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Dr Mark Haselgrove, Behavioural Scientist and right-hander, shares his thoughts

Creating a brand, marketing materials and strategies is a complex art involving many steps to craft the perfect outcome. Within this, there are different factors that can come into play when thinking about aspects of your brand and the creative to match it. To help nail your brief, an important factor we always look at is consumer behaviour and the science behind it.

Now, there are hundreds of different aspects to behavioural science when it's brought into marketing. One subject that our Behavioural Scientist, Dr. Mark Haselgrove, has been looking into recently is the ‘right-hand side of space’ and if we as humans have a bias towards liking one side more than another. And guess what? We do!

Mark shared his thoughts with us on this subject.

"Recently, a colleague told me that they were analysing the responses from some consumers who had put together mood boards about sugar and sweetness. Interestingly they noticed that all the positive aspects about sugar were put on one side of the mood board and all the negative aspects on the other.

Weird. Is one side of space liked more than the other? Time to dive into the behavioural science literature to find out.

Daniel Casasanto, a psychologist at Stanford University, wanted to know the answer to this question too. He asked right- and left-handed people to draw pictures of cartoon animals that were either liked or disliked. About 70% of the time, he found that people drew the animal that they liked on the side of the page that corresponded to their dominant hand.

It wasn’t just people’s drawings of animals that showed this bias. In another study, job applicants and products on a shopping list were presented in left- and right-hand columns on a page. Left handers, in particular, showed a preference for people and products presented on the side of space that corresponded to their dominant hand.

People seem to associate their dominant side of space with things that they like. Why?

One explanation for this bias puts it down to the statistics of how we interact with the world. Typically, we approach and interact with things that we like more than things that we dislike. At the same time, by definition, we interact more with the world with our dominant hand. Consequently, through association, our dominant side of space becomes connected with stuff that we like more than the non-dominant side does."

"About 90% of the world’s population is right-handed, and so for them swiping-right to indicate that they like someone or something may seem particularly natural. In a market-place where small gains might add up to make an important difference it is worth keeping in mind that for most people, items in the right-hand side of space are liked more than items on the left."

This is fascinating, but what does it mean for marketers?

With the knowledge that the majority of people favour the right-hand side of space compared to the left (as a higher percentage of the population is right-handed), any marketing material and creative that is made should feature important facts, copy or images on the right-hand side. It’s vital to make the connection of the asset being positive or good for your consumer.

For example, think about the last ad you saw on social media; the call-to-action button is nearly always on the right side to entice you to that product or service; similarly, Facebook sponsored content sits on the right-hand side of the webpage. You could say it’s just a coincidence, but we don't think so. This has become the norm, and as we’ve said before, we are creatures of habit. We practically subconsciously expect to see the CTA or complete button on the right-hand side. The right-hand side feels natural to most people.

Another takeaway from this is to think about usability. Focusing on how your consumer will use the product, and portraying this in your marketing, could be a big benefit for your brand. It’s not only in marketing materials we’re seeing this trend - retail stores have been doing this for years. They know that the majority of people will turn right and sweep the shop from left to right. Top brands spend a huge amount of resources optimising their store layouts, and selling premium positions based on consumer behaviour. The user journey around a space favouring the right-hand side is no coincidence.

Next time you’re creating any marketing assets, be sure to think about how the layout could affect your messaging and typical user journey. It's always worth testing to see what your audience engages with most.

Mark Haselgrove

Here at Together, we are more than just a marketing agency. We go beyond the brief mixing big brand thinking with behavioural insights to produce powerful and engaging experiences - whether your audience is left or right-handed!

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Cool behavioural fact of the day

Did you know that in addition to having a dominant hand, you have a dominant eye too?

Make a ring by touching the tips of your thumbs and the tips of your index fingers together and look through this ring, with both eyes open, at an object in the distance (e.g. the top of the corner of the room you are in). Now, without moving your hands or head, take it in turns to look through the ring with only one of your eyes open. You will notice that the object in the distance is centred in the ring for only one of your eyes. This is your dominant eye.

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