Do all Good Things Come in Packaging?

23 January 2012

You’re wandering the aisles of the drugstore when suddenly you spot that product that you just have to have. To be honest, you don’t really know what it does yet, but it just looks so cool.

A recent study emerging from the advertising industry reports that up to 73% percent of purchase decisions are made in-store and that 53% of those purchases are made without any prior intention of buying anything! What exactly is it that makes you want to part with your hard earned cash in a flash? Experts in marketing know that one of the biggest factors influencing what you buy is the packaging. It can attract your attention and convince you that the product is just what you need. As a result $1 out of every $10 you spend on products can be directly attributed to the cost of packaging.

So what is it about packaging that pulls you in? Although it appears to be a contentious issue among researchers, the impact of colour on the consumer appears to be widely accepted among marketing experts. Industry studies have estimated that colour alone accounts for up to 85% of your decision to buy!

Did You Know?
What are marketers trying to convey to you with the colour of their packaging? Here are a few examples of common colour associations.

Blue: Stability, professionalism, trust, peace and coolness.

Brown: Endurance, casual, earthy, poverty and tradition.

Green: Safety, harmony, freshness, nature and wealth.

Orange: Enthusiasm, cheerfulness, creativity, playfulness and heat.

Yellow: Attention-grabbing, happiness, energy, joy and optimism.

Pink: Hot pink: energy, youthfulness, fun and excitement

Red: Boldness, excitement, desire, intensity, and love.

White: Cleanliness, purity, simplicity, peace and innocence.

However, there is more to packaging than meets the eye - all of your senses are involved! Recently some companies have begun incorporating smells into plastics in order to promote sales. One example is adding chocolate smell to chocolate milk containers to lure potential customers toward their product. It also turns out that even the sound of packaging is important: experience in the marketing industry has shown that if the chip bag doesn’t crackle to satisfaction, people will assume the chips inside are stale.

Did You Know?
Not only does packaging help marketers sell their products, but it also protects what you’re buying. It guards your purchase from breakage, bruising, germs and other contamination.

Unfortunately, packaging isn’t all glitz and glamour. Up to 35% of all our municipal solid waste is from packaging. In Canada, where we throw out 13.4 million tonnes of garbage every year, that represents almost 4.7 million tonnes of packaging. The good news is that since 2000, Canadians have increased the amount they recycle by 65%. It’s a good start, but reduction is the key. If we can cut down on excessive packaging we will be cutting down on the amount of general waste created.

Did You Know?
In the United States, “5.6% of all steel, 50% of all paper, 65-70% of all glass, 25-30% of all aluminium, and 23.5% of all plastics produced are used for packaging (”

Packaging is often necessary to protect the goods we buy, and can be extremely beneficial in delivering the information that we need about the product. However, excessive packing, often used solely for marketing purposes can be wasteful, and a merely a ploy to win you over in short order!

You can make smart decisions related to waste reduction by purchasing products with minimal or no packaging when possible (buy bulk!) and refusing to let packaging influence your purchase decisions. Like the famous expression advises – never judge a book by its cover!

Check out these links to learn more about packaging and acting as a responsible consumer.


Singh, S (2006), “Impact of Color on Marketing,” Management Decision 44(6), 783-789.

Markarian, J (2006), “Compounders smell success in packaging,” Plastics, Additives and Compunding 8(2), 24-27

Robyn Auld is a doctoral student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, where she is studying Entomology (the study of insects). She has a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Ottawa. Outside of studying bugs, Robyn loves playing Ultimate Frisbee!


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