Here’s a marketing test involving research participants that yielded some very interesting results. Marketing professor Raj Raghunathan and Ph.D. student Szu-Chi performed a study of two chickens and here’s what happened.

The Test

Participants were given two photos to look at. One was a healthy, plump chicken, while the other appeared thin and sickly. The researchers told the participants that the healthy chicken was a natural chicken, and the thin chicken was genetically engineered.

Researchers told half of the participants that natural chickens were healthy but less tasty, and genetically engineered chickens were tasty, but less healthy. The other half were told the opposite.

Test Results

Both study groups preferred the nice plump chicken, but for different reasons. Group 1 said they valued health above taste. Group 2 said taste was more important.

Neither group admitted they preferred the healthy chicken because it “just looked better.” Instead, they justified their emotional choices with non-emotional reasons. Ultimately, the two groups found completely opposite ways to justify the same decision.

The scientists said that “This process seems to be happening somewhat unconsciously, people are not really aware they’re coming up with these justifications. What is even more interesting is that people who claim that emotions are not that important, who consider themselves to be really rational, are actually more prone to fall into this trap.”

Using the Senses For Marketing Purposes

For marketers, this information can be very valuable. Ragunathan recommends making the emotional connection as soon as you can because once consumers have made their decision, it’s more difficult to change their mind.

Science tells us that the majority of decision making happens at the non-conscious, subliminal level and is just beginning to scratch the surface on how and why this appeal to our senses is so strong. It’s the way we “feel” about a product that often makes the difference between buying and not buying. There’s a process called ”retail theatre” that stimulates our emotions to encourage a purchase.

Take Orangina as an example. Its see-through bottle is shaped like an orange and its dimpled finish on the bottle looks and feels like an orange. The logo of a peeled orange visually reinforces that idea, solidifying the brand perception.


When the product is opened (sound), the consumer can smell the fresh orange aroma and when it’s finally consumed then all five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) are at play. When each of our 5 senses are engaged they influence our emotions and those businesses that take advantage of that fact are the ones that have a head start against the others.