Washington, Mar 18 : Despite traditional brand research stressing that logos should be highly relevant to the product they represent in order to be successful, we see a completely different trend being followed by marketers with table-wine brands using labels with animals as visual identifiers.
So how does this tactic work? This question has been answered through a forthcoming study led by Indian-origin researchers.
According to market research firm ACNielsen, nearly one in five of the table-wine brands introduced in the last three years features an animal on the label.
"To our knowledge, this is the first experimental demonstration of the beneficial effects of unique visual identifiers that are not meaningfully related to the nature of the product," wrote the study's authors Aparna A. Labroo (University of Chicago), Ravi Dhar (Yale University), and Norbert Schwarz (University of Michigan).
The researchers based their study on psychological research about processing fluency, and found that consumers have an easier time processing images when they are already "primed" - this means, if they have already thought about the image earlier in an unrelated context or if they already associate the logo with something in their personal lives.
One of the experiments required the participants to do a word jumble first, either searching for words related to dogs or words related to cats. Later, they participated in an apparently unrelated study and were asked to rate a series of products, including batteries and dog shampoo.
It was found that on average, those who had done the word jumble relating to dogs rated the dog shampoo higher than those who had done the cat-related jumble.
The researchers also discovered that the influence of priming was most distinct when exposure to the product before evaluation was limited to 16 milliseconds, a period of time shown in psychological experiments to be pre-cognitive. However, the results were less pronounced when more time was added to allow for cognitive elaboration.
"Whereas common branding wisdom suggests that identifiers should be strongly associated with the product category, our findings suggest that it may be beneficial to choose visual identifiers that consumers strongly associate with themselves," wrote the authors.
The researchers also noted another important advantage of non sequitur logos over identifiers that are meaningfully related to the product (e.g. a picture of a winery or a bunch of grapes on a wine label). They are not shared by competitors - at least not yet.
The study will be published in the April 2008 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.