The Why #42: Why does all vegan food feel healthy?
by Dan Monheit, 20.05.22
Question submitted by Louis, Collingwood
I know exactly what you’re thinking Louis.
How could it be that this nutrient rich halva is anything but a health food? Same goes for the tub of creamy coconut yoghurt and the delicious Impossible burger that I may or may not have just consumed.
If vegan food is good for the planet, and I’m part of the planet, well, you can work it out from there.
It’s no wonder then, that if we’re out at a restaurant, feeling a little health conscious, we can be tempted to seek out some sweet salvation from the vegan menu. After all, how could all that ‘nature’ not result in food that’s a certified winner on the health front?
You have questions. I have answers. So let’s get into the meaty (tofu-y?) bit of why we’re here.
The Halo Effect
Refers to our tendency to take an initial, positive impression of a person, product or brand, and extend it to other, unrelated areas.
The heuristic was first coined by American psychologist Edward Thorndike in his 1920 research paper ‘A constant error in psychological ratings’. In this study, Thorndike asked commanding officers in the military to evaluate a variety of qualities in their subordinate soldiers.
His research discovered that high ratings in one quality, such as attractiveness, carried over to other, unrelated qualities like leadership and character. Similarly, low ratings in a single trait tended to correlate with lower ratings across the board. Thorndike concluded that people take one outstanding trait and use it to form a view about a person’s entire personality.
Seems unfair right? It gets worse.
Not only does the Halo Effect impact how we perceive others based on irrelevant personality traits, it impacts how much we think they should get paid. A study published in the Journal of Economic Psychology found that, on average, attractive wait staff earned around $1,200 US more per year than their less attractive counterparts. Ouch!
We see brands, celebs and even entrepreneurs use the Halo Effect to their benefit all the time. Take IKEA founder, the late Ingvar Kamprad for example. Though his net worth sat at $57.8 billion, he always flew economy, stayed in budget motels, drove an old Volvo and ate in IKEA cafeterias. For a business that prides itself on sharp pricing, Ingvar’s halo of frugality shone all the way from the top and set the affordable feel of the brand.
So can you see the halo now, Louis? For years, veganism has been celebrated across news, docos and major food franchises as the wholesome, plant-powered, ethically sound option on the menu. The halo shines so bright that we can’t help but extend it to unquestionable health benefits across the entire spectrum of vegan food. Yes, even the deep fried avocado tacos I’m sorry to say.
For brands, it pays to invest in projects that loudly and proudly set the north star of what they’re all about. Even if these initiatives don’t have an immediate ROI, when done well, they can elevate the desirability of every other product in the range. Tesla’s Roadster, Nike’s Vaporfly running shoes and Sullivans Cove’s $10,000 Manifesto whisky are three perfect examples. If consumers are going to judge brands by their cover, it’s worth investing in the best cover we can.
PS If you missed the last edition, you can still check out why you should (or shouldn’t) get a tattoo here.
Bad Decisions Podcast
Learn more about the Halo Effect in episode 25 of the Bad Decisions podcast.
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Want more? Learn about marketing’s past and explore its future by listening to the lastest episode of the Connected by Meta podcast series hosted by Dan.