, feel, hear, smell, and taste the value of the product. Here, we've identified the six stages that lead to a first purchase or a repeat purchase:
This is the first impression at a distance, seeing the product in someone else’s hand, on the shelf, or across the room. It’s the first visual promise of what a product will do for your senses. For Pom 100% Pomegranate Juice, the distinctive profile of the bottle featuring those fully rounded spheres, allows the distinct dark red color of the juice to catch the attention of a shopper. It promises a bold, robust taste. A new entry into the tequila segment, SX Tequila chose a distinctive, curvaceous bottle with smooth lines and frosted texture to communicate the sense of a smooth-tasting, chilled beverage.
Here, consumers take a closer look and this is where details begin to hint at tactile sensations. Flowing details etched into the structure of the Aquafina water bottle strongly suggest the refreshment that the product provides.
Orangina, meanwhile, promises its fresh orange flavor through a dimpled finish on the bottle that suggests you are consuming straight from an actual orange.
Next, consumers make that first physical contact and combine the visual with the tactile experience. When grasped, the gentle curvature of the Febreze bottle and the angled spray head convey the soft and pleasant aroma that will fill the air. The smooth, diagonal neck on the new Miller Lite Bottle promises a refreshing flow of beer while the bold taper from the neck to the body provides a strong and confident grip for the hand. Adding the texture of the hops etched in the glass provides further engagement.
When the consumer makes a physical step towards consumption or use of the product, there's another opportunity to solidify your brand's perception. When the foil cover is peeled off of a can of San Pellegrino, it offers the sensation of actually peeling fruit. It also incorporates a crinkling sound, which adds to the sensory experience at opening.
The point at which the product is consumed or used and here, all five senses can be at play.
A smooth metal tip on Clinique’s Even Better Eyes product provides a refreshing and reviving cold sensation on the skin. For Gerber Good Start, the designated scoop holder on the side of the container provides for a clean usage experience and preserves the product for future consumption, as fingers do not contaminate the powder.
There's another opportunity to create a pleasant user experience when the product is disposed of or put away for later use. Wrigley 5 Gum incorporates a lock feature and embossed details to convey a secure and clean resealable pack. The Oreo cookie package also utilizes the sense of sight with a resealable film to promise lasting freshness. Once the film is replaced after each usage, it recreates the look of a fresh, unopened package.
In The Sensory Lab, we’ve gleaned significant insight into how the five senses influence consumer decision-making at six pivotal points. Incorporating a similar approach in your design process will help insure your package effectively communicates key brand attributes at each and every point of influence.