Understanding consumer motivation creates emotional connective packaging and branding design

by | Feb 13, 2019 | Branding with impact, Creating Emotional Connection


To create an emotional connection on the shelf, it’s essential for packaging and branding architects and designers to understand the target consumer motivation. When you understand what really drives your customer only then they can create emotional connective packaging and branding design.

Motivation is the deep-seated reason why your customers want your product.

emotional connection design

Being clear in one’s understanding of what drives your target consumer is a powerful graphic and content messaging tool. This is because just like the iceberg, even the simplest needs and desires of your targeted consumer have a whole lot of other “stuff” going on beneath the surface.

  • This is the stuff that really matters
  • This is the stuff that creates emotional connective packaging and branding.
  • This is the stuff that too many Brand marketers and designers don’t invest the time to dive deep and understand.

When it comes to consumer motives, many Brand marketers will typically position their marketing message within the three most common core human drivers of:

  1. making money,
  2. finding love, and…
  3. staying alive/health.


Higher up on Maslow’s hierarchy

While this thinking may be expedient, the fact is that these three core needs are really the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

In reality, today’s Brand marketers need to consider the motives that lie beyond the standard “basic needs“. Today in the markets in which we operate, the vast majority of consumer motives fall in the territory of identity and self-worth.

Maslow's hierarchy

This is why as a packaging and brand designers we create our best emotional connective packaging designs when we view the targeted consumer through the lens of “what about the product really matters to your customer on the three levels of consumer motivation?”

The 3 key levels of consumer motivation.

  1. Consumer identity, which is personal. It’s about who they are.
  2. Consumer self-image, which is personal and public. It’s about how they see themselves and how they perceive others see them, and…
  3. Consumer values, which is about how they think things should be done. It’s about the consumer’s behaviours, their philosophies and their cultural norms.

Consumer motivation finding the dissonance

To really get a deep understanding of your consumer’s identity, their self image and their values, the key is to unearth the dissonance that the customer personally experiences at one or more of these three levels.

In other words:

  • Is there an identity dissonance between who your customers want to be versus who they are? – What’s the gap between who they currently are and who they think they should be?

(Dissonance is the inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and one’s beliefs/lack of agreement or harmony between people or things)

  • Is there a self-image dissonance between how your customers want to see themselves versus how they currently see themselves? What’s the gap between how they want to be seen and how they believe they really are being perceived?
  • Is there a values dissonance between how the target consumer wants to be living versus how they currently live? What’s the gap between how they are currently living versus how they would like to be living as the best version of themselves?

consumer motivation

BTW: It’s in this space where products should be designed because this is where they can have the greatest impact. 

As packaging designers our goal is to discover your consumer’s core motivational drivers and we do this by determining the gap, the tension and the dissonance between where your target customers’ current experience is on the level of identity, self-image, and values and where their ideal would be.

Think “food porn!”

Compelling packaging design is one which invites your target customers to bridge the gap and overcome their dissonance between who they are being and who they believe they should/could be.

food porn pizza

Why has food porn packaging had such an impact? Simply because at a glance targeted consumers can imagine and feel the gap between their own cooking and the scrumptious meal presented on the pack. This tends to tap into their “How will they be perceived by the people they will be feeding?

Consumer motivation discovery hack 

While there’s a lot of psychology going on underneath the surface in determining consumer motivation, there is also quick hack which in fact simply boils down to just a single word… SHOULD!!!


“I should…”, marks the gap between where I am now versus where I perceive I should be. It pulls the drivers because of the dissonance it exposes unconsciously. 


  • People like me should….,
  • A good mum like me should…
  • Career women like me should…
  • As a multi-tasker, I should…
  • As a person who has high cholesterol, I should…
  • As a health nut, I should…
  • As a caring husband, I should…
  • As a loving dog owner, I should…
  • Being handy around the home, I should…
  • Being computer savvy, I should…

As packaging and branding architects and designers, it’s essential we have a clear understanding of the products target consumer motivations if we are going to create emotional connective packaging and branding design.  

At Jam&Co we work with our clients to help them unpack their target customer should’s so we can design in emotional connection.