We’ve all encountered deceptive packaging at one time or another, whether we recognized it or not. However, as a brand, it should be your goal to avoid deceptive packaging at all costs. Here’s what you need to know:

What Is Deceptive Packaging?

Deceptive packaging is packaging that — either intentionally or unintentionally — misleads the consumer. Deceptive packaging could potentially mislead consumers regarding product quantity, size, shape, content, and more.

What’s the Problem With Deceptive Packaging?

Just in case the problem with deceptive packaging isn’t totally clear, let’s go over some of the reasons why it’s not a good idea to mislead consumers with deceptive packaging:

Decreased Customer Satisfaction

Deceptive packaging is almost guaranteed to lead to decreased levels of customer satisfaction. When customers aren’t getting what they expected based on your packaging, they aren’t going to be satisfied with their purchases. As a result, they are likely to leave negative reviews about your products and brand.

Negative Brand Reputation

The more negative reviews you rack up, the more that your overall reputation takes a hit. Online reviews are especially valuable for your business if you're an eCommerce brand. It only takes a few one-star reviews to impact your overall rating and turn off potential customers from making a purchase.

Lower Sales Numbers

As your negative reviews turn off more and more customers, you will begin to feel the pain through lower sales numbers. And while you may not be able to see the impact immediately, it’s only a matter of time before your profits will decrease and you will have to make cuts in order to make ends meet.

Potential Lawsuits

Not only that, but deceptive packaging may put you at risk of potential lawsuits from disgruntled customers. Take the recent Pop-Tarts lawsuit that’s been making headlines, for example.

A customer is claiming that the name and packaging for “Frosted Strawberry Toaster Pastries” are misleading because the product contains a “relatively significant amount of non-strawberry fruit ingredients” like pears and apples.

Of course, this is a rather extreme example, but this issue should still be taken seriously, as lawsuits are no joke.

What Are Examples of Deceptive Packaging?

To give you a better idea of what deceptive packaging actually looks like in practice, let’s go over some real-life examples of deceptive packaging so that you can better identify possible deceptions in your own packaging before it hits the shelves:

Air-Filled Chip Bags

Perhaps one of the best examples of deceptive packaging relates to those awful air-filled chip bags. When you open a chip bag, you’re almost always disappointed in the number of chips that are actually in the bag. Sometimes it seems that the bag is less than half full!

Toilet Paper Math

Another interesting example of deceptive packaging relates to the infamous “toilet paper math” that you see on toilet paper packaging. We’ve all seen interesting and confusing calculations claiming that 12 mega rolls are equal to 54 regular rolls, 30 double plus rolls are equal to 68 regular rolls, 12 super mega rolls are equal to 72 regular rolls, etc.

But what does this actually mean? It seems like almost no one knows.

Fast-Emptying Soap Bottles

One trick that several soap companies have pulled on customers is increasing the size of the openings on dish soap bottles.

When you open a bottle of dish soap with a pop-up lid, you’re probably expecting a slow, steady flow of suds. However, a few soap manufacturers have tried to get consumers to use their products as fast as possible by making bottles empty as quickly as possible. All it takes is a slightly wider opening in the top of the bottle.

This example of deceptive packaging is a bit less obvious at first glance, but a side-by-side comparison of two bottles reveals an obvious difference.

 

4 Ways to Avoid Deceptive Packaging

While the potential consequences of deceptive packaging should concern you, the good news is that deceptive packaging is totally avoidable when you follow these tips for accurate and informative packaging:

1. Use Appropriately Sized Packaging

For starters, your packaging needs to be appropriately sized. One of the best ways to do this is to utilize customized packaging that allows you to select the specific dimensions of your packaging to properly fit your products.

Custom packaging providers like Box Genie, for example, make custom boxes based on your desired interior dimensions for length, width, and height — rounded to the closest ¼”.

2. Use Realistic Imagery

You also need to use realistic imagery on your packaging. We’ve all seen fast-food commercials or restaurant menus that show incredibly appetizing food items, only to then order these items and receive a substantially less appetizing version. The same goes for your product packaging — your imagery needs to be accurate and realistic rather than exaggerated and photoshopped.

3. Make Your Packaging Original

Another potential issue when it comes to deceptive packaging occurs when a brand intentionally designs its packaging to look exactly like another brand. The goal here is to mislead consumers by making them think that they’re purchasing one brand when in reality, they’re purchasing another.

So while it’s perfectly acceptable to get inspiration from other brands’ packaging, make sure that your packaging is original enough that consumers can tell the difference between your products and those from another brand.

4. Include Accurate Information on Your Packaging

Last but certainly not least, you need to include accurate information on your packaging to avoid misleading consumers about what your products are made from, where they’re made, the quantity of products included, etc.

What Information Should I Include on Packaging?

As you can see, one of the best ways to avoid deceptive packaging is to include accurate and relevant information on your packaging to guide consumers through the purchasing process. Here are some key elements that you should always include on your packaging:

Brand Name

You should always include your brand name on your packaging — preferably front and center! That way, consumers know right away who is selling the product and they can make a purchasing decision based on their perception of your brand.

Product Details

It goes without saying but you should also always include details about the product on the packaging. For example, you may want to include information about the product size, weight, content, origin, ingredients, nutritional benefits, etc.

Product Visuals

Consumers rely on visuals to make purchasing decisions, which is why it’s often a good idea to include product visuals directly on the packaging. Even better, you could choose clear packaging to show consumers exactly what they’re getting without having to rely on a professionally staged and edited image.

Product Benefits

Consumers are looking for products that benefit them in some way and solve a problem in their life. Make it very clear what your product does and how it benefits them by including this information on your packaging.

Social Proof

Finally, you need to feature some sort of social proof on your packaging to convince consumers that your product works as intended.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, your packaging is what you make it. And when you work with a custom packaging provider like Box Genie, you can design accurate and informative packaging that’s anything but deceptive.

Sources:

Confusing Packaging: The Consequences of Misleading Shoppers | LinkedIn

Kellogg's Customer Files $5 Million Lawsuit Alleging Pop-Tarts Don't Have Enough Strawberries | CNN

Why is there so much air in that bag of potato chips? Here's the scientific reason | Today

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