Visual association--through a 2-year-old's eyes

In recent televised interviews, separate groups of progressively younger children were shown logos or icons of some of the country's best-known brands.

As the moderator displayed cards showing each image, she asked the children sitting before her to respond with the name of the brand.

Forbidden were brand taglines, product photography, and prompting off-camera from mom or dad.

The oldest children—first graders—
correctly identified each image—from the ubiquitous Golden Arches representing McDonald's and the Burger King bun to Colonel Sanders' Kentucky Fried Chicken, the blue-hat captain on Cap'n Crunch cereal boxes and the green, circular Starbucks logo.

As the moderator quizzed the preschoolers, fewer children were familiar with all of the images. But even at age 2—kids too young to read and barely speaking their first words—they gleefully shouted, “‘Donald's!” at the first sight of the Golden Arches.

This exercise demonstrates how highly visual humans have become. But the tendency in design is still to clutter the package front with secondary information that clouds the main message of the brand. We've all chuckled at design conferences when viewing video of consumers staring, very confused, at all the product selections before them on a store shelf. Yet, as young as age 2, kids can readily identify one fast-food restaurant, by virtue of two colorful arches, from among its many competitors.

Is there an immediate visual association between consumers and your package? If you're unsure, conduct your own version of this visual exercise. The results may yield some startling insights.

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