Marketing

How handwritten typefaces can increase sales of indulgent products

Bri Williams /

You may have noticed some brands attempting to represent themselves as provincial, “authentic” or perhaps natural? From craft beer to café menus, everyone seems to be getting in on the artisan act. If that’s something you are interested in, it might be worth paying close attention to the typeface you choose for your packaging because that will affect how your customers perceive your product.

For example, over time Macro has tried both a “machine” typeface for its semolina and a less formal, handwritten-style typeface for its quinoa. Without being privy to the brand’s testing, some related research from Austria may shed light on which would be more effective.

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Handwritten typefaces can increase purchases

Noting that handwritten typefaces endow products “with a sense of human contact, warmth and sensitivity”, researchers from the University of Innsbruck were interested in the impact of typeface on real purchase behaviour.

Working with local producers, they developed packaging for two products, crisp bread and chocolate, creating variants with either a machine or “handwritten” typeface.

Table 1 (below) summarises what they found. Products packaged with handwritten typefaces were purchased significantly more than the same product with machine written text.

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Handwritten typefaces make us feel warmer about the product

Delving further, the researchers discovered why handwritten typefaces had an effect on behaviour. In their words,  “using handwritten typefaces … increases consumers’ perceptions of human contact, warmth, and sensitivity, which prompts their stronger emotional connection with the product and ultimately makes consumers evaluate the product more favorably”.

Typeface is more important for unfamiliar brands

Thinking more about the emotional engagement with a product, the researchers wanted to understand whether typeface effects changed depending on the consumer’s regard for the brand. Hypothesising that those who already felt an emotional connection with a brand would not be influenced by typeface, the researchers presented people with a well-known brand of orange juice (Minute Maid) and a fictitious brand.

In this case, people rated Minute Maid more favourably than the fictitious brand when machine typeface was used, whereas both brands were rated similarly in the handwritten condition. The upshot is that if people are already attached to your brand, handwritten typeface won’t change their ratings, but if you are a new brand it may be worth considering.

Handwriting is more important for indulgent products

Aside from brand familiarity, the type of product you are selling can also change the impact of the typeface you choose. In their final study, the researchers tested the impact of typeface on a functional product (e.g. insect repelling candle) and a hedonic one (e.g. scented, decorative candle). Here they found the impact of typeface was reversed. Handwriting was good for hedonic products, but machine typeface was better for functional (Table 2 below).

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What this means for you

When it comes to representing your brand and product through communication devices like packaging, sweating the small stuff like typeface is important. As this latest research has shown, less formal typefaces can help you sell more and improve product evaluations for hedonic products by increasing the level of emotional connection.  

NOW READ: Why fees can beat discounts when influencing customer behaviour

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Bri Williams

Bri Williams is Australia's foremost authority on behavioural economics applied to everyday business and personal effectiveness. Author, speaker and leading consultant, Bri can make your life easier through behavioural science. More at www.briwilliams.com.au.

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