Packaging that also appeals to a consumer's sense of smell, touch and sound improves the chances that a product will get noticed, picked up and bought.

Once the visual components of packaging have been fully leveraged and the assets of the brand have been cued, the full potential of packaging has been realized. Or has it? Perhaps the addition of a great storyline, lifestyle imagery and interactive devices might maximize packaging. Or will it?

An explosive increase of competitive product in every consumer product category and an ever-more-sophisticated consumer, necessitates additional thought when it comes to package design. How to reach harried, over-marketed-to consumers, who make purchase decisions within a precious few seconds? How to help them discern one brand from among many?

Vision impacts buying decisions 58% of the time, according to brand futurist Martin Lindstrom. Yet, the other major senses are almost as potent. According to Lindstrom, smell makes the next most significant impact on purchasing decisions, 45% of the time. Sound impacts at a rate of 41%, taste at 31% and touch at 25%.

Translation: Brand managers need to think of ways to integrate multi-sensory experiences into their packaging.

Consider advertising in any medium has the impact packaging has. It’s the single marketing vehicle that has face time with consumers and delivers products directly into their hands, besides making the brand, its promises and its products tangible.

Since humans have five senses, any of which can deliver satisfying experiences, why not employ multi-sensory devices in packaging to appeal to more than sight? Wouldn’t those kinds of experiences deliver satisfaction at an emotional level since they would be pleasing to multiple senses? Wouldn’t that also be more memorable in the minds of consumers?

A new kind of thinking is emerging about realizing the full potential of packaging and elevating it as one of the most significant marketing tools brand managers have at their disposal.

What's that wonderful smell?

Scratch-and-sniff panels have been around for a long time, but even more ingenious devices might be used. New plastics enable manufacturers of consumer products like shampoo or fabric softener to sniff the fragrance embedded right into caps. Package coatings or inks with embedded scents can also be used on food and cosmetics packaging. This is especially desirable for delectable desserts, coffees, teas and pricey gourmet foods…not to mention premium quality cosmetics.

How about adding an embossed device that invites consumers to “sniff me” with the addition of enticing graphics of fresh flowers or herbs on it? Wouldn’t these ideas excite consumers and give them that “gotta have it and gotta have it now” feeling?

Smell heightens expectations. It can make mouths water or suggest luxurious pampering, delighting the mind and inducing purchases. In fact, smell triggers memories of how various foods taste. Creating enjoyment for consumers is a powerful purchase motivator. When the olfactory sense is added to visual lifestyle imagery in packaging, it is far more effective than appealing to only the visual sense.

Some of the world’s largest consumer product companies like Procter & Gamble experiment with smell. P&G has used scratch-and-sniff labels on its Crest Whitening toothpaste packaging, as well as the Crest brand’s magazine ads and direct mail marketing pieces. This to heighten awareness for the Crest brand and to let consumers sniff good smelling, ergo good tasting toothpaste flavors.

Slick full-body shrink-sleeve label on Campbell's V8 V-Fusion bottles entices consumers to touch it. Once in hand, the product is more likely to make it into the shopping cart.

Go ahead: Touch me

Adding tactile elements is another way to incorporate the important sense of touch into packaging. Sensuous structural package designs, a mix of materials or interesting surface textures are too enticing for consumers not to touch them.

Moreover, research shows that consumers are confronted with so many competitive choices and colors of packaging on the retail shelf, that from 10 feet away, structural design tends to catch and hold their attention first. This, in turn, might prompt them to come closer to investigate and, hopefully, to pick up the package.

Hand feel resonates with consumers. The application of over-varnishes on packaging can create alternating matte and shiny finishes. 3-D effects can be created through the use of films or foils. Embossed or etched glass bottles and jars are tactile. Once in hand, tactile packaging makes the products inside more attractive than competing products and brings them one step closer to purchase.

Great examples of tactile packaging include embossed Ragu pasta sauce jars, hobbled glass bottles for Bawls Guarana energy drinks and cylindrical, pressure-sensitive label-wrapped V8 V-Fusion juices. La Famiglia DelGrosso Pasta Sauces boast metallic substrate labels with embossed lettering-clearly communicating a high-quality, gourmet image.

The crisp sounding bag connotes "fresh" to snackers of Doritos chips.

Hear, hear!

Sound is another important sense, but the trick here is to largely suggest the sounds associated with freshness or quality. “Crisp” sounding packaging on food products is associated with freshness for many consumers. More often that not, artful graphics can be used that imply sound.

Contemporized, crisp packaging for Doritos snacks is a great example. The packaging itself feels and sounds crisp. The imagery of the tortilla chips also looks crisp. Sprite soda with its bubbles and large lemon/lime icon over its brand mark cue consumers to think of the sound the package will make when the top is popped open and the fizz of the contents within promise immediate refreshment. The same goes for the imagery of cookies. Consumers imagine that first crunchy bite into a decadent treat.

When kids’ packaging incorporates sound, it delights. “Try me” cut-outs have been used on kids’ packaging to entice young consumers.

What kinds of materials and/or imagery might be integrated into packaging that cue subtle sound associations in the brain? Think of how to bring the enjoyable associations consumers have with those products’ sounds to the fore in packaging. Think of how this can build pleasurable expectations in consumers’ minds.

Interestingly, by leveraging product properties-not only brand attributes-and making associations with smell, sound and touch, taste sensations might also be cued when it comes to food and beverages.

Having said all of this... no way can we suggest that visual impact isn’t vitally important. The brand identity, brand elements and signature colors have to be leveraged in a consistent and correct manner. No matter how many other sensory devices are used, consumers see packaging structure and color, and identify the brand signature before they engage with it in any other way.

There is a caveat, though. No matter how effective packaging is in securing the consumer at the first moment of truth, actual engagement with the product within has to deliver on the brand’s promises. Failure to do so, will not entice consumers to repurchase products or guarantee customer loyalty. No matter how compelling or emotionally evocative the packaging is.

Ted Mininni is president of Design Force Inc., the leading brand design consultancy to consumer product companies with Enjoyment Brands, connecting consumers to brands emotionally with compelling visual brand experiences. Call 856-810-2277 or visit