Co.Design

To Lure Customers, Appeal To All 5 Of Their Senses

Stuart Leslie, president and founder of 4sight Inc, offers six tips for packaging your product and capturing consumer attention.

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:

The First Glance

Image: Pom Wonderful via Flickr user Fruitnet.com

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.


The Inspection

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.

[caption]Image: Flickr user Sheep R Us[/caption]

Orangina, meanwhile, promises its fresh orange flavor through a dimpled finish on the bottle that suggests you are consuming straight from an actual orange.


The Physical Interaction

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.


The Opening

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.


Consumption or Usage

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.


The Completion

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.

[Image: Shopping via Shutterstock]

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6 Comments

  • Great article, which helps those who don't really think about packaging in this capacity. I for one have created packaging for our products; and learned that a true connection can be made with just one package. Thanks for sharing your information about this normally overlooked aspect of marketing.

  • I like the thinking that goes into such interactions but can't feeling that they overreach on occasion. How can the sensation of peeling real fruit incorporate a crinkling sound? Surely it's one or the other and to claim both undermines the whole thing. Why not just say 'putting some foil on a tin can is weird but people really like the unusual experience'?

  • The point is not to imitate something literally with all senses, but to break down each of the senses into how they contribute to the overall sensation of using the product or perception of what is inside. The "peeling" is a very familiar and comforting, authentic tactile sensation that speaks to the quality of what is inside. The crinkling sound represents the energizing fun of sparkling beverages and promises how great the product drinking experience will be.

    It is in looking at each sense individually and evaluating how each will contribute to the promised brand/product experience where we find success. -Stuart Leslie

  • very nice article - it highlights the way we look and perceive the products based on its packaging and marketing around it... well it's quite hard to overcome our inner instincts anyway