The visual ecology of product packaging and its effects on consumer attention

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Visual ecology is the study of how different species perceive their visual surroundings. We introduce the concept to consumer research and show that the micro-ecology of product packaging has a predictable visual ecology. Analyzing images of 158 consumer products, we show that brand-related packaging elements are visually conspicuous in terms of visual salience, surface size, and distance to center, while elements related to credence characteristics like sustainability and nutrition are visually inconspicuous. We show that the visual ecology of product packaging is a strong driver of consumer attention independently of consumer goals. Our findings suggest that the reason consumers regularly ignore sustainability and nutrition information is not lack of motivation, but because their visual environment acts as a barrier to attending this information. We conclude with a prediction for consumer attention given a policy intervention to increase the conspicuity of sustainability and nutrition information.

TidsskriftJournal of Business Research
StatusE-pub ahead of print - feb. 2019

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