Neuropackaging: the way into the shopping basket is via the brain

7 October 2014

Neuropackaging: the way into the shopping basket is via the brain

7 October 2014

Neuropackaging: the way into the shopping basket is via the brain

Incorporating modern brain research into packaging design

Norman Gierow, Head of Global Market Segment Management at SIG Combibloc


Packaging is not there just to protect food and beverages from light, air or bacteria. It also ensures products can be transported and stored safely, and as far as possible it should make the product easy to use. On closer inspection, packaging can also be used as an ingenious marketing tool. Specific features of the packaging design can guarantee the food manufacturer's message reaches precisely the group being targeted. What is known as 'neuropackaging' plays a role here. This specialist scientific field deals with how the way a product is packaged helps trigger the impulse to buy, via the consumer's subconscious and emotions.

Norman Gierow, Head of Global Market Segment Management at SIG Combibloc: "Effective packaging has to do an awful lot. This includes communicating effectively. The way into the shopping trolley is via the consumer's brain. That's where feelings originate; it's where decisions are made and behavioural patterns regulated -even though more than 70 per cent unconsciously. Fractions of seconds sometimes decide whether a product will be bought or not. In neuromarketing, it's precisely these processes and connections that are incorporated into the design. They help us understand why people have favourite brands; why they respond to particular colours, shapes or materials and not to others. And the findings also help us create and design packaging in such a way that it becomes a brand messenger, reaches the required target group at the point of sale, and sells successfully".

Among other things, neuroscience contributes analytical methods such as electroencephalography (EEGs) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRTs), which are used to record the emotional processes taking place in the consumer's brain. Researchers are able to see where there is activity when decisions are being made. Findings from behavioural economics, evolutionary biology, psychology and sensory research also play a part in neuroscience.

Even though neuromarketing is still a very new discipline, ambitious food manufacturers are already incorporating various aspects of modern brain research into the design of their packaging. There is a consensus that three emotional systems - dominance, stimulant and balance - are present in every person, but in differing degrees depending on personality. Through these systems, the individual's desires, values and motives are determined, and virtually every decision is made.

While dominance-driven people tend to strive for freedom, power, achievement, discipline and recognition, stimulant-seekers are 'enjoyers'. They are characterised by creativity, spontaneity and curiosity, and they revel in variety and constant fresh inspiration. Balance-oriented people, on the other hand, are receptive to anything that promises stability, safety, harmony and traditional values. They act with great care and prudence.

The attitudes of the different consumer types determine their purchase decisions. In light of this, the question for food and packaging manufacturers, and packaging designers, is - how does a product need to be packaged in order to reach one or other target group? For instance, how must the packaging design be arranged in order to appeal to safety-minded consumers, and what about a packaging solution that will pique the interest of an inquisitive, creative person browsing the sales shelves? And for staple articles, there is the question of how to find the broadest appeal and implement it in the design.

Each 'type' purchases differently
Norman Gierow: "The balance-oriented consumers tend to be those who are most likely to be influenced by traditional, harmoniously designed packaging that's easy to use, but also shows a certain love of detail. These consumers make their decisions by feel. Their preferred brands signal trustworthiness and security. They're quite sceptical of new things. Consumers who strive for stimulation, on the other hand, go for more unusual packaging that appeals to the senses but also sends a signal of quality, suggesting that what's inside is something quite special. This consumer group is attracted by new, unusual types of packaging. They're generally ready spenders and open to making spontaneous purchases. This is the least brand-loyal group, skipping happily from one in-brand to the next one that promises a particular experience or indulgence. Stimulant-driven consumers are receptive to out-of-the-ordinary design that stands out from the crowd and expresses the premium nature of packaging and product". According to Gierow, dominance-driven consumers look for a balance between quality aspects and price. These consumers' purchase decisions are less touchy-feely than those of the other consumer types. Low-priced products tend to be rejected; this type seeks out more valuable products. They are attracted by clever and ingeniously devised packaging solutions which can also persuade through puristic simplicity and an orderly appearance.

Gierow: "Analysis of the different consumer types, what attracts them and their different purchasing tendencies, also allows statements on gender-specific buying behaviour. Women tend to be more strongly characterised by balance and stimulation; men are more inclined towards adventure, discipline and straightforwardness. Similarly, it can be said that young consumers buy differently than seniors. Around the age of 20, the majority of consumers are more stimulant-driven; the 60-plus generation, on the other hand, acts and purchases in a comparatively traditional and balance-oriented way - the percentage of adventurers falls significantly".

In addition to the shape, when it comes to packaging the choice of colour, the contours, the typeface and the relationship between image and word also help create a package targeted to appeal to one or another consumer class. While stimulant-driven consumers may favour packaging in bright, friendly colours, with bold lettering and graphic details, for the balance-oriented consumers it is subtle hues and soft, sweeping lines. By contrast, a packaging solution that will appeal to dominance-driven performers tends to have a dark base colour and clear, structured typography, and catches the eye through a comparatively low-key, pared-down layout and technical sophistication.

Focused instead of overcrowded
Norman Gierow: "Applying the latest findings of neuromarketing in the packaging industry means saying goodbye to the notion that you can please all consumers. In fact, designing effective packaging for your product requires you to start with the people for whom the product is intended: focus, rather than overdoing it. Overcrowded designs are usually less successful than those with a focused and even pared-down look. The more clearly you can communicate via the packaging, the more strongly the emotions are stimulated, and the actions motivated by those emotions. The constant challenge is to avoid creating stereotypical references - for instance, what counts as masculine or as feminine".

In respect of carton packs for long-life foods and beverages, there is already a huge variety of options for systematically targeting the most diverse groups of consumers - the association between form, functionality and design plays a key role in this. And there is still plenty of scope for the future, says Gierow: "Packaging can appeal to all the senses - it's not just the visual appearance. Especially in terms of the surface feel, many interesting features are possible. And who says that in the future, packaging might not be fragranced, or could even talk to the consumer? Modern, successful packaging offers consumers tailor-made additional benefits - whatever makes most sense".

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