Researchers at Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University found that when consumers were asked to vividly imagine tasting a particular item with which they were familiar, the experience affected the consumers’ receptivity to actually tasting the item afterwards. It also worked the other way around: After actually tasting an item, study participants interpreted a subsequent imagined taste by comparing it to the actual taste. And that could mean they got tired of the taste.
In what might seem at first hearing to be a wonderful breakthrough for dieters, a Carnegie Mellon University study saw evidence how thinking about eating M&M candies decreased the appetite for eating M&Ms afterwards. It was satiation of hunger. Imagine eating loads of the candy, and you feel filled up. Unfortunately, though, it was a specific satiation of hunger for M&Ms. You’ll be significantly less likely to eat them for real for a while. However, there was no evidence the imagined tasting significantly reduced any urges to eat chocolate cake or even cheddar cheese cubes.
So used properly, imagination can whet the appetite for more, but be careful not to drown off the appetite with excessive imagination.
A few related tips inspired by consumer research:
- Research findings from West Virginia University and Georgia State University emphasized the value in asking the shopper to imagine usage by whoever would end up actually using the product. Usually, this is the person who is making the purchase. But with products like pet foods and birthday gifts, the user is different from the purchaser.
- Separate requests to imagine from requests to analyze. Researchers at Arizona State University asked consumers to logically analyze sets of product features and then make rational purchase decisions. For some of these consumers, the researchers described the products using vivid language intended to evoke imagination. Those called upon to use their imagination were less likely to choose a product to purchase.
- Give aids for imagination. As long as you’re not asking the shopper to analyze or compare, use vivid language to stimulate the senses: “As you enter your room, you’ll be tempted to take off your shoes immediately so your feet can sink into the plush carpeting.”
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers
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