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Is your package an effective communicator? A normative framework for increasing the communicative competence of packaging

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In this paper, an exploratory qualitative study of the communication between packages and consumers found a recurring theme of duplicity in consumers' interpretations of product labelling and packaging. Therefore, a normative framework is proposed to guide the design of effective communication in product packaging. Based on Habermas' theory of communicative competence, the framework suggests that a set of norms (i.e. the norm of truthfulness, the norm of sincerity, the norm of comprehensibility and the norm of legitimacy) can guide the complex task of designing good product packaging. By following these normative guidelines, marketers can both aggressively position their package to attract and promote, while concurrently avoiding package communication that may be construed as duplicitous. The theory provides a useful benchmark against which both public policy makers and manufacturers can evaluate the level of distortion in labelling and packaging. Consumers should benefit in terms of a clearer depiction of the product offering in the market-place. Marketers adopting these guidelines should benefit from a reduction in the level of package-generated consumer cynicism and an increased potential for enhanced long-term customer relationships.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 1998

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