What’s wrong with this packaging?

I was on the search the other week for washing detergent for dark clothes. It had been recommended to me as “black wash”, and while I didn’t know the brand, I was committed to finding it amongst the array of options presented in the supermarket aisle. “Black wash…black wash…” I recited to myself as I stepped down the row.


System 1 and System 2 thinking

Most of our day each of us operates on auto-pilot. In behavioural terms this type of thinking is called “System 1” and it allows us to process huge amounts of information very quickly. The catch with System 1 thinking is that we compromise detail and precision for speed and ease.

System 2 is the other type of thinking and is what kicks in when we need to really focus on a decision. While the quality of decision increases under System 2, we simply don’t have the capacity to use it all the time.

For one thing, it would mean we would never leave the house because deciding what to eat for breakfast and wear that day would chew up all our thinking battery-life.

Design for System 1

Whether you are a marketer hoping to engage a shopper in a busy supermarket or a business owner designing your website to increase conversion, being aware of the differences in System 1 and System 2 thinking is vital.

Here’s the instructive lesson for the team at Radiant: having a product called ‘black wash’ in a red bottle does not help your customer find and purchase your product.

Sounds simple, but wouldn’t a black bottle be more helpful?

As someone new to the brand, I had engaged System 2 thinking in trying to find the product. I was committed and persevered. Had I been on auto-pilot I would have missed the product entirely because a red bottle does not cue a washing solution for black clothes.

By acknowledging your customers are navigating the world on auto-pilot it means you can better define the task of your packaging and communications. Designing so that you are ‘in flow’ with them rather than relying on perseverance is your best chance of winning their business.

Bri Williams runs People Patterns Pty Ltd, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.




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