Posted on August 29, 2014
One commonly-used way of educating the public about factory farming and vegan eating is through distributing printed materials such as flyers, leaflets, and vegetarian starter guides.
One of the most important sections of such literature is the cover. As the ‘packaging’ of its content, the cover has only seconds to grab the attention of readers, leading them to either take the literature and begin reading it, or to ignore it and keep walking. The picture on the cover can be worth a thousand words, as the adage says, but only if it is relevant and can evoke an interest in reading the pages that follow.
To measure the effectiveness of different types of cover photos in motivating people to read a pro-vegetarian leaflet, an online survey was conducted by The Humane League in the summer of 2014. Twelve cover photos were tested, each with a single image that represented one of four categories: people (3 versions), food (1 version), happy animals (4 versions), and animals suffering in factory farms (4 versions). Respondents were presented with a random selection of 3 leaflet covers and were asked to select the one they would most like to read. A total of 800 meat-eating respondents age 18 and up completed the survey.
Overall, respondents were mostly likely to want to read literature whose covers had images of people or images of food.
While only one cover version featured a photo of food (a veggie burger), that cover was the most popular of the 12 covers tested. Among covers with images of people, those showing happy and healthy non-celebrities were preferred over a cover showing several celebrities.
Covers featuring happy animals were preferred less than those featuring people or food. Among covers with happy animals, those with a cute baby chick or a piglet ranked higher than those with a baby calf or fish.
The leaflets least likely to be selected by respondents were those whose covers depicted suffering farm animals. The cruelty images tested in this survey represented a continuum of conditions typical of factory farms; however even the most moderate images evoked avoidance among respondents. Interestingly, the cover depicting happy fish was as unpopular as the covers featuring cruelty images, suggesting that fish do not evoke as much interest or empathy as do other types of farm animals.
Analysis of the overall categories showed a slight context effect, with the food cover being preferred whenever it was presented, regardless of the other category options presented with it. It should be noted that given the random assignment of covers, the food category was not shown to every respondent.
The goal of pro-veg materials is to inspire consumers to reject the cruelty imposed on animals and to move toward a vegan diet. However, printed pro-veg materials will not inspire people to change unless people are first willing to take the literature and open it up.
The results of this study suggest that using images of delicious vegan food or images of healthy, attractive non-celebrities on the cover of printed veg advocacy material is most likely to generate reader interest. Images of cute happy farm animals are overall less effective, and cover images depicting the cruel reality of factory farming are least likely to inspire people to take and read pro-literature.
Full Report and Data Set
|Document (with link)||Description|
|Full report||Includes cover photos used in the study (pdf)|
|Data set||SPSS file|
[May 2, 2018] A synthesis of our knowledge of the survey methods used for the five studies mentioned above is reported in Humane League Labs Report E005R08.