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Should You Judge a Book by its Cover?

Carrie Nestel

March 7, 2017
Carrie Nestel

The old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” was introduced in the mid-1800s when George Eliot used the expression in the book The Mill and the Floss, to reference how one shouldn’t distinguish between products based on a label. This concept, though logical, does not apply to the retail market today. According to 2014 data published by Nielsen regarding wines, 64% of consumers make decisions based on labels and 41% will repeatedly purchase a product because they like its design.

This trend of buying preference based on packaging can be applied to almost every industry. I personally interpret this to be a direct result of the staggering number of competing products available on the market. In a recent search on the Amazon site for “black, lightweight running socks”, I came up with 1,474 pairs from which to choose. Where does one even begin to sort through this amount of choices?

In his 1970 book Future Shock, Albert Toffler warned of “information overload.” This is the disoriented experience people have when they are given too many choices, which Toffler blamed on the technology. Who can deny that as a result of the technology, we are presented with choice overload for almost any item?

So, how are people making their choices today? The wine industry probably has it right when they say its packaging! This is important information for those of us in the advertising world. Purchases are no longer based on “best product” but on the “best presented” product. Think about the last time you were buying wine. Unless you knew exactly what you wanted, how did you determine your purchase? If you are like 64% of the population, you picked the one with the most aesthetically pleasing label.

Coca-Cola excels at innovative packaging. The Coke brand is one of the most well-known in the world. However, throughout the decades, they have updated their packaging to stay competitive in an industry whose products have expanded and diversified exponentially. Coca-Cola even got personal in order to stand out on the shelves, with their “Share a Coke” campaign. They began printing a variety of first names on their product labels to quite literally call on the individual consumer.  This campaign saw a rise in sales after nearly ten years of steady declines, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.


Coke label


This should be a call to advertisers to keep innovative design in mind. This is an exciting time to be a graphic designer at a creatively driven agency like Princeton Partners. Those with great creative will have a competitive edge. The glory days of graphic design are upon us!

Happy doodling!