Keep your product packaging simple
People were willing to pay 24.6% more for a product when its packaging design was simple (vs complex)
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You’re shopping for a bottle of extra virgin olive oil.
Two brands catch your eye:
A straight dark green bottle with a small, minimalist label saying only the brand name and “100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil”.
A dark green bottle sculpted in a shape inspired by olive branches. It has an intricate floral pattern on its large label, with olives elegantly interspersed throughout. The label also says the brand name and “100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil”.
One design is simple, the other is more complex.
This changes how you perceive the product, and how much you’re willing to pay for it.
P.S.: Remember. Structured, geometric designs suggest reliability and effectiveness. Unstructured, curvy designs make products seem more fun and exciting.
Simple packaging design increases how much customers would pay for your product
Channels: Packaging | Product | Brand Design
For: B2C. Can be tested for B2B
Research date: July 2023
Keep the packaging design and look of your product as simple as possible (e.g. uncrowded, plenty of empty space, simple shapes).
Your product will seem purer and people will be willing to pay more for it.
Follow the opposite rule - and make your design complex - if people buy your product because it is tasty and indulgent (e.g. chocolate, chips)
People are willing to pay more for a product the simpler the packaging design is.
As part of a series of 6 experiments, researchers found that people were willing to pay:
24.6% more for a snack when it used a simple packaging (only the label and one, symmetrical icon), compared to a complex one (the same bottle but with 3 types of icons in a detailed, asymmetric arrangement)
15.6% more for a hand lotion when it had a simple packaging design (vs a complex one)
9.6% more for a non-branded chocolate box in a simple package compared to a branded box with a more complex design
The effect is strongest for products that give a health benefit (e.g. personal care products, healthy food, supplements).
🧠 Why it works
We judge a product, and what’s in it, in part based on how it looks.
When a product has a simple design, we expect it to have fewer ingredients, compared to a product with a complex design.
So the product seems purer, making it seem better - especially if we use the product for a health goal.
This perception makes us willing to pay more for the product.
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The products tested were consumable goods (snacks) and personal care items (e.g. shampoo, hand lotion). Though not tested, it’s likely this effect would also hold for other product types too.
The effect backfires for food products that are tasty and indulgent (e.g. a greasy burger). Does the same happen for other types of products that are exciting but unhealthy (e.g. a fast motorbike)? This is unclear.
The study looks at the effect on average and does not account for individual aesthetic preferences. Some people are more attracted to loud and colorful aesthetics, so the effect might be weaker or backfire for them.
The research asked people to view products in isolation - the simplicity or complexity of the design of the shop or product page itself, as well as nearby products is likely to also impact product perceptions.
🏢 Companies using this
In an analysis of 1353 product images from US grocery chain Krogers (including shampoo, deodorant, crackers, and cereal), products with simpler designs had a higher price per ounce.
Simply designed packaging is common in toiletry and beauty products (e.g. Native deodorants, The Ordinary skincare products).
In the tech world, Apple has defined its brand around simplicity, with a lack of clutter both in its packaging and design, and its physical stores.
Spas and boutiques often build their outlets with a simple, muted design philosophy and neutral tones to appear more pure and to relax patrons.
In contrast, indulgent and unhealthy products, like candy and sugary drinks tend to have more complex package designs, with multiple elements and bold colors.
Skincare brand The Ordinary uses simple packaging with no graphics or visual elements
⚡ Steps to implement
Keep your product packaging as simple as possible. For example, use:
The least possible amount of graphics
As few different objects as possible
Simple symmetrical layouts and shapes
This is particularly important if you want your product to seem pure and healthy.
If people buy your products for their taste - knowing they are unhealthy - do the opposite. Use complex designs for your product and packaging (e.g. multiple design elements and strong colors).
🔍 Study type
Lab experiments and market observation (of 1,353 product images on Kroger grocery chain’s website)
Symbolically Simple: How Simple Packaging Design Influences Willingness to Pay for Consumable Products. Journal of Marketing (July 2023).
Remember: This is a new scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.
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