Daze of My Life: Marketing 101

Daze of My Life
Marketing 101

Perhaps you've noticed, as I have, that over time, certain familiar consumer products generally available at the supermarket (if all else fails, people at the very least, have to eat and clean and "hygiene" themselves) rework their appearance/packaging. I don't mean what's inside, I mean what's outside. And even though the old adage of not judging a book by its cover has to be as familiar to food/household product manufacturers as it is to the rest of us, the packaging/presentation of products does seem to change, for good reason, I'm sure. Perhaps there's a marketing cycle manufacturers follow that relates to a consumer's buying habits. (Yeah, it changes to retain the old customers and entice some new customers.)
Recently I've noticed changes in the packaging for a brand of orange juice I no longer buy (acid reflux issues) and for a brand of deodorant I most certainly still buy. And, though the packaging is definitely more attractive and eye-catching than previously (or maybe it's simply that change, any change in a familiar product is noticeable, style over substance you might say), I cannot say - so far as the deodorant is concerned - that the change in the packaging has provided me any noticeable benefit. So far as I can tell, I still stink when I'm supposed to and still smell fresh as a daisy when, after a shower, I apply my unscented gel.
All things considered, am I continuing to buy - or not buy - these products in spite of their packaging, because of their "new" packaging or does the packaging have zero effect on my decision-making other than as an aid in helping me locate the item on an increasingly crowded grocer's shelf?
If it is, indeed, not about the quality of the product (the inside), and more about the presentation (the outside) - then not only am I judging a book by its cover, I am judging that book by how it looks in comparison to its neighbor's covers (adjacent products on the shelf). And, when it comes to what I eat or how I personally "hygiene" myself, I would hate to think that all the studies that have been completed, focus groups paid and opinions solicited, to determine, from a distance exactly what would get me - the consumer - to buy a particular product (at least once to try) have no bearing on the real marketing reason behind the product's unique appearance. Moreover, is what I see on the grocer's shelves actually less about quality and more about quantity (the space allocated to a particular manufacturer/product on that extremely crowded shelf)?
If so, this attempt at market/consumer manipulation apparently is what makes the consumer's world go 'round. Still, when it comes to the food I eat and the household/manufacturer's products I buy and the manner in which I try to keep myself healthy and fit, I resent that outside interests are attempting to manage what goes on inside my house and inside my body.
I imagine one could say that this is simply the free-market system at work, and having the freedom to choose enables/ empowers the consumer to buy or not to buy for their own personal reasons and not be effected by any of these psychological ploys. Still, I can't help wondering where all this theorizing starts and strategizing stops.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.