How Label Design Influences Consumer Purchases

June 5, 2017

What makes a customer want to buy a product? How do shoppers weigh different variables like price, visual appeal, and brand loyalty into their purchasing decisions? Consumer behavior depends on a variety of factors ranging from economic to interpersonal, but one thing remains the same: product packaging and label design are key determinants in consumer decision-making. Years of market research has revealed that what’s on the outside of a package is often just as important as what’s inside. Here are the facts:

  • Consumer research shows that 1/3 of product decision-making is based on packaging alone. In the mind of a consumer, product packaging and product quality are directly related. A product with strong branding & packaging isn’t just more likely to grab a customer’s attention – it’s also associated with high-quality ingredients or contents.
  • It only takes about 7 seconds for a consumer to make up their mind. Brands have an incredibly small window to make a positive impression on prospective buyers. It is essential that products are packaged in a way that stands out from other items on the shelf.

Brands in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry view successful packaging as a two-step process. First, how can the container or package have enough shelf appeal to initially grab the consumer’s attention? Then, how can we translate that interest into a sale? Unlike other branding choices, packaging is highly tangible. It appeals to consumers’ senses of touch, sight, hearing, and even smell all at the same time. These physical features stimulate a strong emotional and psychological response in consumers.

What key elements are used to influence retail shopping behavior? The label experts at Fort Dearborn Company take a look at the different factors that determine how and why consumers decide to buy.

products on shelves

Color is an obvious and important factor in making a first impression on the consumer. Different colors evoke different feelings and emotional responses, so it’s important that packaging uses color to successfully communicate a distinct branding message. Because colors appeal to social or emotional norms, color choices should always be deliberate and purposeful. Perhaps the best example is the color green, which has long been associated with a healthy lifestyle and the idea freshness and sustainability. The visual and emotional draw of a certain color can be so strong that it is associated with an entire movement, which is why we see so many companies literally “going green” with their product packaging.

To a certain degree, consumers are hard-wired to associate certain colors with certain emotional responses. While there is no concrete set of rules for customer engagement, there are generalizations as to which colors evoke which feelings:

  • Red: often associated with bold and exciting product features
  • Yellow: tends to be associated with a sense of happiness or clarity
  • Black: often used to promote an feeling of seriousness or formality
  • Blue: evokes feelings of security, trust, and dependability
  • Purple: frequently associated with imaginative or luxurious elements
  • Orange: used to convey a sense of warmth and confidence
  • Green: associated with being natural or positive
  • White: can be used to depict feelings of simplicity or balance
  • Pink: tends to be associated with compassion or love

As a whole, brighter colors tend to attract the attention of younger audiences, while more muted and neutral colors can be associated with more mature consumer preferences. Walking down the deodorant aisle at the grocery store, consumers will also notice strong shades of blue and gray are often associated with male audiences, while lighter shades of pink or purple will signify the product is specifically targeted towards women. A brand’s choice of packaging color reflects a wide range of audience factors like age, gender, or lifestyle.

The amount of certain color also influences consumer behavior. Small touches of yellow might evoke a sense of confidence or happiness, while large swaths of yellow might be alarming. Successful product designs rely on the foundations of graphic design and the sophisticated elements of human psychology. A good guide to the relationship between color and branding can be found here.

Conventional wisdom says that consumers can’t see texture, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Based on the way light reflects off a package, shoppers can usually tell which products are coated in matte finishes or other textural elements. Packaging texture can help one product stand out from other items on the shelf, enticing customers to pick up the package and feel the difference. When faced with purchasing decisions, consumers want to weigh the advantages of new products vs traditional ones. Because textured packaging is not commonly used, it invites an entirely new element of introspection and curiosity that most products don’t convey.

Think of the aisle at the grocery store with cleaning sprays. Nearly every competing product has a similar package with a similar style and size. Aside from price and color, there aren’t too many distinguishing factors between these products. Unique packaging textures are an effective way to differentiate one product from another or a leather cleaner from a window cleaner.

Texture also affects the perceived quality of a product. If a package’s texture evokes a feeling of durability or ruggedness, it drastically changes the dynamic of the product, making it appear more high-quality than competitors. Texture can also complement the functionality of a product so that brands can promote “powerful grip technology” or a “water resistant exterior” based on a particular use. As textured packaging becomes more advanced, brands have more creative power than ever before to drive consumer engagement.

What message is your product trying to communicate? Color, size, and texture might drive the initial consumer interaction, but language is ultimately how a brand communicates its message with the customer. The content on a package is an essential part of the sales process.

Font: A package’s font choice is vital in either capturing the consumer’s attention, or turning them away completely. Font communicates the product’s personality in the most noticeable way. Readability of the font is important, as an interesting yet clear font will draw consumers in, while hard to read or outdated fonts will have the opposite effect in turning buyers away. Of the thousands of fonts brands have at their disposal, companies must consider how their target audience will react to different styles. A whimsical font, a FORMAL font, and a bold font all provoke an immediate and powerful reaction within consumers based on age, gender, lifestyle, and industry.

Information: Consumers want to know exactly what they’re buying before they take out their credit card. Product labels need to be both concise and descriptive so that consumers have all of the data they need to make an informed purchase. Packaging content is the perfect and perhaps ultimate chance to explain why a particular product is different than another. Is it easier to use? Is it more effective? Does it taste better? Your brand needs to answer that question fully and concisely so that the consumer isn’t left without any questions. A confused shopper is rarely a soon-to-be buyer.

Regulatory Compliance: From nutrition facts to product directions, industries must often include certain pieces of information on their product label. Whether it’s an industry certification or warning label, products must stay in compliance with federal, state, or even local regulations. For instance, nutrition facts are federally regulated to meet certain font sizes. Brands need to design their label carefully to ensure compliance is met. For more information regarding the upcoming FDA change, see our post on Nutrition Facts Label Changes FAQs.

For more information, contact Fort Dearborn Company to discuss label options for your brand packaging needs.