The more lonely you feel, the more likely you are to purchase brands that feature FACES (like KFC)
09/02/2017 // Russel Davis // Views

Consumers were more inclined to choose brands that use faces in their imagery, a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology revealed. The research also showed that this effect was even more pronounced when consumers feel lonely.

The researchers said this was due in part to the consumers' fundamental need to form and sustain relationships. The lack of certain social connections prompt humans to fill the absence, which in turn significantly impacts their buying habits, the scientists said.

"Previous research linked our need for social connection with consumer behaviour and judgement, but very little was understood about the role that visuals play in social connection and brand likeability. Our study builds on prior research by demonstrating that seeing a face in a brand visual increases a consumer’s liking of the brand, especially if they feel lonely," study co-author Ulrich Orth told WARC online.

To carry out the research, study co-author Bettina Cornwell created an original set of 18 drawings that featured both non-face images and images that depicted a human face.

The researchers also developed fictitious brand names and slogans to go with the drawings. The experts also examined the participants' response about the brand, the images, and themselves.

Results show link between brand imagery, consumer preference

The study revealed a significant increase in brand likeability when the participants saw a face on the brand's imagery.

The research team also observed a correlation between the participants' high levels of loneliness and the mock up brand's likeability. (Related: 7 Sneaky Food Marketing Strategies Designed to Trick You)


According to Orth, consumers have the tendency to imagine human-like characteristics in non-human visuals in a process known as anthropomorphism. He also noted that the feeling of loneliness further amplifies the inclination to exhibit this kind of wishful thinking.

"A lack of interpersonal relationships motivates people to actively search for sources of connection. Individuals who are lonely are more likely to find faces in visuals because they so greatly desire this social connection. Visuals can fill a void for consumers experiencing a lack of social connection. When people see faces in branding materials, their likeability for that brand goes up," Dr. Cornwell said.

To further analyze this effect, the research team studied how the participants will respond to wine bottles with varying imagery. The experts instructed the respondents to rank 45 different labels on a scale of one to seven based on the clarity of the human face featured in the packaging.

The scientists also took into account other outside factors such as familiarity with the product and the consumers' personal preferences for wines.

The research team observed a similar reaction among the participants. According to the experts, consumers were indeed more likely to support brands that featured a human face onto their labels.

"Charities and non-profits can extract important information from these findings that will help them serve their communities. If they choose to use a face over another image, they will be more likely to connect with individuals and share their mission with others," Dr. Cornwell said told The Daily Mail online.

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