“Sales in your store of that book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Improving Your IQ have been really slow. How can we get more copies out the door?”
Northwestern University researchers asked study participants how embarrassed they’d feel buying a book with that title. A parallel group of participants were asked how embarrassed they’d feel buying the book along with a purchase of the scholarly Scientific American magazine and the mind-challenging Rubik’s Cube. As we might expect, the add-ons significantly reduced the embarrassment.
In their study, the researchers wanted to develop advice for retailers who merchandise items like anti-gas tablets and foot deodorant, which shoppers might find embarrassing to purchase. My adaptation of the advice they gave: Merchandise adjacent to the potentially embarrassing items other items which give the opportunity for an opposite impression. Next to the anti-gas tablets, you could feature bottles of fine spices, and next to the foot deodorant, merchandise a pedometer which measures running distance.
I’ll add to that advice: Be aware how the reputation of the wine and the pedometer might be affected, though.
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.
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 which 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.
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Imbue Product Personality via Context