M39MKT – Packaging Aesthetics and Consumer Product Valuation: An Analysis of Tesco in the Chinese Market

Packaging Aesthetics and Consumer Product Valuation

M39MKT – Packaging Aesthetics and Consumer Product Valuation: An Analysis of Tesco in the Chinese Market

M39MKT – Research Methods.

Coventry University.

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This is a research proposal.


The contemporary business world has adapted to placing the consumers as the central concern in strategic decision making. Asikhia (2010) believes that every stage of the production process should encapsulate the desires of the customers. Additionally, Asikhia (2010) notes that for any firm to achieve appreciable performance the customer needs to be the central focus. As such, it is imperative that production and marketing of Tesco be given due importance since it directly determines the profitability of the firm. In addition to financial, performance improvement, Racela (2014) maintains that a focus on customers lends to innovation as opposed to views that it inhibits innovation.

The traditional function of packaging as purely a form of containerization is over as the market pre-requisites and dynamics have accorded the packaging process new multiple roles in the entire distribution chain. Ladipo and Olufayo (2011) argues that packaging now offers customers more than just a container but acts as a source of product information. People interact with the product packaging to determine the contents of the product. Abdalkrim and AL-Hrezat (2013) further add that marketing acts as an aid to product promotion since at the point of sale, a consumer uses the packaging to determine whether a product is of good quality or not. It is thusly paramount to note that the judgment on the quality of the product, in the perspective of a customer, is attached to the kind of packaging used with appealing packaging being associated with superior products.

In the researches by Whan Park et al. (2010) and Wang and Chou (2011) packaging acts as a form of differentiation attributing to the fact that it helps a customer find appeal in one product and not the other. Additionally, packaging affects the findability of a product during a repeat purchase. In light of this, it is crucial that Tesco engages in competitive packaging as a way of influencing customers’ purchase decisions. An understanding of packaging and its influence in the Chinese market is bound to offer the supermarket giant the effectiveness needed to wade of competition that has been facing it in the recent past. Since its entry into the rather lucrative Chinese market, the supermarket giant has faced numerous challenges that have stalled its performance (Branigan, 2013: Barford, 2012). The rationale of this research is thusly imminent is the fact that it is addressing a contemporary issues linked to firm performance. Additionally, concentrating on a specific market offers unprecedented body of knowledge that has not been existent and on the larger scale the research adds to a large pool of knowledge on the issue of packaging and customer buying behavior. On a more specific note, since it is impractical for a firm such as Tesco to wade through extant literature and create a comprehensive report on the subject of packaging, then this study fills this gap by studying the relevant areas and giving reliable recommendations. The following objectives assist the study in achieving these goals:


  1. To analyse how Tesco’s packaging affects Chinese consumers’ emotional and cognitive response to a product
  2. To analyse how packaging aesthetics affect Chinese consumers’ product buying choice
  3. To offer recommendations on how Tesco can improve its packaging aesthetics in order to reach more customers in the Chinese market

Literature review

Encapsulating packaging in the distribution chain is important as per the sentiments of Ladipo and Olufayo (2011). However, even more critical is the integration of packaging as a tool to improve the desirability of a product. The inherent benefits are invaluable as posited in the works of Whan Park et al. (2010), Wang and Chou (2011) and Abdalkrim and AL-Hrezat (2013) when is summary their position is that the traditional role of marketing has been faced out and currently marketing differentiates a product. It also helps a consumer predetermine the value of a product on the first purchase decision and on subsequent purchases it serves to ease findability of a product. Following the positions of various researchers, this literature review offers insight into literal works on the impact of packaging on customer product valuation.


Chandrasekar (2010) defines packaging in the words of Philip Kotler, that is, the activity of designing and producing a container or wrapper for a product.  It is usually the last process of production. Kotler and Armstrong (2012) further note that packaging is categorised into three; primary packaging, secondary packaging and tertiary packaging. The primary package is the immediate wrap after a product and is mostly beneficial to the final retail sale of the product, secondary wrapping groups several of individual products together while the tertiary wrapping is used for bulk wrapping. Tertiary packaging is especially important during the shipping process or other transportation processes. Faccio et al. (2014) explain this classification as important since it unveils the functional aspects of packages. Further, Faccio et al. (2014) views packaging as extending to enclosing products for the purposes of labeling, sales, information and usage. Thusly, this means packaging, more than just protecting a product and making its distribution easy, aids in communicating product usage to the customer and in the process giving an appeal to the customer.

Customer product valuation

There are numerous studies that have been done trying to explain the evaluative criteria that customers use as they make purchase decisions (Clark and Wheelwright, 1994; Alexander and Price, 2012; Jamal and Goode, 2001; Strubel and Burnsed, 2014; Park, Bae and Nam, 2011). These differing perspectives have indulged different causes including consumer background, customer knowledge, customer ethnic orientation et cetera as the main cause behind the purchase decision. Regardless, the main convergence of all these ideologies is the fact that customers are reliant on certain elements about a product to make the point-of-sale purchase decision.

In a study carried out by Jamal and Goode (2001) about the evaluative criteria of luxury jewellery shoppers in the UK, the findings indicate that subjective values were more influential to the shoppers than the objective value. The study involved 500 respondents located in over five major cities in the UK. The findings of the study further indicate that product category knowledge, brand familiarity and band consciousness direct affect product evaluation. According to Alexander and Price (2012), customers find it easier to evaluate goods rather than services because services are heterogeneous and intangible. However the general criteria use by customers as per Alexander and Price (2012) regards the search qualities, credence qualities and experience qualities of a product.  Search qualities refer to elements about the product that can be predetermined before the purchase such as size, shape, color et cetera. Experience qualities are obtained after use of the product and credence qualities refer to qualities that are hard to determine even after purchase such as service to motor cars. Khraim et al. (2011) in their study attribute customer evaluation of products to religiosity. Their study entailed 1000 respondents who were customers of a retail store in the Jordanian regions. The main aspects under investigation were store preference in terms of location convenience, services, post purchase services, local goods, kinship and merchandise. The findings indicate that the merchandise was the primary key of customers and that their religious aspect influenced product choices.

Packaging and cognitive response to a product

According to Ghoshal, Cagan and Boatwright (2011) cognition refers to the capacity of a customer to process new information and attach it with negative or positive judgment. This means that at the first encounter a customer has with a product, it is possible for the customer to pass judgment which in turn will affect recognition of the same product. Hoyer et al. (2012) on the other hand define cognitive response as the thought process that is engaged when a consumer encounter a new product. Blijlevens, Schoormans and Creusen (2009) in their study on effect of packaging on product appearance and hence product appeal to customers, implies that cognitive response has a direct relationship with packaging aspects. The appeal created by color, shape and size affects the cognitive response of customers. Pathak (2014) in his study on the cognitive power of packaging establishes a model which largely encompasses the discussions of cognitive impacts of packaging. The model is christened ‘IDEAL’ and is discussed below among other theoretical positions of different researchers.

Intellectual appeal

Intellectual packaging of a product is supposed to create customer likability of a product, establish a strong affinity towards the product and encourage customer affluence (Pathak, 2014). Additionally, Pathak (2014) establishes the fact that besides converting the purchase intention into a real purchase, intellectual packaging offers the firm a chance of initiating customer switching thus improving on sales and at the same time winning over new customers. In the study by Abdalkrim and AL-Hrezat (2013), innovative packaging is discussed as offering effective and sustainable competitive advantage to a firm as long as the packaging is made to be consistent with the dynamics of the market. In a study conducted by Ahmed, Amin and Parmar (2014) which involved 150 respondents from a retail store, one of the factors that customers looked for in packaging is the innovativeness. This means that in the end since intellectual and innovative design make superior packages, customers will prefer such products as opposed to other dissimilarly packaged products.


Kotler, Clark and Adam (2001) suggest six elements that are supposed to be the defining characteristics of a brand, that is, form, material, color, size, color, text and brand. These are the elements that purely distinguish one brand from another. Pathak (2014) in his study points out that some brands such as Dettol and Lifebuoy are all detergents with the product being similar only that the packaging containers are different from each other. Pathak (2014) maintains that how easily a product communicates to the customer through color, brand logo and other characteristics determines its market leadership and thusly its leadership in the market. In a direct observation research of customer purchasing behaviour at a supermarket by Wells and Sciuto (1966) the results indicate that most of the shoppers spent a lot of time inspecting the packages of products – lifting them, fondling them and reading – and eventually would choose a product with a distinct but appealing package. It is thusly apt to conclude from the above researches that distinctiveness needs to be matched with physical appeal.

Emotional appeal

In Liying and kuiyou’s (2010) study on the emotional packaging of snacks in the Chinese market, the findings indicate that packages that addressed the emotions of the customers were more preferred as opposed to those that did not. The emotional aspects investigated include family, friendship, nostalgia, elegance and simplicity. Pathak (2014) however notes that the greatest achievement of marketers would be to design packages that capture buyer feelings beyond emotions. This is following the definition of emotions as short term expression of attitudes while feelings being long-term. Forbes (2014) supports this sentiment by noting the Chubani, a yoghurt firm made desired packages that emotionally created a bond with customers through relating to simple details about the customers. In his thesis, Ksenia (2013) believes that the ultimate role of packaging is to initiate an emotional conversation with the customer. As such, the converging point of these discussions is the emphasis on the need for emotional intelligence in appeal to the customer even though the different aspects expressed as to whether to tap emotions or feelings.

In an experimentation research carried out by the US Food and Drug Administration on cognitive and affective mediators of the impact of Cigarette consumption the results indicate that affective (emotional) response is a mediator in product consumption (Emery et al., 2013). Emery et al. (2013) further indicate that text on the package is more believable when accompanied by images. This is because smokers tended to take the warnings seriously when a graphic image was used to exemplify the effects of cigarette smoking. This study offers a different perspective in that it advocates the combined used of images and text to achieve a better reach to the customer.

Aesthetic effectiveness

Aesthetics have been defined as the principles of philosophy that deal with appreciation of beauty and artistic work. Munyaradzi Mutsikiwa (2013) conducted a researcher on aesthetics of design of dairy products on purchase behaviour in Zibambwe. The findings indicate that elements of package color, package material, package typography and package instructions directly affected the purchase decisions of customers. On a different perspective a study by Singh (2006) on the impact of color on marketing notes that color can be used to calm down customers, make products visible and distinguish them et cetera. Valdillez (2012) in her research bring on a different aspect by noting that color indulges different cultures differently and thus particular colors may do well in specific market regions.

Logical packaging

In his research, Pathak (2014) emphasizes that superior packaging offers a great way to reach for customer attention. This exemplified by the design of the Heinz ketchup bottle which could stand upside-down ensuring the sauce is always near the outlet. This strategy turned around sales for the firm. A quantitative research done by Ogba and Johnson (2010) on the impact of packaging on children preference of products shows that logical elements such as clear instructions and warnings can influence on the choice of products by a parent for the child. As such, it is imperative for a market to note that, as per the positions of these two studies, the simple logical details of packaging can differentiate between a product’s success and failure.

Packaging in Hedonic and utilitarian products

Hedonic products are classified as products of luxury while utilitarian products are those that are used for basic functionalities (Lantos, 2015). Lantos (2015) further distinguishes the two noting that hedonic products are transformational and mainly satisfy emotional needs to a customer. On the other hand utilitarian products are objectively used and thus do not entirely depend on the taste of the customer as hedonic products but on their functional aspects. Following this distinction, the packaging of the two products thus will impact on the customers’ cognitive and emotional aspects differently.

Ghoshal, Cagan and Boatwright (2011) on their study of aesthetically appealing packaging on both utilitarian and hedonic products note that hedonic products are much more advantaged by packaging than utilitarian products. Their findings indicate that when hedonic products are better packaged, their appeal is heightened as attributing to the fact that they are consumed because of their emotional value. Ghoshal, Cagan and Boatwright (2011) believe these products have a better chance of being preferred by customers due to varied tastes and packaging. Hagtvedt and Patrick (2009) on their research on hedonic potential as a driver of brand extendibility maintain that packaging boosts the look of a product and adds the luxury feel. In the study a total of 42 individuals were taken and offered sample of a fictitious product covered in velvet and in simple cardboard box. The results indicated that the velvet covered product was associated with luxury while the same product covered in cardboard box was associated with value. An imperative element here is that poor packaging can be detrimental to sales of luxurious products but for functional products it is okay since the functional value is often the consideration.

Kupiainen, Kauppinen-Raisanen and Lehtola (n.d.) conducted a study involving 201 respondents on the packaging as a means of communicating quality. The findings indicated that credence and its attributes affect how customers perceive a product and whether they will continue purchasing it. Credence is communicated through packaging and according to Kupiainen, Kauppinen-Raisanen and Lehtola (n.d.) it relies on trustworthiness and expertise. Expertise is about the customers belief that the brand involved is able to ensure what is advertised in the package is found in the product while trustworthiness is the view that firm will do all it can to align what the packaging says with the real product. The imperative aversion here is that as much as packaging communicates quality of hedonic products such as strawberry, the match between the match of the positions of the package and the real product is important. Apaolaza-Ibanez et al. (2011) on the other hand brings on a different perspective on hedonic and utilitarian and hedonic products. In the research that involved a survey among women and their use of cosmetic products, the findings indicate that both utilitarian and hedonic benefits can be attained by the same product. The use of images of beautiful women on the products’ packages makes them look luxurious. At the same time the images create dissatisfaction on the average woman about her looks and thus they find the need to use the product at the functional aspect. As such, it is important for market to analyse the entire leveraging effect they have with the products package since it can achieve both benefits as elaborated above.

Packaging in the cultural context

Culture is defined as the way of life of a group of people (Lassiter, 2006). This includes the rules and laws governing them as well as aspects of morality and beliefs. There is an evident gap in literature about researches that addresses the issue of color packaging in different cultures but the matter has been slightly discussed within other researchers. In the research by Silayoi and Speece (2004) on packaging and packaging decisions for example, the issue of culture has been insinuated. The authors note that in different cultures for example, color means different things and thus packaging items in a certain color shall impact of the sale of the same in different contexts. However, focusing on the study by Bortoli and Maroto (2001) that generally elaborates on color in different cultures, it is evident that color likability varies with cultures. Focusing on the findings about the area of interest –China, the study shows that Asian people associate orange with spiritual enlightment and positivity. Further, most respondents in the study associated purple with expensive and black with quality and luxury. However Bortoli and Maroto (2001) also found out that some colors are universal such as red which connotes love and white which connotes purity and peace. In light of these aspects on color, this study will seek to establish the color preference of retail shoppers of Tesco products in China.


Research philosophy

There are a number of research philosophies but the most applied are the positivist stance, the interpretivist stance and realism. This research shall undertake the positivist stance. According to Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009), the positivist stance borrows from the natural scientific view of observable reality in which the assertion is on observable aspects. As such, the research does not interfere with the social environment in the research. The advantage accorded to the positivist stance by Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009) is that is leads to law-like generalizations that can be applied in other case scenarios. Thusly, the findings of this research are in the context of Tesco in the Chinese market but can be elongated to fit in other situations. However, the approach has been critiqued by Jonker and Pennink (2009) for denying the researcher the flexibility of creating independent explanations since it often seeks to approve or disapprove existent theories. This is as opposed to the interpretivist view where the researcher gets to come up with independent theories and explanations of cases under study.

Research approach

Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009) believe it is hard to be sure about the theory that the research will follow of come up with at the end but the researcher usually has a rough idea that lead to the choice of approach. If a research intends to start with a theory then develop hypothesis and end up approving or disapproving a theory then it takes a deductive approach. On the contrary if the research collects findings and ends up with a theory, then it takes the inductive approach (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). This research takes the deductive approach. This means that the research will develop positions that are based on the review of extant literature and positions of other researchers and then do an inquiry of the same in the case of Tesco in China and then discuss the findings in juxtaposition to the theories previously referred to. Recommendations are offered thereafter. The deductive approach is recommended in cases where theory is not existent on the particular study topic. Swanson and Holton (2005) however fault the deductive approach noting that it is very time consuming and needs the research to have wide knowledge in the issue under investigation.

Research strategy

The research strategies available for use range from case study, survey, experimental research, ethnographical research, action research and grounded research. The researcher however intends to use the survey strategy to study the impact of packaging on customer valuation of products of Tesco in the Chinese market. Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009) associate the survey approach with situations where the sample needed is large. This is attributing to the fact that survey covers a large population with minimal cost and time disadvantages. Citing the fact that the researcher is a student this method comes through as appropriate. Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009) further note that survey gives the researcher more control over the research process as it is termed as authoritative. Specifically, it is easy to understand and implement. Lastly, Saunders et al. (2009) proposes that survey needs to be used alongside the deductive approach for better results and since the researcher opted for the deductive approach then the survey approach is better suited.

Research instrument

The common research instruments include interviews, survey questionnaires and direct observation. The researcher intends to use questionnaires in the collection of data. A total of 150 questionnaires shall be issued to respondents. Essentially, the choice of questionnaires is due to the survey strategy that will involve a relatively large number of respondents who can only be effectively handled through use of questionnaires. McNabb (2012) advocates for the use of questionnaires because they offer flexibility in their design and can thusly be tailored to suit any respondent. Additionally, they are time saving as opposed to the conduct of lengthy interviews. Saunders et al. (2009) further add that questionnaires have lesser implications in terms of ethical responsibility since respondent can only disclose information only required by the questionnaire. The only drawback of questionnaires is that they may not capture additional questions such as is the case with interviews.

Data collection and analysis

As established above, the data will be collected with the aid of questionnaires. The researcher intends to issue the questionnaires to respondents specifically customers of a Tesco retail store in China. An imperative point of note is that the researcher shall use convenience sampling which means the respondents shall be selected on the criteria of availability and willingness. 150 questionnaires shall be issued with an expectation that 85% of them shall be returned and be valid for analysis. Additionally, the researcher intends to engage friends to aid in the issue and collection of the questionnaires. The collected data will be analysed using statistical tools. Specifically the researcher shall used Statistical Packages for Social Sciences (SPSS) and MS Excel. Using these tools, the data will be tested of relationships and the strength of such relationships. This will be achieved with analyses such as the correlation analyses. The results shall be displayed through figures, tables and graphs.

Research plan

This research shall include five chapters, that is, introduction, literature review, methodology, findings and analysis and conclusions and recommendations. In the first chapter the researcher shall offer a brief background of the research topic and organisation. In chapter two a critical review of extant literature shall be conducted. Chapter three in methodology will elaborate of methods and approaches used in the research. Chapter four will offer findings and their analysis and chapter five will conclude and offer recommendations. Figure 1 below offers the time-scale plan for the research. Additionally, the researcher anticipates to use resources such as money and time. The monies required shall be obtained from the researhcer’s savings while time shall be pre-arranged as well. Any manpower needed shall be obtained from friends since a challenge the researcher foresees in the need of help in distribution and collection of questionnaires and conduct of interviews.

No.TaskMay, 2015June, 2015July,2015Aug., 2015
1Selecting a topic and justifying it (Done)                 
2Selecting research objectives to be addressed (completed)                  
3Establishing a background and offering literature review for the objectives (Done)                 
4Proposition of the appropriate methodology (done)                 
5Design of the research instrument (questionnaire and interviews) based on the research instrument                   
6Primary data collection                 
7Analysis of the data collected                 
8Offering a conclusion and recommendations based on the primary data                 
9Writing of the first draft.                 
10Submission of the first draft and awaiting of comments and further advice                 
11Writing of the second draft                 
12Submission for checking by the supervisor                 
13Writing the third draft                 
14Proofreading and confirmation of the third draft                 
15Submission of the final copy                 
Gantt Chart for the project


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