Changing perceptions of a CSA program with different institutions’ logos

Experiment Type
Field Experiment
Increase engagement
Increase long-term savings
Focus Areas
Marketing & messaging
Behavioral Concepts
Trust Halo effect
Pennsylvania Treasury
Partner Type

What Happened

It almost worked. Although the difiference was not statistically significant, the combination of both logos was more successful at enticing individuals to click to learn more about the CSA program.

Lessons Learned

A combination of trusted logos may be benefinicial in helping increase interest in a CSA program. However, these results suggest that it is not alone sufficient.


Many CSA programs that are offered as a public initiative have moved towards developing a distinct brand and identity that is separate from their sponsoring government agency. Whether this approach to branding is effective is still up for debate. For instance, creating a distinct brand may allow the program to distance themselves from some negative perceptions of the government. Alternatively, doing so may unintentionally lead people to see the program as less official than they would if it were more closely connected to a government agency like the treasury.

To explore this question, we again partnered with the Pennsylvania Treasury. Within the context of their Keystone Scholars program, we investigated whether their aesthetic branding beneficially affects perceptions of the credibility and trustworthiness of the program.

Key Insights

To better understand how people perceived the Keystone Scholar branding, we first conducted qualitative work with mothers in Pennsylvania. As a part of that work, we presented the mothers with the current Keystone Scholars marketing communications and solicited their reactions.

  • Some mothers who encountered the eye-catching branded version of the Keystone program flier had reservations about the program and worried it might be a scam. They felt that an offer for a free $100 from an unknown brand might be too good to be true.

  • When we are presented with something new, we look for cues about how we should think about it. This was the case with the Keystone Scholar program – when the program was noticed to be a part of the PA Treasury, it was viewed differently than when it was presented by itself. This different reaction is consistent with research into the halo effect, which has shown our overall impressions of someone or something can color how we think and feel about their specific actions or aspects.


Given what we observed from the interviews, we felt that we could use the existing perceptions of the PA Treasury to overcome some of the reservations eligible parents may have about the program. We hypothesized that associating the Keystone Scholars program more closely with the PA Treasury would make the program seem more credible and trustworthy. Ultimately, we hoped that increasing perceptions of trustworthiness would increase interest and participation in the program.

To test our hypothesis, we worked with Propel, a fintech company that operates Fresh EBT, a free financial services tool to help low-income individuals manage their EBT SNAP benefits. We identified Fresh EBT users in geographic areas eligible for the Keystone Program and randomly presented advertisements with one of three different institution logos.


A total of 14,635 individuals saw the advertisement, a small portion of which were new parents and thereby eligible for the program. Of those, there were 275 clicks* on the advertisement to learn more. While the difference was not statistically significant, the combination of both logos was more successful at enticing individuals to click than the advertisement that presented people with just the PA Treasury logo condition, which recorded the second highest number of clicks, and the advertisement with just the Keystone Scholars logo.