Tight Cultures Prefer Tight Logos: Semiotics of Space Differs across Cultures

Click here to access the slides

Click here to access the slides


Transcript of recording with Dr Tanvi Gupta – generated automatically by HappyScribe which means it will be about 80% accurate – if you spot confusing errors, please email ray@new-mr.com. The timestamps are included to help you jump directly to a point of interest.


[00:00:06.040] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So today, I’ll be presenting to you one of our forthcoming papers in the Journal of Consumer Research, which is titled Safe Together Vulnerable, like how interstitial space impacts Logo’s Impacts Brand Attitudes in Diet versus Loose Cultures. So I have co-authored this paper with Professor Henry Cabot from Boston College. And in this paper we basically look at the meaning of empty space within Logo’s and how different cultures interpret the same empty space differently. The logos are actually carriers of brand meaning, and we all know that auto companies tend to spend a lot of money and a lot of thinking to come up with Fetlock when there’s a lot of research that goes behind that.


[00:00:50.590] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

And one of the main goals of visual branding is to design logos in such a way that they cannot be specific desired brand associations or specific associations about a particular product. So in this research, we have focused on the Association of Product Safety. So whether the logo connotes our sense of safety or not in terms of the design. So what have we come so far in terms of knowing which design features SKU safety? So if you look at the design literature, so far, there has been some research and particularly studies that have shown that when you have logos that have a boundary around the brand name, so a boundary creates a sense of protection around the brand.


[00:01:42.190] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

And this actually creates a sense of safety. And then there is another stream of literature that shows that. The type of font, all the typeface that you use in logos could create a sense of safety or not. And it has been shown that when those ambiguous typefaces, it tends to reduce the sense of safety that people derive from that logo. And then there’s also studies that have shown that the way the elements within the logo with the visual symbols, the way they’re arranged, also tends to connote safety.


[00:02:18.580] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So if you have a design which has a stable center of gravity, which you think would not topple over, so those kind of balanced designs then don’t connote safety, whereas unbalanced looking designs tend to reduce the sense of safety that people derive. And in this paper, actually, we are looking at the way space is added within the. Also in the brand name as one more possible design feature that could influence the way people process safety. So getting into space itself, if we actually look at the field of visual anthropology, it has been studied by this vigilant and called Waterman’s, where he says that people’s response to emptiness is any kind of a design could be classified into two categories.


[00:03:12.860] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

The first is harder likely, which is the fear of empty spaces and the second is more directly, which is the love for empty spaces. So how directly actually has been observed and recorded a lot in primitive societies, so if you see any kind of art done by primitive societies like tribal, like there, they don’t they are not comfortable leaving any empty spaces in between their designs. They tend to fill up every space. And that filling up actually gives them a sense of comfort and completeness that is leaving empty spaces in between really makes them feel discomfort and unsafe.


[00:03:52.270] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

Whereas the other response to empty spaces and more likely, which is the love for empty spaces where and be seen as a static and beautiful. And this is mostly saying in civilized societies are higher classes, that empty space marks as a class of work-based, or when if you look at the whole minimalism minimalistic art movement of people tend to associate emptiness with the. Class and distinction. So this is, again, not like another kind of response that people could have when it comes to Antinous individualism.


[00:04:30.170] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So we have seen a lot of evidence of more likely looking very well in individual branding, for example, in advertising would have come across this really sleek and premium looking ads with the whole pages empty and there’s just some small text on a small image in the corner. So this potential Conforto status and expense expensiveness, and it also eases the processing of the consumer when they’re looking at the ad. And it also connotes that burning money by just buying such a huge ad space when you just want to say one word.


[00:05:08.000] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

But then what about space within logos? So so far, the search has looked like advertising and looked at retail. But then when you talk about logos and the space within logos, do you think more likely is in place or is it automatically like what could be happening? So we have to explore that question. We actually looked at this design feature called Tracking. So you have tight tracking was loose tracking, which is basically the interstitial space between the logos.


[00:05:41.170] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

On the brand name and logo, and these are some examples of slightly cracked logos versus loosely correct logos. So so far, when you look at the semiotic functions of space, so what exactly does space mean to people? How to the process? So we have talked about more actually so far, which is about empty space, working as a signal for capital. So even if you look at the physical spaces like ownership of property, we see that rich people tend to own bigger houses, whereas people with less money tend to live in a more living, more grander homes or grand societies.


[00:06:20.380] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So space itself is like a capital and having more space or having the ability to express yourself and occupy a lot of space is a signal of prestige and status which has been shown and then spaces emptiness. So if you look at advertising, if there’s that many elements clustered on to the same small space of that ad. If there’s emptiness in between, it actually eases your processing, so spaces like emptiness where there’s nothing to be processed, it’s like a breath taking a break from the information.


[00:06:53.540] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So when that is like one possible function of empty space. But when we are talking about adding space between letters of a word, then the function of that space becomes separation. So in that context, space is actually acting as a. A force that is separating something which was always meant to be together. So then what is happening is this particular function of this space, it’s adding vulnerability. So it’s signaling a sense of vulnerability because you’re separating old things which are supposed to come together.


[00:07:30.550] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

And this is something which aligns back to the whole directly kind of response to empty space. In our research, we actually look at the metaphor of proximity, strength or separation as vulnerability. So this is basically the metaphor of multiple things which are close together, bound tightly together, tend to be stronger. But when you separate them, separate them into individual pieces, then each individual piece becomes vulnerable to threat. So you would have come across this fabled story where a father asks a kids to buy up all the sticks together and try and ask them to try to break that bunch.


[00:08:11.530] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

It’s very difficult to break the bunch, but when you separate the bunch in the individual sticks, each stick is very easy to break. So then the separation actually makes people miserable. And even if we look at physics the way molecular structures of different states of matter. So you know that solids have a very tight molecular structure with everything close that closely bound together. The molecules, that is liquids and gases have a very fluid and everything is moving apart.


[00:08:40.510] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

And we know from physical experience that solids tend to be much durable, and that is liquids and gases tend to be more vulnerable and malleable. And even when you look when you look at the actually social experiences of people, also whenever you’re facing any threat, the people tend to hold together in the group to protect each other. Whereas if you’re all alone, you tend to be more vulnerable to any kind of social threat that you’re facing. So these experiences tend to map to other hypotheses that when it comes to Logo’s tightly arranged elements, the branch safety or product safety that is loosely floating elements tend to reduce that sense of safety.


[00:09:25.240] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

And then we bring in culture as a moderate. So it’s not that this particular association is always universal and applies across what we were looking at culturally bisnis as a moderator or a situation where this effect may or may not work so culturally. Titmus is actually a social adaptation to threats because we are looking at external threats, acting upon a certain body, and that body responds to that trick. So tight cultures are actually associated with historical exposure to threat, chronically exposed to threats like Congreso, for example, countries like India and Pakistan, they have been attacked by invaders from centuries and even neighboring countries attacking each other and certain ecological threats.


[00:10:16.830] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

There have been like floods. And so there have been a lot of threats that have chronically been there in these regions. And that’s why people tend to be wired to respond to threats in a very different way compared to loose cultures that have chronically not been exposed to threats. And they have had a more flourishing and a more safe environment. So that might be structurally having been they haven’t created those structures or by default respond to threats or to safeguard themselves from threats.


[00:10:48.820] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So we thought that tightness and looseness would be like a. A situation where this affect my four and five year, not necessarily doesn’t necessarily only do for my country, even within the US, for example, the French, the 50 states within us also differ in the level of crisis in business. For example, the southern states are more tighter, whereas the Western states are more looser. And even it could also apply in the context of industries and organizations like, for example, if it’s an airline industry, that would tend to be much more vital because they have exposed to much more risks and threats in their operations, whereas a lack of creative creative agency that’s into design might be more loose, like they might not be having that many stringent norms and rules to really keep everything tight.


[00:11:43.560] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So so tightness, looseness is something that we thought would impact the way people respond to visual, bisnis and looseness in the design. So this is what was our conceptual framework, basically, we said that interstitial space in logos would impact product safety and this would actually be dependent on the cultural tightness and closeness of the consumer and which would eventually make somebody really have a favorable or unfavorable impression of the brand. And this we actually tested it empirically through five studies.


[00:12:20.750] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So I just take you briefly through all the studies that we did show in the first study. We actually. Looked at them archival data from real world brands in the marketplace, so we have the baby data set from Young and Rubicam where they have like around fifteen thousand consumers across us, have created around 700 US brands on various imagery barometers. So we actually looked at the product safety, a proxy for product safety, a reliable, secure and trustworthy.


[00:12:54.400] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

And we actually visually coded all of the seven hundred logos on the extent of interstitial space that is present in between the text of that law. So these are some examples of the compact compact logos without much space between the text. And these are examples of some of the specious laws which have a lot of space between the text. And then we ran the analysis and we found that as space increases, people’s preference for that brand decreases and this particular preference is mediated by product safety.


[00:13:32.210] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So it mirrors the same effect, same air space increases people’s perception of safety coming from those logos comes down and hence brand preference also comes down. So this is like a like a pilot, an effect that we found in the real market data. So we thought of going deeper into it and looking at conducting some experiments with some fictitious logos. So what we did in the next two days, we brought in cultural looseness and as I mentioned, that other states differ across in terms of the tightness and looseness of the culture in that place.


[00:14:10.940] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

And as you can see on this map, you see these southern states are very tight, whereas the western ones are the loosest. So we actually conducted an online survey where we showed people either a tight or loose version of of a fictitious brand of grocery shopping app and ask them to rate the brand on safety and attitude. So it was a between subjects. So each person saw any one logo not bought. And then we actually then compared the responses across the conditions.


[00:14:46.040] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

And we see that it’s only in tight cultures that this, I hypothesized, felt really strong and that that makes sense because tight cultures are wired to look at the threats and see if the signals and suddenly so rare, whereas in most cultures they have indifferent. They don’t care about the spaces they have between a logo. So tight cultures that we see that as space increases, people’s perceptions of safety and branding comes down. And then we did the same study, we replicated the same study, but instead of just looking at the regional level of vagueness, we actually looked at it as a personality variable.


[00:15:28.290] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

We asked, we measure the cultural tightness as an individual attitude towards norms following rules. So we picked up the measure from identifying those people and we replicated the same effect again. So among loose cultures that they don’t get. But when you come to tight cultures, again, space tends to reduce the sense of safety and attitude. And then the fourth study was a field experiment where we again went back and tried to do a real world experiment with real people as not in a controlled and light experiment set up.


[00:16:09.360] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So what we did is we created a website which talked about the online sales people or how to how to use online and how to keep your data safe online. And we made two versions of the logo for that particular Web site. So these are the two versions you have to come back and the speeches. And then we actually manipulated tightness again by region by targeting whether this ad is targeted at the states or the loser states within us. And we also brought in a the condition, which is whether the website on which this ad is appearing, that Google is glad that the website has content regarding safety related topics or general topics.


[00:16:56.120] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So you had the placement, you know, the keywords that the page has. So like insurance, fire safety, those kind of topics, which is just a control condition without any specific topic. And then we actually go out on our own, no more than 11000 impressions, and we looked at just the click through rate of how how much are people clicking on that ad? So here we actually found the same effect that we had in the safety condition where the loose cultures are indifferent front which kind of logo is used, whereas when it comes to bite cultures, the species logo really drastically reduced the click through rate of the guide.


[00:17:38.170] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

The reason, the control condition, we see both cultures behaving in a similar way. So this kind of relates back to our first study when we saw that in general, the effect is there where people tend to. Know your on the safety perception’s comes down when space is added, but when safety is when the safety need is really high, your safety issues are really salient, then cultures tend to behave, continue behaving in the same with very loose cultures.


[00:18:10.140] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

The gets so washed out. And that’s what we expect there is that this is happening is because for loose cultures, spaciousness might actually connote safety, because we have also seen like the more likely thing coming in with people from loose cultures tend to really value their personal sense of space much more. And for them, if something were still crammed or cluttered, it makes them feel like it’s too risky. So that is also that might be like an opposite effect actually in loose cultures.


[00:18:46.650] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So we just replicated that Creevey interaction again with the lab study, where, again, we use the similar context of an online grocery store and. You know, you hide up like an online shopping app and decide whether it is about ordering health care medicine products, says you are already some board games or some kind of a game game to play at home. So we kind of manipulated the importance of safety, product safety by bringing in, like, cultivatable.


[00:19:21.870] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

And again, we found the same effect. So basically, like these very subtle five studies through which we showed that the presence of interstitial space can actually reduce the sense of product safety, especially inside cultures, consistently for loose cultures. It might have that effect in a regular situation, but when safety concerns become really high at that point, there might be an event that flips open kind of concerns because for them safe for them, space can also be a source of safety.


[00:19:55.780] – Dr Tanvi Gupta

So I’m really looking forward to your questions and the. Knowing more about how this research can help you and what could be further explored in this space, thanks.