Got milk: influences of packaging and symbolism on consumer buying behaviors

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Miller, Kaitlin
Parcell, Lisa
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Packaging is an overlooked method of advertising that plays an important role in promoting brand image and increasing consumers’ impulse to purchase specific brands. Gaining an understanding in consumer perception allows brands to make smarter decisions and better connections to their target audience. Packaging acts as a silent salesman in the world of advertising by subtly affecting consumers’ perception of a brand both in stores and in homes. These brands are infused with symbolism and meanings beyond their tangible presence — health conscious, environmentally friendly, frugal, etc. — and want to display their values just as much as they want to connect to the values of the target audience. Different design elements, such as color, text, images and materials, each hold their own meanings and consumers interpret them differently. However, when put together, brands can utilize the balance to connect with consumers. Through a series of four focus groups divided by age range of consumers, this research examined how symbolism within packaging influences consumers’ buying behaviors. Specifically, this study explored how consumers responded to packaging and design elements of milk. Research participants discussed their likes and dislikes of two designs (simple and colorful) and three different types of containers (plastic jug, carton and glass bottle) of milk packaging for a hypothetical brand, Moo Creamery. The participants’ purchasing decisions were found to be directly tied to the meanings that they personally associated with the different design elements as well as more socioeconomic driving factors like family dynamics, uses for milk, consumer age and familiarity with packaging. While each individual design and structural element held its own meaning for the participants, it was the combination of these elements in the overall packaging design that determined which version of Moo Creamery, as well as other products, they would purchase.

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Thesis (M.A.)-- Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Elliot School of Communication
Wichita State University
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