Use “Handwritten” fonts to increase sales

Fonts that look handwritten make a product or brand feel more human, which makes us like it more. The opposite happens if a product is very functional (e.g. scissors).

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Humanizing your products and services is an effective way of improving conversions and satisfaction (for example, see previous tip: Show your service employees on your website).

Today we look at how fonts that look and feel handwritten change the perception of your product.

Previous tip: How emojis increase social media engagement (All tips here)

Handwritten fonts increase sales of hedonic products

Impacted metrics: Customer acquisition | Customer satisfaction
Channels: Packaging | Website/app | Ads

📈 Recommendation

If your product is hedonic (e.g. a decorative candle, food, fashion, experiences) use handwritten fonts in your communications (e.g. packaging, website, ads).

If your product is functional (e.g. insect-repellent candle, home repair, accounting services) use machine-written fonts in your communications.

🎓 Effects

  • The same product with a font that looks and feels handwritten is much more likely to be bought than when it’s packaging had a machine-written font (e.g. 30.4% vs 5.6% for Crispbread, 17.2% vs 3.4% for chocolate).

  • The effect is weaker when a consumer is already attached to a brand or product (e.g. a famous brand like Coca-Cola).

  • If a product is functional (e.g. building materials), the opposite happens. People are more likely to buy it if it uses a machine-written font.

(Examples of handwritten vs machine-written fonts used in the study - Click to zoom in)

(Chocolate used in one of the experiments. The one on the left was bought 17.2% of the time compared to the one on the right’s 3.4% - Click to zoom in)

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🧠 Why it works

  • Handwritten fonts give us a feeling of human presence. That creates an emotional attachment, which makes us like hedonic products more. In other words, they humanize the product.

  • When we buy a utilitarian product or service we usually look for a sturdy and cheap product or a technical and professional service. Machine-written fonts convey that message much better.

✋ Limitations

  • All experiments were performed on the packaging of physical products. The effects should hold for digital products and in different situations (e.g. a website, an ad), but this was not directly tested.

🏢 Companies using this

  • Examples include Danone’s website, the packaging of Evolution Fresh, and ads by Oreo or Whole Foods.

  • Yet, many companies don’t seem to be making use of this opportunity. They use machine-written sans serif fonts (e.g., Helvetica, Gill Sans, Futura) no matter whether their products are hedonic or functional.

⚡ Steps to implement

  • Font guidelines: handwritten fonts have irregular spacing between letters, irregular sizes across letters, irregular thickness across and within letters, and some unevenly drawn lines.

  • Consider other ways to humanize your product as well. For example, on a dairy product show an image of a farmer instead of a cow.

🔍 Study type

Lab and online experiments, United States, Germany, and Austria

📖 Research

Schroll, R., Schnurr, B., & Grewal, D. (March 2018). Humanizing products with handwritten typefaces. Journal of Consumer Research, 45(3), 648-672.

[Link to paper]

🏫 Affiliations

University of Innsbruck and Babson College. Austria and United States

Remember: This research could be disproven in the future (although this is rare). It also may 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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