NTU Singapore research reveals that consumers asso

image: Gemma Calvert, NTU neuroscientist and professor of mainstream neuroscience at NTU’s Nanyang Business School, shows diagrams from her study.
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Credit: NTU Singapore


Singapore, May 23, 2022

NTU Singapore study finds consumers associate higher-pitched sounds advertising with healthier food products

A team of researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) studying how the acoustic and visual composition of advertisements impacts perceptions, found that consumers associate a higher frequency “sonic logo” with healthier food products.

Sonic logos, also called sogos, are short melodies created to support the marketing of a specific brand.

The study also linked more uplifting visuals in advertisements to consumers’ perception that the food product they were advertising was healthier.

Conversely, consumers tended to associate serious sounding logos and advertisements with less vivid designs with unhealthy food products.

The NTU study comes at a good time, as global ad spending is expected to rise 12% to more than $795 billion.[1] (S$1.1 trillion) by the end of 2022, and the study could help marketers select the optimal AV elements to best convey their brand identity to consumers.

The study involved 180 participants, who were given either fictitious sogos generated by an online random music generator or visual cues, followed by a pair of images of food items, one healthy and one unhealthy. Participants were asked to select the food they thought best matched each sogo heard, leading them to associate each sogo with a food image.

The food images included three healthy foods (green salad, fruit salad, and tomato and cucumber salad) and three unhealthy foods (cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate chip cookies).

Gemma Calvert, NTU Neuroscientist, one of the pioneers of neuromarketing, who led the study, said, “Sensory stimuli, such as sounds and colors, play a prominent role in brand image. Sound is the fastest human sense, faster than smell, taste, sight and even touch. When this is combined with the fact that music invokes emotions in people – a big driver of brand loyalty – the importance of understanding the impact of sound on brand image rings like crystal. Our study further cemented other research that has drawn connections between the many aspects of an advertisement, providing useful insights for brand managers and their agencies seeking sensory branding for healthy food products.

Mrs. Monin Techawachirakul doctoral student from Nanyang Business School of NTU, who was the co-author of the study, said: “We propose that food brand managers who want to highlight the healthiness of their products use high-frequency sogos to improve the health appeal of foods, especially if they are products that promote health benefits or serve as healthier options.The effectiveness of sogos can be further increased by congruent packaging or visual logos that use more vivid designs to entice consumers to make healthier choices without having to assess complex information, often contained in nutrition labels.

The results have been published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Food quality and preference in March.

In another experiment with sogos, participants were asked to choose between beef burgers and soy burgers, and between healthy salads and unhealthy salads (prepared with the addition of french fries); the researchers found that the link between sogos and perceived healthiness extended to different foods within the same category.

The team also found that the pace of audio or sound used in advertisements had little to no impact on consumers’ perceptions of whether food products were healthy. However, the researchers say that tempo could be linked to other food-related behaviors, for example, while eating, playing faster music could encourage consumers to chew their food faster.

Explaining their findings, the researchers said the association between high-frequency stimuli and food safety may be the shared semantic association between frequency characteristics and food stimuli.

Professor Calvertwho is from Nanyang Business School of NTU, added, “We assume that high frequency sogos and health go hand in hand because high sounds and health are related to smallness and lightness, while low frequencies and less healthy indicators are associated because both characteristics connote size and heaviness.

Mrs Techawachirakul added, “We’d be interested in more insight into how combinations of musical parameters can convey desired product attributes beyond the healthiness trait.”

The research team hopes to dig deeper into the mechanisms in subjects’ brains through functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI (fMRI), to uncover what leads to the association between frequency and perceptions of food safety.

They will also explore the use of timbre, which is the unique pitch or quality of a sound, of different musical instruments in advertisements, and how it shapes consumers’ perceptions of whether a food product is healthy.


Notes to Editor:

The research paper entitled “Sounds healthy! Differences in audio and visual frequencies in brand sound logos change the perception of food safety» was published in Food quality and preference in March 2022. DOI 10.1016/j.foodqual.2022.104544


Media contact:

Mr Joseph Gan

Manager, Media Relations

Corporate Communications Office

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

[email protected]

About Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of engineering, commerce, science, medicine, humanities, arts and social sciences and graduate studies.

NTU is also home to world-renowned stand-alone institutes – National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory Singapore and Singapore Center for Environmental Life Science Engineering – and various leading research centers such as Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI) and Energy Research Institute @ NTU ([email protected]).

Ranked among the best universities in the world by QS, NTU has also been named the best young university in the world for the past seven years. The University’s main campus is frequently listed among the 15 most beautiful university campuses in the world and has 57 Green Mark certified building projects (equivalent to LEED certification), 95% of which are Green Mark Platinum certified. Apart from its main campus, NTU also has a campus in Singapore’s healthcare district.

Under the NTU Smart Campus vision, the University harnesses the power of digital technology and technological solutions to support better learning and life experiences, the discovery of new knowledge, and the sustainability of resources.

For more information, visit www.ntu.edu.sg


[1] magna. The global advertising market is reaching new heights and surpassing pre-Covid (2021) levels.

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