Far is prestigious, near is mainstream

If your brand is prestigious, place products far from the customer or model in an ad. If your brand is mainstream, position them close.

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📝 Intro

We’ve seen before that it matters where you position products in ads or stores. For example, modern products are more appealing if they’re placed on the right rather than left.

It even makes a difference where you place your message. Rational messages work better if they’re placed high up, and emotional ones if they’re placed lower.

Today, we look at how close or far away you should place your products depending on whether they are premium or mainstream.

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Place items near or far depending on your brand positioning

Impacted metrics: Brand attitudes | Customer acquisition
Channels: Ads | Retail store | Website | Marketing communications
For: B2C. Can be tested for B2B
Research date: October 2021

📈 Recommendation

Position your product close or far away from a customer (e.g. in a store) or a model (e.g. in an ad) depending on your brand’s positioning:

  • If your brand is premium, show the product far away

  • If your brand is mainstream, show it close

People will like your brand and product more, and pay more for it.

🎓 Effects

  • People value brands and products better or worse depending on how far the product is from the viewer (e.g. in a show window) or a model in an image (e.g. on a website, in an ad).

    • For premium or prestigious brands (e.g. a luxury handbag), the effect is positive when the product is far away

    • For mainstream brands (e.g. a common coffee machine), the effect is positive when the product is close

  • For example, in experiments:

    • People were shown a backpack on a screen to simulate viewing it from 3 or 5 feet away (90cm or 150cm)

      • A premium leather backpack was rated 15.8% better when viewed from far (vs close)

      • A mainstream canvas backpack was rated 15.6% better when viewed close (vs far)

    • When 2,800 people received an ad on WeChat for a home fragrance diffuser showing the product and a model, they were

      • 90% more likely to visit the website when the brand was framed as luxurious and the diffuser was far from the model (vs close)

      • 121% more likely to visit the website when the brand was framed as popular and the diffuser was next to the model (vs far)

(Website visit rates of people who received different versions of a home fragrance diffuser ad)

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🧠 Why it works

  • We use distance to easily communicate and understand concepts. For example, we say a “long time ago” or “a close friend”.

  • Prestigious, luxury, and premium brands are usually associated with the idea of exclusivity and scarcity.

  • Something far away is not easy to obtain, or scarce - so it’s perceived as more prestigious.

  • Mainstream brands tend to build associations with warmth, sincerity, and closeness (e.g. Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign).

  • So we feel more connected and intimate with products that are closer.

✋ Limitations

  • We don’t know if and how this effect works in ads without models. For example, would a zoomed-out view vs a close-up of a luxury handbag in a banner ad trigger this effect?

  • The researchers tested images and simulated in-person viewing of products. They did not test the effect in other formats like video, but the principle should hold.

  • It’s unclear whether seeing ads that match the effect (e.g. mainstream - close) changes brand perceptions in the long term. The experiments only measured the immediate effect.

🏢 Companies using this

  • Companies do not seem to be aware of this effect. For example, luxury brands like D&G and Chanel often show perfumes close to their models in ads - while they should be far away.

⚡ Steps to implement

  • In a store setting:

    • Place premium items in at a greater distance from the window, or in shelves that are more distant from where a viewer would normally stand. 

    • Place mainstream items closer and make them feel easy and accessible to pick up.

  • In a website or ad setting (including print ads):

    • Place premium products and models away from each other. The more space from each other, the better

    • Place mainstream products and models close to each other. The model can even be holding or touching the product.

    • Luxurious products are usually hedonic, so your models should also probably look away from the viewer.

🔍 Study type

Lab and online experiments and a field experiment (on an ad of an ecommerce retailer sent on WeChat). Taiwan and China

📖 Research

Chu, X. Y., Chang, C. T., & Lee, A. Y. (October 2021). Values Created from Far and Near: Influence of Spatial Distance on Brand Evaluation. Journal of Marketing.

[Link to paper]

🏫 Affiliations

School of Business, Nanjing University; National Sun Yat-sen University; and Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. China, Taiwan, and United States

Remember: This is a scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.

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