Packaging and Design

Packprobe: measuring the effectiveness of designs at the subconscious level

Advertising campaigns may come and go: packaging is the silent long-distance runner.
At the point of sale it’s the pack, not the product, that is visible. In this way, the pack becomes the product and the advertising in one… if it lacks appeal, quality and credibility the product itself will be seen in the same light.

The whole marketing programme can therefore, rest on the packaging. If the advertising is poor, it wastes money, but a bad package – one that does not appeal and, therefore, does not sell – is a disaster.

A pack can have these effects because it has a number of attributes, or dimensions. It varies along a number of physical dimensions (weight, size, texture, colour), visual impact (standout and recognition) and psychological dimensions (modern or traditional, fresh or stale, appealing or repellent).

If a pack is high on the right dimensions, the product has the potential for success. Weaknesses on any of these dimensions will lead to failure.

Psychological scaling

Translating psychological processes
Different stimuli initiate a variety of psychological processes within the consumer – delight, revulsion, hunger, longing, etc. Psychological scaling is a method of translating these psychological processes into a form that can be measured and then quantified.

Focus groups often struggle to measure psychological attributes. Individuals react in predictable ways to stimuli, but it is unrealistic to expect them to verbalise about processes that are below the level of awareness. However, individuals can usually make order judgements, even when they cannot explain their choices.

For example, someone may find it difficult to say what constitutes ‘quality’ in a car. However, show them two models and they will be able to say almost instantly which has more quality.

It follows that the position of a stimulus on a psychological scale can be measured for a number of respondents, with survey results having important implications in marketing terms.

Survey method

Identify factors likely to be important for sales success
In order to measure the psychological attributes, we avoid the inadequacies of verbal description by directly quantifying the immediate visual experience. We literally measure the psychological attributes of names, concepts, containers, packs, colours and graphic devices. Our methods quantify the psychological impact that a particular stimulus has on an individual.
To do this one firstly identifies those factors likely to be important for sales success.

If the product is frozen peas, then it is important that the package should communicate ‘freshness’. Different colours can then be scaled in terms of the dimension of freshness and the colour highest on this attribute identified and included in the design. This technique is then repeated to test a selection of names, logos, layouts, etc. and concludes with an assessment of buying preference. Our method is thus directly measuring something extremely relevant to market performance.

We learn both how the products perform relative to each other and why.


PackProbe surveys can operate online, via street interviews or hall tests where life-size photography is used. Each respondent sees only two packs from which they will have to make a series of forced preferences in respect of the range of attributes being measured, including the ultimate buying preference question. All the packs are assessed in a round robin fashion, each being assessed as one of a pair with all the other designs.
The results are presented in the form of a radar diagram that provides an easy to understand ‘signature’ for each design, which clearly illustrates similarities and differences and provides a guide to the reasons for the purchase preference. The readings that can be obtained are concise and unambiguous: even fine differences in consumer perception are usually distinguishable, yet research such as this is rarely more expensive than alternative, less robust, qualitative methods.

Example of 3 pack test:

Current Design New Design A New Design B
Each design seen 100 times Each design seen 100 times Each design seen 100 times

Total Sample: 150