There are hundreds of packaging symbols found on our everyday household goods, ranging from washing powder to make-up. These icons are essentially there to keep the user safe from harm and to stop spillages, improper storage or accidents from happening. Some are voluntary symbols but some are set out by law and a necessary part of your product packaging.
But do consumers know the difference between these symbols, and do they actually understand the meaning of them?
To find out, we surveyed a sample of the general public, with no prior manufacturing or packaging knowledge, and asked them to identify some symbols commonly found on packaging/labelling. The results were interesting!
Out of the sample we surveyed, none of the respondents asked could name all of the 12 symbols correctly, and in fact, most of the respondents got over half of the descriptions wrong. There were also the people who knew “roughly” what the symbols meant, (for example, that something with an “X” was some sort of hazard, but couldn’t name the exact meaning).
More interestingly, 90% of those people questioned recognised the recycle symbol but only 40% recognised the shelf life. As this is a common symbol on items such as make-up and cosmetics, it is worrying that over half of people would not be aware that they need to dispose of the items after this time. With over 800-900 million lipsticks sold every year worldwide, that could equate to quite a number!
So if people aren’t always aware of the impact an icon has on their product storage, life or well-being, do some of the icons need to be on there at all? Or is it a consumer’s obligation to do their research and make themselves familiar with the symbols?