Knowledge Bank Blog, Range & Portfolio, Shopper Communication, Channel Execution

Body Language

What is your product’s body language suggesting to the shopper?

Any communication expert will tell you that the majority of human communication is non-verbal.  And a lot of this non-verbal communication comes through our Body Language.

Think about a typical meeting.  You can quickly look around the room and gauge how people are feeling.  The person leaning back, arms folded, on the defensive.  The person leaning forward, desperate to cut in and make their point.  And at least one person gazing into the distance, thinking about anywhere they would rather be, but here.

We use body language to make judgements about people.  And we use it to make them fast.  Experts estimate it takes one tenth of a second for someone to form a first impression.  Weak handshake, no eye contact, it might be hard to recover.

Why are we talking about this?  Well, we think body language plays a big part in the shopping process.  In our world of ever increasing choice, it is impossible for a shopper to take in and process all the information they encounter and make fully rational choices.  So, we rely on shortcuts – simple rules of thumb that allow us to form a view on a product and make a purchase decision.   This is a product’s Body Language.  The implicit signals the product is giving out to the shopper.

So, what do we specifically mean by this and how can you play it to your advantage…?

Product Appearance & Pack Design.  Do you have the right body language for the occasion you are targeting and the products you are competing with?  For instance, if you targeting the snacking occasion do you obviously have the body language of a snacking product?  Small carrot batons, with a houmous dip, in a transparent, portable pack, are saying ’I’m a snack’.

If you are trying to communicate freshness, do you have the body language that does this?  A good example here is Innocent Fruit Juice.  The bottle shape and transparent packaging is more suggestive of freshly squeezed juice than it’s direct competitors in tetra packs.

We think the category that has made the biggest body language moves in recent years is chilled ready meals.  Brands such as City Kitchen are moving the category away from plastic trays and cardboard sleeves to clear boxes that showcase the contents.  You can now buy and eat a ready meal without feeling like you are buying or eating something highly processed.

Merchandising & Presentation.  This is a vital component of body language.  Bread baskets use the body language of the baker.  Wooden boxes use the body language of the wine merchant. There is a reason that Wholefoods give staff precise instructions on how every pepper should be merchandised. However, it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Heinz Ketchup shelf ready packaging is cardboard, but its design implicitly signals the proposition ‘Grown not Made’.

Value Cues.  There are a number of shortcuts shoppers use to judge value, some of which we’ve talked about before.  One of the simplest shortcuts is physical appearance.  Does the pack look bigger?  Does it feel heavier when you pick it up?  We have been looking at one category recently, where there are two, essentially identical, products from a monetary point of view.  Same price, same number of grams.  Yet one of the packs is a third bigger.  Sure, the extra third consists solely of air, but a quick glance at shelf, suggests it is better value.

What you say at shelf is still important.  But it is also as much about what you don’t say.  What your product implicitly suggests to the shopper.  So, next time you are in store, take a look at your product’s body language.  Is it saying what you want it to say?

Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.