Packaging design can make or break a product. Decisions on colour, shape, market positioning, and to use product photography or illustration can all have an effect on the psychology of the consumer. Effecting the all-important decision to buy, or not buy the product.
Height is a signifier of importance and power1. It’s common knowledge that supermarkets stack their shelves on this principle. The more expensive and exclusive brands are displayed on the top shelves, with economy and basic versions on the bottom.
The same psychology can be applied to the placing of brand logos on packaging design. The normal practice is to place the logo at the top of the product. Recent research suggests this may be wrong2.
Logo placement acts as an indicator of power. A consumer is able to directly compare a large number of products when glancing at a supermarket’s shelf or scrolling a product inventory on the web. They are able to make split decisions based on the way the product looks, and how it compares to others in its category.
Psychologists found that consumers preferred dominant products, those more expensive and exclusive, when the logo was placed higher on the packaging. Whilst less dominant products were preferred when the logo was lower on the packaging.3
The psychology of branding, logo design, marketing and packaging is complex. So it is important not to over-simplify and take the study's findings as verbatim.
That said, a quick walk around the supermarket would suggest that most brands are missing out on this psychological selling point. With most logos placed at the top of both dominant and non-dominant brands.
Kellogg's are the premium brand. Logo is placed at the top of the packaging, before product heading.
Retail price £2.00
Sainsbury's own brand. Logo is placed lower, beneath the product title.
Retail price £1.45
Most products don't apply this psychology, possibly missing out on the buying power of the effect. As an example, two loose tea products below show that the dominant product is using the logo in the center and in Waitrose's less premium range the logo is at the top. Which do you think you'd buy?
Retail price £7.50
Retail price £1.55
Why is this?
This psychological effect is what is called perceptual fluency.
Researchers have shown that speed of processing can dictate a person’s preference towards an object.4 So, when a premium brand uses a brand's spatial representation of power to reinforce its power and position in the marketplace, a consumer is able to process this quicker than if the logo was at the bottom.
It reinforces dominance psychology in the eye of the consumer. Inferring they are better than other versions, so persuading a consumer to part with more money.
This effect is not limited to UK or American markets, but can be seen across cultures and contexts.5
Logo positioning when implemented correctly, increases a packaging’s effect on brand interpretation, reinforcement psychology and possibly the bottom line of the purchased product.
Chandon, P. Hutchinson, W. Bradlow, E. Young, S. Does In-Store Marketing Work? Effects of the Number and Position of Shelf Facings on Brand Attention and Evaluation at the Point of Purchase 2009 ↩
Sundar, A. Noseworthy, T. Place the Logo High or Low? Using Conceptual Metaphors of Power in Packaging Design. 2014 ↩
Schwarz, N. Meta-Cognitive Experiences in Consumer Judgment and Decision Making 2004 ↩