Product Labeling in Marketing: What Drives Buying Decisions?

By Kevin Crimmins

Product Labeling in Marketing: What Drives Buying Decisions?

What’s in a food product label? A product with any other packaging would taste just as good, right? Well, not exactly.

Taste, touch, sight, and smell are all intertwined in a complex web of interactions science is just starting to unravel. Recent research has shown that the impressions we get from product packaging can literally change how we perceive the flavor of food.

But for marketers, the work of shaping consumer perceptions begins well before buyers open a product and have a taste.

When faced with shelves packed with competing products, consumers make purchasing decisions in seconds – decisions based most often on nothing more than appearance.

So, what’s in a product label? Oh, just your entire brand identity. (No pressure, right?)

Influenced by Emotion

We like to imagine ourselves as rational animals, but when it comes to making choices at the supermarket (or pharmacy, or electronics retailer, or big box store), reason goes out the window and emotion takes over. One (chicken-based) research study found that we tend to make emotional decisions first, and then construct post-hoc rationalizations for those choices. According to the study’s authors, marketing professor Raj Raghunathan and Ph.D. student Szu-Chi Huang, first impressions are critical.

“The earlier you make the emotional connection the better, because once consumers have decided they like a particular option, the more difficult it is for them to backpedal,” Raghunathan said.

What about all the online research consumers do these days? It affects our buying decisions, but there’s still room for plenty of impulse. According to a study out of the U.K., over half of shoppers say they prefer to make final buying decisions in stores after researching products online.

7 Seconds or Less

Some marketing experts believe that buyers develop their first impressions of a brand in as few as seven seconds. The process takes place almost entirely in the subconscious mind. And visual and tactile appeal have a lot to do with it; at least a third of product decision-making is based on packaging (according to an oft-cited infographic).

The takeaway: Your custom product label must target the emotions of potential buyers and instill good feelings about your brand – but it has very little time in which to do so.

How to Design a Product Label for Emotional Resonance

When you only have seven seconds to impress, you must take a few shortcuts. The key to attention-grabbing label design is “show, don’t tell.” You can’t be there in the grocery aisle with each potential buyer, explaining the merits of your product. Rather, you must rely on design elements and label features that instantly spark waves of positive emotion in shoppers.

The following tips will help you create a custom product label that gets your branding message across to the buyers who are ready to receive it.

Choose Colors Thoughtfully

Top brands obsess over their color choices because they know color may be the single most resonant brand element. Between 62 and 90 percent of our initial assessment of products may be on color alone (according to this researcher).

Colors can stir up powerful feelings. The human mind associates certain colors with certain characteristics. For example, red can signify love and passion; green (as many earth-friendly brands recognize) is connected with nature, health, and purity.

We can even identify trusted brands solely by color. Will your brand introduce the next Tiffany blue, UPS brown, or Wiffle Ball bat yellow? Be sure to talk to your label printer about the color palettes at your disposal.

Don’t Overlook Texture

Researchers at Harvard, MIT, and Yale speculate that, because touch is the first sense we use to explore the world, the associations we form with different textures linger throughout our lifetimes. Heaviness conveys seriousness and reliability, for example. Softness indicates care.

The texture of your product label can also say something about your brand. You may choose thicker paper to project craft and luxury. A coarse or wrinkled texture says “handmade” or “natural.” A plastic sheen expresses modernity.

It’s important to note that texture doesn’t have to be felt to be experienced. You can “see” texture on the shelf by the way a product label reflects or absorbs light.

A good label vendor will have a variety of materials on hand for crafting your custom label. Speak to your vendor about their selection. But don’t forget to keep durability in mind; label design should balance form with function.

Consider Simplicity

A custom product label doesn’t necessarily give you a lot of space for text. A less-is-more approach may help you get your message across from a distance, especially if you pair it with readable fonts and contrasting colors. People are bombarded with information from all angles at all times of the day; simple design that cuts through the clutter appeals to our need for “cognitive fluency.”

(On the other hand, maximalist design may be a quirky way to stand out. Both minimalist and maximalist approaches are trending right now.)

Avoid Uniformity

So much of label design is same-old-same-old these days, anything you can do to break the monotony can help you capture a few extra seconds of consumer attention. Some ideas include:

  • Experimenting with unique shapes.
  • Using QR codes to extend your brand experience into the digital realm.
  • Giving your label metallic effects with special inks and foils.
  • Personalizing your labels with digital printing.

An experienced label printer should be ready to advise you on all these techniques. In fact, your label vendor is your best ally in your quest for a label that speaks to the emotions of potential buyers. To talk to an expert label printer today, contact us now.

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Tags: Label Design, Product Labels