It's that time of the year again - the time when uni finalists are being bombarded with requests to fill out the infamous National Student Survey (NSS). You may have seen these posters around the Warwick campus, offering you an opportunity to 'SHAPE the future of Warwick quicker than you can eat a FREE LUNCH'.
On the poster, the words 'shape' and 'free lunch' are printed in a bold font, attracting the attention of students passing by. Understandably, the promise of a free lunch, in the form of 5 pounds gifted on the Eating @ Warwick card, is an incentive that needs to be communicated. So what evidence is there to support the use of a bold font, in persuasive messages?
A study by Lohse (1996) was aimed at determining how various characteristics of advertisements, such as their size, colour, and whether they are bold or plain, influence consumer information processing behaviour.
The participants were asked to flick through the adverts in yellow page directories, in alphabetical order, and choose their preferred businesses. Their eye movement data was collected, together with their choices of the businesses that attracted them most. Some of the adverts were never seen by the participants throughout their quick scan, and the study attempted to pick out the characteristics of the adverts that were indeed noticed.
One of the particularly relevant findings was that bold listings were viewed 42% more than plain listings (as indicated by the chart below).
What is the significance of this for NSS and the design of the poster? Anyone who has been on Warwick University campus knows, that our wall space is always filled with posters from various clubs, societies, advertisements of new films, events, employer presentations and more. As we pass by, most of them never get noticed or cause us to stop and process them. The primary goal is therefore to get the student to actually see the message among all the other messages competing for the viewers' attention. Indeed, Lohse (1997) showed that consumers spent 54% more time on the adverts they ended up choosing as their preferred ones, which shows that initial attention is an important predictor of subsequent behaviour.
Therefore, using a bold font in this case to attract attention to what is a great incentive for every student, seems to be an example of effective use of advertising principles in a non-advert message.
Lohse, G. L. (1997). Consumer eye movement patterns on yellow pages advertising. Journal of Advertising, 26(1), 61-73.