Why attractive packaging design is important featured image

Attractive packaging design is important for your brand. It helps you stand out, consumers prefer packaging they feel is aesthetic, it creates certain expectations of quality and has priming effects, and converts at the point of purchase. Attractive packaging stimulates the senses and works on a subconscious level to ease consumer decisions.

Packaging is one of the most critical touch points you have with consumers. In a world moving ever so closer to information overload, elements such as effective packaging are just the thing people need to simplify everyday decisions.

Estimates suggest that people are exposed to at least 4.000 marketing messages every single day through advertisements and brand placements; even in the comfort of our own home. Yet, only a handful of those get meaningfully processed and even fewer are recalled at the end of the day.

That’s because the brain applies multiple filters and relies on subtle cues to decide what deserves conscious attention and what does not. The same thing happens in shopping situations. No matter whether online or offline. There are thousands of labels within our reach but we only pay attention to a few of them. Those that do not capture our attention, have no chance of being purchased.

Hence the importance of effective packaging design. It’s a crucial factor in consumer decision making as it creates expectations of certain levels of satisfaction. The higher the expectations, the more likely the product is to be purchased.

In the following article, I cover the underlying components that make packaging design effective, why attractiveness is important in that, and the benefits a brand can obtain by rolling out attractive packaging designs.

What makes a good packaging design?

Good packaging has two basic functions: logistics and marketing. It must keep the contents safe but also grab attention and create expectations of perceived benefits both at the point of purchase and in the home.

The logistics function is concerned with making sure that the contents of the packaging remain intact as it flows through the distribution channel. You should think about the logistical function as a precondition for any marketing to take place. Whatever favorable expectations or other benefits established with aesthetic packaging will be completely demolished by the dissatisfaction of unboxing a damaged product.

Therefore, it’s critical that any packaging is designed with securing the product in mind. Once that’s in order, you can start thinking about the marketing function.

The marketing function of packaging is about capturing buyers’ attention and communicating product benefits and attributes via informational and sensory elements at the point of purchase. You can achieve this by using primary, and often also, secondary packaging. These two layers both face the consumer and should speak together to create the same expectations and perceived benefits. To be truly effective, your packaging should also not only grab attention at the point of purchase but also in the household itself. This increases brand salience and makes repurchases more likely.

Packaging can also be classified into primary, secondary and tertiary packaging. In the case of perfume, primary is the bottle, secondary is the bottle package and tertiary are cardboard boxes used to ship larger volumes.

Components of packaging design

When designing effective packaging, you will likely use a combination of two different components. The first are graphic components. These include, colors, typography, graphical shapes and package imagery. The second are structural components. These include shape, size and materials of the packaging. Both components are important in creating an attractive package that grabs attention and creates the right expectations.

A good mixture of these components can influence all the five senses. For example, the graphic components are heavily oriented towards sight. But this is not the only thing that makes a package attractive. Touch is another huge component. The structural components address this feature naturally through configuration of size, shape and which materials to use. For example, plastic can trigger a radically different tactile (touch) response than paper; and even smell too.

Taste is a more complicated matter though unless you are planning on making edible packaging. But, not impossible. As you will see below, it is possible to influence perceptions of taste by offering products in attractive packaging.

The importance of aesthetic packaging design

People are attracted to beauty. It is undeniable, no matter the object which is in question. This has to do with the reward system.

Aesthetic objects trigger a physiologic event in our brains that we experience as pleasurable. This both makes us want the object in question and repeatedly purchase it when it is perishable because it is seen as a reward; making the whole the behavior a rewarding process.

The reward system overrides rational thinking. In an influential study1Reimann, M., Zaichkowsky, J., Neuhaus, C., Bender, T., & Weber, B. (2010). Aesthetic package design: A behavioral, neural, and psychological investigation. Journal Of Consumer Psychology, 20(4), 431-441. doi: 10.1016/j.jcps.2010.06.009 on aesthetic package design, researchers found through a series of experiments that consumers appear prefer attractive packaging. More specifically, consumers showed preference for products in attractive packaging over standardized packaging even when they cost more or when they were from unfamiliar brand versus familiar brands in standard packaging.

Using a brain scanner, the researchers further conclude that attractive packaging activates brain regions associated with the reward system. Therefore it is likely that much like other attractive objects, attractive packaging triggers the reward system and causes consumers to make quick emotional decisions. This is further supported by the study as it also finds that consumers shop faster when exposed to attractive packaging design.

Why attractive packaging design is effective

We can dig a little deeper and try to explain why attractive and aesthetic packaging design is effective.

#1 Distinctiveness

First of all, attractive packaging distinguishes your product from the clutter and captures consumers’ attention, especially so when the competition’s packaging is standardized. This holds true both in the supermarket and online and is critical to achieve. As I’ve mentioned here above, products that don’t get noticed don’t get purchased.

One way to stand out is to use graphics. Vivid colours are powerful to capture attention but on it’s own is likely not enough. After all, all packaging can use colours. The key is to come up with a unique packaging design that aligns with your brand identity and is based on a combination of all the components discussed here earlier.

Nice graphics on the packs are always standing out from the shelf. Most of the time, I pick them up, at least to see more details.

Informant in Silayoi and Speece’s research[1]
why attractive packaging design is important for your brand
It is important for brand to be distinct in order to catch attention. Notice how certain bottles automatically stand out compared to others.

#2 Quality expectations and priming effects

Packaging has sometimes been coined as the silent salesman. It provides the shopper with an idea of what qualities and benefits he or she could obtain by consuming the product. Packaging is therefore instrumental in creating expectations. The higher the expectations, the more chance of purchase.

When packaging is highly attractive, people assume that its contents are of high quality. That is, unless they have some other negative information2Silayoi, P., & Speece, M. (2007). The importance of packaging attributes: a conjoint analysis approach. European Journal Of Marketing, 41(11/12), 1495-1517. doi: 10.1108/03090560710821279, such as a poor previous experience or warnings from friends. The opposite is also true. When consumers feel that the packaging is low quality, they perceive the contents to be low quality as well.

Even though it is hard to define quality, I believe that a well-designed package helps me in being more confident about the product.

Informant in Silayoi and Speece’s research

What is more is that the expectations also have a priming effect. When we expect something to be of quality, we are more prone to fulfill that expectation. For example, if we expect a soda to taste great, our experiences will mimic that expectation.

#3 Conversion at the point of purchase

Packaging is present at the moment a decision is making to buy. This proximity with the purchase decision is largely unmatched by other marketing channels so it is important to take advantage of it. Attractive packaging design can help to do that.

I opened up this article by talking about information overload. Just as the brain relies on certain peripheral cues to decide on what warrants attention, similar cues are used to make everyday decisions even before it reaches our consciousness.

For low involvement products this can be entirely automatic. Few of us spend a lot of time, if any, on those type of purchases, especially not when time constrained[1]. But even when the involvement is higher, attractive packaging has priming effects, similar to those discussed in the section above. Because sensory information, such as sights and touch, is processed before verbal communication, our subconsciousness creates a bias that favours the packaging design we find attractive.

All in all, this enables us to make simple and quick decisions with cognitive ease which then increase conversions at the point of purchase.

Final thoughts

Attractive packaging design is effective because it works on a subconscious level and eases consumer decision making. Of course, what is attractive or aesthetic tends to be different between individuals, groups and cultures. When designing packaging, you should always be guided by your brand identity and the people that you are communicating with. Any benefits that come with attractive packaging will likely evaporate if it contradicts the brand strategy.


  • 1
    Reimann, M., Zaichkowsky, J., Neuhaus, C., Bender, T., & Weber, B. (2010). Aesthetic package design: A behavioral, neural, and psychological investigation. Journal Of Consumer Psychology, 20(4), 431-441. doi: 10.1016/j.jcps.2010.06.009
  • 2
    Silayoi, P., & Speece, M. (2007). The importance of packaging attributes: a conjoint analysis approach. European Journal Of Marketing, 41(11/12), 1495-1517. doi: 10.1108/03090560710821279

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