Study Spotlight: “Where you say it matters: Why packages are a more believable source of product claims than advertisements”

A study by researchers at Florida State University and the University of Miami claim to have found a way to potentially make marketing claims seem more reliable. According to their paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, customers are more likely to perceive marketing claims as truthful when they’re made on the product’s packaging (as compared to in advertisements). Believability, they claim, increases with proximity to the product itself–since the packaging is by default closer to the product than an advertisement about it, it can ultimately be more effective in pushing sales.

The Florida researchers noted some key differences between packaging and advertisements that could potentially explain why a consumer would view a statement on a package as being more reliable. Most notably, in the United States food industry, health claims made on packaging are regulated with more vigor as compared to claims made in ads. Previous research speculates that “if consumers perceive this difference, then they may perceive food health claims made on packages as more credible than those featured in ads.” Partly because of this, the Florida study goes on to suggest that “consumers may believe that packages are meant to communicate objective information, such as usage instructions, whereas ads are meant to persuade consumers to select a specific brand.”

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To test their theory, the researchers completed a series of three related studies. In Study 1, the researchers exclusively evaluated claim-to-product proximity, positing that the closer a marketing claim was to the physical product, the more likely the consumer would be to buy it. Presenting a claim made on an ad right next to the packaging itself should make the ad’s credibility identical to that of the packaging claim. At the beginning of the study, participants were given $1, and told it was in appreciation of their time. After completing an hour-long series of unrelated tasks, their were unknowingly subjected to the real study: each subject was told on their way out by a research assistant that a product (“Kickers Energy Spray”) from a previous experiment was on sale for $1. They were then asked if they’d like to purchase the spray while being shown one of six different product displays:

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In order from top to bottom (and left to right):

    • An advertisement promoting the product
    • A different advertisement, also promoting the product
    • The product’s packaging
    • One of the advertisements accompanied by the product (without the package)
    • The other advertisement accompanied by the product (without the package)
    • The packaging accompanied by the product (without the package)

In line with the researchers’ predictions, participants who saw only the package were significantly more likely to purchase the product than those who saw only the ad (51% vs 10%). If the display included the actual product (regardless of whether it was accompanied by the ad or the package), the likelihood of purchase was equal, since the product itself was right next to the claim. The difference between the effectiveness of an advertisement with and without the product nearby was substantial–subjects were much more likely to purchase the product in the ad setting if the product was actually present. Overall, consumers were more inclined to buy the product when they saw the package, rather than the ad, and most inclined when the product itself was present.

What we can take out of this study is that, while companies can’t just go around putting any message they’d like on a product (the FDA would likely take issue with that), it may be time to reconsider striking some of the “wordy bits” off of packaging for the sake of a cleaner design. While good design is crucial for sales in pretty much any given scenario, striking a balance between artwork and on-package marketing may help to drive sales. It’s important to note that a campaign’s success is about more than just information–assume the consumer is able to glean at least the necessary information about a product from just a glance. After filling them in on anything else that may not be immediately obvious, the customer is left with a choice: to buy, or not to buy. This is where marketing comes in, because the goal from here on out is to ensure purchase. While advertising skepticism has been gradually increasing over time, an honest, unbiased, and informative call to action can push an unsure consumer to purchase. According to various studies, consumers tend to view unambiguous information, third party statements, and product comparisons favorably. Conversely, claims that seem in any way biased or misleading will drive sales in the opposite direction, so it’s important to be careful with wording.

The researchers went on to do two other studies further exploring claim-to-product proximity. Read the full paper, Where you say it matters: Why packages are a more believable source of product claims than advertisements, in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

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DuPont’s 2016 Awards for Packaging Innovation

For 28 years running, DuPont has rewarded excellence in the packaging industry with their annual Awards for Packaging Innovation. One of the world’s leading science and engineering companies, Dupont is responsible for the invention of nylon, Tyvek, and Kevlar, amongst others. Dedicated to tackling global challenges, the Packaging Innovation Awards specifically champion achievements across three categories: Responsible Packaging, Enhanced User Experience, and Technological Advancement.

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Up first as one recipient of DuPont’s Silver Award is Palladio Group’s PhutureMed™, in the Enhanced User Experience category. Chosen for ‘advancing patient safety,’ PhutureMed™ is “designed to monitor the quality of medicines shipped to patients and improve medication adherence of patients to prescribed drug therapies.” Every time the package is accessed, an entry is added to the time log. The log serves as a reminder for whether or not the patient has taken their medication (and also discourages tampering). This information can be vital for doctors, allowing doctors to monitor their patient’s care more accurately. Also built in is a temperature monitor, which will alert the user if the medication has ever gone above or below a designated range–it even works without battery power!

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One winner in the Gold Award category for both Technological Advancement and Enhanced User Experience was PHD Skincare’s Never Miss a Spot Technology, an ‘extended wand sunscreen applicator.’ The wand allows for easy spraying of hard to reach areas, while maintaining a uniform mist at any angle–this enables users to get even coverage without assistance. The sprayer could also easily be adapted to other products, such as fertilizers and insecticides.

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Receiving the highest honor as the sole recipient of the Diamond Award was Graham Packaging’s ThermaSet® Blow Molded PET Container. It excels across all three categories: Responsible Packaging, Enhanced User Experience, and Technological Advancement. Various design manipulations allow for far better than average thermal stability and increased wall strength. The container is also lightweight and shatter resistant, 100% recyclable, and produces a lower than average carbon footprint during manufacturing. The narrow, taller build also cuts down on valuable shelf storage in retail displays.

More information on all finalists and winners can be found here.

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Biodegradable, antimicrobial cling wrap packaging in the works

Singapore-based researches are in the process of developing a material comparable to plastic wrap that is biodegradable, anti-bacterial, and free from chemical additives. While they are still in the early stages of development, if everything pans out, this could be a promising development in the world of food packaging.

Due in part to an increasing consumer demand for environmentally-friendly packaging, researchers developed the new material–chitosan–by deriving it from the exoskeletons of shellfish, making it a natural and biodegradable polymer. In addition to its biodegradable benefits, the cling wrap is also non-toxic, and even naturally contains some antimicrobial and antifungal properties.chitosan-gfse-film-data.pngTo enhance the antibacterial properties of chitosan, the film was fortified with Grapefruit Seed Extract (GFSE), a natural antioxidant that “…possesses strong antiseptic, germicidal, antibacterial, fungicidal, and antiviral properties.” The team researched the combined effects by varying the amounts of GFSE present, and early testing found that average shelf life was increased by about two weeks as compared to standard plastic wrap.

If the project continues as the researchers hope, this could improve food safety, and consequently, reduce food waste. According to the World Resources Institute, nearly a quarter of all food calories produced is wasted. That being said, here’s to hoping their research ends with success!

Find out more about their research from their study, ‘Functional chitosan-based grapefruit seed extract composite films for applications in food packaging technology.’

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e-cigarette in use

New Liquid Nicotine Packaging Regulation Enacted in 2016

According to a statement released by The White House on January 28, 2016, President Obama signed into law “the ‘Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015,’ which requires the packaging of liquid nicotine containers to be subject to existing child poisoning prevention packaging standards.” The new bill necessitates that any liquid nicotine sold or imported into The United States adheres to standards and testing procedures determined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (the CPSC in part sets measures that make it more difficult for children to ingest harmful materials).

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Liquid nicotine is used in the increasingly popular e-cigarette. Also commonly known as vaporizers, these devices work by heating a mixture of liquid nicotine, flavoring, water, and a liquid base (such as propylene glycol or glycerin). The liquid is heated to its boiling point, after which it becomes a vapor that can be inhaled. 

Packaging standards like this are nothing new–the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970 (of which the Nicotine Poisoning act is now a part) is responsible for the requirement of child safety features on myriad hazardous products, including prescription drugs and over the counter medication, and chemicals such as turpentine, methanol, or acid. It was only a matter of time before liquid nicotine products became included in this act–in 2015, there were over 1,500 reported exposures to e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine in children under the age of 6. Liquid nicotine is especially problematic with children, as it can be dangerous through skin contact alone.

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Child-resistant packaging standards are tested and determined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)–specifically, child-resistant packaging falls under ISO 8317:2015, which outlines “…performance requirements and test methods for reclosable packages designated as resistant to opening by children.” Testing also covers how accessible the packaging is to able-bodied adults. Liquid nicotine packaging will likely now include a child-resistant cap.

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Pantone Color of the Year 2016

The following post was written by GTS Packaging Solutions’ Liz Wolfe, and is featured at gtspblog.wordpress.com.

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Pantone has just announced their 2016 Color of the Year, and for the first time since they started the practice in 2000, they’ve picked two colors: Rose Quartz and Serenity.

Last year, we noted that their 2015 choice ‘Marsala’ was an interesting one (pictured below on the left along with the colors from 2011-2014). Marsala’s deep, earthy tones are quite different from previous selections (which have all been rather lively).

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It seems that Pantone is sticking with last year’s idea of shaking things up–while they are going back to their more colorful roots, Rose Quartz and Serenity are the first pastel colors they’ve selected since the early 2000’s.

Pantone’s Color of the Year isn’t just an arbitrary decision: in addition to being a huge name in the printing industry (thus inspiring next year’s trends), their selection is always inspired by current events. Rose Quartz and Serenity are meant to work together to soothe and balance viewers in a time of change and turbulence.

About their decision, they’ve said: “Joined together, Rose Quartz and Serenity demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace.”

Pantone also points out that “in many parts of the world we are experiencing a gender blur as it relates to fashion, which has in turn impacted color trends throughout all other areas of design. This more unilateral approach to color is coinciding with societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity, the consumer’s increased comfort with using color as a form of expression, a generation that has less concern about being typecast or judged and an open exchange of digital information that has opened our eyes to different approaches to color usage.”

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Have You Heard of Coffee Leaf Tea?

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Consumed in Ethiopia for more than 200 years, coffee leaf tea is exactly what it sounds―the leaves of coffee plants roasted and then brewed into tea. While coffee leaves barely contain any caffeine at all, they are believed to be more nutritious than both coffee and many blends of tea. They also have “…a clean and smooth flavour without the bitterness associated with conventional green and black teas.”

Wize Monkey is one of the companies currently popularizing the blend, and their goal is “to improve the livelihoods of coffee-dependent communities by harvesting a sustainable & healthy product.” Wize Monkey was founded by Max Rivest and Arnaud Petitvallet, who are both business school graduates from France with a focus on ethical practices and international sustainable development.

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Other than oil, coffee is the second largest industry in the world, worth approximately $15.4 billion in 2009/10. Even still, the coffee business is incredibly seasonal; coffee beans can only be harvested for 3 months out of the entire year. As a result, most workers cannot be kept on year-round. According to Wize Monkey’s site:

“In the last few years, the coffee market has become flooded and revenues have been plummeting for all coffee farmers worldwide. We figured that if the farmers could also sell coffee leaves, they could create a second source of income and help make ends meet. After three months of searching and meeting with dozens of organic farmers, we have come home to Vancouver BC with a one-of-a-kind revolutionary tea. Not only does it do your body some good, it does the farmers some awesome.”

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The good thing about coffee leaves is that they can be harvested year-round. Wize Monkey sources their leaves from one of the top coffee growers in Northern Nicaragua, who has over 18 years experience in the industry. This particular farm “pays workers 80% more than the industry average, which means more funds in the worker’s pockets to support their families…” If Wize Monkey is successful, coffee leaf tea could potentially provide long-lasting benefits to families and communities around the world that normally make a living selling coffee beans.

Curious about how you can try Wize Monkey’s coffee leaf tea for yourself? Their online shop has a preorder bundle available with shipment due for spring of 2015 (soon!), or a two sample pack.

Personalization: Why It’s Important for E-Commerce Packaging

It’s 2015, and retail e-commerce is doing better than ever. According to an estimate released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 2014, total retail sales amounted to well over 4.5 trillion dollars, and retail e-commerce sales accounted for nearly 3 billion of that (approximately 6.3% over all). Between 2005 and 2013, e-commerce sales figures as part of a larger whole have nearly tripled (rising from 2.4%). We’ve seen a steady incline in both general and e-commerce retail sales—that trend will likey continue, as experts predict that “60% of U.S. retail sales will involve the web by 2017” (through either direct purchase or research purposes). With numbers that high, why does our e-commerce packaging still look like this?

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When a business has a storefront, it’s all about presentation. Workers are required to keep the site clean and operational at all times, and they must greet guests with a smile. Shelves are kept stocked and organized. Careful consideration is put into the look and feel of the store itself. Businesses understand that wowing their guests is good business. If what they are presented with is top of the line the whole way through, customers are more likely to come back.

Many business do bring their presentation beyond the storefront by spending thousands—or tens of thousands—of dollars on developing high class websites (web development is getting more affordable with the introduction of platforms that are designed to allow anyone to engineer their online presence, coding experience or not). Even if the customer is not physically present, steps can be taken to keep them coming back. A beautiful, easy to use site is a great start, but it doesn’t have to end there. Personalized e-commerce packaging is on the rise.

So why should a business bother doing this? If a customer is receiving a package, it’s clear they’ve already decided where they’d like to bring their business. Does it really matter how the package is presented? Technically, standard e-commerce packaging likely wouldn’t dissuade anyone from re-ordering from an online shop. They are used to seeing deliveries this way, after all. But fine tuning your presence from checkout to doorstep definitely won’t hurt.

Whenever I order something online, I’ll typically forget where it came from not long after,  unless it’s something branded. Even if custom packaging doesn’t work for you, the smallest acts can and will go a long way—for example, I’ve purchased several birthday presents from the artist Wednesday Wolf, who I haven’t forgotten about because he included a personalized message with my first order.

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For custom shipment packaging, look to a company like Loot Crate, “a monthly box of geek & gamer gear.” For a service like this, the unboxing is a big deal because the contents are a surprise. Having packaging like the above is a nice touch: pulling new loot out of a sleek, custom box is more exciting than ugly/standard shipping gear. I actually first found out about Loot Crate via Facebook when a friend posted a picture of his new crate, box and all. The packaging itself was clearly part of the excitement, and so it made it into the picture (while a normal box would have likely been discarded).

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There’s also Trunk Club, a service that matches clients with online personal stylists. They’ll build you a custom wardrobe, keeping in mind your style and preferences, and then ship it straight to your doorstep. The clothing is laid out nicely in the box upon arrival, and the exterior of the box itself looks great. Trunk Club also capitalizes on the custom note business—each crate contains a handwritten message from designer to recipient. Many clients not only return for more, but opt to work with the same stylist time after time because of the high level of personalization they’ve achieved (after all, over the years, stylists start to get a really great understanding of what their clients like and don’t like).

Like I said. Shipping presentation probably won’t dissuade anyone from re-ordering. They may just forget about you in the grand scheme of things. In an economy that will see a higher and higher prevalence in online ordering, personalization is the key to getting customers to remember why they decided to order from you in the first place.


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