Past marketing research suggests that packaging is extremely important in selling products because consumers encounter them when they’re highly engaged mentally in making buying decisions. But little independent research had been done on which designs evoke specific, desired responses, Malkewitz said.
To figure that out, Malkewitz and Orth photographed 160 wine bottles, mostly of less-recognized brands. They asked 125 experts — graphic or industrial designers — to analyze the aesthetic attributes of each bottle. Then, they sorted responses into five primary design types: massive (or bold), contrasting, natural, delicate and nondescript.
Next, researchers showed photos of the bottles to 268 consumers in Oregon. They asked 15 questions about each bottle’s “brand personality,” including whether the brands seemed sincere, exciting, competent, sophisticated or even rugged.
The results? Consumers found “massive” packaging (Wine by Joe was an example) and contrasting designs (the label on Australia’s Yellow Tail) to be exciting and eye-catching. But they also expected them to be low in competence and sophistication, of lower quality and less expensive, the study found. Additionally, wines with highly contrasting designs were thought to be rugged.
Product packaging is still the primary point of focus for many consumer packaged goods manufacturers, and rightly so: it's the only marketing expense that must (to some extent) exist in order to get the product on the shelf in the first place. Additionally, product packaging is the only consistent means to communicate to shoppers at the first moment of truth, making it very important -- and thus, very carefully studied.
We're not at all surprised by the results of the wine label study (the bulk of which you'll have to read the original article for), and we're forced to wonder how applicable the results would be in other categories, particularly ones where there's a lower expectation of sophistication, or the product/market is perceived as more approachable.