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The Brain is Primed to Take What is Handed to us

By Sergio Romijn

The telecommunication service provider Lebara wants to make it easy for migrant communities to keep in touch with their family and friends all over the world. Lebara is one of Europe’s fastest-growing mobile companies employing over 62 nationalities worldwide in six countries. Until recently, Lebara’s clients stayed connected globally using a prepaid plan for telephoning, texting and mobile data. Recently, it expanded the company into the SIM-only subscription market. To obtain the highest conversion rates for the SIM-only subscriptions, it is important to design the most effective SIM-only poster. Therefore, Lebara was looking for ways to optimize the existing poster design based on relevant psychological theory and to predict poster success using implicit research.


By capturing customer choices made by the subconscious and decisive system 1, Braynz obtains reliable test results and predicts which posters will have the highest conversion rates. To answer Lebara’s question, a binary choice task was used during which the subjects repeatedly selected their preferred posters out of two options within a limited amount of time. This enabled Braynz to deliver valuable insights in customer preference-based decision-making while avoiding the opinion-based discussion on poster design.

The 300 subjects decided between the original Lebara campaign poster and 20 new posters optimized by Braynz based on relevant principles, as categorized into the following five groups: attention, perception, emotional value, behavioral activation and persuasion techniques. The latter included the handgrip theory. Implicit poster preference of the subjects was measured by calculating the captured percentage and average reaction time for each poster, after which the posters were ranked 1 to 21.

The binary choice task was conducted on Braynz’s implicit research platform. This online platform is suitable for mobile, tablet, laptop and desktop, so the task could easily be performed by a large number of respondents in a short space of time. The studies conducted on Braynz’s research platform are quick and fun to participate in. Results can be delivered fast without sacrificing quality or reliability. Besides a number of variants on the binary choice task, the platform holds other reaction time-based experimental paradigms such as the Greenwald implicit association task and conceptual priming tasks.


As expected because science-based guidelines were followed in the design phase, almost all of the posters designed by Braynz scored better on the test than the original. The three best posters designed by Braynz captured a percentage of 76%, 75% and 72% (Figure 1), which means that in 76%, 75% and 72% respectively of the times presented, these posters were chosen as most appealing and activating. In contrast, the original poster was ranked 19th out of 21 with a score of 40%, which is below chance level (Figure 2).

Figure 1 (left): Top 3 posters (percentage won respectively 76%, 75% and 72%)
Figure 2 (right): Original poster Lebara

In the design of the posters ranked first and third, the handgrip theory was applied. This theory states that different types of grip prime different emotions and brain responses, and that handing over an item makes us want to take it. Applying this theory on handgrip will make a product look more appealing, which in turn results in higher conversion rates (Kühn et al. 2016; Figure 3). In addition, the posters ranked first and second were improved during designing by increasing the perceptual fluency. The aim was to keep the message simple, e.g. euro signs were removed, as was information on monthly payments.

Figure 3: Hands with power grip, delicate precision grip and handover grip

Moreover, three different theories were included in the poster that was ranked second. An appealing photo was used to elicit a positive emotional response in the brain which potentially led to the high ranking. Additionally, the theory about gaze cuing was applied. The hands point towards the message. Therefore, the client will automatically gaze at the main message of this poster. Lastly, anchoring was used in the three Lebara balloons, which made the total amount of data seem large and the price seems small.


To conclude, the posters that were designed by Braynz based on relevant psychological theory scored better overall on implicit preference than the original poster. The results could potentially be explained by adding emotions to the posters, by using relevant message enhancing photos. Moreover, wanting and reaching out were enhanced by using hand and body gestures to prime the brain. Lastly, we kept the posters simple and improved perceptual fluency to the newly created posters.

Final thoughts

The current study shows a combination of the application of psychological principles to improve poster design and implicit research, which resulted in interesting insights that hold commercial value for Lebara. Starting the project, Braynz was asked to optimize the existing design of Lebara’s poster, while designing the posters from scratch could have led to even more promising results. Additionally, testing the newly designed posters in the real shopper environment and correlating these results with the current results would be an interesting next step.


This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook. Order your copy today!