For years, marketers have used suggestions that consumers imagine using their products. Slogans like “Imagine the Possibilities” from Intel and Apple, or merely “Imagine” from Samsung, encourage consumers to transport themselves into a state in which they are using the product. The success of such appeals have been well documented.
So can just the way in which a product is visually depicted affect the extent to which shoppers imagine using the product? The answer is an unequivocal YES! Simply altering the way a product is visually presented can elicit more (or less) mental simulation of product interaction and this can result in higher (or lower) purchase intentions.
In one test, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, propensity to buy yoghurt increased by more than 20% simply by showing an image of a bowl of yoghurt with the spoon on the right side of the bowl, compared with when the spoon was shown on the left. Purchase intentions for the yogurt were significantly higher when the orientation of the spoon matched the participant’s dominant hand. And as an estimated 88% of people are right-handed, that’s the one to favour.
A separate study featured the image of a hamburger with a right hand, left hand, or no hand holding it. The right-hand condition resulted in a more than 50% higher propensity to purchase compared with the other scenarios.
Here’s your opportunity: Because we’re surrounded by more stimuli than we can process, we use selective attention. Our eyes perceive everything, but only a fraction of those stimuli enter our consciousness. It is estimated that only around 5% of visual stimuli make it through to our conscious awareness.
In other words, our eyes perceive more stimuli than we can consciously process. Therefore, some stimuli enter our brain without any conscious awareness. But because they’re still in our brain, they influence our product perceptions and shopping behaviour.
What this means is that your product packaging has the ability to directly influence propensity to purchase at both conscious and sub-conscious levels. In a world of too much choice in-store, and when the odds of the next passing shopper buying your grocery product are on average, a staggering 500:1, it has never been more important to make the most of your packaging design and other in-store communications.
And here’s the best part: Most retailers and brands are blissfully unaware of this science fact or at least don’t really take advantage of what you are reading right now.
When a lot of designers create product images, they tend to depict the product without too much thought about psychology. But if you want to generate serious competitive advantage, design your packs so that they always encourage and stimulate mental interaction.
Want more proof? In 2012, researchers Elder and Krishna presented participants with an advert for a coffee mug. The results showed that participants were more likely to purchase the mug when the handle was facing the right (toward the dominant hand of most people looking at the mug).
The research clearly demonstrated that visual product depictions, facilitate mental simulation that evokes motor responses. In other words, viewing an object can lead to similar behavioural consequences as interacting with the object, since our minds mentally simulate the experience.
Research also identified that when the dominant hand is physically engaged; holding a shopping basket for example, participants switched and began simulating with their non-dominant hand.
What if you don’t have a handle to use in your product shot? Worry, ye not. The researchers conducted further experiments and discovered additional fascinating insights.
Just to reiterate, place any instrument or utensil on the right: And don’t worry about which hand people usually hold knives and forks in. The researchers found that regardless of utensil; Knife, fork or spoon, the propensity to purchase remained highest when the utensil was oriented towards the viewer’s dominant hand.
And here’s another example, this time from non-food. Show consumers an image of a pair of gloves and their engagement will be highest if they view them from the angle of being able to slip their hands right in.
With all the intelligence employed in retail marketing, branding and design, you’d think that this subject would have been picked up and covered off by now, yes? Simply take a trip to just about any decent store and see for yourself. Alternatively, take a look online and check out the images used. Just try to find images similar to the above for gloves, shoes etc.
Seriously, according to science, this is a massive opportunity. So do you want to be part of it? Because it will mean doing things differently. Or do you just want to know more about incorporating psychology into your packaging, in-store display and other consumer and shopper facing communications? Incidentally, I have amassed more than 250 specific psychological techniques for improving packaging effectiveness in-store.
Want better packaging? Or perhaps you are just curious to know what makes psychologically good packaging? Either way, Let’s talk.
My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically ‘tick’.
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