The Power of the Pen

Published on February 25, 2020

Bauer Researchers Study Effect of Handwritten Font on Consumer Decisions

Marketers have long studied how to get consumers to pay attention to their product offerings in a crowded marketplace, influencing packaging and product design. But customer engagement is the new frontier!

In a recent study, C. T. Bauer College of Business researchers examine how a small, but critical, difference in labeling can drive customer engagement, which boosts the potential for driving sales.

Associate Dean of Research and Professor of Marketing Vanessa Patrick and former Bauer graduate student Anoosha Izadi, now Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, are the authors of “The Power of the Pen: Handwritten Fonts Promote Haptic Engagement,” forthcoming in the academic journal, Psychology & Marketing.

The researchers had noticed a growing number of brands that use a handwritten font for product packaging: Trader Joe’s, Disney, H-E-B’s “Primo Picks” line of groceries amongst others. After establishing in a pilot study that a considerable number of brands utilize handwritten fonts on the labels versus a straightforward printed type, Patrick and Izadi explore the question: Why are consumers drawn to engage with packaging that features hand-written script?

Their findings that a handwritten font promotes haptic engagement are based on a series of four studies: “We associate handwriting with being human and are more likely to approach something that has human likeness, to form a relationship with it,” Patrick said.

“Although participants knew the label is not really handwritten, they still associated human elements to the product because of the visual similarity of handwritten fonts to actual handwriting.”

There are a few exceptions to the rule: Products that contain “risky,” things like hot sauce or pesticides, don’t benefit from labels with anthropomorphic cues, such as a handwritten script, Patrick said.

“The key insight is that for many products, you can change something as simple as a font and enhance customer engagement. It is the crucial difference of simply seeing something on the shelf (attention) and reaching out to look at it more closely and putting it in your shopping basket (engagement and purchase)” she added.

By Julie Bonnin