Symbolically Simple: How Simple Packaging Design Influences Willingness to Pay for Consumable Products

Lan Anh N. Ton, Rosanna Kim Smith, Julio Sevilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although consumers often value minimalist aesthetics, little work has examined why and when simple packaging designs of consumable products enhance consumer outcomes. The authors theorize that simple packaging evokes a symbolic association whereby minimizing design complexity signals that the product contains few ingredients, which increases perceived product purity and willingness to pay (WTP). A field study examining a supermarket chain's product packages (N = 1,353) provided preliminary support for this increase in WTP and two boundary conditions. Six preregistered studies replicated these effects and tested the underlying process. Studies 1a and 1b showed that the increase in WTP for simple packaging is driven by few-ingredients inferences increasing perceived product purity. Study 2 demonstrated the increase in WTP using an incentive-compatible design. Study 3 reinforced the proposed process via moderated mediation. Lastly, Studies 4 and 5 tested the boundary conditions in the field study, showing that WTP for simple packaging decreases when the product is from a store (vs. nonstore) brand and when consumers have an indulgence (vs. health) goal. These findings offer theoretical and managerial insight into minimalist aesthetics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-140
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Marketing
Issue number2
Early online dateJul 22 2023
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • design simplicity
  • minimalism
  • product packaging
  • purity
  • symbolic associations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing
  • Business and International Management


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