Category Malcolm Gladwell

Product Packaging—Valuable Real Estate in a Mobile World

The package that a product is sold in is valuable.

In fact, sometimes it can actually be the reason why a customer chooses one product over another.

Malcolm Gladwell highlighted this in his book, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.”

In the book, Gladwell talked about Louis Cheskin’s work with package design, which on more than one occasion led to dramatic increases in sales.

Paco Underhill also addressed package design in his book, “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping–Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond.”

And, if you look, a quick search on Google could uncover a lot of advice from designers that you might find useful.

But, what I find interesting are some of the things that brands are currently trying that not only can influence sales, but can also provide value to customers, encourage sharing on social media, and can be an additional source of revenue.

Here is a list of a few examples that I have found recently, each of which encourage customers to use their smartphones in one way or another and ultimately help get customers talking about the brand online.

While the examples listed do not include packaging found on a shelf in a brick-and-mortar retail store, the lessons learned could easily be applied there as well.


A photo posted by Chad Thiele (@chadjthiele) on

Amazon Minions Boxes

When a customer purchases an item from, everyone who sees the product get delivered knows where they bought it. With its arrow that looks like a smile, the logo is easily recognized.

However, when sold the space on their boxes to advertise Minions, it created a lot of positive buzz for the brand and the movie.

Aside from the novelty factor (this was the first time that non-Amazon ads appeared on the boxes,) they also encouraged customers to take a photo of themselves holding the box and post it on social media sites using the hashtag #MinionsBoxes for a chance to win a $1,000 Amazon gift card.

Therefore, they not only generated some extra revenue by selling the space on their boxes, they shared in the spotlight when customers posted their photos on social media.

And, a lot of people posted these photos.

You can still search the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram for examples.

Zappos #ImNotaBox Campaign

As an article on points out, “Zappos wants you to think outside the box. Beginning with the box itself.”

“On June 1, the online retailer will begin shipping some shoes in a very cool new box (designed in-house) that features a collection of template designs printed on the inside—encouraging the recipients to fold, cut and otherwise reuse the box into item [sic] like a smartphone holder, a children’s shoe sizer, a geometric planter and a 3-D llama,” the article continues.

Similar to the box, Zappos is encouraging customers to share the creative things that they do with the box on social media.

The boxes haven’t started shipping yet, but there is little doubt that they will get some people talking about the brand online.

For additional information, go to

McDonald’s Turned a Happy Meal Into a VR Headset

In March, McDonald’s Sweden launched a promotion that they dubbed “Happy Goggles.”

According to Adweek, McDonald’s Sweden created 3,500 Happy Meal boxes that could be turned into virtual-reality viewers. These special Happy Meal boxes were available in 14 restaurants over the weekends of March 5 and March 12.

“The push is tied to the Swedish “Sportlov” recreational holiday, during which many families go skiing,” states the Adweek article. “With this in mind, McD’s created a ski-themed VR game, “Slope Stars,” for use with the oggles [sic] (though they work just as well with any mobile VR experience). The game can also be played in a less immersive fashion without them.”

As the Adweek article also points out, it is similar to Google Cardboard.

This is just one mobile marketing campaign that McDonald’s has recently tested.

They also recently tested a placemat made from a special paper that works with a smartphone and an app that allows customers to create music while dining at McDonald’s restaurants.

They called this special placemat the “McTrax.”

Alas, this campaign was only available in the Netherlands. Last month.

It appears that McDonald’s lets its European customers try all the cool things first.

Final Thoughts

As a result of Louis Cheskin’s work, we know that package design can have a huge impact on sales.

We also know that smartphones are a huge part of your customers’ lives.

Therefore, it makes sense that brands encourage customers to engage with the brand in various creative ways using the packaging that their products are sold and shipped in.

As with everything that we do in the marketing world, it is important to test and monitor the effects that these creative package designs have on sales. Because, as pointed out, the packaging can influence sales in both positive and negative ways.

That said, if you don’t try new things, you might be missing out on a huge opportunity to create buzz around the brand that can impact your bottom line in immeasurable ways.

Photo credit: @chadjthiele on Instagram.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

More Posts

Some Thoughts About the Science of Social Media Sharing (Please Retweet)

One of the first things that a business should do when it decides to add social media into its marketing mix is try to find out what has worked for other businesses.

Inevitably, this means turning to the experts for advice.

However, businesses should keep in mind that social media marketing is still a fairly new thing for everyone, so the information that the experts are basing their advice on is still somewhat limited.

Also, keep in mind that results may vary. What works for a celebrity or a major brand isn’t necessarily going to work for a small “mom-and-pop” business down the street.

This is something that the experts sometimes forget. They analyze the data based on all social shares or even use anecdotal evidence from their own experience. However, they forget to take into account that the person or business sharing the information is going to have an impact on whether or not people read what is being posted. In fact, who is posting the content is going to have an impact on whether or not people see the post in the first place.

Correlation Does Not Imply Causation

In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes that the experts make when giving out advice about what works in social media is that they forget that correlation does not imply causation. That is, if there is a positive or negative correlation between a specific variable and a specific action, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the action is caused by the variable that is being examined. In fact, they both could be a result of another variable that the expert has completely overlooked.

As an example, let’s look at Dan Zarrella’s “The Science of ReTweets 2009” report. I know that it’s a few years old, but people are still sharing it, so I think that it is fair to use as an example.

Let me start by saying that I think that Dan Zarrella is a very smart guy. In fact, I learned a thing or two by listening to his presentation in the HubSpot Inbound Marketing Training Program. However, I think that some of the information in “The Science of ReTweets 2009” report is misleading.

For example, he concludes that links that are shortened by, and are more retweetable than those shortened by other URL shorteners. However, I’d argue that the number of people using these URL shorteners as well as the types of people or businesses that use them are influencing the results. In fact, the content that is being linked to is also a factor.

In the report, he also gives a list of the most retweetable words and phrases. This analysis really makes me want to pull my hair out. With the exception of the phrase “please retweet,” I don’t think that just including these words alone is going to induce people to retweet your posts unless you are posting good content in the first place. In fact, I’d guess that the words listed are used very frequently in posts that aren’t retweeted. Furthermore, even using the phrase, “please retweet” doesn’t guarantee that people will retweet your posts and I’d speculate that the impact of this phrase probably decreases even further if you use it too frequently.

On the other hand, the analysis based on the time of the day that tweets are posted makes sense to me, because it seems to indicate when people are on Twitter. Your posts can’t be retweeted if they aren’t seen in the first place, right?

Final Thoughts

Businesses that are using social media to market their products or services should conduct research to see what has worked for other businesses in the past.

Given the nature of social media, social media sharing is going play a big role in increasing the reach of your posts. However, there are a lot of factors that influence whether or not your posts get shared.

While it is interesting analyze the trends on various social media platforms, the data doesn’t always produce valid, actionable recommendations. In other words, just because there is a correlation between two or more variables, doesn’t imply causation.

With that said, there is a lot of good advice out there, but not all of it is going to work for you or your business.

It is often suggested that you offer helpful advice or try to solve problems when people talk about your business or a competitor’s business online. This can help win new customers and turn critics into evangelists. And, when you do, you could potentially increase the number of people who are willing to share your posts with other people in their social graph.

Furthermore, as I pointed out in my last post, posting great content and interacting with the people who have connected to your business is a key to success in social media marketing.

However, keep in mind, it might take some time to figure out what types of content your customers and potential customers find valuable. Trial and error sometimes works the best. This process should include testing different posts and the calls to action and linking to different types of content to find out what your customers and prospects are interested in.

On a side note, if you are interesting in learning more about what causes ideas to spread, in general, you might want to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, titled “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.” (affiliate link) Although it was written before social media became popular, many of the concepts in the book can be useful to businesspeople who are looking to use social media as a way to let customers and prospects know about their products or services.

Finally, if you are looking for additional advice about social sharing on Twitter, specifically, there’s a post on the HubSpot blog, titled “11 Guaranteed Ways to Get Others to Retweet Your Content,” that offers some good advice.

Photo credit: stuartpilbrow on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

More Posts

The Power of Packaging

Photo credit: nickgraywfu on Flickr.Every day, consumers walk through the aisles of grocery stores all over the world looking for the ingredients needed for the perfect meal, the perfect snack or the perfect thirst-quenching beverage.

Given the current economic conditions, companies that make these products need to do everything in their power to ensure that consumers choose their products over those of their competitors.

This means that companies need to make sure that are effectively communicating and delivering their brand promise each and every time their customers interact with their brand.

As I mentioned in a post last week, making a better product is definitely part of the process.

However, there are times when a brand can lose market share even though its product meets the needs of consumers better than its competitors’ products do.

When this happens, every possible explanation should be examined.

In some cases, the solution might be as simple as changing the design of the package or container that the product is sold in.

Sensation Transference

In his book, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” (affiliate link) Malcolm Gladwell gives an interesting explanation about how the package or container that a product is sold in can influence sales. The concept that he is talking about is “sensation transference.”

“This is a concept coined by one of the great figures in twentieth-century marketing, a man named Louis Cheskin, who was born in Ukraine at the turn of the century and immigrated to the United States as a child,” writes Gladwell. “Cheskin was convinced that when people give an assessment of something they might buy in a supermarket or a department store, without realizing it, they transfer sensations or impressions that they have about the packaging of the product to the product itself. To put it another way, Cheskin believed that most of us don’t make a distinction — on an unconscious level — between the package and the product. The product is the package and the product combined.”

In examining this topic, Gladwell gives several real world examples of companies that made changes to the packages that their products were sold in, in order to increase sales.

Gladwell pointed out that the consulting firm that Cheskin founded, Cheskin Added Value, demonstrated a particularly elegant example of sensation transference when they studied two competing brands of inexpensive brandy. Their client, Christian Brothers, wanted to know why they were losing market share to E & J, even though their product wasn’t more expensive or hard to find, and they weren’t being out-advertised.

After several studies, they concluded that the reason that Christian Brothers was losing market share to E & J was due to the fact that E & J had a more appealing bottle. After the tests, Christian Brothers redesigned their bottle, and, sure enough, their problem was resolved.

Another example that Gladwell gives involves the color of the container that 7UP is sold in. When Cheskin Added Value tested the color of the container, they found that when they added fifteen percent more yellow to the green on the package, people actually reported that the taste experience had a lot more lime or lemon flavor. The product was the same, but a different set of sensations were transferred from the bottle. And, some people actually got upset about it.

Malcolm Gladwell gives a few more examples of sensation transference in his book. Fortunately, he gave J.D. Roth the permission to post an excerpt of the book that deals with sensation transference on I suggest that you take the time to read it; it’s interesting stuff.

You can find more information about this topic when you look up Louis Cheskin on Wikipedia. You also might want to visit the Cheskin Added Value website.


There are many things that you need to consider when you are looking for ways to increase sales of your product or service.

In order to maximize sales, everything needs to be considered — even the design of the package that your product is sold in.

I think that “sensation transference” is an interesting concept. I definitely plan to learn more about it in the future. And, when I do, I will be sure to blog about it.

Photo credit: nickgraywfu on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

More Posts

Copyright ©
Helping Business Navigate the digitized world.

Built on Notes Blog Core
Powered by WordPress