How to Use Halo Effect in Branding and Marketing

Image of brain scans as a metaphor for the halo effect in branding and marketing

By Nine Blaess | 6:53 min

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    What does packaging have to do with taste? Turns out, quite a lot. We tend to believe that people or things that stand out in one area will also do better in others. So, when we see well-designed packaging, we automatically attribute more value to the product itself. This is an example of the Halo Effect in branding and marketing.

    Let’s dive deeper into the topic and explore how to use the Halo Effect in your branding. But first, let’s understand what the Halo Effect actually is.

    What is the Halo Effect?

    The Halo Effect is a cognitive bias that significantly impacts our thinking and decision-making processes. Our brains naturally seek simplicity and efficiency when processing information, leading us to make quicker and more effortless judgments and decisions.

    For example, when we encounter well-designed packaging, we automatically attribute more value to the product itself. This is because our positive perception of the packaging creates a halo, casting a favourable light on the entire product and influencing our perception of its quality and desirability.

    The Research Behind the Halo Effect

    The Halo Effect has been the subject of extensive research since psychologist Edward Thorndike first mentioned it in his book “A Constant Error in Psychological Ratings” back in 1920.

    Subsequent studies have uncovered fascinating insights into the influence of the Halo Effect on our perceptions and decision-making processes.

    For example:

    • In 1968, Rosenthal and Jacobson found that teachers’ expectations of students are influenced not only by their academic achievements but also by their appearance.
    • Efran’s study in 1974 revealed that attractive offenders tend to receive more forgiving sentences, highlighting the Halo Effect in the legal system.
    • Wilson and Rule’s research in 2016 showed that defendants with a trustworthy appearance are less likely to receive the death penalty.
    • In the hospitality domain, Jaeger et al. discovered in 2019 that attractive-looking hosts can charge higher rates on platforms like Airbnb.
    • Other studies by Dion, Berscheid, and Walster (1972), Clifford and Walster (1973), and Willis and Todorov (2006) have further demonstrated the influence of the Halo Effect on social judgments, personality perceptions, and even political elections.

    These studies emphasise that appearance significantly influences our judgment and decision-making in different contexts.

    What is the Horn Effect?

    I should note that the opposite is also true. Poor design, for example, can give the impression that a product is of lower quality, even if unwarranted. In this case, we speak of the Horn Effect.

    An example of the Horn Effect in branding is when a company with a poorly designed logo is perceived as inexperienced or of lower quality. No matter the quality of their offer, the logo casts a shadow on the overall brand image that will be hard to overcome.

    For the sake of simplicity, let’s focus exclusively on the Halo Effect in this article. Let’s take a look at some ways you can use the Halo Effect in your branding and marketing strategy.

    How to Use the Halo Effect in Branding and Marketing

    Focus on Your Key Strength

    Branding is all about setting a clear focus that makes your brand stand out. By focusing on one unique brand strength and consistently highlighting it, you can avoid spreading yourself too thin and diluting your message.

    Trust in the Halo Effect, where people naturally fill in the gaps.

    What sets your brand apart from others? What makes it so unique? When you become known for something, you naturally become the first brand people think of when they want to buy something in your category. 

    For example, when I think of comfy and eco-friendly shoes, Allbirds immediately comes to mind. They have established this connection by consistently emphasising sustainability and comfort in their products and storytelling.

    And, as Ana Andejelic rightly points out, being on my mind is almost a win:

    “A company that is part of the initial consideration set is two times more likely to be purchased than a company that is considered later in the decision journey.”

    Invest in High-Quality Design

    Design is more than meets the eye. It includes your brand’s logo, typography, colours, photography, website, and more. 

    Research confirms what designers have long understood: people associate attractive packaging with high-quality products. And packaging design can influence our price perception, too. Not surprisingly, people expect a product with elaborately designed packaging (elaborate: lots of image detail, ornate typography, etc.) to cost more.

    The design also gives clues about a company, its industry and its products. For example, a simple design suggests ease of use, like Apple’s approach, while colourful designs can appear friendly and accessible, like Food Nation

    So, investing in design goes beyond aesthetics. Good design builds trust and sets positive expectations for your brand.

    Nail your Brand Messaging

    To get noticed, a focus alone is not enough. A well-defined messaging hierarchy and brand voice help highlight your brand’s strengths, solidifying them in consumers’ minds. This taps into the Halo Effect, creating a positive overall impression and setting your brand apart from competitors.

    Focus On One Product or Service

    The halo effect also occurs when you focus all your efforts on marketing a single product or service.

    For example, Apple benefited from the success of the iPod, which positively impacted how people viewed their other products. Dyson is another example. Known for their excellent vacuum cleaners, customers naturally assume that their hair dryers, for instance, must be of the same quality.

    As shown by Apple and Dyson, focusing on one product at first can be beneficial. Once customers have a positive impression of your brand, you can gradually introduce other related products.

    Boost your Customer Experience

    Every interaction a person has with your brand contributes to the customer experience—big or small. From a seamless customer journey to the return policy, each touchpoint influences the perception of your brand. 

    For example, when a customer has a good experience talking to your service representatives, this creates a positive impression of your brand as a whole. 

    Therefore, focus on delivering unforgettable experiences at every touchpoint. Address your customer’s needs promptly and go the extra mile. The overall perception of your brand depends on these aspects.

    Connect on an Emotional Level

    Create a special bond with your audience by tapping into their emotions. Use storytelling and relatable experiences to evoke positive feelings and forge deeper connections.

    These emotional connections can positively influence how customers perceive your brand, leveraging the Halo Effect to strengthen your brand image.

    For example, let’s consider Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign. By challenging conventional beauty standards and promoting body positivity, Dove established an emotional connection with their audience. Through powerful stories about diverse beauty, they fostered brand loyalty and cultivated a positive brand image.

    Use Social Proof and Testimonials

    Use social proof and customer testimonials to build trust and credibility. Positive feedback from satisfied customers can create a Halo Effect that shapes people’s perceptions of your brand.

    This provides reassurance and enhances their confidence in choosing your products or services.

    For instance, consider Uber. The brand showcases real-time driver ratings and reviews, providing social proof that reassures potential riders about the quality and safety of the service.

    Get certificates

    Just like social proof, obtaining reputable certifications, such as B Corp certification, can also enhance your brand’s credibility. These certifications demonstrate your commitment and further strengthen the positive perception of your brand.

    Leverage Celebrity Endorsements

    To boost brand awareness and create a Halo Effect, consider collaborating with well-known personalities or celebrities who align with your brand values and have a positive reputation.

    By associating your brand with influential figures, you can leverage its established credibility and expand your reach.

    For instance, Nike frequently partners with renowned athletes such as Serena Williams and Cristiano Ronaldo. These collaborations create a Halo Effect, enhancing Nike’s brand image and attracting a broader audience that admires the success and qualities represented by these athletes.

    Make Use of Community Engagement

    To strengthen your brand and foster a sense of community, actively engage with your audience. Encourage user-generated content, respond to feedback, and participate in relevant discussions.

    By cultivating a thriving community, you create a Halo Effect, where positive associations with your brand spread through word of mouth and social proof.

    A prime example is Patagonia. The brand has effectively built a passionate community. By encouraging customers to share their experiences and environmental initiatives, Patagonia amplifies its message.

    Use the Halo Effect Ethically

    But beware, the Halo Effect can have downsides too. If your brand fails to meet the expectations people have built up, they may feel let down. That’s why it’s so important to be authentic and ethical in your approach.

    Avoid misleading packaging or exaggerations. Instead, focus on maintaining transparency and authenticity. Be open about your practices to build trust. 

    For example, I’m always disappointed when brands that claim to be sustainable use single-use packaging or promote meat and dairy. It makes them appear untrustworthy.

    So, ensure your branding and advertising are respectful and avoid manipulative tactics. 

    Prioritise long-term brand building

    Prioritise long-term brand building by taking a sustainable approach. 

    Rather than chasing short-term gains, focus on building lasting connections with your audience.

    Consistently provide value, stay true to your brand identity, and nurture relationships to establish a loyal customer base that extends beyond the initial Halo Effect. By thinking ahead, you can lay the foundation for a strong and enduring brand.


    The Halo Effect can be a great tool in branding and marketing. By leveraging positive associations like well-designed packaging, you can enhance the perceived value of your products. Here are some key takeaways from this article:

    • Focus on your strengths and consistently highlight them to stand out.
    • Invest in high-quality design to build trust and positive expectations.
    • Craft a clear brand message to solidify your strengths in peoples’ minds.
    • Deliver exceptional customer experiences at every touchpoint.
    • Connect emotionally with your audience, e.g. through storytelling.
    • Use social proof, testimonials, and certifications to build credibility.
    • Consider celebrity endorsements and community engagement to amplify positive associations.
    • Use the Halo Effect ethically and authentically.
    • Prioritise long-term brand building by nurturing relationships and providing consistent value.

    By adopting these strategies, you can establish a loyal customer base and ensure the long-term success of your brand.

    If you found this article interesting, you might also like The Art of Persuasion: 10 Cognitive Biases Brands Can Leverage.


    Title image by cottonbro from Pexels

    Nine Blaess

    Nine Blaess

    Hello, I’m Nine. I blend strategy and design to craft engaging brand identities and websites that celebrate the uniqueness of each business.

    Ready to take your business to the next level?