Touch. A sense so seemingly simple that its influence is often overlooked. But when it comes to products, touch has the power to influence decisions, change emotions and summon memories. The singular moment a consumer touches your product for the first time sets a precedent for how he or she will relate to your brand.

Haptics, the branch of psychology that investigates sensory data and sensation derived from the sense of touch, has been in the news recently with companies like Apple integrating “haptic feedback” into its devices. But haptics is about much more than tech companies’ latest buzz words and consumer goods. It’s about the science of touch and how it affects us—wherever we are, whatever we’re doing.

Touch is more than just a physical sensor for the world around us; it is an interface through which we communicate. The reciprocal nature of touch is what drives connections (you can’t touch without being touched back) and changes the way we perceive the world around us, for better or worse.

Studies have found that touch can create a sense of ownership and value in our minds.1 This “endowment effect” triggers a possessive reaction in most humans whether or not they actually own the item. This is a major reason why a branding decision like packaging is so important. In many ways, this impacts the “first moment of truth,” a well-known P&G principle for brand managers and marketers looking to make an impact with their product. The object is not only a reality now, but the consumer has a sense of ownership and a connection that is difficult to break.

Luckily, brands have full control over that first impression, and there are two critical factors to consider when making a packaging decision.


Quality’s Role in Perception

The first factor is the quality of materials. Quality plays a significant role in brand perception. For instance, you wouldn’t want an expensive piece of jewelry to come in a bland cardboard box. It all comes down to the experience you want to offer consumers when they interact with your product. Humans can feel the difference in quality, even if it is subconscious. From the weight of the paperboard to the brightness of the color, the materials impact that initial interaction.

Think Tiffany. Somebody you know likely has an emotional connection to a little blue box that’s been stored for years. Not only does the feel and visual appeal of the box create that sense of nostalgia, the quality of the package withstands the test of time and enables it to remain a keepsake.


Effects That Stand Out

There are also sensory considerations. Special effects are a great way to make a piece of packaging stand out. From an added soft touch to interesting folds and ridges, there are many ways to enhance the packaging experience. H&H Graphics found that the use of special effects in printed and POP marketing materials can increase sales by 18 percent.2 That’s a massive impact easily attained by working closely with printing partners. The finish on a piece of packaging can create any tone a brand is trying to portray. Combine a high-quality material with a stand-out special effect, and it will be hard for consumers to put the product down.


The Final Say

One key challenge that graphic artists and brands face is that the project’s fate rests in the hands of an individual making a financial decision. If you’d like your product, campaign or brand to outshine the rest, look to spend incrementally more on printing and materials in order to drastically change perception in the market.

While cost is certainly an important consideration, it should not solely determine the end product. This is where collaboration with packaging partners is key. Find comparable materials and work with less costly special effects to create a package that will make an impact. This could include an offset soft-touch, in-line cold foil stamping or over-coats such as tinted varnishes or pearlized coatings.

Touch is directly tied to a brand’s success. Without the haptic feedback that people receive from interacting with a piece of packaging, they would not create emotional connections to brands and products.  


1. D Kahneman, J Knersch, R Thaler, “Experimental tests of the endowment effect and the Coase Theorem”, The Journal of Political Economy, vol 98(6), 1990, 1325-1348

2. “Retail POP Special Effect Screen Printing”, H&H Graphics,