“So what can I do to get you in this car today?” That’s what I’ve been hearing for the past few days as I’ve been tagging along with my boyfriend, helping him find a new car. I never thought of purchasing a car as a spontaneous event, but apparently it is since every salesman thinks we’re going to walk out with a new set of keys – or two, as one salesman persisted.

Regardless, it’s what the salesman said earlier on that caught my interest. My boyfriend was comparing a sleek, fuel efficient Ford Fusion to a rugged, gas guzzler – the Jeep Wrangler. Night and day, I know. As the salesman pointed out, “They’re two totally different brands.” And that’s what got me thinking.

Every car is a brand. So I began to think about cars as products, instead of vehicles. The exterior of the car protects the product inside – in our case, people. It safely transports the product, and even allows consumers to make assumptions about the product from the outside. For example, when consumers look at a Jeep Wrangler, they see a removable top, which means it’s a summer car. But they also see rugged tires, which means it’s also a winter car, and that it’s good for offroading. Everything from the headlights to the doors to the accessories on a car can tell you something about it.

Just like packaging.

I can look at a bottle of Nestle PureLife and know that it’s better for the environment because it’s using thin plastic and features a curved shape.

Or, I can tell that a product is upscale and premium by the way the package has been designed. Take the Organicare brand. Its triple-embossed flower graphics are finished with a pearlized coating to portray luxury.

Like the exterior of a car, the structure and design of a package can tell you things about a product. It’s what can “get you into the car.” From there, all that’s left is the test drive.