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Packaging Size Changes

How do packaging size changes get perceived by the consumer? Can you optimize either the length or height of a package and eliminate wasteful packaging of air?
There is a simple thumb rule, tested in various researches, which best approximates consumer perceptions of size changes.

The truth: People underestimate the surface area (of 2 dimensional) or the volume (of 3 dimensional products). This is especially so when you change more than one dimension at the same time.
The Model: People relate the new pack in comparison with the old reference, and, they determine changes additively (and not multiplicatively).
The formula:
(1 + % increases) / (1 + % decreases) = Size in relation to reference.

Two-dimensional Example
This is applicable to two dimensional products and can also be applied to the front face of the package.
Look at the example below of a square of sides 10 cm and another of 12 cm. It has been noticed that the smaller object is always assumed to be the reference for the % increase – 20% in our case.
While the bigger square is techincally 44% bigger, the perception would most likely be that it is only 40% bigger.
Also despite there being a 30.5% decrease from the larger square, the smaller square would have perceived to have shrunk only by about 28.5%.
AddChange Model2D

Further implications and uses
While the differences shown above may seem small, this further gets magnified as you add another dimensions, which is the case in most packaging.
So, a box that has had its length increased by 20%, width by 30% and reduced in height by 10% – which is actually a 40% increase, would be perceived to have increased by just 36%.
(1 + .2 + .3) / (1 + . 1) = 1.36

Go ahead try finding out the optimum size for your packs! – worth a try especially if you have good estimates of pack size decrease vs. % fall in demand.

Further Recommended Reading:
The AddChange heuristic model, Balakrishnan and Eliashberg, 1995



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