The Role of Stimuli Display Method and Cognitive Goals on Consumers’ Visual Attention to Product Packages

Vanessa Lin & Zorica Kovacevic

Student thesis: Master thesis


The competitive landscape is intensifying for many industries, particularly for the FMCG industry. This increases the need not only for differentiation in terms of offering a distinct visual identity but also for understanding of consumer information processing, given that (purchasing) decisions are made in-store and packages need to stand out from the competition on the shelf. In a retail context, the principle is that what is not seen, is unsold – which makes it important for firms to understand how consumers allocate their attention and interact with package designs. As product package is the closest point of contact between the consumer and a brand, it is attracting more interest and investment from academics and practitioners. Packaging is a relevant means of product differentiation and an integrated marketing tool. One approach to understand what attracts consumers attention to a package is to study their eye movements as they are reflective of their information processing. On account of this, eye-trackers are gaining more relevance and thus are being applied more in both commercial and academic practices. Yet, most of the existing eye-tracking studies investigate visual attention to stimuli on screen as two-dimensional pictures. This poses a question regarding the generalizability of screen-based findings to real-life behavior, as there are evidence that suggests a difference. Therefore, this study investigates visual attention to different package design elements presented as screen images (two-dimensional) and as physical products (three-dimensional), employing both a free-viewing paradigm and a task-viewing paradigm. The empirical study presented in this thesis demonstrates that when consumers free-view package designs, the total viewing time on package elements differs in the two conditions. In addition, a significant difference between cognitive goals and participants’ allocation of attention was found for both real-life setting and screenbased setting. More specifically, free-viewing led to an increased viewing time on AOI Text, whereas the taskviewing triggered a more uniform viewing pattern, implying that the cognitive goal overruled the impact of the stimulus presentation method. However, this study showed significant difference between the free-viewing and the task-viewing and participants allocation of attention in both viewing conditions, in terms of TTFF. More specifically, the results showed that during the task-viewing the AOIs Brand (in physical and screen condition) and Pictorial (screen condition) were viewed significantly faster indicating that participants particularly relied on the brand element to perform the task. Thus, our findings revealed that the stimulus display method has an impact on how consumers allocate their attention, thereby challenging the assumption that results from screen-based studies can be generalized to viewing behavior (information processing) in the three-dimensional world. This has important implications for both commercial and academic research.

EducationsMSc in International Marketing and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages108
SupervisorsJesper Clement