How warning labels and pictures influence purchasing behavior

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According to a recent study, warning labels and, in particular, shock images on sweets influence purchasing behavior: They can persuade people to buy fewer sugary products or even avoid them altogether.

According to the study published in the specialist journal “BMC Public Health,” shocking images, similar to those on cigarette packs, are the most effective. Study participants confronted with this were less willing to buy sweets.

Short-term health problems
According to the University of Göttingen, in an online survey, 1,040 people provided information on how they perceive different types of warnings about short-term health consequences such as tooth decay or more long-term consequences such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Warnings about short-term health problems attracted more attention. This may be because the consequences are more immediate,” explains Clara Mehlhose, first author of the study, in a press release.

The researchers’ conclusion: Warnings are worthwhile. They are most effective when they use emotional and already familiar symbols or images. Shock images and red stop signs have a particularly strong influence on purchasing decisions. The study provides important insights for developing strategies that promote healthy eating and, thus, improve public health. Future studies will show the impact of health warnings and other health measures, such as a sugar tax.

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