Product packaging

Emotional journey in packaging research

Tuesday, 6 March, 2018

You must know the feeling of leaving the office, racing to the supermarket and then buying just a little bit more than necessary. As we’re all consumers, we make decisions on what to buy, influenced by many factors such as packaging and store layout. 

Package design challenge

It was found that package design with a product image that is more on the foreground compared to the background elicited more positive emotional responses, in a controlled laboratory situation. The same researchers now look to the future, and want to run this experiment in a store which would enrich the results of the study. 

Lab study into consumer choice behavior  

Donata Tania Vergura and Beatrice Luceri from the University of Parma, Italy investigated different packaging designs, in particular the placement of the product image (foreground vs. background) and the effect on the emotional state and the intention to buy.

Since shopping is increasingly perceived as a hastened activity, the researchers explain that a product package should help consumers make a quick decision.

Consumer Experience Lab

How to build a Consumer Experience Lab 

A Consumer Experience Lab is designed to allow you to observe consumers unobtrusively, in an environment similar to their natural surroundings. To get off to a good start, it is best to describe the research or tests in great detail.

Download this free ‘how to’ guide to learn more about building a consumer experience lab.

The product tests

The researchers designed two tests. In the first test, two well-known brand name food products in the area of Parma, Italy were chosen:

Biscuits for breakfast by Balocco

Foccacia snack by Mulino Bianco

Vergura and Luceri follow the Construal Level Theory (CLT), a theory in social psychology, and explain why they choose a product picture in the foreground (claiming to be more concrete) vs. a product picture in the background (claiming to be more abstract). The packaging was changed according to this theory. For example for the focaccia it then showed flour as one of the ingredients, and the focaccia snack product image moved to the background.   

A total of forty students participated in the first study. They were welcomed to the laboratory room and were asked to watch a video with various pictures (landscapes, foods, animals). While the students watched the video, their facial expressions were recorded on video for analysis in FaceReader software. 

The second test was designed around two fictional brands for lemon cake and crackers. The same procedure was followed and a total of sixty students participated.

Purchase intent was measured with a questionnaire showing the package design. 

Positive emotional response

In both tests FaceReader analysis clearly showed more positive emotional responses in the foreground product picture. This outcome is in line with the CLT. Because the picture is poitioned in the foreground, consumers feel nearer to the product by perceiving a smaller psychological distance from the product packaging. This systematically changes people’s responses to this product (positive valence).   

Chasing after the buy button

Purchase intent didn’t significantly differ. The questionnaires did give insight into the attractiveness of the package design comparing the two versions. Products in foreground position received a significantly better evaluation compared to packages featuring the products in background position. 

There always is the option of going into a store and testing the product design in a real-life environment. Noldus Consulting is a research partner that can help set up these natural environment studies in order to collect valuable insights in an unobtrusive way using technology such as eye tracking, physiological measures, and behavioral mapping.


Vergura, D.T.; Luceri, B. (2018). Product packaging and consumers’ emotional response. Does spatial representation influence product evaluation and choice? Journal of Consumer Marketing,