Strong packaging graphics also need ‘context’

By Lisa McTigue Pierce in Packaging Design on November 06, 2017

Packages need compelling graphics to capture the shopper’s attention. That’s a given. But when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of a package design, environment and competition matter—as two recent correlated studies show.

The two studies were:

1. The Packaging Digest “Who Wore It Better” poll (see results of our earlier Who Wore It Better poll on Extra Virgin Olive Oil packages).

2. An eye-tracking study. Sara Shumpert, director of The Packaging School and member of Packaging Digest’s Editorial Advisory Board, offered to augment our Who Wore It Better poll with more research data via an eye-tracking study so we could compare the results.

The winning package in our Who Wore It Better poll of four different Jerky pouches is not the same as the winner in the subsequent eye-tracking study of the same packages, based on the percent of people who selected the product for purchase in a mock-store environment. The No.1 and No.2 packages swap spots between the two studies.

Why the different results? First, the audience was different. For the Packaging Digest Who Wore It Better poll, respondents were packaging professionals either critiquing a peer’s work or reacting as a consumer (or both). For the eye-tracking study, a dozen students donned goggles and viewed an end-aisle display as if they were shopping.

Second, the online Who Wore It Better poll relied on images (front and back) of the packages. The eye-tracking study had actual sample pouches that participants could pick up.

In either case, though, the graphic design was the primary purchase driver since the package itself was the same for all four brands: a four-side-sealed pouch with a top center peg hole.

Shumpert gives some perspective on the difference between the two studies: “How people respond when prompted and given time to process versus how they react on a subconscious level when shopping is inherently different,” Shumpert says. “In a grocery store, 90% of consumers will make their purchase decision after only looking at the front of a package, and 85% of these consumers will purchase an item without ever picking up any alternative products. Humans principally shop with their eyes, so the visual stimuli present at the point of sale has a profound influence on the consumer’s decision to purchase.”

So let’s look at the results…


Who Wore It Better results

In September and October 2017, we asked the packaging community to vote for the packaging design they liked best out of four Jerky pouches. The “Who Wore It Better” poll—shared online and through social media—garnered 86 respondents with Jack Link’s coming out on top with 43% of respondents selecting it as their favorite. Chef’s Cut, which only had a photo of the front of the package, won second place at 29%.

Of the 86 respondents, 62 explained why they made the choice they did. Shoppability, simplicity and ability to see the product were the top reasons. Here are a few of their comments for each package.

Respondents who picked Jack Link’s said:

“Clearly identifies Jerky versus exercise, cowboy or bull.”

“Seemed to present better for content and nutritional values. Chefs cut nice graphic but it wasn’t clear that it was jerky and didn’t show nutritional content (no back view). Others too busy.”

“I can quickly read it, my eyes gravitate towards (company) ‘Jack Link’s’ & Teriyaki (flavor)—more pictures is a bit distracting.”

“Protein, calorie and fat free show best. Overall design probably is easiest to see in store.”

“Window, bold colors, good use of gloss and matte elements.”

“I can strongly identify myself with this packaging and this brand!”

“The JL package utilizes the nutritional callouts better than the other 3 packages. It seems less cluttered and more readable. Unfortunately, the matte spot finish misses the mark for the JL package. The Oberto package makes better use of this feature. While the non-traditional look of the Oberto package looks great, I don’t think it was enough of a difference to overcome the bright look of the JL package.”

“Clean lines, bold colors, decent sized window to see the product, clear nutrition front and back.”


Those who chose Chef’s Cut mostly liked its lean graphics:

“Essentialism in design is the new clean label. Chef's Cut literally cuts through the clutter and tells the consumer the essential pieces of info to make an informed purchasing decision.”

“Clean cut bold colors, simple colors, simple text and not much of it. Straight to the point.”

“Clean look; not busy.”

“Looks like a higher quality pouch.”

“Clean (meaning not busy graphics), straight to the point wording, use of bold colors, more eye appealing. Makes me want to read the back of the package as opposed to having to turn the package over for additional information.”

“Plain, simple, easy to read text and art. Not busy like the others. Looks high end and with colors used.”


Packaging professionals liked Oberto’s “healthy” halo:

“The design gives a clean, lean and healthy food feel.”

“I like the bold graphics design layout including matte/gloss effects and emphasis on active lifestyles. Plus you get more product in the package for increased sustainability.”

“Lower salt & healthy image in graphics.”

“Stands out from the rest of the Jerky bags.”

“Window on both sides of packaging to see product and ingredients are quick to spot with easy read font size.”


Vastly in the minority, respondents who thought The Snack Artist package was best said:

“I liked the graphics and the hat window.”

“I like the glossy appearance and the squinty eyed cowboy.”

“The Snack Artist shows the product; and has bright, eye-catching colors and graphics.”


NEXT: The winner of the eye-tracking study is…

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I agree with the notion.Coming up with a great context can help in coming up with a great packaging graphics. We apply the same principle in our <a href="">web design company</a>.