Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Imbue Product Personality via Context

In what area of your store do you shelve the shampoo to kill lice? You don’t carry shampoo to kill lice? Well, for a moment, pretend you do to help me make a point that’s useful regardless of what product lines you carry.
     It would seem that the logical place to merchandise lice-killer shampoo is adjacent to the other shampoos and the hair conditioning products. However, research findings from Northwestern University and University of Chicago suggest you’re better off keeping it away from there, instead stocking it in the illness remedies department.
     In their study, the researchers first had participants look at an advertisement for shampoo. They wanted to evaluate the degree to which exposure to the shampoo ad would affect the participants’ impressions of a related product—hair conditioners. In a previous study, the same researchers had found that thinking about mayonnaise products builds a more positive impression of related condiments, such as ketchup.
     But when the ad presented to the participants was for a lice-killer shampoo, this instead led to more negative impressions of the hair conditioners. Consumers like their hair conditioners to have a pleasant sensual personality. Potions associated with killing and with bloodsuckers fail to project that personality.
     In contrast, thinking about the lice-killer had no significant effect on the participants’ liking of products from categories that don’t depend on being pleasantly sensual in order to motivate purchase. Flashlight batteries, for instance, as the lice-killer shampoo researchers predicted and then confirmed.
     As we’d expect, there are individual differences in how consumers categorize products and therefore the strength of carryover. One gender-based example has to do with sanitary napkins. As a rule, men to a much greater extent than do women will build negative impressions of products sold next to where the sanitary napkins are shelved. Men and woman have different personality associations with that product category.
     It’s not only related products that imbue their shelf mates with personality. For example, create prestige for items you sell by displaying to your shoppers the contextual cues for the values your shoppers hold. Show the clothing worn, the other products used, and the sorts of physical locations that consumers associate with the people your shoppers want to be like. Do this in advertising, store displays, e-commerce pages, and to the extent you can, even in what your salespeople wear and the phrases they use.

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Cultivate Store Prestige with Context

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