Written by David R. Kille on May 21, 2015
in Consumer Behaviour, Creative

Can the imagery used in the creative process change people’s fundamental experience with a product? Among the many decisions to be made in the creative process, deciding on how to display the product is perhaps one of the most important. Recent research in the Journal of Marketing found that when an indulgent food product was pictured with a person consuming the food, people rated its taste more favourably than when the exact same product was pictured alone.

In this study, researchers from the University of San Diego gave people a taste test of an indulgent food product: potato chips. However, before making their ratings, half of the people were shown images of potato chips pictured alone and the other half images of the potato chips being consumed by another person. Note that in both taste-test scenarios, people were eating the exact same chips; however, when the chips had been pictured alone, people rated them as less tasty than when the chips had been pictured as being consumed.

Why did such a seemingly small difference in how the product was pictured change consumers’ experience eating the product? The researchers argued that for relatively unhealthy food products, simply seeing another person consuming the product provides cues that indulging is socially acceptable. Indeed, the researchers also ran a version of their study with a healthy option (apples) and found that it did not matter whether or not images portrayed a person eating the product. It seems that in today’s health-conscious climate, a little nudge that suggests indulging is OK can increase the enjoy-ability of a food product, and that such nudges can be conveyed through the images used to feature the product.

What does all of this mean? First of all, it shows that you can visually communicate on a much deeper level than many people expect through meticulously designed creative. A good piece of creative has to do more than just ‘look good’ – it needs to connect with the customer in a meaningful way. Secondly, It is important to consider the thoughts and concerns of the consumer, and to provide a brand experience that can alleviate those concerns. Sometimes, the best way to alleviate a customer’s concern is to change the creative imagery in your messaging. Other times, it’s by providing educational material on a complicated financial product, or by guiding a patient-consumer through treatment stages using an online hub. Regardless of your industry or product, one thing remains the same – good marketing is all about understanding the customer journey and addressing customer pain points through thoughtful creative.

David R. Kille, Ph.D., is a Researcher at Ariad Communications.

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