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Packaging’s Role in the First Moment of Truth

October 17, 2012

I’ve been reading some articles about Moments of Truth in consumers’ interactions with products, a concept attributed to a 2005 marketing study by Procter & Gamble. 

I broad terms, the First Moment of Truth is when the consumer first encounters the product in the store; the Second Moment of Truth is when the consumer starts using the product.

Depending on store size, the average shopper is exposed to between 30,000 and 100,000 distinct items in a shopping trip.  If you’re like me, the average purchase may be something like 40 – 60 items, which means shoppers have to distill the available items down by a factor of 99.9% to make their product selections.

The time to do so is limited.  The average shopping visit is about 30 minutes. During that time, shoppers are being exposed to 1,000 to 3,000 items per minute – say 25 – 50 per second – as they make their purchase decisions.

Compounding this, shoppers generally do not have a list with them, so purchasing is largely on impulse.  Even if they DO have a list, the products are most likely described generically (e.g., just ketchup, not HEINZ ketchup), leaving them open to brand messages while in the store.

According to P&G, it takes a consumer between 3 and 4 seconds to make a brand selection from a number of competing products in a category.Within the first second of looking at a product category, consumers will have identified which brands they would consider purchasing.  Once the consumer touches the product, there is a high likelihood this will be the one to be purchased.

What are some of the things marketers can do to win this battle? Obviously, as marketers, we’re trained to differentiate our products, but here are some practical ways to do so.


If most of your competitors are using a similar color scheme for their products, use a very different color for your product. If, for example, you’re marketing a personal care product and the competition all tend to base their packaging on white, because it connotes purity or cleanliness, use a vivid color such as red or yellow to make it easier for shoppers to spot your product in a shelf display.

Fluorescent colors tend to be especially vivid, and P&G have used these, for example, on TIDE detergent for many years.


We’re seeing more widespread adoption of flexible pouches for products.

If your competition is all in cans or bottles, something like a pouch would stand out from all the rest. Alternatively, in bottles, at least, you have the opportunity to create a unique shape to make your product distinct.


Flashes or bursts or other “violators” as they’re known can help create a sense of urgency that can urge a shopper to pick up your product over a competitor’s.

If your product is new, make sure “NEW” is clearly printed on the package for the first 3-4 months the product is on the market. This clearly identifies your product as one the consumer probably has not yet tried.

Product improvements should be highlighted (e.g., “NEW and IMPROVED”)

Bonus packs or contests or on-pack offers should be prominently featured on the principal display panel as limited time offers. This kind of message can prompt a shopper to pick up a great deal at a good price – but only as long as they think the offer is good for a limited time.

I’ll focus on the Second Moment of Truth in my next post.

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