Consumer choice – the driving force

It was the Packaging Federation’s pleasure last Tuesday October 22 to have John Noble, British Brands Group Director, and Professor Paul Dobson, Head of UEA Business School attend our APPG meeting in the House of Commons, chaired by Mark Pawsey MP.

The matter at hand was the BBG’s report Unwrapped – the hidden power of packaging. When this BBG research was unveiled this summer – effectively three reports in one – I commended it to our industry for its blend of originality, common sense and cutting-edge use of behavioral science.

The BBG report is essentially a synthesis of existing research on this topic. However, it sheds much needed new light on how we, as consumers, go about out shopping business. Our HoC meeting was introduced to terms such as ‘processing fluency’ – the ease or lack of it by which consumers can do their shopping – and a host of other topics in the fields of design, labeling and legislation.

Having now further discussed the background to the BBG study with its authors and with today’s legislators and packaging interests I am convinced that many of its themes will be worthy topics of research in the months ahead. The report identifies clear gaps in our know-how, and the behavioral science facilities at the University of East Anglia, for one, have some interesting opportunities to map parts of the consumer territory for the benefit of all.

I often speak here on the topic of consumer responsibility. However, the other side of the coin involves the nurture and protection of consumer choice. Our free market-based economy cannot and will not function without consumer choice.

Packaging, point-of-sale marketing and strong brands are key to ensuring consumer choice. Copycat marketing, counterfeiting and over-legislation are sure-fire ways to gum up the works. Effective legislation in these matters always requires a careful balancing act. And from the outset such legislation always has consumer choice in mind.

More than ever we need to nurture our faculties of choice: In the space of the last thirty years our supermarkets now typically stock ten times the amount of products of yesteryear. Research such as that sponsored by BBG can help brands and consumers in the business of ‘processing fluency’ and keep step together with the ever changing pace of our world. 

Many thanks

Dick Searle