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Packaging's Moments of Truth

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

By: Dhun Patel and Chaitra Patel

Product Packaging Design

Step into a supermarket and all you see around you are shoppers navigating crowded shopping aisles, picking up products to suit myriad requirements. The process of shopping and buying a product may seem straightforward and hassle-free, however, in reality it is far from being simple. Consumer shopping and decision-making behaviours in fact operate at complex and subliminal levels, which in turn influence the kinds of brands and products that they are most likely to choose.

Typically, consumer shopping behaviour goes through instances, which are referred to as ‘Moments of Truth’. These moments of truth demonstrate the way they perceive the brand or product and the chances of them purchasing it. While criss-crossing supermarket aisles, consumers take anywhere between 3 to 7 seconds to choose a particular brand over others. This miniscule time frame is very crucial to brands and marketers because it is here that consumers may either choose to study the packaging and its contents or move on, before zeroing on something else to be bought. This phase in the buying process is called the First Moment of Truth (FMOT) and is identified as the consumer’s ‘a-ha moment’. If brands and marketers wish to captivate and compel shoppers who come in contact with their products, it is necessary that they cash in on this ‘a-ha moment’.

For shoppers to easily identify products during the FMOT and proceed with a purchase, they need to be able to connect with the tons of brands and their alternatives that jostle for space on retail shelves. Part of the secret in connecting lies in the product’s packaging. Since shoppers always first shop with their eyes and pick with their hands, packaging can either make or break the chances of a product’s prospective purchase. Cornitos, the first Indian snack brand to introduce nacho chips in the country, effectively demonstrated how vibrant packaging is capable of grabbing attention. Competing with PepsiCo’s Lays, Cornitos differentiated themselves not just pricewise but also by incorporating bright-colours, flat graphics and bold fonts in addition to a distinctive matte finish, on the packaging. By doing so, Cornitos cut through much of the ‘clutter’ and enabled shoppers to take notice, especially in the first few seconds of browsing through brands.

The First Moment of Truth is undeniably a very crucial phase in consumer shopping behaviour. The product’s packaging communicates the brand’s promise to consumers here, making them sit up and take notice of the product. But, even before they actually reach out for products on retail shelves, brands orchestrate a number of stimuli that in fact prompt consumers to seek out a particular product over others. Brands leverage the power of storytelling across multiple media such as the internet and television, to enable this. This is when consumers are believed to experience the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT).

Although ZMOT is a more recent concept than FMOT, it precedes the latter in the shopping behaviour of consumers and involves them researching a product, prior to purchasing it. If the brand’s narrative convinces the consumer and is timed with his/ her intent of making a purchase, the chances of the product being picked out are greater. When Paperboat for example, launched its first ever multi-media campaign, they successfully established a strong connect with consumers even before people actually sought out the drinks in retail markets. Bringing together a nostalgic and heart-warming narrative set around the popular ‘Malgudi Days’, scripted and recited by the legendary Gulzar, Paperboat got Indian consumers to identify with the brand, increasing its chances of being chosen over others, on retail shelves.

A considerable shift from traditional shopping forms to online shopping more recently, has emphasised the unprecedented and vital role of packaging design, even more than before. This has led to various packaging attributes such as structure, communication language, size, colour, etc. becoming prime focus, especially since online shoppers can only view a product and not touch it. Therefore, brands and manufacturers need to create packaging that is both innovative and distinct, while continuing to seamlessly integrate both online and offline platforms. Brands need to engage consumers efficiently as they sift through retail shelves or surf through online portals.

When the brand tells a powerful story, wins at the Zero Moment of Truth and convinces the consumer to make a purchase, that is where half the battle is already won. As the packaging and its design successfully evoke a positive First Moment of Truth reaction from shoppers, it sets the ball rolling for the Second and Third Moments of Truth (SMOT and TMOT), both equally essential in building brand loyalty. That is when the consumer connects with the brand by buying the product, using it and finally becoming a real fan of it. This is when the consumer has truly arrived and serves as a living endorsement of the brand!

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