Saturday, February 14, 2009


"Seeing is believing" seems to be the universally acceptable norm when it comes to taking any thing "without a pinch of salt"! But this adage may not be true always and there are many instances when there is a third dimension to this perception. One can be wrong even after seeing and believing in certain things which forms the foundation of modern marketing strategies. Seeing, believing and getting convinced should be the motto because one can believe but still can be cheated in many cases. The management courses all over the world teach various techniques of capturing the market by exploiting the psychology of the consumers. Many marketing pundits believe in the maxim that 'consumer is a fool' rather than the platitudinal claim of 'consumer being the king'! This is not to belittle the innovative efforts of this tribe to establish lasting consumer loyalty to the products of their clients.

Looking at the Indian food market one can come across many classical examples of use of consumer psychology to capture the attention and expand the market out reach. As it is said figuratively consumer usually 'eats' a food through his eyes and once he is impressed by the facts as absorbed by his eyes, acceptance of the product becomes almost a certainty. Only few consumers will dwell upon other factors such as intrinsic quality and value content of the product before deciding on buying the same. Of course brand reputation and the credibility of the manufacturer are important even for having a look at the product.

A case study taken up here will reveal the extent of influence product appearance has on selection of the product if there are more than one manufacturer. Two powerful brands of Glucose biscuits currently vying for leadership in this product category highlight this issue. Both use almost same recipe, same technology and the product characteristics are indistinguishable but they differ in packaging and presentation. The size of one brand is about 15% longer and has 16 biscuits of slightly smaller size compared to its competitor's product which has only 14 pieces. Any consumer will naturally go for the bigger looking pack because his eyes have conveyed to the brain the impression that bigger pack is of a better value. However the consumer will actually lose 4.2 g of the product in the bargain as the bigger looking pack has only 78 g compared to 82.5g in the smaller looking pack! Probably a discerning consumer would be able to notice this 'optical' trick by reading in detail all the declarations on the label. Unfortunately the statement that this is not a standard pack as per the provisions of 'Weights and Measures Act is printed in such small fonts that most of the consumers will not be able to read them.

Same illusionary trick is deployed by many manufacturers for attracting new consumers in an expanding market or to persuade them to shift their loyalty. Take the case of white oats. There are three brands with different packaging configurations. While one brand uses a round bottle with 23 cm height and 11 cm diameter, the second one a bottle with 27 cm height and 13 cm diameter, the third one sports a rectangular bottle of 20 cm by 10 cm by 8.5 cm. Probably ordinary consumer will go for the second brand because it looks much bigger than the other two though the first one offers 1.2 kg product while the others contain only one kg material! Where the competition is not stiff, manufacturers some times try to reduce the packing material used as a measure of cost cutting exercise. This is evident in the case of a popular Badam drink powder where the new pack looks smaller compared to the earlier one and obviously it has not affected the sales as there is no competitor in this field to challenge the front runner.

By no means it is implied here that what is being done is illegal or unethical. Package size optimization is a powerful tool that is exploited to promote a product and cut packing cost. But when the cost of packing increases for the same contents for creating an optical illusion conveying a message that its value is higher, though not really so, some questions are bound to be raised regarding the justification for such actions. .


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I heard this from the experience of a small time business man. When he was trying to deliver his 'sachet' products on mo-bikes his dealers were not interested. But when he did the same on some delivery van,(carrying only a few kgs of the merchandise with a well dressed sales man in tie and a driver!!)the enthusiasm for the goods were unbelievable. May be what matters is 'belief' than what is delivered. And all traders, including the traders of merchandise and 'beliefs' know about it.