Aging Eyes Require User-Friendly Copy
By Robert McMath
I’d like to make a plea for brand marketers and package designers to consider the diminishing eyesight of Baby Boomers when developing new products or repackaging old ones. There is an old marketing adage I often quote: “If you can’t pronounce it, you won’t buy it.” To that, I’d like to add the following companion: “If you can’t read it, you won’t buy it, either!”
Today’s informed consumers are reading, or at least spending more time scanning, the copy on packages that are new to them. Whether it’s to improve their general health, prevent food allergies or combat obesity, people are more conscious than ever about the foods they consume.
To that point, consider ConAgra Foods’ Banquet line, whose on-pack ingredient list for its boneless pork ribs is virtually unreadable. While the package’s front panel is an eye-catching bright red with an enticing photograph of the barbecue-sauced ribs, mashed potatoes and corn, the back panel features an ingredient list in extremely small type. Much of the printing is in white or yellow, which can be easily discerned on the package. But the ingredients appear in extremely small black type on the back panel’s red background. Just below it, in larger type, is the company name, but then again in the same small typeface, the address of the company is almost impossible to read.
Brand owners need to remember that consumers must be able to clearly read the ingredient panel on the food product they are considering for purchase. Some are just plain curious about the products they buy. Others are seriously allergic to certain foods like peanuts or specific spices and fillers frequently used to flavor or bulk up foods; even wheat-based and milk and milk-based products can cause some people adverse reactions.
And while ingredient lists don’t offer the marketing punch brand owners typically look for in on-pack copy, they have to be there—and, more importantly, they have to be legible to every consumer segment targeted by the brand.
Keep in mind that a significant portion of our population is aging. And old age often comes with diminished eyesight. Anything that might slow down a purchase, or even raise questions with consumers, can lead to lost sales. No one wants something as simple as a typeface that’s too small to create an impediment to the purchase of their products. In these days of fierce competition for shelf space, who among us can afford the oversight? BP
The author, Robert McMath, has been a marketing consultant for more than 30 years. Through  NewProductWorks, he has advised major companies. He is the author of What Were They Thinking, a book chronicling the whys of product successes and failures. Contact him at 607.582.6125 or Visit