How Apple’s Packaging gives buyers a sensory experience that strengthens the brand

‘Sensory experience’ might not be the first thing we have in mind when we think of Marketing strategy. Yet it is the first experience customers have with your product: how the package looks. Packaging can indeed be just as important as the item it contains.

That sensory experience continues as they touch it and look at the images and text. The label may help customers decide whether to buy it or not, but if the packaging doesn’t engage them, chances are that they’re not going to buy it.

A good example can be found in the packaging of the world’s most profitable company: Apple. Anyone who has ever seen the box of an iPhone, or a brand new MacBook, will be able to picture the minimalist white box with those shimmering metallic fonts.

Apple is an acknowledged master at creating an iconic sensory experience that communicates its brand without any words or even a logo. That’s because Apple makes its packaging as artistic and visually appealing as the device inside. Every corner of the box is clean. The color is an elegant, minimalist white.

Every part of the packaging is designed to be clean and direct. The design is simple in a world of clutter and constant sensory over-stimulation. Apple’s iconic sensory experience is the expression of the absence of eye-grabbing colors and images. And that minimalism is exactly the thing that attracts the eye.

That sensory association is reinforced by what’s inside the box: something elegantly presented, cleanly designed and straightforward to use.

To ensure that opening the box is a unique experience, Apple employs a designer whose sole job is packaging. The company also has a designer who is devoted to opening hundreds of prototype boxes. That designer creates and tests endless versions of box shape, angles and tapes. This isn’t just about esthetics. It’s also about a package that’s easy for customers to open, easy to identify the component parts, and easy to start using. It’s a process that is focused on the customer.

“To fully grasp how seriously Apple executives sweat the small stuff, consider this: For months, a packaging designer was holed up in this room performing the most mundane of tasks – opening boxes.” – Adam Lashinsky, executive editor of Fortune Magazine, says. The end result of this focus is that wonderful experience of unpacking an Apple product.

Visibility is directly connected to purchase levels, it’s a key reason 80% of new retail products fail. Visual contrast to other brands is the key. “Color is the strongest tool – and the smaller the brand, the more important it is to ‘own a color’ on shelf. While there is no ‘magic color’ for creating contrast, we can say that the best solutions often involve ‘breaking the rules’ of the category.” – reports Scott Young at Perception Research Services (PRS).

PRS also found that “less is more” when it comes to text on the package, shown in eye-tracking studies. Shoppers look at a package about 5 seconds deciding whether to pick it up. More messages on the package means more messages competing for the same 5 seconds of attention – making it less likely the message will get through to shoppers. Again, Apple is the master here, showing just the essentials on the box and avoiding clutter that will detract from the brand.

There’s no doubt that Steve Jobs’ attention to the little things is what helped Apple become the company it is today.


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