Does packaging matter?

Written by Monique Louise Samara & Nathalie Chan Pit Chu

Apple iPhone Packaging

Think about packaging for a moment.  Does packaging matter to you?  Will you pay more for a product based on how it is packaged?

Packaging plays an extremely important role in the consumer market.  According to Iacobucci (2014), marketers constantly utilise various senses to stimulate consumer interactions.  The consistent use of design and colours in packaging, for example, can help customers recognise products from a particular brand.

A great example of the use of packaging is Apple products.  Apple invested a lot of time and money into their packaging concepts.  According to Lashinsky (2012, p.67):

“To fully grasp how seriously Apple executives sweat the small stuff, consider this: For months, a packaging designer was holed up in this room performing the most mundane of tasks – opening boxes.”

Apple considers packaging as part of their products and not a separate component. Ultimately, Apple is concerned with the complete customer experience and has therefore taken customer behaviour into account seriously.  Lashinsky (2012, p.67) confirmed this:

“That’s right: hundreds of boxes whose sole function was to give the designers… the ability to experience the moment when customers picked up and held their new toy for the first time. One after another, the designer created and tested an endless series of arrows, colors, and tapes for a tiny tab designed to show the consumer where to pull back the invisible, full-bleed sticker adhered to the top of the clear iPod box. Getting it just right was this particular designer’s obsession.”

By creating packaging that is unique, Apple would have infused its customers and targeted consumers a certain feel.  No one would probably disagree that the consistency and simplicity established in Apple’s packaging do create profound impressions. Essentially, all these help to build brand associations, where specific attributes are stored in consumers’ memory (Iacobucci 2014).

To this point, you may think, “yes, all that you said make sense, but will I ever pay more for a product based on how it is packaged?”

Packaging allows the same or a similar product look more or less expensive.  At the end of the day, it is about consumer perceptions.  While the primary function of packaging is to protect a product, research suggested that good packaging designs actually help to create desire for a product (Agariya et al. 2012).  In other words, the ideal packaging would be one that not only helps to build on brand image, but also helps to create desire for a product and encourage repeated purchase.

In Apple’s case, packaging has not only been part of its brand construction, it also enhanced customer experience.  Many would resonate this when it comes to unboxing Apple’s products (Lashinsky’s 2012, p.68):

“For the first time in history it was a spring-loaded box. It opened slowly. It continued to evoke that emotion and that feeling of anticipation, that you are about to see something beautiful, something great, something you had been reading about and hearing about, and had watched Steve talk about and demo.”

If this echoes with your mind, it is likely that you don’t mind to pay more when it comes to choosing your next gadget where Apple competes in, because a positive perception of Apple is now in your memory.

Now think again, does packaging make a difference to consumer’s behaviour? Will customers pay more for a product based on how it is packaged?

References for this article:

Agariya, A. K., Johari, A., Sharma, H. K., Chandraul, U. N. S. & Singh, D. (2012) ‘The Role of Packaging in Brand Communication’, International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research, Volume 3, Issue 2, February 2012, < http://www.ijser.org/researchpaper/The-Role-of-Packaging-in-Brand-Communication.pdf >

Iacobucci, D. (2014) Marketing Management (MM), 4th Edition, Cengage Learning, Mason, Ohio: South-Western.

Lashinsky, A. (2012) Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired – and Secretive – Company Really Works, Business Plus, New York City.

Photo source:

Apple iPhone Packaging, photograph, retrieved 25 March 2015, < http://www.coloribus.com >

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26 thoughts on “Does packaging matter?

  1. Interesting topic – I’ve personally never consciously considered the packaging of my Apple products in my decision making process, as the initial appeal back in ~2009 was the excitement of the new technology and absolutely having to have it. I have been a loyal customer and a repeat buyer, but now that I think about it, I don’t know whether a shrink wrapped iPhone would have the same appeal of that box that takes forever to open!

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  2. Hi Monique & Nathalie

    A very good post. I absolutely agree, packaging is a HUGE part of the product. Apple is a great example because they are so good at this and perfected the entire process.

    Some retail stores are also good and packaging things up for you. Not necessarily to the extent of Apple but along the lines of putting the product in a show case bag. The consumer walks away thinking they have received extra value from their product & purchase. There are also thousands of unboxing videos on you-tube. Many gadgets come in special packages that are opened one eyelid at a time. This builds essential excitement. I recall watching a show when I was young along the lines of the money or the box. In almost every case, the contestant would always opt for the box to see what was inside. The product and the packaging are an item and need to compliment each other in every way.

    On a another note though, have you ever tried to repack a bulky product back into it’s original packaging? I wonder if marketers ever think of product returns, probably not!

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  3. I think this topic is completely relevant, however associated to the ‘goods’ we are purchasing. As a consumer, purchasing technology that is presented well and of high quality fulfils a perception that the product is also of high quality and should meet my expectations that the company has a firm attention to detail. Quality matters. Another perspective here is in the health supplement market where companies are emphasising ‘raw’, ‘organic’, ‘real food’, environmentally conscious etc. and as such are packaging products to reflect that impression. Recycled papers, minimal print labels and ‘all natural ingredients’ plastered on the labels. Some are legitimate and others packaging to influence a consumers perception. One example is Bare Blends for those not familiar with the market. http://bareblends.com.au/
    For me I believe those in the know, in either tech or health or whatever, understand and value packaging and presentation of these companies but I also understand that those less informed could be swayed by presentation of goods in a positive or negative sense.

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  4. Hi Monique and Nathalie,

    Congratualations on putting together an enjoyable and thought provoking post. I work for a pharmaceutical company and a significant amount of time, effort and finiancial resources is put into developing approriate packaging for consumer brands to ensure they appeal to the intended market. For example, private label vitamins are typically presented in less fancy packaging to reinforce the ‘value’ position they occupy within the market. Conversely, pharmacy only brands are typcially packaged in designs that are more clinical to reinforce their scientific grounding and premium/exclusive market positioning.

    Market research within the pharmaceutical industry would certainly support the proposition that consumers are willing to pay more for products that are packaged in a manner that provides the consumer with greater confidence in respect to the quality of the product.

    Jackie

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  5. I agree, packaging does seem to play an important role in consumer decision making when it comes to buying products. As I was reading your blog, I was thinking of a situation where this has played out in reverse – cigarette packaging. A big component of the QUIT campaign has been to make cigarette packaging look really ugly in an attempt to make smoking less attractive and to decrease the number of people taking up smoking. This has been an effective part of their campaign.

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  6. It is true that packaging can add and overall “value” to the purchase, and it figures that Apple seem to have sussed that aspect out in a competitive market. Opening a gift always has its pleasures and well crafted packaging can certainly add that aspect to opening your purchase. Packaging doesn’t stop at the high end gifts, however, it is omnipresent in a whole range of purchases we make, often on a weekly basis. Take grocery shopping for example, the “Home Brand” and “Super Savers” brands certainly don’t appear to be as appealing as those choices in the more attractive packaging – that cost more. Yet I routinely see those more colourful packages in people’s supermarket trollies, presumably because we have somehow been educated to believe these are more nutritious choices for our families. They at least look more nutritious. And yes people are prepared to pay more for goods that come with attractive packaging – I presume because they believe they are getting a better product.

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  7. Similar to Erin’s thoughts, I never considered the packaging of a product relevant. However if I study my book case at home there is both the I-phone 3 and I-phone 4 boxes still on my shelf. I cant say too many other more recent purchases have a position on my bookshelf, so either great marketing or I need to read more.

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  8. I think differences in culture across various countries and region is being taken into account by marketers when they design packages of their products.Some nationalities might perceive large packaging as an indicator of value and quality of the purchased product whereas some may think of bulky packaging as something unnecessary which has wasted limited resources on the earth. Environmental trends which emphasize the efficient use of natural resources and concepts such as sustainability, are putting pressure on companies to view packaging from a different angle and recognize all the sensitivities customers have regarding elements such as environment.The interesting case of Apple mentioned in your post exemplifies a very smart strategy towards packaging where standardized products of Apple are sold around the globe in standard packaging which seems to suit everyone.What surprises me is how Apple comes to the packaging they use for their products that do not clashes with norms,values and beliefs of consumers having different nationalities and belong to various and even sometimes clashing cultures and subcultures.

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  9. Packaging to a product is what a Frame to its painting, packaging does enhance products value and customers expectations as well, I was influenced by the apple’s packaging its was simple and still very elegant, the packaging reflected the apple’s core value, simplicity. As the packaging can influence consumer behaviour, a good packaging reflects that may the product contains high value, the market of counterfiets is using this preposition and playing with the expectations os the consumers.

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  10. I love this topic because it is something that does frustrate me as a consumer, because I know for a fact that a lot of the products that I buy are slightly more expensive because we are paying for the labour that went into the packaging. For example when you buy meet from the deli it is generally cheaper than the pack. I think one company who have done well with targeting consumers using their packaging is Woolworths. They have products set in 3 tiers: home brand plain packaging their select products which have a slightly better packing to rival the up market products, then their macro products for health foods.

    I do however have to say that their are products that I buy because of the packaging as I am trying the product for the first time and so the better the packaging the more likely the brand looks genuine.

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  11. Packaging is a huge component, isn’t it – the way it’s designed to sit on a shelf or be displayed, how a person will pick it up and look at it or read the label.
    Packaging for toys is interesting – the boxes are generally much larger than the toys themselves (kids all think bigger is better) and many of them have a bit of a storyline on them, so that kids’ attention can be drawn to the box for some time.

    Also consider the discounts offered on a product with damaged packaging – the value of the product itself is lowered without the packaging intact.

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  12. As a designer I love this post.

    When you purchase an Apple iPhone you are not just buying the product, you are buying into the brand. You are buying an experience.

    Every detail of the packaging has been meticulously tested and designed from the opening sequence of the box design to the materials used.

    I cannot remember the packaging of my old Nokia mobile or Samsung but I do remember the experience of opening my first iPhone… and second. And like someone mentioned in a previous comment, I too still own my iPhone box. It is not a piece of packaging i would throw away lightly. Its soft feel fibreboard and sleek minimal design is testament to the quality of the product inside.

    I love the fact that the Apple iPhone 6 box is highly recyclable, made mostly from bio-based materials.

    https://www.apple.com/environment/reports/docs/iPhone6_PER_Sept2014.pdf

    Packaging design remains consistent throughout all of Apple’s products enforcing their brand identity.

    I would be happy to pay a little more for a beautifully packaged design that was environmentally friendly and provided me with a pleasing user experience where my expectations of that brand have been met or even exceeded.

    Packaging absolutely does matter!

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  13. I agree with what you mentioned above!! especially this statement: “To fully grasp how seriously Apple executives sweat the small stuff, consider this: For months, a packaging designer was holed up in this room performing the most mundane of tasks – opening boxes.”

    It takes lots of efforts to make a packaging that will represent your product and it is as crucial as the product itself. The review and development of the packaging is almost the same length with the review and development of the product itself. If the packaging design is not 100% finished, the launched of the product can be delayed until the packaging is ready.

    Development and creation of food packaging is as complicated as electronic products (e.g. apple). Food packaging has to have all detailed information regarding the foods and it is very crucial. If the designer missed a crucial information on the pack (e.g. allergen statement), it can cause a food recall. There are many food recalls due to undeclared allergen written on the pack, e.g. http://www.goodfood.com.au/good-food/food-news/target-recalls-chocolate-easter-bunnies-over-undeclared-nuts-20150323-1m58hn.html. Or even there are many recalls due to wrong information on the pack, e.g. http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/industry/foodrecalls/recalls/Pages/Timboon-Fine-Ice-Cream—Passionfruit-Meringue.aspx. People who are allergic into certain food materials, they will look at into the packaging information closely and make sure the foods they eat are free from that allergens.
    Packaging does matter especially when you have products that are targeted to kids. When they are in the supermarket, they will be attracted to the foods (e.g. confectionery) that have attractive packaging. Even myself as an adult, I still like to buy products with a well packaged foods and have attractive design. I found an interesting article about product packaging: http://www.interpack.com/cipp/md_interpack/custom/pub/content,lang,2/oid,7773/ticket,g_u_e_s_t/~/Product_packaging_plays_an_important_role_in_the_marketing_mix.html.

    However, sometimes people can be fooled with the creativity and how nicely the foods or items are packaged, i.e. nicely packaged foods does not always a good quality food. The packaging design is always going to be first influence on consumer’s purchasing decision. http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Packaging/Effective-packaging-grabs-snackers

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  14. So many intersting insights into packaging. I must admit that I prefer items that are not over packaged. You open a box, then a large plastic packet & then the product is packed into individual packets, most annoying & wasteful!
    I don’t own any Apple products and it’s a great example of how marketing works. An item like a mobile phone (Anyone remember the first phones back in the late 90s early 2000s?) becomes an everyday commodity, same for computers. I know technological advances help, in making these items cheaper too. Don’t understand why anyone would camp out to get their hands on the next version Apple iPhone when there’s nothing wrong with the one you have. Any takers for the watch due out shortly?

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  15. I think in some way a product with fancy package worth more money and can attrack more consumer. And it is not practical in daily usage and may not be worthwealthy for some people. but in reality, there is a need for pretty exterior and fancy packaging. for example, if I want to send my friend a gift, I absolutely would make it look nice ! therefore, whether fancycpackaging is necessary depends on the situation and it does not have to be definetly rightvor wrong.

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  16. Interesting post Monique and Nathalie and very good references too. Apple is a very good example of an organisation that considers both the macro and micro elements of marketing. The success of a product goes beyond just the product itself and meeting the clients needs, it also includes the perception of value and emotions that are conjured. The packaging plays a significant role in this and at times can be just as significant as the product itself – there are many examples of Rolex packaging being sold (2nd hand) for more than the cost of most watches. In saying that its also worth pointing out that most of Apples competitors do not place as much emphasis on their packaging and instead focus on other elements of the product (i.e. size of the phone, resolution of the camera). However it would be interesting to see the degree of brand loyalty between apple and its competitors.

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  17. Hi Monique and Nathalie,

    Very Good post and interesting subject.Apple is an excellent example to study how to influence consumers’ behaviour.There are some important insights mentioned in the post.Packaging does influence consumers’ behaviour and somethimes plays a very important role in image building and development.More specifically,there are couples of reasons.Firstly,consumers are human beings and are sometimes simple and predictable.They tend to make decisions based on their sensation and perception and packaging can affect consumers’ attention and influence their behaviours.Also good packaging can make products look more expensive and consumers are willing to pay more.Secondly,Good desire can promote consumers’ desire to purchase products,which can further help companies to build brand image.Thirdly,good packaging can also make deep memory for clients,which can enhance customers’ experience.As a result,it encourages repeated desire.

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  18. Interesting topic and I believe that packaging does play a vital role in developing the brand image, making consumer feel secure or confident about the product, creating a good experience, especially influences consumers’ perception about a product and/or willingness to purchase over another brand/product.

    The level of influence or the impact of the packaging might vary from product to product and based the market segment the product is targeted to.

    Let’s look at a simple example, not as expensive as ‘apple products’; Think about the different types of Coles brand Tuna you find at Coles, one is “smart buy”, very basic label. Whereas the other is more colorful and comes with one or two extra ticks on the label, some of the ticks doesn’t really mean much. But what is important here is how the consumers look at it. Consumers who buy “smart buy” would be more conscious about the price and doesn’t care about the label, but assumes it’s the same quality as the other. But you find lot of people buying the coles brand with the more colorful labeling paying few dollars extra. Of course there is a group of customers who buy some of the other expensive brands, but I will focus more on the two varieties of Coles brand to discuss the role of the label / package.

    What is the biggest difference here? Both are Coles brand, there is no single answer for that question.
    • People who believe “high price, high quality” will go for the one with the colorful labeling.
    • Some are more Price conscious and if that is the only thing they look at; then they will go with the cheapest product with the basic labeling. “smart buy” ; they believe there is no difference in quality or happy to compromise the quality a bit for lower price.
    • The thought process that goes through your mind when you pick the item from the shelf,
    how you feel about taking a cheap ‘smart buy’ or the one next to it with a colorful label.

    Who knows? Some of these things could be coming from the same supplier, same factory but with a different label. The label creates a value or perception within the consumer, which will influence the choice and/or give a secure feeling when selecting the product with better labeling & branding, maintain the status, etc. Therefore a good percentage would pay something extra due to the value created by the label/packaging.

    the article below highlights some of the important aspects to consider in packaging

    http://www.interpack.com/cipp/md_interpack/custom/pub/content,lang,2/oid,7773/ticket,g_u_e_s_t/~/Product_packaging_plays_an_important_role_in_the_marketing_mix.html

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  19. Well, in my opinion packinging plays an important role in consumer decision making as well. Apple is one of the best examples you both could chose. I worked in an Apple Retail Store before and I know what people think about the packaging. For Apple the purchase process is an experience. You enter the store, you try the products, you ask a Specialist about the products and they will order it for you. You can’t believe that moment when customers hold their new product in their hands. And all in all it isn’t the product they will see at first – it is the packaging! The design is quite simple but the content has such a high value. With the packaging Apple creates a costumer experience!

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  20. Well written article and nice subject! Packaging definitely plays an important role in creating an extra value to the product and can enhance the consumer experience. Although I think the impact of the packaging of products with smaller economic values than apple products can be higher. As mentioned in the example of Samuel the packaging of food products in the supermarket can determine which product you buy. In this case a lot of similar food products are next to one another in the shelves and the packaging can make the difference in buying a product or not. While for a higher value product like an apple product, the quality and experience of the product itself is of a way higher importance in purchasing a product and not so much the packaging. My point is thus that the packaging of products with a smaller economic value will play a bigger role in its purchasing decision.

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  21. Packaging helps consumers to instantly recognise their favourite brands and in this way aids brand loyalty.

    The role packaging plays in positioning a product on the market is also very important, high end products usually have flashy attractive packaging that gives a perception of luxury and exclusivity, this allows companies to charge a premium for such products. Consumers feel that they are getting value for money and are willing to pay more for a product simply based on its packaging. It is already known that visual cues affect consumers purchase choices.

    While packaging is important, is the effort and expense spent of it justifiable? Apple spending months in creating packaging for their product demonstrated the extent to which companies will go to create unique convenient packaging – but is this worth it, is there a proportionate increase in sales? Would you not buy an apple product if it wasn’t packed in a particular way? What is more important the product itself or the package it is wrapped in?

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  22. Packaging definitely plays a role in consumer behaviour. Take Tiffany’s for example. That little blue box is synonymous with quality and is recognised all over the world. Klara (2014) calls it “the World’s Most Popular Package”. According to Klara (2014) not only is the colour trademarked but so is the term the “Tiffany Blue Box”! A very interesting article on the “Tiffany Blue Box” that shows just how important packaging can be to brand recognition and awareness:
    http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/how-tiffany-s-iconic-box-became-world-s-most-popular-package-160228

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  23. Hi Monique & Nathalie,

    A great piece and a fantastic example. Up until 4 years ago I didn’t have much exposure to the Apple-land of products but certainly since my initial purchase of an iPhone.. Then iPad… Mac 27 inch.. Macbook air.. And no I won’t be getting a watch! I have however developed an appreciation for the simplicity and experience for the Apple product range.

    When getting each of these products I have found myself in awe of my emotive response to unwrapping and opening the packaging.. An emotion I would say is parallel to that when I was a child opening a gift at christmas time…

    And yet I know exactly what is in the box!

    I believe that this is sheer mastery of product delivery and one that Apple delivers with great finesse.

    So to answer your questions,

    Yes it makes a difference and yes I’d pay more!

    ps: I still have the boxes for all my Apple products, even from the first iPhone that I no longer have (And I’m sure I’m not alone with this obsession).

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  24. I agree that packaging is very important. The packaging appearance of a product communicates the brands intangible attributes such as luxury and value. And clearly apple has perfected the art. I had no idea that much detail goes into their packaging. Referring to Erin’s comment I doubt if apple products came in shrink wraps or low quality easy dent boxes and inattractive at that the success, we would be talking of a different story.

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  25. Thanks everyone for their responses. A bit of a late reply here due to other commitments, but thought I would share my thoughts after completing our reflective essay. Overall I think everyone agrees that packaging makes difference to consumer behaviours. In some cases, it directly changes behaviours; in other cases, I think it has less immediate effect, but would help shape brand perceptions and alter customer experience through addressing customer needs.

    In fact, as we wrote this blog, we did question ourselves whether there is a relationship between packaging and low involvement products (e.g. most items found in supermarkets) as opposed to mid-to-high involvement products (e.g. Apple products, designer clothing and jewelleries). hpostma1 (5 April 2015) mentioned something similar, “that the packaging of products with a smaller economic value will play a bigger role in its purchasing decision”. Monique and I therefore went to do more research on this, however we did find opposing arguments, making it difficult for us to conclude that packaging of low involvement or small economic value products will play a bigger role in consumer behaviours. If interested, have a read at this article:

    Ares, G, Besio, M, Gimenez, A & Deliza, R (2010) ‘Relationship between involvement and functional milk desserts intention to purchase. Influence on attitude towards packaging characteristics’, Appetite, Volume 55, Issue 2, October 2010, Pages 298-304.

    Indeed, it might be as ce732 (29 March 2015) commented, “whether fancy packaging is necessary depends on the situation”. To this point, consumer behaviour appears to be a sophisticated topic.

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