Looks Aren’t Superficial When It Comes to Making Money

So I buy these B12 supplements the other day—BECAUSE APPARENTLY MY BODY IS ALL, OH, VITAMIN B, HAHA, THAT’S CUTE—and it comes in this sturdy little bottle that feels very important, and I’m all excited because obviously I think that I’m doing a good deed slash being a responsible adult. So I go to open this mighty container of magic, and you know what’s inside?

Five parts air.
One part cotton.
Point two parts B12 tablets, lining the bottom.

Like, this was the equivalent of opening a brand new bottle of wine and finding only enough for one glass—which would clearly be cause for an actual temper tantrum. Fortunately, however, I can count, and sure enough, sixty tablets are sixty tablets, and there they were in all their puny little glory.

The first thought that crosses your mind: why the balls wouldn’t they put these in a smaller container? Wouldn’t that save money—and help their customers feel less duped?

There are a number of reasons companies cite for why they do this: ordering one standard size bottle in bulk saves them time and money; drug information needs to be fully conveyed on the label; automation means that machines need to be able to fit their gangly arms into the top; bigger packaging reduces shoplifting, but there’s really only one reason, and it’s the simplest of all:

Optics.

If you saw how small the actual pills were, you’d never spend $30 for them. In many cases, we still relate value to size. This is why so many vitamins are actually bigger than they need to be—the tablets themselves are filled with filler. The same goes for the containers that they come in. Cotton is not necessary; it’s about perception—they need you to believe that you’re getting your money’s worth.

Bigger = more value.

If it were really the case that ordering one standard size bottle were the most cost effective, then why not just fill the bottle full of tablets and sell that?

They don’t sell that because that would mean that they’d have to 10x the price—and nobody would buy a bottle of vitamins for $300.

Does that mean they’re bad? No. Does it feel bad? Sometimes. But mostly, it just means they understand profit.

Because whether you’re selling vitamin tablets or copywriting services, the way you package what you’re selling is just as important as what you actually are.

In fact, in the eyes of the buyer, they're one in the same.

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