The Psychology of Packaging
November 9, 2020

The Psychology of Packaging

A recent study focused on how shopper perceptions can be automatically activated by various design elements related to product packaging.

Your subconscious mind is hard at work every moment you enter the supermarket, or any store for that matter. Countless implicit and subconscious thoughts, emotions and associations influence, persuade and determine the purchase decisions you make.

To demonstrate just how important it is to get your packaging psychologically spot-on, let’s look at shopping for wine. In this category, consumers are exposed to a huge number and variety of different products on shelf.

Because wine shoppers are spoiled for choice, many wine brands have recognised the importance of psychologically connecting with shoppers on many mental levels. They rely on packaging differentiation to earn and retain shopper attention: From the label material type, to font sizes, design styles and many other design elements.

A recent shopping behaviour study focused on how shoppers' perceptions can be automatically activated by various design elements related to product packaging.

When it comes to wine packaging there are well-known rational factors at play, such as the brand, the region of the winery, the grape variety. These are all taken in consideration when a shopper picks up a bottle. But there also other implicit factors that influence a purchase decision, such as shape of the bottle or label, colours, tactile influences and imagery: They all have an impact.

“It’s fascinating how even tiny manipulations of certain visual factors can have significant impact on shoppers”

Some of these implicit factors may appear quite irrational. For example, certain typefaces and material choices can strongly influence shoppers’ perceptions of quality and taste, even when it’s the same product inside the bottle.

Wine label redesign

A winery sought to redesign the label as part of an initiative to boost sales. While the design team firmly believed the new design would win over consumers, they wanted to be sure the brand overhaul was worth the investment.

Subsequent shopper research soon identified that handwritten typefaces elicited stronger feelings from shoppers, but handwriting presented challenges in legibility due to reducing processing fluency.

The research also revealed that shoppers more strongly associated premium label materials with feelings of authenticity and product quality, compared to standard label materials. Furthermore, non-coated, tactile labels more strongly activated a sense of authenticity and being ‘premium’ than coated, flat labels.

In summary, although the redesign was visually pleasing, the research revealed a number of key implicit strengths associated with the original design. The original design was more effective at automatically creating positive emotions and was perceived as being more premium. The original design also instilled in shoppers a stronger sense of authenticity.

So instead of a major brand overhaul, the winery went for a more minor refresh. They combined the positive aspects of the new design with the hard-earned strengths of the existing.

Spoilt for choice

5 Quick Take-aways

  1. Handwritten typefaces on wine labels arouse positive feelings in shoppers. Neuroscience-based market research has consistently shown that rounded typefaces elicit a more positive emotional response than angular patterns.
  2. Handwritten fonts can be harder for the brain to process, and less fluent processing often negatively impacts on shoppers’ propensity to purchase.
  3. A more premium label material triggered more feelings of authenticity and product quality, compared to standard label materials.
  4. Non-coated, tactile materials, also activate a stronger sense of authenticity than coated, flat materials.
  5. Green is good. Shoppers reacted more positively to it and associated it with being environmentally-friendly.


The key take out is that all too often, new packaging designs literally ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’. Introducing psychology into the design process, allows you to analyse your packaging at both rational and emotional levels. As a result, you discover the specific aspects that are crucial to the success of your brand on shelf. In addition, you more scientifically uncover negative design aspects that should be revised or removed altogether.

I have analysed packaging from a psychological perspective and seen the smallest of changes deliver massively different results: From 31% sales uplift on the one hand, to a 70% drop in sales of another brand. Incidentally, both were owned by the same Company.

Packaging is important, Psychology is important. But Packaging Psychology in the most important of all.

Please get in touch if you'd like to review the psychological optimisation of your packaging.

FREE guide to what shoppers really want!


About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

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Phillip Adcock

Phillip Adcock
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

Are you fascinated by how shoppers think?

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