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How Animation Affects Consumers’ Perception of Product Size

How Animation Affects Consumers' Perception of Product Size

He (Michael) Jia, B. Kyu Kim and Lin Ge

In video ads, products cannot be shown at their actual physical sizes. When no explicit size information or point of reference is provided, product size may be unclear to consumers. Given the potential ambiguity and the importance of size assessment in consumer preference formation, it is highly beneficial for marketers to know what visual cues consumers might use to infer the physical size of a product shown in video ads. A new Journal of Marketing study seeks to shed light on this important issue.

Video advertising often involves dynamic presentations of products that are displayed to move in a lively fashion, similar to how animals move. For instance, an audio speaker can be animated to flash in, bounce, turn around, or spin actively in video ads although it cannot move spontaneously in reality. In this case, the overall animated movement pattern may look similar to various movements insects or birds perform in the air, fishes perform in the water, dancers perform on the stage, or superheroes perform in movies. As another example, when a Swiss Army knife is animated to unfold its moveable parts (e.g., blade and corkscrew) or transform its shape, these movements may also to some extent resemble the way animals move their body parts. When creating video ads, graphic designers can animate products to move either faster or slower. We conducted a series of experiments to examine whether and how the animated movement speed of a product (e.g., the speed at which a product is animated to rotate, vibrate, or bounce as a whole, move its parts, or transform its shape) displayed in video ads can influence consumers’ size assessment of the product.

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We found a speed-based scaling effect, meaning that consumers estimate the size of a product to be smaller when the product is animated to move faster in video ads. In addition, consumers are more inclined to base product size assessment on animated movement speed when they are less familiar with the focal product category. Moreover, a product’s animated movement speed is more likely to color product size assessment for consumers who perceive the product’s animated movement pattern as more similar to animals’ movement patterns.

Our findings offer important implications for marketers, graphic designers, and online advertisers. For products for which a small size is preferred by consumers due to considerations of portability or storage constraint (e.g., mobile devices), practitioners can animate products’ movements to be fast in video ads to communicate a small product size. In contrast, for edible products (e.g., food and drinks) and household products (e.g., detergents), consumers generally consider large product size desirable. Practitioners should avoid fast animated movements for these products in video ads if they adopt a value-based positioning (i.e., a larger quantity for the same price).

To leverage the speed-based scaling effect, practitioners can animate a product to move in a fashion similar to animals’ movement patterns at the video ad creation stage. Practitioners can also direct consumers’ attention to animals that remind consumers of the inverse relationship between movement speed and physical size; for instance, by showing a bird flying around the focal product that is animated. Furthermore, online advertisers could try to identify and target consumers who are less familiar with the focal product category through tracking their prior purchase or browsing histories, given that these consumers are more likely to base product size assessment on animated movement speed.

In the contemporary digital era, consumers are constantly exposed to product videos from pop-up ads and banners when they browse online, from in-stream ads when they stream music and movies, from in-app ads when they play games on their smart devices, and from large LED signs when they are in commercial districts or inside shopping malls. When creating video ads, practitioners should be aware of the general negative relationship between animated movement speed and size assessment. Guided by this principle, they can determine the ideal animated movement speeds for their products through speed calibration tests tailored to their products’ natures and marketing communication objectives.

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From: He (Michael) Jia, B. Kyu Kim, and Lin Ge, “Speed Up, Size Down: How Animated Movement Speed in Product Videos Influences Size Assessment and Product Evaluation,” Journal of Marketing.

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He (Michael) Jia is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Hong Kong.

B. Kyu Kim is Associate Professor of Marketing, School of Business, Yonsei University, South Korea.

Lin Ge is a doctoral student, CUHK Business School, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.