When deciding to offer a discount on your product or service, you probably spend a lot of time determining the right price--perhaps a percentage off or some other calculation is applied. You spend so much time thinking about the discount itself, but do you spend any time at all considering the font size of the numbers on the price tags? 

I'm guessing the answer is probably no--but that is a big mistake. What if I told you one study shared by DPeter Steidl in his book Neurobranding found that the font size of the discounted numbers on a price tag impacted the sales by 28 percent? Would that get your attention?

Literal Brain

The big problem is, the brain of the shopper makes an association that is completely opposite of what we logically think should make the most sense. 

What do you do if you want to draw attention to something? You'd think to make it stand out: bigger, bolder, possibly in a thicker font. But when it comes to prices, that isn't always the best strategy. 

You see, the literal brain uses the size to help determine which is better between two price options. Size and value go hand and hand in this case. Let me show you what I mean:


  small font

Which draws your attention more? And which do you look at second? Now, let's look at this with numbers:

   was $299

NOW $179!

This is how most retailers do it--make the sale price bigger and more obvious. The old price likely has a line drawn through it. As you can see, the bigger, bolder font makes the whole association with that price feel, well, bigger. Let's look at the opposite:

WAS $299

   now $179

Same numbers. Same words. Same order. Same fonts. But when they are reversed it feels completely different. The new discounted price feels smaller, right?

That is because the concept of "small" is congruent between the price and the size of the text, making it easier for the brain to process quickly. 

As a 2005 article in the Journal of Consumer Psychology called "Size Does Matter" found, when concepts associated with "small" or "low" were connected to the sale price (including congruent font size and the words "low friction" to describe a feature of the product being advertised) both influenced the brain's perception on the sale price and likelihood to buy.

Anchoring: Why you want to see the sale price second.

Another reason this works so well for discounts is that seeing the original, higher price first is actually incredibly important for setting an anchor, a concept coined by Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman and his research partner Amos Tversky

The first number the brain sees becomes the anchor, and value is adjusted off of that number. If the lower price is seen first it becomes the stated value and anything higher feels big by comparison. If instead the higher price is seen first, it becomes the anchor and the lower, sale price feels smaller by comparison.

Making the old price bigger and bolder so it stands out serves double duty in the price tag scenario: it draws the attention for the literal association of "small font = small price" and ensures the higher number becomes the price anchor, increasing the impact. 

And, while I am talking about this in terms of price "tags" this works and can be implemented any time discount pricing is displayed. That includes websites, brochures, price sheets, and more. 

Percentages: When big, bold font is your friend.

You have seen the giant signs with the huge font that only says "75 PERCENT OFF!"

Percentage off is a good time to use a big, chunky font because you want to showcase the size of the discount. You want it to appear as large as possible to establish its value. 

When considering how to use font type and size, take a step back and think about the most literal association the brain could make. If you boil it down to the smallest elements, are those communicating the bigger message?