When we asked whether you get taken in by advertising, some of you told us you avoid ads all together. But there’s another type of marketing that’s more difficult to swerve – the sort you find on the products themselves: persuasive packaging.
Toiletries are a perfect example. If you go to a farmers’ market to buy apples, it’s simple – you compare them and pick the ones that look the freshest or biggest or juiciest. But what if those same apples were inside boxes covered with different celebrities’ faces and words like ‘rapid diffusion micro peptides’?
With toiletries, you can’t really compare apples with apples and that’s why manufacturers capitalise on their packaging to sell their product to you. After all, the packaging is there anyway – it protects the product and makes it easier to transport – so it makes perfect sense to utilise it.
The truth is, you’ve almost certainly been affected by marketing when buying toiletries. If you weren’t, manufacturers wouldn’t invest in making their products look different to one another.
Why it works
Part of the reason packaging design works is, quite simply, ease. Making in-depth, informed decisions about every product we’re faced with in the supermarket would take a lot of time and energy.
If you’re making a larger investment – perhaps a car, dishwasher or television – you’re likely to invest that time and energy, and luckily Which? is here to help.
But when it comes to lower-risk decisions, many of us fall back on heuristics – intellectual short cuts. Studies suggest it can take less than a 10th of a second for shoppers to make a judgment about the appeal of a product they’ve glanced at.
The tactics of persuasive packaging
When we spoke to marketing and psychology experts on how marketers appeal to this way of thinking, many of the tactics they told us about are incredibly simple.
Toiletries are packaged in colours we associate with certain qualities – blue for cleanliness, for example. Faces are slapped on packets as we’re naturally drawn to look at them, which in turn will draw our attention to the packaging or shelf branding. And using scientific-sounding buzzwords can make us believe a product is effective, even when we have no idea what those words mean.
Separating products by gender works, too – seeing a shaving foam for women or shampoo for men can help us avoid having to spend too long finding a product that suits. Of course, the downside of this – and all of these tactics – is there may be another product that works just as well and costs less.
So, have you ever bought toiletries and thought the product didn’t live up to its packaging? Do you own any right now that are endorsed by celebrities or covered in buzzwords? Or have you found a way to see past the marketing?