CX Science: where on the package should you place the product image?
On packages, bottom, right, and bottom-right are 'heavy' locations: products appear heavier when placed there. Vice versa, top, left, and top-left are the 'light locations'.
For products for which heaviness is a benefit, consumers prefer packages on which the product image is placed in the heavy locations. Vice versa, for product for which lightness is a benefit, consumers prefer packages with the product image in the light locations.
This effect disappears if all other packages on the shelf look similar.
This is also a useful reminder that there is not one single Great CX - it's the matching of desires and delivery that creates a positive experience.
Companies might consider placing the product it in the heavy locations on the package if they want it to appear heavier, and vice versa.
Studies have shown that weight positively impacts perceptions of performance quality in durable goods (to a certain extent), for example.
In an earlier post we explored how high-pitched music makes us more likely to choose healthier food. Why? Because in our minds, we relate high to good and to moral (as well as to bright). In fact, our minds constantly make these connections for reasons well explained by Georg Lakoff and Mark Johnson in Metaphors We Live By. Their proposition is that abstract thought (morality, love, life) is metaphorical, and the metaphors we use to think about these abstract ideas are rooted in physical experiences (high, low, left, right, etc.)
In a somewhat related fashion, Xiaoyan Deng and Barbara Kahn set out to explore whether placing the product image in different locations on the package affects consumers' evaluation of the latter.
'Bottom' and 'Right' loom heavier
To begin with, why would 'bottom' equal 'heavy'? In short, because we live in a world in which what is heavy falls on the ground. In the words of Deng and Kahn, "In a world dominated by gravitational pull, heavy things are anchored on the ground, while things of little weight (e.g., balloons) float upward. Therefore, people’s visual weight judgments are in line with these bottom-heavy or top-light observations." *
So far so good, but why would 'right' equal 'heavy'? Because of a thing called eye dominance. This occurs because "Visual input from the dominant eye is accentuated during
binocular viewing, suggesting that objects on the same side as the dominant eye are often overestimated. ... Coren and Porac (1976) found that objects presented to the dominant
eye are perceived as bigger than the same objects presented to the nondominant eye." *
Why does this matter for packaging?
Now, heaviness is not an universally preferred attribute for products. A study by Mugge, Dahl, and Schoormans for example identified heaviness to contribute to the perception of performance quality for durable goods, but only to a certain extent (i.e. there is an inverted U shape relationship). For other products and in different contexts heaviness might be positive as well - it can, for instance, denote heaviness of taste. For still other products, it might be a negative attribute - think portability. So some products would benefit from being perceived as heavy, while others won't.
Coming to the crux of the matter, it is the match between whether heaviness is beneficial and where is the product image placed that matters the most. For products for which heaviness is a positive, consumers prefer packages on which the product image is in the heavy locations: bottom, right, or bottom-right. Vice versa, when lightness is a virtue (think healthiness), consumers prefer packages which feature the product in the light locations.
In a nutshell, companies will do well to consider whether they want the product to appear heavier in consumers' eyes or not. If yes - place the product image at the bottom, at the right, or at bottom-right. If you want to go for a lighter impression, chose the top, the left, or the top-left locations.
I find this research to be, among other things, a good reminder that things are not inherently good or bad, and there is not one single Great CX. It all depends on the effect you are trying to create and the impression you want to leave on your customers. This, I believe, is a much more pragmatic perspective to CX, and one that makes your efforts much more deliberate.
My best wishes for a great day ahead!