Communication value

The introduction to this section on package testing pointed out that an important function for packaging, particularly if sold in a self-service context, is to communicate positive messages about the product to the buyer or user. This is measured in two ways: package concept association tests and pseudo product tests.

Package concept associations are generated using small-scale qualitative research procedures such as group discussions or depth interviews. Respondents are shown the packet and asked what thoughts come to mind as they look at it, what kind of product might be in it, who might use the product, and how, and what type of shop they would expect such a product to be sold in. This exploratory research may be used to generate a range of attitude statements about the product, its attributes and its appeal to users. These statements could then form the basis of rating scales to be applied in a quantitative questionnaire survey, with the respondents being asked their degree of agreement with each statement related to a particular pack design.

The pseudo product-test procedure measures the degree to which the communication value of the package affects the respondents' perceptions of the product it contains. A representative sample, often 200-400 consumers, will be given two packs of the product to use, either side-by-side or one after the other. Respondents are asked to compare the products inside and rate them for various attributes, e.g. taste, quality and strength. In fact, the only difference lies in the packaging. In a beverage test 75 per cent of respondents reported one version of the 'product' to be more acceptable than the other on taste, when the only difference lay in the packaging.

Both these types of communication value tests demonstrate the high level of influence that packaging may exert over the physical perception of contents. In the first case, consumers form quite well-developed expectations about the product and its attributes from looking at packaging, and this must be expected to have an influence on their decision to purchase. The second method goes one stage further in demonstrating that liking or disliking the product in use may be modified by the pack it comes in.

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