In today’s crowded marketplace, how do we attract and convert shoppers?
Tapping into consumer psychology can be an effective way to tackle this challenge. Leading companies, like Google and Unilever, have used SKIM’s Psychological Distance Theory to improve product messages, visuals and concepts. The theory, developed in collaboration with bright minds at the psychology department of New York University, is the foundation of our actionable communications guidelines.
Understanding the theory and implementing our proven product content guidelines can help your brand more meaningfully connect with your customers and drive conversion as a result.
Tap into consumer psychology to optimize product content
Different levels of psychological distance alter people’s perception of reality. Lower psychological distance allows people to focus on your product or service concretely instead of abstractly, giving them a clear and tangible idea of what they are going to get. This impression, ultimately, allows the customer to “experience,” rather than see, the product.
Since people often form a mental image of the product experience and emotional state they desire, it is pivotal for a brand to use its words and visuals carefully to paint a picture that brings to life the mental image the customer has in mind.
In other words, reducing psychological distance helps create a match between what the brand offers (projected product experience) and what the customer wants (desired product experience). This approach, ultimately, leads to a more meaningful connection with your customer and affects their behavior in ways beneficial to your brand.
SKIM’s proven brand communication guidelines
How do you apply this theory in your brand communication?
As the preferred messaging insights partner for some of the world’s leading brands, we have tested more than 50,000 messaging, claims and key visuals at SKIM. Every day our communications experts advise marketers on how to optimize brand communications.
We know which product messages and visuals are most likely to trigger consideration, and which should be avoided. In fact, SKIM’s communications principles were recently validated in neuroscientific study we conducted in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam. The study results show how applying SKIM’s psychological distance theory to messaging reduces inhibition, improves value perceptions and drives behavior for brands.
Follow the SKIM brand communications guidelines below to apply the psychological distance theory for winning product claims, messaging and visuals.
Create winning product claims and messages
1. Be specific
Being specific in describing how the customer will be better off from using your product or service helps customers create a concrete mental representation about your offer and its benefits. This reduces the perceived gap between what you offer and the customer wants, and significantly increases your chances of converting them.
2. Use simple words
Simple and unambiguous language is required for most customers to understand what is being said. Without comprehension, there is no meaning and without meaning the probability to successfully project a tangible brand promise is limited. Avoid jargon.
3. Be positive
A customer’s desired end state is always positive, so using a positive tone of voice is key. A negative tonality could create a distortion between the positive image people have in mind and the promise projected by the brand.
4. Cue senses
Use words that encourage mental imagery by triggering memories, emotions and reactions linked to sensorial cues stored in memory. Examples are imagine, taste, enjoy – or words that are direct references like soft, creamy, silky.
Create winning product visuals
1. Focus on the product experience
To connect with your audience, they need to experience the product. To achieve this, the product experience and its related benefits rather than the product itself, should be the hero of our visual.
2. Draw people into the narrative
Creating a sense of motion through dynamic imagery is key as people are programmed to subconsciously finish the motion on display. Other ways to draw people into the narrative are by
creating interactions (touch) with the product or giving the illusion of sound.
3. Bring things to life by cueing senses
Bring to life what you want people to taste, feel and hear by triggering sensorial cues stored in memory. For example, an image of a flower to trigger the imagination of a scent, or an ingredient to trigger fresh taste perceptions.
4. Stay positive and respectful
Keep in mind what desired product experience we are bringing to life and who the audience is. This means using positive imagery to connect with positive aspirations and not use images that could be offensive in any way.
Product content guidelines in action
Unilever’s secret behind winning product claims and brand visuals
“In preparation for a haircare brand relaunch, it was vital to perfect on-pack communications. Tapping into consumer psychology was a key element in our process of revitalizing our product claims. The SKIM approach helped us meaningfully connect with consumers and drive choice at the point-of-sale.”
Claims Expert – Unilever
Google optimizes messaging for retail
“Message generation is hard, and we were not experts. None of us were, but we had SKIM’s [communications] framework now that we could get behind.“
Consumer Insights Manager – Google
Leading eCommerce site applies psychology principles to drive conversion
“It was very shocking to me that when you start to actually invest in the image quality, there was a huge improvement in sales….. With the same amount of ad spending, we could easily see 2 – 3x more conversion.“
eCommerce pioneer – Qoo10
Nestlé’s agile messaging approach to drive brand loyalty
“Applying the psychological distance theory and quickly testing the messages with a mobile-first approach, helped us create stronger claims. We updated point-of-sale materials to better communicate brand benefits and launched an ad campaign, reaching 5M people in a few days.”
Consumer & Marketplace Insight Manager – Nestlé
3 Tips to develop more impactful product sustainability claims
SKIM conducted a meta-analysis of FMCG claims studies with sustainability and combined these insights with SKIM’s communications guidelines. David Voxlin, Sustainability and Decision Behavior Lead, reveals 3 ways to optimize product sustainability claims and on-pack messaging to drive consideration and brand loyalty.
“Though the sustainable aspect of a product or service is of great importance, the functionality of it (i.e., efficacy for personal care/home care and taste for food) should remain the primary focus of the on-pack messaging.“
Sustainability and Decision Behavior Lead – SKIM