The influence of packaging colour on expected and perceived product attributes of low-involvement products. Colour as a silent salesman

Bachelor Thesis, 2021

54 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Problem statement
1.2 Research objectives
1.3 Research question

2 Literature Review
2.1 Colours
2.1.1 Colours and attention
2.1.2 Colours and emotions
2.1.3 Colour preferences
2.1.4 Colours and brands
2.1.5 Colours and product categories
2.2 Fast-moving low-involvement consumer products
2.3 Packaging
2.3.1 Packaging as an extrinsic cue and communicator
2.3.2 Packaging (re)design and product failure
2.3.3 Packaging and consumption
2.4 Psychological background
2.4.1 Means-end approach of consumer behaviour
2.4.2 Expectations and Perceptions
2.5 Revue: Current state of research
2.6 Hypotheses development
2.6.1 Product 1: Milk
2.6.2 Product 2: Shower gel

3 Study: Influence of packaging colour on expected and perceived product attributes of low- involvement products
3.1 Study design
3.1.1 Research methodology
3.1.2 Research implementation
3.1.1 Participants
3.1.2 Products
3.1.3 Packaging
3.2 Research results
3.2.1 Product 1: Milk Liking of packaging Fat content expected Liking of taste Fat content perceived Relationship expected and perceived fat content Importance factors Suggested changes Summary - product 1: milk
3.2.1 Product 2: Shower gel Liking of packaging Scent expected Fruitiness perceived Intensity perceived Relationship perceived fruitiness and intensity Scent perceived Relationship expected and perceived scent Importance factors Suggested changes Summary - product 2: shower gel

4 Discussion of results and their applicability and limitations in marketing practice

5 Conclusion

6 List of tables

7 List of illustrations

8 References

Abstract English

Colour is everywhere. But how much influence does it have on consumers when evaluating product attributes of everyday low-involvement products? To add to the already large number of insights achieved through research a randomized mixed factorial experiment was conducted looking at the products milk and shower gel (within-subject factor) in two different packaging colours each which were manipulated between subjects (milk: dark blue vs. light blue; shower gel: orange vs. green). The results show that consumers will use packaging colour as a clue to form their expectations on fat content (milk) and scent (shower gel). Furthermore, after tasting/smelling the product packaging colour also demonstrated to have an effect on attribute perception meaning that although the tested product was the same in both packages, consumers perceived it differently. What is more, concerning both expectations and perception women seem to be influenced to a greater degree by packaging colour in comparison to men.

Keywords: colour, packaging, low-involvement product, expectation, perception, attribute evaluation, consumer psychology

Abstract German

Farbe ist überall. Doch wie viel Einfluss hat sie auf die Verbraucher bei der Bewertung von Produkteigenschaften von Alltagsprodukten? Um die bereits große Anzahl an Erkenntnissen aus der Forschung zu ergänzen, wurde ein randomisiertes gemischt-faktorielles Experiment durchgeführt, bei dem die Produkte Milch und Duschgel (innerhalb des Subjektfaktors) in zwei verschiedenen Verpackungsfarben untersucht wurden, die jeweils zwischen den Probanden manipuliert wurden (Milch: dunkelblau vs. hellblau; Duschgel: orange vs. grün). Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass Verbraucher die Verpackungsfarbe als Anhaltspunkt verwenden, um ihre Erwartungen an Fettgehalt (Milch) und Geruch (Duschgel) zu formen. Darüber hinaus zeigte sich, dass die Farbe der Produktverpackung nach dem Schmecken/Riechen ebenfalls einen Einfluss auf die Attributwahrnehmung hatte, was bedeutet, dass das getestete Produkt zwar in beiden Verpackungen gleich war, die Verbraucher es jedoch unterschiedlich wahrnahmen. Darüber hinaus scheinen Frauen sowohl in Erwartung als auch in Wahrnehmung stärker von der Verpackungsfarbe beeinflusst zu werden als Männer.

1 Introduction

Marketing is like a never-ending competition of trying to somehow stand out from an enormous number of products. Hardly ever is this more obvious than when looking at a supermarket or drugstore shelf where products are placed one after another. And the big question here is why customers decide to buy exactly one brand when there are nearly uncountable others that do not show a clear point of differentiation that would make that choice comprehensible? Therefore, understanding one's customers can be a big competitive advantage, but this is easier said than done. There are presumably innumerable reasons to why consumers buy what they buy and clearly no one customer is like the other. Yet, the research field of marketing psychology manages to detect patterns allowing for the better understanding of people's buying behaviour (Wells, 2014). And one of these apparently unimportant factors is the colour of a product's packaging. For does mere colour really happen to influence a person to the point where it convinces him or her to make a purchasing decision in the supermarket or drugstore aisle? Of course, as already mentioned the choice of one brand over another is never a process that can be looked at only from one angle, yet it has been proven various times that colour does indeed unconsciously have a not insignificant effect on people's buying behaviour (e.g. Lynn, 1981; Schoormans & Robben, 1997; Garber, Burke & Jones, 2000; Keating & Coltman, 2019). Throughout this paper it will be outlined how strong this influence can be and in what way having an understanding of this can help marketers and product developers get the most out of their product's potential and maximise consumer satisfaction.

To begin with the problem statement, research objective and research question will explain the underlying motivation of this paper. Then, an overview of the most important concepts as well as the current state of research will be provided. After this sets the ground, the main part of this work deals with a study conducted concerning the influence of packaging colour on the expected and perceived product attributes of low- involvement products which in this setting are milk and shower gel. After discussing the study results and their applicability in marketing practice as well as its limitations the paper concludes by summing up the most relevant aspects, findings and recommendations.

1.1 Problem statement

Colour is everywhere, nevertheless, there is up till now only little understanding of how packaging colour can influence consumers' buying decisions. Especially companies selling low-involvement products in a highly competitive environment would quite likely benefit from gaining knowledge about which packaging colours can have positive effects on their sales figures.

1.2 Research objectives

The objective of this paper, therefore, is to find out in which ways and to which extent packaging colour has an influence on consumers' buying behaviour. One the one hand, this paper aims to give an overview of the current knowledge base achieved through research up till now. On the other hand, the implemented study should add more insights with the objective of reaching a better understanding of the influence of packaging colour on consumers of low-involvement products. Furthermore, this paper should give advice on how to use the concluded findings in marketing practice.

1.3 Research question

The overall research question underlying this paper can thus be formulated as:


2 Literature Review

The following literature review should serve as a synthesis of the already available literature regarding the research topics of colours, packaging, buying behaviour, fast-moving lowinvolvement consumer goods and the basic psychological processes of expectations and perceptions. These extracts merge the conclusions of many different sources to reach an overall understanding of the topic, thus laying a foundation for both the research question as well as the conducted primary research. Yet, it should be noted that taking into account the wide range of these specific research topics conveying all findings would be impossible within the scope of this paper. Therefore, a selection of the seemingly most relevant sources in this context was made.

2.1 Colours

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From a physical perspective, colours are light waves with different wavelengths (Hunt & Pointer, 2011). The phenomenon of colours has been studied extensively by the famous physicist Isaac Newton (1730) who was the first to develop a colour wheel including seven colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). The original version of this colour wheel can be seen in Figure 1. Newton's circular arrangement of colours became the basis for most following colour theories despite some changes to the number and placement of colours (Mubeen, 2006).

The colour system representing the basis for this paper is the Munsell Colour System (Munsell, 1905). It distinguishes colour in three different ways, namely Hue (basic colour), Chroma (intensity/saturation) and Value (lightness/darkness). Figure 2 illustrates the system in a simplified yet understandable way. As a detailed discussion of the physical aspects of colour would go beyond the scope of this work all further considerations will focus solely on the influence of colour on human behaviour in a marketing context.

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2.1.1 Colours and attention

An aspect of colour psychology which is especially relevant for marketing is the power of colours to attract attention. Attention can be defined as the amount of cognitive and mental effort an individual musters to a stimulus or task. As the concerned capacity humans have to do so is limited, they will preserve as much as possible and allocate only what is necessary (Foxall, Goldsmith, & Brown, 1998). Clearly, attention is a driving force in marketing effectiveness (Guerreiro, Rita, & Trigueiros, 2015). For successful marketing to work it is essential to capture and hold consumers attention in a pleasant way which has become even more difficult taking into account the fierce competition in today's market place (Pieters, Wedel, & Batra, 2010). In Figure 1: Colour wheel (Newton, 1730) Figure 2: Munsell Colour System (Sands, 2017) 6 other words, the product has to be "first seen, then chosen and finally purchased” (Mastropietro von Rautenkrantz, 2016, p. 21). Colours captivate attention in two different ways namely voluntarily (i.e. goal-driven attention) and involuntarily (i.e. stimulus-driven attention). Firstly, voluntary attention is evoked when colours are stored in memory (Kahneman, 1973). In a marketing context this is either the case when consumers use familiar colour cues to search for a specific product respectively brand (Garber, Burke, & Jones, 2000) or, as a more recent neuroscientific study showed, when colours evoke emotional responses because of colour preference (Kawasaki & Yamaguchi, 2012). In contrast to this, involuntary attention is provoked when consumers are exposed to unfamiliar cues like for instance the use of unexpected or new colours in product packaging (see also chapter 2.1.5 Colours and product categories) or when highly-saturated, vivid or warm colours (e.g. yellow, red and orange) are used (Schoormans & Robben, 1997).

2.1.2 Colours and emotions

Colours can evoke emotions (e.g. excitement, calmness, energy) in human beings. Indeed, these emotions happen to be either positive or negative and can be influential for consumers when deciding whether they like or dislike a product respectively brand (Ou et al., 2004). In fact, the importance of emotions in marketing was understood quite early on (Bagozzi, Gopinath, & Nyer, 1999) and is probably of even more relevance in today's crowded market place especially in the FMCG-sector. In a psychological study conducted by Gao et al. (2007) it was found that colour emotions depend mostly on chroma and lightness and less on hue and that there is no ascertainable significant difference between the tested geographical regions (Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Italy, Spain, Sweden). This goes hand in hand with earlier findings of Hemphill (1996) showing that brighter colours evoke mostly positive emotional responses in comparison to dark colours. Additionally, women reacted more positively to brighter colours and more negatively to darker colours in comparison to men. Likewise, a study of the University of Georgia (Kaya & Epps, 2004) found out that principal hues (e.g. red, green, blue, yellow) elicit the most positive emotions in participants followed by intermediate hues (e.g. blue-green, yellow-red, purple-blue) and lastly the three achromatic colours (i.e. grey, black and white). In the same study it was determined that blue and green give rise to emotions like relaxation, calmness, happiness, comfort, peace and hope. Yet, blue also created negative feelings like sadness, depression and loneliness. Also red was tested to put forth positive (e.g. love, romance) as well as negative (e.g. fight, blood, evil) emotional associations. In contrast to that, just like green, yellow generated mostly positive feelings like happiness and excitement as it is seen as being a very energetic colour which is associated with the sun, flowers and summer. Although this might all seem very theoretical marketers can indeed make use of the potential of colours to evoke emotions. For instance, fast-food restaurants use colours like red and orange in order to trigger feelings of urgency in impulse buyers (Kumar, 2017).

2.1.3 Colour preferences

When asked most people will say they have a favourite colour. In fact, colour preferences are not determined by pure chance but do in part depend on factors such as ethnical background, sex, age as well as personality traits (Kauppinen-Räisänen, 2014).

Firstly, and especially important for companies acting worldwide, it is crucial to understand that colour preferences are not the same across the world. For instance, red was found to be the most favoured colour by US-Americans whereas Lebanese prefer green (Choungourian, 1968). What is more, different cultures have different colour associations. For example, purple is found to be “expensive” in China, Korea and Japan whereas in the US the same colour is seen as being “inexpensive”. On the other hand though, there seem to be colour associations which proof consistent across countries like blue as being “high quality” and “trustworthy” (Laurence et al., 1991). But apart from these cultural influences on colour preference it should also be noted that ethnolinguistic differences exist in colour naming, i.e. there is no global universality in colour denotation across cultures (Jameson & Alvarado, 2003).

Although gender equality is a big topic in today's society, there are still profound provable differences between males and females (Geary, 2010) even though it is a reasonable point of discussion whether these dissimilarities are legit or rather provoked by society at large. In disregard of this, one piece of study on sex differences in colour preferences found out that males favour “bluish” colours whereas females do like “reddish” colours more (Hurlbert & Ling, 2007). In contrast to that no significant correlation could have been found between sexual orientation and colour preferences up till now (Ellis & Ficek, 2001).

Additionally, while there are countless studies run concerning colour preferences trying to find out about factors having a significant influence, only very few of them take age into consideration as a component. It has been found out that there is, indeed, a difference between younger and older people when it comes to their colour preferences. In fact, elderly people favour colours tending towards red and yellow more. Furthermore, it was observed that for older people colour preference was connected to chroma (i.e. saturation) in comparison to younger participants for whom value (i.e. lightness) was more important (Lee, Gong, & Leung, 2009).

Likewise, a person's personality can have a big influence on one's colour preferences. For instance, it has been observed that there is a significant relationship between how extroverted a person is and his/her colour preferences. That is, introverts prefer cooler and calmer colours (tending towards green and blue) in comparison to extroverts who fancy warmer and more intense colours (tending towards yellow and red) (Robinson, 1975).

Furthermore, a psychological study detected that people prefer colours which they associate with objects and things they like (e.g. blue - clean water, clear sky) in contrast to colours which they associate with objects and things they dislike (e.g. brown - rotten food) (Palmer & Schloss, 2010).

But while it is mostly believed that colours can trigger emotions (as already outlined partly in chapter 2.1.2 Colours and emotions) Chan & Andrade (2010) found that it can also be vice versa. So, that the perceiver's current emotional status influences his or her colour preferences. That is, for instance if people are happy, they prefer arousing long-wavelength colours like yellow and red.

Clearly, most of the studies conducted about colour preferences are in the field of psychology or biology which is why one cannot simply apply these findings to a marketing context when designing packages. Yet, it is beneficial to know about one's consumers' preferences as for example choosing the wrong colour in a certain country could result in product failure.

However, it should be noted that colour preferences are not static but can change over time (Kumar, 2017). It is therefore crucial for marketers to stay updated on research and pay attention to changes in consumers' preferences. Although, obviously a company cannot find the perfect packaging colour for every potential customer as they are all different individuals.

2.1.4 Colours and brands

Looking into today's shelves consumers are bombarded with a sheer uncountable number of different brands to choose from, not even including all those unbranded in-store products. The challenge for marketers in all this is as logical as it is difficult: stand out from competition. It has been found that colour plays an important role in a brands recognizability (Keating & Coltman, 2009) which is fundamental in order to establish brand loyalty. Brand recognition is about the ability of consumers to associate a particular product with a brand. This can have a big impact on their buying behaviour as many search for brands they already know especially in the FMCG-industry (Kumar, 2017). Undoubtedly, as vision is the most important determinant for conscious as well as unconscious choices at the point of sale in this sector of the economy (Schifferstein et al., 2013), colours make it easier for consumers to identify the brand they are looking for. In fact, it has even been claimed that colour is the most crucial sensory feature when it comes to product packaging (Lynn, 1981).

Although many brands are made up of more than one colour, looking at Interbrand's (2019) “Best Global Brands 2019 Ranking” one can see that the majority of these highly successful brands consist of a single colour (e.g. IBM, McDonald's, H&M, Coca Cola, Kellogg's) or one dominant colour (e.g. Pampers, Starbucks, Shell). Of course, this observation is about brand logos, yet the colours used in logos are often also employed in a company's corporate identity designs like packaging. In the US it is even possible under certain circumstances to protect colours as trademarks for branded products (Lanham Act) (Madden, Hewett, & Roth, 2000).

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According to Moser (2003) colours can either help or hurt the effectiveness of the message a brand wants to convey to its consumers. Consequently, marketers should consider the following three factors when it comes to colours and brands. Firstly, whether the colours used are simple (primary and secondary colours on the colour wheel, e.g. red, yellow, blue) or sophisticated (all other colours, e.g. slate blue, maroon, mauve). Generally speaking, simple colours seem to stand out more (e.g. Toys”R”Us, McDonald's) than sophisticated colours which are often used to position the brand to be of a certain elegance (e.g. Jaguar, Tiffany). Secondly, it should be noted that consumers do expect certain product categories to be of particular colours. So, the question for marketers in this is to find out whether the brand's colour should be different or the same compared to competing products within the product category (also see chapter 2.1.5 Colours and product categories). Thirdly, it is important to know that colours give rise to emotions and that a brand should make sure that the emotions evoked correspond to the ones that are intended to be communicated (for more information see chapter 2.1.2 Colours and emotions).

Another possibly relevant aspect is referred to a generally very important question in global marketing. Namely, to standardize or to adapt to local preferences. Indeed, marketers need to decide whether to use the same brand and packaging colour in all markets (which will save costs) or to tailor packaging design to the different targeted segments (Van den Berg-Weitzel & Van de Laar, 2001) (also see 2.1.3 Colour preferences).

Nowadays even more than in the past the challenge in the marketplace is to gain a competitive advantage and of course this does have to do with the product itself. However, in the FMCG-sector extrinsic attributes should not be neglected as even small factors can decide about gaining or losing market share (for more information on extrinsic product cues see chapter 2.3.1 Packaging as an extrinsic cue and communicator). Clearly, colours can have a big impact on consumer's brand decision. Only think about the fact that most people do have colour-brand associations with Coca Cola's red, Barilla's blue or IKEA's yellow-blue combination. Therefore, packaging colour should be a cautiously taken decision when launching a new brand and also when redesigning one (Kauppinen-Räisänen & Luomala, 2010). In Marketers ask: Hues on first? Allen Ferrell (Colour Marketing Group) even stated that "[...] color is the least expensive way to change your product” (Parmar, 2004, p. 2). Indeed, there are many real-world examples where a colour change helped to boost sales figures significantly. For instance, the change of Ty-D-Bol's light blue and green bottles to white with lettering on a dark background increased turnover by nearly 40%. Of course, this can be seen as an exception. Such an impressive improvement in sales is unlikely to be achieved through only changing the packaging colour, yet there are various other cases where a change in colour brought about a raise of between 5% to 15% (Lane, 1991).

2.1.5 Colours and product categories

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It has already been discussed how colour preferences and the ability of colours to evoke emotions can have an influence on consumers' buying behaviour. For there is also a connection between colours and product categories. When going into a normal supermarket or drugstore it can be observed that certain product categories tend to be held in relatively similar colour schemes. For instance, in figure 4 one can see that dairy products (first illustration) use dark blue (normal fat content) and light blue (lower fat content) in their packaging. Likewise, vegetarian and plant-based products (second illustration) tend to be packaged in green and lastly body-lotion (third illustration) as well as shower gel and other drugstore products are coloured in correspondence to the scent and/or ingredients they should represent.

In the first place in this context, it is important to note that consumers tend to favour typicality (Schoormans & Robben, 1997) and considering this are said to have a limited number of colours they accept in a specific product category (Kojina, Hoken, & Takahashi, 1986). This is to be explained by a concept that has long been known in psychology which suggests that individuals prefer things that do not deviate greatly from what they are used to, i.e. what they are familiar to, as processing this information requires less mental capacity (Simon, 1967). This is why consumers will mentally preclude products from a product category if the discrepancy to other products in the same category is too substantial (Schoormans & Robben, 1997).

However, the just described predilection of typicality does not seem to hold for novelty seekers. Novelty seekers are individuals that are motivated to expose themselves to new informational stimuli (Acker & McReynolds, 1967). So, in a marketing context this may apply to consumers in search for variety as a means to decrease feelings of boredom (Hirschman, 1980). In other words, variety seeking consumers will supposably be easier approachable via colours that induce involuntary attention (also see 2.1.1 Colours and attention).

Yet, not all of a company's customers will fit into the category “novelty seeker”. Thus, the challenge for marketers is to attain a good balance between on the one hand differentiating the packaging design from competitors to attract attention and be salient while on the other hand still staying similar enough in order to not be excluded from the product category by consumers (Van der Lans, Pieters, & Wedel, 2008).

Generally speaking, if a strong brand uses a specific colour in its packaging this particular colour might well be associated with this product's category by consumers (Hine, 1995). When now a company, which is not the market leader, wants to introduce a new product to the market it basically has two options. Namely, to align to the prescribed colour usage of the market leader (“me too”) or to oppose this scheme and break the rule by using different colours and thereby creating a new visual identity different to that of competitors (Mastropietro von Rautenkrantz, 2016). This is of course a lot more fraught with risk because, as mentioned earlier, this could lead to the exclusion of the product from the product category and consequently to market failure of the product. Furthermore, it is possible for a company to try to only temporarily change the colour of a packaging in order to attract attention (Kumar, 2017), i.e. involuntary attention (again this is inherently risky).

2.2 Fast-moving low-involvement consumer products

The Oxford Dictionary of Marketing defines fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) as “frequently purchased products that usually sell in retail outlets and which, literally, sell quickly because they are highly consumable” (Doyle, 2016).

Closely related to fast-moving consumer goods is the term low-involvement product, which the Oxford Dictionary of Marketing defines as “a product which does not demand research, deliberation or thought in selection and purchase. It also carries little risk if the wrong purchasing decision is made, as these are usually low-cost and consumable items” (Doyle, 2016).

As one can see, the two concepts of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) and low-involvement products show large overlaps in the products they include. Therefore, these two terms will be used interchangeably throughout this paper always including both concepts so fast-moving low-involvement consumer goods are meant if either of the two concepts is named. The same holds for when only “product” is written.

It is no secret that the FMCG-sector is probably one of the toughest to operate in as a marketer. Companies fight for every shelf place, for every single product sold and for every second of attention spent towards their promotional activities. However, they are not in this arena with “only” other big brands but also own­store products which are of course the cheaper option for customers to choose. To withstand this pressure, companies have two options namely cost leadership or differentiation. When going for cost leadership the product's price is changed more towards the unbranded competitor so that the inhibition threshold for consumers to invest a little bit more for a branded product is reduced. On the other hand, a company can decide to implement a differentiation strategy by building and clearly communicating the brand's distinctive features although this can be very challenging in this sector and requires a well thought through marketing mix. Another important aspect to mention here is the influence of the product life cycle (PLC) on the distribution of market shares between branded and unbranded products. The further away the PLC moves from its early development and introduction phase the higher own-store brand's share gets (Fornari et al., 2016) because the advantage of a new product innovation has been mostly skimmed off already. So, the takeaway here is that it is not enough to have a good strategy in the beginning and follow through with it till the bitter end but rather to revise said strategy to fit the prevalent market conditions constantly. This is even more relevant when considering that about 70% of all buying decisions are made at the point of sale even if consumers plan their purchase in advance (Inman, Winer, & Ferraro, 2009).

Without a doubt, in this sector of the economy customers are flooded with attention attracting stimuli at the POS not only by the huge number of products to choose from but also by various promotional activities as well as non-purchase related ones which means that people have to invest a lot of their cognitive abilities to orient themselves (for a definition of attention see the beginning of 2.1.1 Colours and attention). So, the question here is how customers manage to reach a buying decision at the POS with their only limited attention spans. This is where selective perception comes into play which is, formulated very simplified, the downsizing of external environmental stimuli into cognitively more easily analysable pieces. According to Phillips, Broderick and Thompson (1997) there is an intermediate step between the first selective perception and the final decision making namely the marshalling of the remaining options. To do so, customers use different internal methods like decision-trees, categorizing and trade-offs. Having this in mind, a reference can be made to the importance of making sure that the packaging colour does not lead to costumers excluding a product from a certain category beforehand (see also 2.1.5 Colours and product categories).

Hearing this, it might seem like purchase decisions in the low-involvement category are based on some sort of logic behind them and to a certain point this might be true yet even after sorting out different options there will still be not distinguishable products remaining to choose from. There is even a mathematical formula developed by Adhikari (2019) suggesting the random choice between products posing the same utility. By analysing one's customers and their buying behaviour closely, this randomness can certainly be reduced though.

2.3 Packaging

Nowadays, we are used to seeing a vast variety of packages differentiated through material, shape, colour, size, etc. But this has not always been the case. Humans have always used to package what they had hunted and collected (in its earliest form packaging was made from skin, leaves and gourd) but back than the basic aim was to protect the goods. The evolution of packaging as known today began in the late 1800s when the first household-sized packages were designed. Before that mainly containers were used for shipping purposes giving little thought to consumers' or logistical needs. From then on consumer packaging technologies kept on gaining relevance making it one of the most important tools in marketing today and a big business field itself (Twede, 2016).

In general, one can distinguish between graphic components (e.g. colour, images, typography) and structural components (e.g. size, material, shape) of packages (Ampuero & Vila, 2006). All content presented in this paper is referred to packages of regular household-sizes of fast-moving low-involvement consumer goods (see also 2.2 Fast-moving low-involvement consumer products for a definition) and mainly considers graphic components of packaging. However, certainly in business reality an exclusionary contemplation would by no means be expedient as decisions concerning the various aspects of packaging cannot be made without taking into account the overall composition and context.

2.3.1 Packaging as an extrinsic cue and communicator

Packaging is an extrinsic product cue (Méndez, Oubina, & Rubio, 2011). In contrast to intrinsic cues (e.g. ingredients) this means that they do not affect the product itself. Yet, they do have an impact on its evaluation made by consumers (Olson & Jacoby , 1972). It has been found that especially when consumers are short in time, they will use extrinsic product cues for product assessment as it requires less cognitive effort in comparison to intrinsic cues (Wilson & Brekke, 1994). This is potentially of special importance for low-involvement products as the packaging is the first impression consumers get of the product (Silayoi & Speece, 2007), not much thought is given to buying them and intrinsic product cues like for example taste are not available before the first purchase.

Going hand in hand with that is the communicator role of packaging. Essentially, in retail it does so in three different ways which are the transmission of information (e.g. content and use declaration), the promotion of the product and the direct communication with the consumer (Hellström & Saghir, 2007). This is why, packaging is often also referred to as a “silent salesman” (original source: “el vendedor silencioso” (p. 90)) making it much more than just a means to protect the product from outside influences but a crucial opportunity of gaining a competitive advantage and positively influencing one's sales figures (Vidales Giovannetti, 1995).

Customers will form a lot of expectations based on a product's packaging like for example its quality (Rigaux- Bricmont, 1982), its taste (Becker et al., 2011), its healthiness (Cavallo & Piqueras-Fiszman, 2017), its naturalness (Marckhgott & Kamleitner, 2019), its sustainability (Crié & Magnier, 2015) and certainly much more. All these are factors which can be pivotal in the fast low-involvement product decision making process of consumers.

A neuroscientific study even found out that attractive and unattractive packaging designs can trigger different cortical activity. This could be an explanation to why attractive fast-moving consumer good packages attract more attention at the point of purchase and by that record better sales numbers (Stoll, Baecke, & Kenning, 2008).

2.3.2 Packaging (re)design and product failure

It has been discussed in detail by now that the “right” packaging can have a positive influence on the performance of a product especially in the FMCG-sector. Notwithstanding though, the efforts put into the creation of a good product packaging can also backfire (sometimes drastically) if only minor aspects are not taken into consideration.

This is exactly what happened to Tropicana (a brand owned by Pepsi) in 2009 when they decided to launch a grave redesign of their best-selling orange juice. To promote the new packaging the company invested not less than 35 million dollars in an advertising campaign (both the campaign and the redesign were done by the same agency). However, the new packaging was so different that beforehand loyal buyers had trouble recognizing the product. For Tropicana this had massive negative implications meaning a recorded loss in sales of 30 million dollars (a drop of 20%). Of course, this played well into the hands of competitors which were pleased to harvest those lost revenues. So, after not even two months Tropicana released a statement that they would go back to the old design (The Branding Journal, 2015).

Clearly though, Tropicana was not the only brand which had to register such a big failure. Other well-known examples of packaging (re)design mistakes include Sierra Mist (another of Pepsi's brands for which the redesign was organized by the same agency as with Tropicana) (Challand, 2010), Heinz crazy-coloured ketchup bottles (which seemed to be a success at first but had to be delisted eventually) (Glass, 2011) or Red Bull's Simply Cola (which was a very confusing product for customers especially in the beginning as it was not communicated well enough, neither on the packaging nor within the advertising initiatives, that it is not an energy drink) (Red Bull, n.d.).

All these previous examples and many more have one thing in common: the companies behind the products intended to boost sales figures, however exactly the opposite was the case. But what went wrong? First of all, it should not be forgotten that it is about the customer and not the company. A packaging should not be designed on the grounds of appealing to the company's managers and employees but to consumers. And of course, uncovering what they would be willing to buy requires research and testing, two steps that seem to be neglected oftentimes. Another mistake that is often made is overloading a product's packaging and trying to communicate each and every buying argument. If there is too much on it, people will not read it all and will hence miss the really relevant information. It seems that the packaging is sometimes confused with advertising where one can really go into detail explaining the particular product's benefits but the packaging itself is not the place for that. Additionally, when redesigning an already existing product packaging companies should not fail to remember how important emotional bonds and brand recognizability are, especially in the FMCG-sector where a large proportion of purchasers simply buys the brand they have always bought without really thinking about it. In particular, when a revolutionary redesign is implemented (meaning that the whole design is changed drastically) the probability of a product failure is increased substantially as customers will find it hard to understand if it is really the brand they used to buy (as it was the case with Tropicana). Here the probably more recommendable approach is to go for packaging improvement instead which means that the design is altered step by step making sure that it is still easily recognizable for consumers at any time (for an example see the evolution of Coca Cola's bottles in figure 5) (Insights in Marketing, n.d.).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Clearly, it is important to keep all this in mind when (re)designing a packaging but even with the most careful considerations and testing methods there will always be some risk left which means that it is inevitable to be flexible and react to consumer's responses to the packaging even if that might mean to make (often costly) changes again.

2.3.3 Packaging and consumption

In addition, it should not be forgotten that for a lot of fast-moving consumer goods (e.g. cereal, toothpaste, shower gel, milk) the packaging accompanies every consumption respectively usage of the product. This means that packaging does not only convey product meaning at the point of sale but also later on in the daily lives of the consumers (McNeal & Ji, 2003). At first it might seem like a very minor and neglectable aspect, however several studies have proven that packages accompanying every encounter with the product do indeed have an influence on consumer's evaluation of said products. This is for example shown by the fact that packaging texture of food products and the level of congruency with the product's real texture will have a significant impact on consumer's satisfaction with the product (Ferreira, 2019).

Furthermore, as revealed by Ilyuk & Block (2016) consuming the same quantity of a product out of a single­serve packaging will make people feel like they made a more adequate consumption than if they would have from a multi-serve packaging because they will have a feeling of closure which will influence their subjective perception of product efficacy. Another study which once more supports the importance of packaging during consumption was conducted by Hess et al. (2014) which showed that the physical properties of a packaging (in this study a water bottle) is clearly linked to consumer's consumption experience and hence their product evaluation.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Another important aspect which is gaining ever more relevance in today's market place is the question of what to do with the packaging after consumption of the product. Customers nowadays (especially the younger generations) put an ever- greater emphasis on reducing the waste they produce. Hence and increasing number of them come up with ideas of how to upcycle packages and share them with their community. Yet, it is not only them who think about this, some brands proactively communicate possibilities to their customers like for example ja!Natürlich (n.d.) or Nutella (n.d.) with ideas reaching from flower vases over decoration to drinking vessels and presents. Another well-known example of this are cut­out games and toys on the back of kid's cereal packages.

As now discussed, customer's satisfaction with a product does not merely depend on the product's performance but also its packaging. Therefore, by seeing packaging as an additional rather easily influenceable factor to better product perception and not just a means to market it at the POS and protect it from outside influences, companies can use this to achieve greater brand loyalty because positive emotions with the packaging during its repeated usage and also afterwards will influence the product evaluation.

2.4 Psychological background

Although psychology is a field that has been investigated for decades and even centuries very intensively it is still more than hard even for experts to understand how our consciousness and unconsciousness influences our everyday life from the partner we choose, to what kind of music we like to the things we buy. Especially in the FMCG-sector a lot that we do not even realize will influence what we finally bring to the cash desk. In the following two theories which are important as a basis for the later following study will be explained.

2.4.1 Means-end approach of consumer behaviour

In the first place it has to be understood that a consumer's buying behaviour is always a weighing of different alternative behaviours, i.e. consumers decide to buy brand A rather than brand B, choose between spending their money or saving it respectively between drinking the last Coke in the fridge now or rather the next day. So, put in other words “consumer decision making is about evaluating and selection alternative behaviors or actions” (p. 5). Additionally, an essential thought which seems to often be neglected by marketers is the fact that consumers do not buy products per se but rather the consequence of the purchase (Reynolds & Olson, 2001).

Undoubtedly, consumers do not buy milk for the simple act of buying milk but to consume it because they like the taste of it, because they believe it is good for their health, because they need it for a certain recipe, etc. The same holds for shower gel, nobody will buy shower gel with the intention of not using it. In fact, the means-end approach will work for virtually all products in the low-involvement FMCG line of business.

Of course, this all seems logical but nevertheless it is often forgotten that actually it is not the product which is bought. Therefore, the basic assumption underlying this paper is the meansend approach assuming that consumers purchase the benefit they get out of the product by consuming or using it and not the product itself.

2.4.2 Expectations and Perceptions

Lastly, this chapter will deal with the possible influence of expectations on perceptions, a topic which will be of greater relevance for understanding the conducted study. First of all, every time an individual is in a situation of interacting with something the brain uses information that is stored in our memory as well as immediately available sensory cues for information processing which will form expectations (Piqueras- Fiszman & Spence, 2015). Perception on the other hand, is the way humans organize, interpret and experience those sensory stimuli. In theory, these perceptions include both bottom-up (sensory input as the basis) and top-down (how these inputs are interpreted with knowledge, experience, thoughts, etc.) processing (Levine & Shefner, 2000). What has to be emphasised here is the fact that even if the stimuli to begin with is the same for everyone, perceptions are not always because everyone has a distinct way of interpreting information.

Going a step further, it has been shown that if people build up expectations this can in fact have an influence on how they perceive certain stimuli (e.g. Puri & Wojciulik, 2008). For instance, Woods et al. (2011) as well as Piqueras-Fiszman and Spence (2015) and many others conducted studies proving that perception of the taste of food was influenced by previously formed expectations. And this phenomenon does most certainly not only hold for food but across many product categories.

But what happens if expectations do not match reality? This can be explained by the assimilation-contrast theory (Anderson, 1973) which says that if there is a disconfirmation between what is expected and what is actually experienced there are two possibilities of how we will react to this in order to minimize the feeling of discomfort. First of all, if the “error” is minor enough to fall into the so-called “latitudes of acceptance” of a consumer he/she will simply alter his/her perceptions towards the expected (even if the product itself might not justify this assessment). If, however, the “error” is too big there will be a “contrast effect” which means that the consumer will sense the disparity to be even larger.

As this is all very theoretical this example of milk should serve as clarification. So, if someone sees a package of milk, they will form expectations of how this particular milk will taste after internally processing and analysing all the available stimuli and memories consciously as well as unconsciously. Included in this now formed set of expectations will also be an expectation towards how fatty it will taste. Then, if the person tries the milk the fat content will either match those expectations or not. When it does not, this is where the assimilation-contrast theory of Anderson (1973) comes into play (the pre-assumption for this example being that people can differentiate between different levels of fat content; the numbers used in this example are not backed up by any data but should just serve as an illustration). The first possibility now is that the consumer's expectations is not very far away from reality, and they will therefore alter the perceived taste to match them. So, in other words if they believe it has 2,5% fat and it actually has 2,8% they will “taste” 2,5% because it is easier for their brain to align the perception than to live with the disparity. In contrast, if people expect the fat content to be 1% and it is actually 3% it will not be possible anymore to align perceptions because the difference is too big. Therefore, the opposite will happen, and the person will “overcompensate” the error and perceive the taste to be even more different. This means, that instead of tasting the real 3% fat content they will taste for example 4%.

When reading this example and about the theory in general, it might seem like there are clear thresholds of when the error is too big or just small enough and as if there is some sort of logical thinking behind it yet actually people will not even realize that they might well be tricked by their own minds and that their thought to be autonomous decision making is not really that autonomous after all.

2.5 Revue: Current state of research

The previous chapters gave an overview of principal concepts, theories and findings about marketing psychology, psychology in general, packaging and colour that are of great relevance when studying the influence of packaging colours in the FMCG-sector.

As of the order of the previous chapters, firstly the importance colour has respectively can have in a marketing context was examined. In many different (mostly psychological) ways colour has the potential to influence potential customers at the point of sale where they decide in a very small timeframe which products to buy. Clearly, colour is an important factor here taking into account that buying behaviour of low-involvement FMCG products often lacks rational considerations in purchasing situations.

Generally, it can be observed that most research of colour and its influence on human behaviour has been conducted in the field of psychology in the Western world and that most profound findings in this are quite old for which need not necessarily mean outdated. Yet, there is still a lot to be found out about colours' influence on humans especially in a marketing context.

Furthermore, most research on (packaging) colours in marketing focuses only on one colour (and mostly only on hue) at a time. Although of course real packages normally comprise multiple colours. And one should also note that it is about “the whole picture” so packing colours should not be chosen without consideration of the other graphical but also structural components of packaging as well as the selling environment.

Moreover, there is the not ignorable importance of the packaging itself. Marketing practice, foremost in the FMCG-sector, is way past the time where packaging was considered as only a means to protect goods. Nevertheless, similarly to colours, it is an aspect of the marketing mix that is frequently neglected though as the above-mentioned sources show it should be given substantial considerations.

Notwithstanding, as shown by the reviewed literature marketers should also not be narrowminded when it comes to what influences their (potential) consumer's choices. Most decisionmakers in this field would probably be well advised to keep educating themselves further about the basic principles of consumer psychology and stay on top of current research standards to make the most out of their product's marketing mix.


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The influence of packaging colour on expected and perceived product attributes of low-involvement products. Colour as a silent salesman
Vienna University of Economics and Business  (Marketing and Consumer Research)
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packaging, low-involvement product, expectation, perception, attribute evaluation, marketing, colour, color, marketing psychology, consumer, consumer psychology, Farbpsychologie, FMCG
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Jessica Novi (Author), 2021, The influence of packaging colour on expected and perceived product attributes of low-involvement products. Colour as a silent salesman, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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