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    Study: Consumers Associate High-Pitched Ads With Healthier Food

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    Everything You Need to Know in Less Than 50 Words

    We’re all aware of the marketing tricks or methods that advertisers use to get us to purchase the advertised product. Here’s a new one: consumers associate commercials that contain higher-pitched sounds with healthier food products.

    Tell Me More

    A new study performed by researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore investigated the link between the pitch or frequency of sonic logos and the consumer perception of the healthiness or quality of depicted foods.

    A sonic logo is a name given to a short melody or jingle that supports a particular brand – for example, the McDonald’s jingle or the more recent Wayfair furniture tune. The goal of a sonic logo is to get consumers to recognize the brand simply by hearing the song – which hopefully leads to purchasing the product.

    The study also investigated the link between visual representations and perceptions of food quality and found that consumers made connections from stimulating visuals to a healthier perception of food.

    Research began with students presenting 180 participants with either sonic logos or visual cues. They then viewed a pair of food images—one healthy and one unhealthy—and were asked to choose which food they thought the sonic logo or visual cue best represented.

    The healthy food options depicted included green salad, fruit salad, and tomato and cucumber salad. The unhealthy images were of a cheeseburger, french fries, and chocolate chip cookies.

    A study revealed that consumers who watched food commercials with a higher-pitched sonic logo associated the sound with healthier food.

    The Results

    The study revealed that consumers who watched food commercials with a higher-pitched sonic logo associated the sound with healthier food. 

    A Ph.D. student from NTU Singapore interpreted these results to mean that companies wishing to highlight the health benefits of their food should choose sonic logos with higher frequencies.

    Furthermore, researchers found that the impact of high-pitched sounds could increase by pairing the correct sonic logo with the proper visual cue. Researchers recommend that food brands hoping to highlight health use a stimulating visual cue instead of a sedate visual cue.

    The researchers found no correlation between the tempo of the sonic logo and consumer perception. However, they said they would be interested in gaining further insight into how other facets of sound (including timbre, tempo, volume, etc.) affect the overall consumer attitude towards healthy food.

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      Explanation of Findings

      Researchers hypothesized that the link consumers draw between high-frequency sounds and healthy foods relate to other shared associations between these things.

      Specifically, researchers said that consumers might attribute the health-food qualities of small portions and fresh flavors to high-frequency sounds. Conversely, consumers might unconsciously associate low-frequency sounds and unhealthy foods as excessive and indulgent.

      The team expressed further interest in expanding on the results by continually investigating consumer brain patterns that lead to the connection. 

      This type of study would involve monitoring brain mechanisms through functional MRI (fMRI.) The process would allow researchers to grasp what causes the psychological link between high-frequency sounds, stimulating visual cues, and healthy foods.

      Source: Nanyang Technological University

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