The purpose of this paper is to present an experimental study which aims at assessing the potentially misleading effect of graphic elements on food packaging. The authors call these elements potentially misleading elements (PMEs) as they can give customers false expectations. They are either highlighted numerical information (30 per cent fibre, 8 per cent fat, 100 per cent natural […]) or pictorial information with no relation to the product (e.g. images of happy people).
In a combined decision task monitored by eye-tracking and a subsequence survey, the authors tested the impact of PMEs on common products. Combining different pairs of products, where one product had a PME, whereas the other did not, the authors could evaluate if preference correlated with the presence of a PME.
The authors found both types of PMEs to have analogous effects on participants’ preferences and correlate with participants’ visual attention. The authors also found evidence for a positive influence on a later explicit justification for the specific choice.
This study was conducted in a lab environment and solely related to health-related decisions. The authors still need to know if these findings are transferable to real in-store decisions and other needs such as high quality or low price. This calls for further research.
The topic is important for food companies, and it might become a priority in managing brand equity, combining consumer preferences, loyalty and communicative fairness.
Using eye-tracking and retrospective interviews brings new insights to consumer’s decision-making and how misleading potentially occurs.
Clement, J., Smith, V., Zlatev, J., Gidlöf, K. and van de Weijer, J. (2017), "Assessing information on food packages", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 51 No. 1, pp. 219-237. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-09-2013-0509
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