Revealed: the tricks packaging designers use to make us spend

Celebrity endorsements, pseudo-science and fancy boxes are among the tricks retailers are using to part us from our cash.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 25th September 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 2:34 pm
Endorsements from celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston can help to sway shoppers buying decisions. Credit: Shutterstock
Endorsements from celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston can help to sway shoppers buying decisions. Credit: Shutterstock

A new investigation by consumer group Which? has revealed some of the most common tactics used to entice shoppers towards certain products.

And no matter how sure we are that we can see through their ploys, it appears that we make decisions on what to buy before we’re conscious of doing so, in part due to the packing tricks.

Studies suggest shoppers make a judgement on the appeal of a product in a tenth of a second, making getting the packaging vitally important.

Richard Headland, Editor of Which? said: “Even if you feel like you’re a savvy shopper, chances are you’ve been influenced by some of the clever marketing tricks used by big brands on a recent shopping trip.

“While some seem obvious when you think about them, these tactics are surprisingly effective when shoppers are pushed for time and faced with enormous choice.”

The Which? Study asked marketing and psychology specialists to examine a range of everyday products - from deodorants to handwash and beauty creams - and pick out the top marketing tricks used to influence shoppers.

Top of the list were celebrity endorsements. Which?’s experts said that as shoppers we are more likely to believe a person than a claim, particularly if that person is well-liked or respected.

Repetition was also revealed as a key tool, with the use of the same word or phrase over and over again on a package used to drive home the seller’s message. For example, Dove’s Intensive Repair Shampoo mentions ‘repair’ five times – just in case you’re in any doubt about what it does.

Putting a product in a box rather than leaving a bottle bare on the shelf, apparently, adds a more expensive look to a product. The experts said that with some products it also made them appear more “medicinal” and serious, therefore more trustworthy.

In the same vein, using jargon to give the impression that deep scientific research has gone into the creation of a product is a favourite of marketers. The Which? study points to Garnier’s Miracle Cream which uses the phrases “rapid diffusion” and “micro-peptides” on the packaging to give it an air of scientific credibility, even if buyers have no idea what they mean.

For products aimed at fashion-conscious buyers slapping a few glamourous city names - London, New York, Paris - on the box or bottle is also a common tactic.

Copying the look of a high-end desirable product is also a favourite of package designers. Which? Points to Aldi’s Abbott & Broome handwash, which uses similar fonts, colours and bottle shape to Baylis & Harding handwash. Both are also very similar to high-end Molton Brown products. The experts argued that customers are more likely to buy a lookalike product because they might feel they are getting similar quality to the original.

Lastly, the experts pointed to gender-specific designs aimed at making it easier for men and women to hone in quickly on what they want - or what the manufacturers want them to buy.