Making Seven Seconds Count

April 10, 2015By Behind the Shelf Blog, Brand Marketing

by Dave Wendland

Seven seconds – that’s how much time shoppers generally spend at shelf “searching” for an item to purchase. Let’s put this into perspective: it takes food only seven seconds to go from the mouth to the stomach via the esophagus; a Ferrari can accelerate from zero to one hundred miles per hour within four seconds; and the current world record for solving the Rubik’s cube is just under six seconds.

What does it take to capture attention at shelf? Here are four key elements to consider.


To create a package that stops people in their tracks, it must be eye-catching and emotive. Different colors evoke different reactions.There are some packages that risk blending in with others on shelf

Purple is associated with royalty. Turquoise tones appeal more to women than gray. Yellow evokes happiness whereas white implies purity.

There are some packages that risk blending in with others on shelf. On the other hand, there are those that are so starkly unique they may look out of place within their respective category.

A good example that took the market by storm was U by Kotex®. Kimberly-Clark created a stark contrast to anything existing on the feminine care shelves with its black-background packaging and neon-colored shapes. Not only did this attract shopper attention, it created social buzz.

Brand identifier

With the placement of a brand logo or some other symbol some brands have reached a level of recognition that immediately attracts the shopper’s eye. Brands such as Nike® and Starbucks® are two terrific examples of standouts that have achieved this status. Apple has also been transforming itself and its brand identifier.

Your identifier should be prominently and consistently placed on the package. Combining symbology with consistently-recognizable brand colors is a key element of success.

Brand name

Not dissimilar to brand identifier, consistent placement, typeface, and coloring of a brand name can be an attention grabber. Legibly and visibly displaying the brand name is a wonderful way to draw attention to a product that may be expanding its reach into other categories.

Although it is important to remember that this is not always a successful path. The brand extension must be logical and shoppers must be able to make the connection. As an example, when Arizona Tea® expanded into nachos and cheese, it didn’t resonate with consumers. Hooters™ Air didn’t take-off either, along with countless other less-than-successful launches (by the way, the Hooters’ “experiment” cost the company a reported $40 million).

Package shape/size

Other than color, shape is the most distinctive feature of a package, and can be used to create a unique brand image and establish a visual and emotional bond with customers. When creating a unique package size or shape consideration must first be given to its cost of production and “fit” at shelf. Relying on package shape as an eye-catcher can be very effective. Taking EOS® lip balm as an example, this uniquely-shaped package quickly caught the attention of shoppers – and retailers – alike.

Size can also be a positive or a negative for a brand. Package something with too large of an outer box and the product risks offending shoppers and causing more harm than good. On the other hand, visually showing what is in the box is always an effective way to use package size as an advantage.

So, what can you do to ensure your brand wins in the seven seconds at shelf?

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