Have you ever stopped to think about what inspired you to purchase that toy? Or try that new beer? Or perhaps you switched from one brand of chocolate chip cookies to another? Or what inspired you to grab that magazine in the checkout line? There likely are several reasons for your choices, ranging from cost to recommendations from friends. But amid the many reasons, it’s likely that packaging played at least a small, if not significant role in your decision—whether you consciously realized it or not.
Packaging is so much more than what a product is wrapped in. Rather, it plays a critical role in influencing consumer decision-making. In fact, it’s a powerful marketing and communications tool that says a lot (whether subtle or overt) about the product inside.
Over the years, Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience has worked with some of the world’s most iconic brands to develop or evolve package designs to increase sales at the point of purchase. Recently, our experts had the opportunity to share some of our learning at two Shopper Brain conferences, which focused on the intersection of retail and neuroscience. The conferences were hosted by the Neuromarketing Science and Business Association (NMSBA) with one in New York City and one in Rio de Janeiro.
In New York City, Dr. Carl Marci, Nielsen’s Chief Neuroscientist, was joined by David Friedlander, Vice President of Consumer Insights at National Geographic, to discuss the important role that cover design plays in driving magazine sales.
National Geographic is one of the magazine industry’s most recognizable titles, known for its powerful photography and gripping stories. Despite its long history and respect within the industry, National Geographic began to experience a decline in print sales in 2016 that was beyond the industry average. With newsstand sales remaining an important source of revenue, the magazine chose to redesign its cover in late 2016 with the hope of bolstering sales. Much like a product’s in-store packaging, a magazine’s cover is the gateway to brand recognition and sales at newsstands—serving to attract customers’ attention, pique their emotions and entice them to make a purchase.
Given changes in the media industry and evolving consumer habits around consumption, David shared how National Geographic needed to understand on a deeper level how a magazine’s cover was performing in that split second glance from customers passing a newsstand. Given the nuances of obtaining these insights, National Geographic realized that traditional research, like surveys and focus groups, wouldn’t be able to provide the level of insight needed. In an effort to capture a holistic view of consumer response, the magazine turned to Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience.
Carl explained that using Nielsen’s combined EEG technology and eye-tracking capabilities, National Geographic was able to determine the level of emotional engagement and ability to deliver key brand messages for each individual cover. By combining these nonconscious with conscious measures, Carl and David shared how Nielsen was able to provide National Geographic with a holistic understanding of its consumer, and, more importantly, key insights for success. These included:
- A clear understanding of how and where the new design was successful at generating emotion, attention and memory—keys to driving newsstand sales.
- A predictive model for success using a regression analysis that was able to determine which design elements were consistent with the highest-performing issues.
- A set of five creative guidelines for National Geographic’s design team to leverage in the development of future covers.
In Rio de Janeiro, Dr. Janaina Brizante, Scientific Director for Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience in Brazil, shared how Nielsen helped PepsiCo with a packaging refresh for its popular beverage brand, H2OH!
Janaina kicked off her presentation by explaining how PepsiCo had developed two new label designs for H2OH!, which launched in Latin America more than 10 years ago. PepsiCo’s team wanted to understand if the new designs were as effective as the current, and if one design was stronger than the other at communicating desired brand equities.
Janaina explained how Nielsen captured consumers’ engagement with the new designs on a nonconscious level using EEG technology paired with eye tracking. Nielsen then evaluated each design in two contexts. First, the package was evaluated in isolation to understand how design elements (or groups of elements) were working to communicate key messaging. Next, the package was evaluated in a competitive context (on the shelf) to assess the “pop-out” ability of each design and to see if the brand association in consumers’ minds was strengthened.
Using Nielsen’s insights, PepsiCo was confident in its decision to move forward with the design that was most holistically processed by consumers, communicated key brand equities, resonated with the H2OH! brand and performed strongly in the competitive environment. Since the new pack’s launch in market, H2OH! has seen a 20% growth rate, due in part to the new design.
As shared with the Shopper Brain audiences in New York City and Rio de Janeiro, consumer neuroscience provides granular, diagnostic insights that can help brands pinpoint how the design elements of their packaging (or magazine covers) can improve consumer engagement through attention and emotion and, ultimately, drive sales.