Revealed: The seven packaging tricks designed to make us spend

A new Which? investigation uncovers the most popular packaging secrets used by big brands to tempt consumers to buy their products.

Studies suggest it takes less than a tenth of a second for shoppers to make a judgement about the appeal of a product, with packaging playing an important part in helping you to decide whether to part with your cash.

Which? asked four marketing and psychology experts to examine six everyday essentials including John Frieda Hair Straightening Spray, Nivea deodorants, and Garnier Miracle Cream to highlight the top marketing tactics to watch out for on your next shop:

1.    Celebrity endorsements: These shouldn’t work, but they do! Our experts said we’re more likely to trust people than claims, especially people who are well-liked and respected. Celebrity endorsements and celebrity-branded ranges, like the Charles Worthington’s Shampoo range, both influence our buying plans.

2.    Word repetition: We decide what to buy very quickly and many brands use this to their advantage – keeping packaging simple and repeating key words to make their message stick. For example, Dove’s Intensive Repair Shampoo mentions ‘repair’ five times – just in case we forget.

3.    Extra packaging: Don’t understand why some toiletries come in boxes? Our experts said that a boxed product seems more expensive, makes us think it is ‘medicinal’ and ‘serious’, and therefore makes you trust the product more. A medicinal-sounding brand name like ‘Lab Series’ is another common tactic.

4.    Fashion capitals: John Frieda’s Hair Straightening Spray has ‘London Paris New York’ written on the bottle; and several tanning products are named after spots in the sunny south of France – all making you think of style and luxury.

5.    ‘For men’ and ‘For women’: Brands try to make it easier for men and women to select products for them by branding them according to gender. For example, Head & Shoulders Shampoo For Men has an image of a man cycling on the bottle. We also found some products were sold in gender-specific coloured packaging to help make the buying decision quicker and easier.

6.    Lookalikes: Although it costs dramatically less, Aldi’s Abbott & Broome handwash packaging uses similar fonts, colours and bottle shape to Baylis & Harding handwash. Both are also very similar to Molton Brown’s products, which have much heftier price tags. Our experts said we’re more likely to buy a lookalike product because we might feel we’re getting similar quality to the original.

7.    Skin-deep jargon: The words ‘rapid-diffusion’ and ‘micro-peptides’ feature heavily on the packaging of Garnier’s Miracle Cream, but what do these words really mean? Our experts said that brands use scientific buzzwords to enhance the product’s credibility, which could encourage us to justify spending more money on it.

Richard Headland, Editor of Which? said:

“Even if you feel like you’re a savvy shopper, chances are you’ve been influenced by some of the clever marketing tricks used by big brands on a recent shopping trip.

“While some seem obvious when you think about them, these tactics are surprisingly effective when shoppers are pushed for time and faced with enormous choice.”


Notes to Editors

To research packaging tricks, we examined the following toiletry products:

●     Lab Series Shaving Cream

●     John Frieda Hair Straightening Spray

●     Head & Shoulders Shampoo for Men

●     Nivea Deodorants

●     Aldi Abbott & Broome and Baylis & Harding hand wash

●     Garnier Miracle Cream

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