The design of a package generates expectations that allows us to imagine the pleasure that the product itself will give us. Every time that stand in front of a shelf to decide what to buy, our brain goes through a number of processes that combine our knowledge with our expectations.
We base our decision on past experiences when picking a tried and true product and also when deciding wether to try a new product or not. In either case we are always moved by desire.
Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist known primarily for his work in classical conditioning. The concept for which Pavlov is famous is the "conditioned reflex" developed in 1901. He studied salivations among dogs and learned that when a buzzer or metronome was sounded in subsequent time with food being presented to the dog in consecutive sequences, the dog will initially salivate when the food is presented. The dog will later come to associate the sound with the presentation of the food and salivate upon the presentation of stimulus.
We function similarly than Pavlov's dogs when we are in the presence of a food package, and its design functions as the stimulus of the buzzer. The mere fact of seeing and recognizing a package reminds us of the experience of consuming the product or makes us imagine the experience of eating it if we haven't had it before.
When we see and hold a package we perceive it with all of our senses, that experience wether good or bad stays registered in our memory as an association with the product and the brand.
As consumers are bombarded with options, brands get less and less attention in a supermarket shelf. Great packaging design should understand the values and desires of the consumer and connect in a deeper emotional level. We like to think of product packaging as a half-second commercial where great design makes or breaks a sale.
Great packaging must combine art and science, where sophisticated research and analysis is converted into visually stimulating design. It must look beyond creative talent and seek to understand human behavior and target consumers in a compelling, fresh, and entertaining way. A well done product package delivers the brand message to consumers directly, while its appetite appeal makes a consumer imagine the flavors and experience of consuming the product. Just like a buzzer would make Pavlov's dogs salivate with desire.
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