Pack Size and Shape


Denotative Meanings

The size and shape of a pack refer to its dimensions. The height of a pack is typically determined by the length of the cigarettes, and the width and length of a pack are influenced by the diameter and quantity of the cigarettes. An important aspect of the pack’s proportions is whether it has a horizontal or vertical orientation, and a notable aspect of the pack’s shape is whether or not it has beveled edges. Many of the newer premium brands on the Canadian market have sleeker packages, which are frequently narrower in width and deeper.

The pack size and shape are related to the cigarette size and the opening style of the pack.


The size, shape and opening mechanism of a cigarette pack build attractive brand imagery. 1


Overarching Theme Sub-Theme Connotative Chains
Lifestyle Luxury / Glamour Packs shapes and sizes can connote luxury by suggesting other glamorous items:

  • Packs with a vertical orientation –> Size/shape of hand-held technology, such as smart phones –> Pricey, modern, cool, glamorous
  • Slim, vertical case of B&H Superslims –> Size/shape of a lipstick case –>Attractiveness, glamour(The connotation to lipstick is reinforced by marketing the pack as a “purse pack” 2, 3 and by distributing B&H promotions in the form of a faux purse decorated with the black checkered pattern from its Noir line extension.)



Deviating from a standard pack format can connote luxury:

  • Unique inner-frame card shape –> Product embellishment that requires additional cost and technology –> Luxury


  • Beveled edges –> Product embellishment that requires additional cost and technology –>


    • du Maurier’s beveled corners 4
    • Benson & Hedges 100s rounded corners that require additional expense to produce a series of complex presses/fold
Lifestyle Gender Pack orientation can connote gender:

  • Vertical orientation –> Lightness –> Femininity
  • Horizontal orientation –> Bulkiness, heaviness –> Masculinity
  • “In general, a vertical orientation suggests a more contemporary, smooth image, and is typically more aesthetically pleasing to women and young adult men. Horizontal composition is typically interpreted as solid, direct, and tends to convey an older, or more traditional image, often also a ‘stronger’ image.” 5

Pack proportions can have gendered connotations. An example is the B&H ‘Purse packs,’ pictured above:

  • Structure similar to items commonly carried in a woman’s purse (tube of lipstick, a small container of perfume) –> Beauty products
  • Its similarity to beauty products is reinfoced by other design elements:
    • Metallic colour and embossed monogram on top of pack –> Lipstick case –> Beauty products
    • Identifying brand descriptor and number on base of pack –> Cosmetic and perfume packs –> Beauty products

      B&H lipstick

      Pictured above from left: B&H Superslims Noir pack, base of B&H Noir pack, Elizabeth Arden lipstick, base of Elizabeth Arden lipstick pack

    • Typography of the identifying name and number on B&H Superslims packs –> Identifying name and number on perfume and lipstick packs –> Beauty products “Noir No208” –> “Clear 01”Superscript ‘o’ in Noir’s number –> Superscript ‘o’ in Chanel No5
    • Market research conducted by Philip Morris found that the purse pack is perceived to be “feminine, slim” and “delicate,” 6 all of which are also descriptors of the idealized female form.



  1. Moodie C. Hastings G. Tobacco Packaging as Promotion. Tobacco Control 2010;19:168-170.
  2. Rothmans Benson & Hedges. “Purse marketing sample for B&H Superslims.” Toronto, ON. Collected 2010.
  3. Deadly in Pink: Philip Morris’ new look for Virginia Slims cigarettes shows contempt for women’s health. Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Medical Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Available at: Published October 30, 2008. Accessed: September 2011.
  4. This redesign paralleled Imperial Tobacco Canada’s point-of-sale retail display cases, which had vertical octagonal pillars framing the shelving. Shortly after their introduction, most jurisdictions in Canada prohibited all forms of point-of-sale promotion including the display of cigarettes.
  5. Philip Morris. Summary of Consumer Learning about Packaging Elements. Available at: Accessed January 10, 2012.
  6. Philip Morris USA. Virginia Slims Superslims Qualitative Research. Accessed December 8, 2011.