What CPG Companies Should Really Expect from Eye-Tracking

A recent issue of Packaging World Magazine suggests that CPG companies can leverage eye tracking to assess shopper behavior and validate ideas. I guess, but CPG companies should also be aware that while the eyes may indeed be the window to the soul, they are not necessarily the fingers on the trigger.

Christian Simms, an associate director of consumer market knowledge for P&G’s Pantene  and Herbal Essence brands actually urges CPG companies to give eye tracking a serious look.  “What consumers say and what they react to is a very different thing than what they spontaneously react to,” Simms says of eye tracking’s benefits. “We’re interested in what they can tell us without saying it to us.”

I’m sure all this eye tracking research is very cool and under the right circumstances, very useful.  On the one hand, Pamela Waldron global director, Oral Care, in Johnson & Johnson’s Global Strategic Insights Group says: “The potential loss of sales to a business by diluting their equity and getting lost on shelf is enormous, and it’s not a risk one wants to take in this day and age.”

On the other hand, Simms acknowledges that eye tracking is used selectively at P&G. “It is likely to be part of the mix for a line extension, or when risk is involved in the design, such as changing artwork across an entire brand line.”

In short, eye tracking can be excellent for fine-tuning.  But at the end of the day, you can learn most of what you need to know about consumer behavior and packaging from watching a few hours of Planet Earth.  When snakes or birds or even elephants want to grab the attention of a fellow creature, they flash their colorful  feathers, wave their seductive antenna, trumpet enormous mating calls or do their “look at me” dance.

And while any and all of these tricks are sure to turn a few heads, none guarantee they’ll be hooking up anytime soon.  And it’s the same with CPG.

Consumers will always take a look at the package; they may even be mesmerized by the pretty colors and sensual curves and subliminal messaging. But more often than not, they will make their purchase decision based on price, performance, quality and brand loyalty.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.