Chapter 4- Brand Expression

4.3 Atmopsherics - Environment

Space design, music, and lighting all have influence the overall customer experience. Though much of this influence occurs subconsciously, businesses who have an understanding of atmospheric influences can design stimuli to influence consumer responses. Decisions should, of course, be consistent with and in service of the overall brand.
Though atmospherics traditionally refers to the physical environment of a business, the blurring of the consumer experience between physical and digital environments advocate an omnichannel approach to atmospherics-related decisionmaking. Branding expert Matt Haig asserts brand incongruence is a precursor to brand failure; food business owners should be strategic in their choice of physical and digital stimuli to prevent clashing messages.
🏠 Space
From an evolutionary standpoint, people prefer curvilinear forms over angular ones because our brains associate sharp corners with danger. Using round forms to would create a sense of safety and warmth, promoting comfort. That's not to say angular forms should never be used; merely that it would be incongruent if the brand is centered around being homey or comforting. Sharper forms may be compatible with a more avant-garde look.
🎵 Music
Unsurprisingly, multisensory perception research advocates brand consistency. Consumers perceive the quality of a food item to be higher when background music and plate color were perceived as congruent, and rated quality as lower when the two stimuli were incongruent (perception of quality subsequently affects customer's loyalty to the brand; Cho et al., 2019). This advice applies to video content too.
Restaurants designed to be warm and welcoming like the UK's Pret a Manger would want to play slower tempo background music to match with their toned-down, natural interior while energetic restaurants serving food on high-arousal colorful plates like Yo!Sushi would prefer to play fast tempo music to match the dynamism of the space, thus enhancing customers’ food perceptions.
🕯️ Lighting
Research shows that appetite is stimulated when the ambient lighting matches the color of food. As most foods tend to be warm-toned, businesses should default to using warm lighting unless not doing is a deliberate choice for brand expression.
🎨 Color
Background, plate, and cup color had been shown to influence arousal, and subsequently, perception of taste and evaluation of food. Color influences our visual judgment of food via associations and prior experience; cues in photos can prime our expectations of sourness, sweetness, bitterness, flavor strength, and freshness.
Food pictures on your website, social media, or review sites are one of the first touchpoints consumers have with your offering; you can directly control two of these three channels.
A 2020 study (Cai & Chi) by showed that food photos with higher levels of red brightness, versus the same control image or the image with higher green brightness, are associated with greater consumer purchasing intentions. This is because red brightness is positively associated with arousal and perceived tastiness - biologically, we rely on red and green color brightness to evaluate the nutritional and taste properties of raw or natural foods. While altering red brightness has not been demonstrated to change perceptions of healthiness, increasing it does accentuate the perception of calorie content. Businesses with a health-conscious audience should cautious when manipulating the red brightness of food photos.
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