When it comes to influencing shoppers’ purchase decision making, one of the most effective strategies lies in triggering their mirror-neurons. These are the neurons in the brain that fire when people see activities being undertaken. The activity represented can be anything from kicking a football or driving a car to eating food. When the shopper sees this imagery or visual stimulus (especially if it’s from their point of view) their brain reacts as if they’re actually engaging in the activity – whether it be kicking a football or taking a bite out of a slice of pizza – although to a slightly weaker degree than if they are physically engaging in the activity, it’s still a powerful enough stimulus to influence their decision making.
The stimulus can take a variety of forms, some more effective than others, but all influential in their own right, such as a video on a website, an image on outdoor advertising, in-store shopper marketing materials, or product packaging (whether graphic or structural).In tests comparing adverts featuring photography of people eating an apple vs imagery showing purely apples, the imagery of people actually eating proved to be twice as effective.
Current activations in market which are effective examples of this strategy are ‘Close Up’ fluoride gel toothpaste, Chicago Town Takeaway frozen pizza and a range of wines from Della Rocca. The ‘Close Up’ proposition is centred around delivering solutions for fresh breath and white teeth by being the first toothpaste to combine the efficacy of a silica base infused with mouthwash in a gel which gives consumers “the confidence to get close”. This is effectively communicated visually on pack via a witty and engaging design solution which features a range of male and female head profiles on the outer cartons. When displayed at fixture the packs en masse create a ‘face-to-face’ scenario in which the proposition visually communicating the ‘confidence to get close’ benefit is presented in an engaging way with enhanced Gen Z appeal via the opportunity to feature male/female, male/male, female/female scenarios. The shopper can project themselves into the situation which is most relevant to them, effectively broadening the brand’s appeal and potentially converting a greater number of users.
In the frozen pizza category the market leader Chicago Town recently relaunched its Takeaway range with a new design from DECIDE, which also capitalises on stimulating pizza lovers’ mirror neurons. The box architecture and imagery is designed to recreate the experience of opening a high street takeaway box, presenting the product from the viewers’-eye-view on two levels. The first being the pizza presented from an overhead viewpoint in a box recreating the authentic experience of the product reveal (it’s also sliced to conjure up the slicing action pre to tucking in, in the shoppers’ imagination). The second is the slice of pizza in the foreground being lifted towards the shoppers’ mouth. The fingers visualised lifting the slice stimulate the viewer to imagine these as their own hand and therefore be tantalisingly close to tasting the product itself. The cheese stretch again stimulates memory of the authentic takeaway pizza experience by replicating the informality, and enjoyable messiness, of the occasion and implying the fresh from the oven cheese melt. Within 12 weeks of launch of this new design, the Chicago Town range achieved 11% sales growth, and continues to impressively outperform the growing frozen pizza category.
Della Rocca has approached the mirror neutron opportunity from a structural perspective, by designing bottles which have an actual hand indent in the glass that encourages the shopper to imagine holding the bottle (taking them one step closer to pouring the wine into a glass in their imagination). The indent feature also stimulates the shopper to physically pick the bottle up off the shelf. This is key, as research indicates that if a shopper interacts with a brand or product at fixture, their propensity to purchase is greatly increased.
Any opportunity to help shoppers visualise the product experience, and take them one step closer to imagining themselves enjoying it, is therefore worth capitalising on whether this be on pack, on shelf, in-store or online.