Integrating the Packaging and Product Experience in Food and Beverages

By Peter Burgess – 17 June 2016

Packaging is so much more than just a means of getting products safely to consumers. It is also a highly effective and visible platform to convey both brand values and key marketing messages. It also differentiates products from the competition and influences consumers’ trial and repeat purchase decisions.

However, in the current product development process, food and drink products and packaging are often seen as distinct entities and treated quite separately. But there is an emerging and growing focus on the inter-relationship between packaging and the product, particularly in relation to the FMCG sector. This approach opens up potential routes and ways of thinking about product development and innovation that can have significant implications for a brand and its positioning in the market.

What makes a consumer want and like a product are driven by two separate systems but to develop a strong product and packaging proposition, and thereby the chances of long term consumer loyalty, it is necessary to understand both. These two systems are characterised by rapid, associative, intuitive and non-conscious thinking. Sensory branding approaches can help companies develop brands and products with packaging that connects with consumers on this non-conscious level.

As noted by Simon Harrop, CEO, Brand Sense, a further key consideration in relation to sensory branding is how sensory signals from one sense can have an impact on and be interpreted through other senses. This is known as cross modality. Studies have shown that signals from non-visual senses can act as subconscious cues that strongly guide consumer behaviour by linking emotional associations with certain actions, but up until now utilising the senses in this way has been underplayed in much of brand and product development activity.

A cross modal based approach to packaging also addresses the limitations associated with engaging consumers on a mainly visual platform. Visual communication connects with consumers on a conscious level as images are largely processed actively. However, this form of communication is vulnerable to being filtered out unconsciously by consumers, given the quantity of visual stimuli people are bombarded with in their everyday lives.

Understanding the underlying category motivations, the desired emotions of the moment and utilisation of cross modal interactions can provide product development and brand teams with opportunities to connect with their target audience at deep motivational and emotional levels that differentiates a brand from its competitors, is highly relevant to the way consumers make decisions, and is relatively difficult for competitors to emulate.

Sensory branding is one evolving approach that brand owners can apply to develop these deep motivational and emotional connections. Sensory branding is about creating new or emphasising sensations - namely the touch, taste, smell, sound and look of a product - that affect consumers emotions, memories, perceptions, preferences and choices.

This approach can not only help brand owners optimise the integration of the packaging and product experience but also guide the tone and style of brand development and marketing activities more generally.

In summary, there is growing interest in the potential that a cohesive sensory brand identity system can offer in terms of enabling brands to engage with consumers in a differentiated way. Many of the issues and opportunities for consideration when it comes to product and packaging design and the methods and techniques for assessing the integrated product and packaging consumer experience represent valuable inputs to the sensory branding process.

If you want to find out more about multisensory approaches to integrated packaging and product consumer experience then please do get in touch You may also be interested in a new book on the subject Integrating the Packaging and Product Experience in Food and Beverages A Road-Map to Consumer Satisfaction.

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