NEW YORK — Riding the escalator down into the beauty department at a midtown Duane Reade with Simon Preece is an eye-opening experience.
Preece, the director of effectiveness at Elmwood, a brand design consultancy based in the United Kingdom, knows how to delve into the mind of what consumers see when they enter a beauty department or compare items on a shelf. What he observes is much different than the average shopper.
At Duane Reade, consumers view aisles of products, whereas he quickly sizes up where the chain is putting its emphasis. Preece said the simple No7 sign hanging above the department not only signals that the chain offers the premium line, but also indicates the entire department has been notched up. “The three-dimensional No7 brand icon catches your attention,” he said, adding the logo is consistent with the “confident simplicity of the brand’s packaging.”
Unlike many packaging and store design experts who operate on gut reactions, Preece backs up his analysis with science. For five years, he’s worked with U.K.-based Bradford University developing biomotive triggers, which are decodes designed to validate packaging or store signage triggers intended for an instinctive response. Basically, biomotive triggers are sensory cues that affect the subconscious, generating emotion and action before the conscious part of the brain even reacts. Those responses, in turn, dictate whether a shopper approaches or avoids a brand. His firm has already had success with Biomotive Triggers, helping companies such as Wal-Mart redesign and reposition its Great Value brand using its scientific approach to packaging.
Tapping his “triggers,” Preece recommends retailers and marketers do three simple things — stand out, be simple and emotionally engage.
The tour through the Duane Reade store yields myriad examples. As far as packaging, Preece recommended cusps in signs and on packages, which grab attention. At Duane Reade, he noticed the cusps in Nexxus, which elicit attention. Olay also uses cusp shapes to ensure shoppers’ eyes go to the well-known brand mark.
While cusps work to lure attention, often simplicity is key, Preece said. “In a busy, visually agitated world, we so rarely experience moments of visual or auditory calm that we gravitate toward them,” he said. The No7 logo elicits calm, as does Revlon’s Age Defying Powder with a DNA symbol. “The DNA symbol is framed like artwork in a gallery and the minimal typography elevates this perception of quality,” Preece said.
His final parameter for successful imagery is to trigger an emotional engagement. “The next time you’re in an aisle, notice how many packages bear photos of women that don’t make direct eye contact; they are looking away or slightly past you. By contrast, when you connect with the eyes, you get a real emotional connection with the person and you’re on your way to a hit,” he said. “Make the most of your two seconds as you may not get a second chance.”