Philips' research question
Philips wanted to change their existing packaging for an ultra light iron. The question was whether this change would made the packaging more attractive and increase customers' purchase intention.
The left image shows the new design for Philips' product. After testing, Neurensics advised the modification of the packaging so that the iron was held with a right hand, while retaining the rest of the design (see right image).
Testing packaging with fMRI
In order to test which of the two packaging would be more attractive and effective for activating purchase intent, we had test participants look at the two packaging versions in a MRI scanner.
MRI is the only technique that captures activity from the entire brain: both conscious and unconscious, rational and emotional thoughts. This gives us the best results to predict consumer behaviour, better than other research methods.
Asking people what they think of packaging causes them to think of the packaging much longer than regular consumers would, causing them to focus on irrelevant details on the packaging. When regular consumers make a purchase decision, they view the packaging quickly and automatically judge it based on how they feel.
We measure these unconscious emotions with fMRI. Specifically, we observe if the packaging activates a good balance between positive and negative emotions, where the positive emotions eventually dominate.
The results show that the right-handed packaging scored best. In this spider plot, you can see that the left-handed packaging (grey line) activated significantly more Disgust in test participants.
This means that the packaging with a left hand holding the iron activated negative and repulsive feelings. But why?
Explanation of the results
The explanation is simple. It has to do with mental simulation: an unconscious process where the brain simulates using the product or experiencing a situation. For example, when we see a glass on a table and a hand moving towards it, our brain is also unconsciously engaged in picking up the glass.
If you see an iron held with the left hand while being right-handed (like 90% of the population), the mental simulation is not possible or it's inhibited. This leads to feelings of Disgust.
Therefore, we advised Philips to use a packaging where the iron is held with a right hand, because it will activate a better balance of emotions and therefore lead to a higher purchase intention.
And now you:
- Are you going to improve your packaging and want to know if the new design will increase sales?
- Or would you like to test new packaging ideas?