Thursday, May 17, 2018

Keep Calm to Carry On Seniors’ Fraud Evasion

Consumer behavior researchers disagree about whether elderly adults are more susceptible overall to financial scams than are younger consumers. But the researchers do agree that the nature of the susceptibility and the dangers of succumbing to the fraud are more serious for senior citizens. Regarding the seriousness, seniors are more likely than young adults to be living on a limited income and to have fewer years to make up for large financial losses.
     Regarding the nature of susceptibility to fraud, researchers at Stanford University, Duke University, Humboldt University Berlin, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and AARP prefaced their studies by noting two risk factors for fraud are more common in the elderly—decreasing ability to accurately recall information from ads and to detect lying in face-to-face interactions.
     The researchers then went on to explore another risk factor which has been less well recognized—how emotional arousal, such as that famously used by successful con artists, interferes with critical thinking skills. This happens in adults of all ages, but the effects grow worse as we age.
     Older consumers respond to emotion-laden sales messages (“The aroma of our coffee brings waves of contentment”) more strongly than to purely rational sales messages (“Award-winning taste at a lower price”). Emotional appeals also result in senior shoppers remembering details about sources of sales messages more accurately. The seniors are especially receptive to positive emotions, so in a fraudulent sales pitch, they will pay more attention to the touted benefits than to signs of danger and will remember those benefits more clearly.
     The upshot of all this is that we can help older adults evade fraud by encouraging them to enter the consumer situation calmly, maintain calmness during the transactions, and insist on enough time to calmly consider tradeoffs prior to finalizing a purchase decision.
     Seniors will probably embrace this advice. They don’t want to be defrauded. Plus, unlike their young counterparts, seniors generally find happiness more in calmness than in excitement. They’re the type of consumers who in studies at Stanford University, MIT, and University of Pennsylvania would select “a relaxing blend of chamomile and mint” over “a refreshing peppermint blend” and a bottle of “Pure Calm” water labeled in green over “Pure Excitement” labeled in bright orange. In other research, older adults preferred calm TV advertisements with few camera changes, slower speech, and relaxing or no music over more arousing advertisements.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Build Up Bawl Outs When Telling Complainers

A customer who encounters flawed merchandise or service from your business often yearns for the person who is responsible to be bawled out. That’s according to researchers at Florida State University. In fact, the researchers found that a promise the employee will be reprimanded is among the most effective ways to keep from losing a snubbed customer.
     However, the researchers also found that the customers want reprimands delivered out of their presence. They want harshness, yet don’t want to witness the harshness. They also want the employee to be granted the respect of privacy.
     These findings are in accord with others, from University of Southern California, which concluded that about 40% of retail consumers report how at least once each month, they see a store employee treat another store employee so rudely that the customer gets less interested in shopping at that store. A supervisor reprimanding in front of a complaining customer the employee responsible for the shortfall may be intending to demonstrate respect for the customer. But this message is severely undercut by the failure of the manager to show respect to the salesperson in front of the customer.
     Moreover, it’s best that you not be harsh even in private. You’ll get better results when you fix the problem instead of fixing the blame. Holding people responsible is different from fixing blame. Estimates by psychologists at New York University and University of Tulsa suggest that about 70% of retail employees will do less well in a store like yours if you put more emphasis on fixing the blame for the problem than on fixing the problem that caused the setback.
     When serious problems arise in your retail business, hammer out the difficulties in supportive ways. Use your hammer to repair the shortfalls, not to pound your valuable staff—and consequently, their staff morale—into the ground. Stop at embarrassment, short of guilt or shame.
     Still, amplify the degree of intensity when telling the complaining customer what action you’ll be taking. Your words, voice tone, posture, and gestures should all convey that you consider the complaint to be consequential, and thus there will be consequences. With a loyal customer who feels highly scorned, telling them afterwards that a serious reprimand was delivered is useful. Actually, it’s possible the customer will say, “Oh, it wasn’t really that serious,” a mindset which further counteracts any desire to take their business elsewhere.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Generate Seniors’ Generativity Now

People donate higher amounts if asked to pledge a charitable donation in the future than if asked to give right now. As a result, charities can find it advisable to put off the collection date. However, this temporal discounting of donation amounts applies from the perspective of the charity, too. Getting money sooner is better than getting money later, everything else being equal.
     Good news, then, from Ryerson University researchers which finds that this temporal discounting among donors fades markedly as the donors get older. Senior citizens show fewer differences between donation-now and donation-later amounts than do younger adults. The researchers’ explanation is that as we age, our generativity—concern about future generations—grows, resulting in greater altruism and willingness to donate now.
     Seniors like to give their business to retailers who are compassionate, and they like to view themselves as generous. One dynamic behind this is a desire to leave behind a legacy of love. Maybe behind this, in turn, is a calculation of what will be required on the résumé submitted at the Pearly Gates.
     The increased generosity does not appear to be due to greater net worth or lower cognitive abilities as people age. And the fading of the temporal discounting applies only to charitable donations. As it comes to spending money in other ways, older adults still show a willingness to devote larger amounts when the due date is in the future than when approaching soon.
     When soliciting older potential donors, the advice to charities is to ask for the money to be contributed now, not later.
     The range of the request counts, too. In a field study based at France's ESSEC Business School, a request for a small amount increased the willingness of the person to make a donation at all, and the larger the greatest amount in the same request, the higher the eventual donation. In a solicitation containing a scale of suggested contributions, a range of $5 to $1,000 would serve better than one of $20 to $500.
     Still, there is a boundary condition to the change in temporal discounting with charitable donations: The degree of altruism levels off at about age 75 and decreases somewhat thereafter. With the older old, then, the size of donations is likely to be highest with planned giving, in which the donation is made via a trust or will which will be activated in the future.

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Charge for Online Trustworthiness

Researchers at Brandon University, University of Alberta, and Conestoga College began with curiosity about differences in retail price spreads. Specifically, why do prices for comparable items usually differ more among ecommerce than among brick-and-mortar (B&M) channels? It would seem that because of the greater ease of price comparisons online, there would be less dispersion. But from three months of data collection, the researchers verified greater price spread for the ecommerce vendors on product categories such as batteries, flash drives, toys, espresso makers, vacuum cleaners, and TVs.
     The data collection also provided two explanations: First, because there are more online than offline sites available to the shopper, there are simply more opportunities for different mixes of prices, quality, and services. Second, consumers pay more attention to the reputation of the retailer when purchasing online than when purchasing at a shop. Ecommerce is considered to be riskier, principally because of the increased chances of consumer fraud and data security breaches. Retailers differ in a perceived reputation for trustworthiness. This opens opportunities to reputable ecommerce retailers who can charge because of their online trustworthiness.
     Such trustworthiness is enhanced when an ecommerce retailer has a B&M presence. Researchers from Florida State University, Saint Mary’s College of California, York University, and Lieberman Research Worldwide have shown how differences between ecommerce sales with or without a B&M partner are especially high for unknown retailers. Sales are higher even when the B&M store is physically distant from the shopper rather than across town. If consumers know you have an actual store, not just a virtual one, they trust you more.
     Although your earned trustworthiness enables you to set higher prices, remember how sales increase with promotional discounts. But do you maintain the same everyday pricing and same special pricing in both the online and offline channels?
     Researchers at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven analyzed retail situations in which a promotional discount was offered in one of the channels, but not the other. As common sense predicts, shoppers who were aware of the difference in pricing moved their purchases away from the channel which maintained the regular price and toward the one offering the discount.
     What these research findings did add to our common sense notions was the finding that the cross-channel cannibalization effect was stronger when the discount was online. Internet specials ate away at storefront sales revenues more than storefront specials ate away at internet sales revenues.

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Show Online What’s in Store
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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Vaccinate to Encourage Seniors’ Vaccinating

A technique, both highly influential and broadly underused, to encourage elderly adults to protect themselves against vaccination preventable diseases (VPDs) is for those working with the elderly adults to stay current on their own vaccinations. This is according to a review of the status of vaccinations among seniors which was led by researchers at GSK in Belgium and included collaborators from Austria, Canada, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the U.S.
     Keeping current with vaccinations is especially important for seniors because as we age, our immune system becomes less effective at generating the antibodies afterwards. Using a vaccine with higher doses of the antigen does not overcome the problem. A regimen of more frequent vaccinations can.
     But seniors themselves and the health care professionals serving seniors are not sufficiently conscientious about following the regimen. As a consequence, in the U.S. for instance, about 99% of deaths from VPDs are among adults aged 60 years and above.
     The researchers found that one significant reason health care professionals are not monitoring the adherence is the health care professionals aren’t convinced of the value of vaccinations among the elderly. Contributing to this might be those reports that the immune system response of seniors is compromised.
     However, studies have also discovered that if public health programs place a special emphasis on seniors getting vaccinated, this has the ironic side effect of indicating to the health care professionals, who are generally younger adults, that vaccinations are relatively less important for them. Yet modeling is an influential tool for persuasion agents. Our customers, clients, and patients will place more trust in what we recommend when we ourselves are following those recommendations which apply to us.
     As in other realms of selling to the consumer, expertise is earned. Patients might not expect you to know everything, but they do expect you to get the answer when you don't know and to do a personal handoff to another expert as necessary.
     A touch of humility actually makes it more likely you’ll be accepted as an expert. Avoid coming across to the customer as absolutely certain in the recommendations you're making. A bit of uncertainty makes the patient more comfortable asking questions. For instance, concerns about the safety of vaccinations are common. Those questions are highly valuable when you’re facilitating the sale. You can present counterarguments or steer the consumer toward alternatives which will better fit their preferences.

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Suck In Rather Than Blow Off Trust

Unless you know your shopper well, take care not to reach out too strongly or suddenly. A gentle smile works wonders, but a giant smile, even if genuine, can look creepy to the person who’s never met you before. Touching the customer projects warmth. However, the nature of that touch should be appropriate to the culture. An offer of a handshake or a fist bump usually ends up better than hugs. Maybe thrust your arms out toward shoppers with palms rotated upward as a welcome.
     Or maybe not. A research team at University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin says that people often lose trust when unfamiliar others move toward them decisively.
     One way to overcome the effect is to approach gently and to enlarge the interpersonal distance if you sense discomfort. In a related finding, researchers at Cornell University and University of Toronto suggest that when a consumer is feeling overwhelmed by a difficult decision, and you want to make the sale, you encourage the shopper to back off briefly and then come back.
     The researchers presented consumers with two equally attractive products and invited the consumers to either choose one of the products right then or defer the decision. Next, some of the consumers were asked to lean in toward the computer screen where the products were displayed. The remaining group of consumers was asked to lean away from the computer screen.
     Those leaning in toward the screen reported the choice to be more difficult and were more likely to ask to come back later.
     Another way to overcome shoppers’ discomfort is to beckon them to approach you, leaving them in control. Tools for accomplishing this include scooping your hand toward yourself and asking, “If you come over here, may show you what I’d pick?”
     The effect of that last word—a weirder effect, I think you’ll agree—is what University of Cologne researchers call “inward” pronunciation. The researchers found that words such as “pick” which begin with a sound in the front of the mouth and finish with a sound in the back of the mouth earn a bit higher trust than do outward pronunciations like “open” which begin in the back and finish in the front.
     The meaning of the words you use to earn trust count for a great deal. It turns out that the pronunciation of certain words also beckons shoppers toward you.

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Get Down with Seniors’ Medical Records

On one side of the desk sat the physician, on the other side sat the patient, and on the desk between them was the computer displaying results of a full panel of blood tests, urine tests, wellness exam, and other measures of the patient’s medical situation. After scrolling the screen back and forth, the physician pursed her lips and gently shook her head. “Well, you’re doing okay overall,” she said, “but I would like to get that age down a bit.”
     A statistic about the patient that health care professionals are powerless to influence is the chronological age. However, those professionals might stimulate the senior citizen patient to maintain and improve health by having them carefully look through their medical records. A number of studies conclude that people who learn about their lab results become more engaged in preventive care and are more satisfied with the care they receive. A chief result is reductions in health delivery costs.
     Researchers at Åbo Akademi University in Finland and Örebro University in Sweden explored what leads seniors to be interested in doing this. They found that motivations significantly more likely to occur in older adults than in younger adults were:
  • “To get an overview of my health condition” 
  • “To check some details” 
  • “To follow up what was said during my last visit.” 
  • “To involve my family members in my care.” 
     These, then, can be used by the health care professionals as benefits statements to persuade the patient to seek information from their medical records.
     An especially good time for the senior to review the records is prior to a scheduled appointment with healthcare staff. This is because the older adults, compared with younger adults, say that if they don’t understand something in the record, they’ll ask during the next scheduled visit. The seniors were also more likely than the younger adults to say that reading the medical record improves communication with the healthcare professionals and helps them better understand their condition.
     The older adults were less likely than younger adults to search the internet for medical information. Related to this, they were more likely to say they’d expect an online medical record review to be difficult. Still, results from studies such as those at University of Cincinnati indicate that senior citizens are sufficiently computer-savvy to get medical information online. So in the future, preferences for online access of medical records might change.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Mask Those Gorgeous Mannequins

In-store shoppers for appearance-oriented products compare themselves to how others in the store look. If the comparison comes across with the shopper thinking they end up on the short end, the chance of you making a sale drops.
     It makes no sense to ban beautiful shoppers from your store. But there’s something else, since others who act as comparison models are not only the human beings. When a female mannequin is looking unattainably gorgeous, women who have doubts about their attractiveness feel threatened, with the result that they criticize the product the mannequin displays. The researchers at University of Alberta and University of British Columbia who saw this happen also observed a similar effect in men. In this case, one explanation is that the fellows felt disturbed that they’d not be able to hold the attention of a real woman who was so attractive. Another explanation is that an attractive female mannequin stimulates in men the general idea of how society casts judgments based on physical appearance.
     The researchers suggest making the mannequin look less attractive by omitting the hair or masking the face. A Stockholm School of Economics study proposes a more drastic measure—decapitation. Female shoppers gave higher ratings to fashion items on models whose heads weren’t shown. So in your ads and on your mannequins, you could leave off what’s above the neck.
     The damper on item evaluations from gorgeous dummies was found only with the display of appearance-oriented products, such as fashion and accessories. When the item in the research was an umbrella, the use of a mannequin had no effect.
     Do recognize how standards of beauty differ among social groups and change over time. Where suntans currently imply an attractive life of leisure, there were times when a darker skin tone implied the need to work in the fields. While mannequins and models incorporating size 6 torsos from the neck down are considered especially attractive now, this wasn’t true during the Great Depression. With food being scarce, the typical retail store female mannequin intended to get mouths watering wore a size 18 dress.
     Also, selling aspirational products is good marketing. Shoppers who consider themselves to be highly attractive won’t be threatened by good looking mannequins, and shoppers who consider themselves to be somewhat attractive will be drawn toward mannequins that they consider looking a bit better than they themselves do before purchasing the product.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Brighten Up Seniors with Smart Home Thinking

In what ways can personal technologies improve the quality of life for elderly adults? What features should designers prioritize to incorporate in consumer technologies for seniors? How should marketers best overcome resistances among older adults to embracing these features?
     Researchers at King Mongkut’s University of Technology in Thailand considered these questions as they reviewed dozens of studies about smart home design for the elderly. They identified major benefits smart home technologies could deliver:
  • Health monitoring. Devices can issue reminders to take medicines, do exercises, brush teeth, and carry out other activities on schedule. Sensors could monitor water usage, movement through the residence, and time spent in the kitchen, for instance, and automatically send out warnings over the internet to family or health care personnel when daily routines are disrupted. Motion sensors could be designed to detect a senior falling down. Knowing their welfare is being monitored can reduce seniors’ anxieties, enhancing emotional health. 
  • Environmental monitoring. The smoke and carbon monoxide detectors which help protect the safety of residents regardless of age can alert public safety personnel to dangers that seniors may not be able to handle when living alone. Electronic door openers and sensors which keep the senior informed what’s happening throughout the home might ease muscle fatigue. 
  • Companionship & social interaction. Although robots which move about, use human-like voices, and respond to spoken directions are much less common in the homes of seniors than in the research studies exploring use with seniors, there’s evidence of robots’ value providing a form of companionship. Smart homes wired for video communications throughout have been found to reduce loneliness when age takes a toll on mobility. Systems can monitor the number of daily visitors. 
  • Stimulation and recreation. Rigging home lighting systems to change color and brightness at different times of day are sufficient to ease senior boredom by breaking up the routine. Interactive games can be wired into the whole house design rather than being restricted just to the desktop computer and mobile devices. 
     These capabilities do carry high potential for improving quality of life, but the studies found major concerns among the elderly center around perceived threats to privacy, the financial budget, and self-confidence. This third one has to do with the senior citizen fearing they won’t know how to control the technology. Ease of use, including ease of turning off the technology, are integral to adoption of smart home thinking.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Illustrate Your Brand Extensions

When adding a product to your offerings, it helps if the product carries a familiar brand name associated with high quality. But if the characteristics of the new product conflict with those of other items carrying that brand name, you could end up confounding shoppers instead of selling to them. Researchers at New York University, Northwestern University, and Yale University present the hypothetical example of Nike introducing a deodorant in a CVS drug store. “A shoe brand has no business making deodorant!” might be the consumer reaction, the researchers found.
     But those researchers then went on to identify a way to increase acceptance of the brand extension: Show a picture. This nudges the shopper toward thinking about the quality of the brand instead of the fit of the product. When shown a picture of a deodorant stick while making a choice, study participants selected the Nike stick over the CVS stick about 80% of the time, while a different set of participants not shown the picture selected the Nike stick over the CVS stick at only the chance level of 50%.
     It’s useful to understand how generalized this effect is. The picture shown to the consumers was of a generic deodorant stick, not a Nike or a CVS stick. And the effect worked across a broad swatch of product categories where a well-known brand with a quality reputation went up against a higher-fit item. Suitcases branded by JanSport or by Apple. Barbecue sauce branded by Mrs. Field’s or by McDonald’s. Camping gear branded by Speedo or by Kmart.
     The reason for the effect is that a picture moves consumers to think more concretely rather than abstractly, so they focus on the characteristics of the particular alternatives at hand, including the characteristic of brand quality. Product fit is a more abstract concept.
     For this to work, the new product must be associated with a high quality brand. And the outcome is a tendency, not a certainty. About 20% of the consumers still selected the CVS choice over the Nike choice after being shown the picture of the deodorant stick.
     Also remember that there are times you’d prefer the customer to select the house brand over the national brand and that plenty of high quality store brands exist. House brands offer your shoppers a price advantage and also usually offer you higher profit margins than do the corresponding national label brands.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Forget Stereotypes of Seniors’ Memory Deficits

As a group, senior citizens remember facts less well than do younger adults. Conscientious retailers will take care to check that important information is understood well at the time the elderly consumer is making a purchase decision.
     The causes of the poor memory include deterioration in hearing and vision, less effective functioning of the brain at encoding and filtering information, reduced storage capacity in working memory, and slower retrieval. Although there are broad variations in the extent and nature of the memory impairments, all of them tend to grow as age progresses.
     However, researchers at Springfield College and University of Missouri say there’s another cause of poor memory performance which is quite reversible: The senior citizen’s belief that senior citizens have poor memory. Society’s prevailing view of the elderly as highly forgetful itself leads to their poorer performance in recall. The stereotype becomes the reality.
     An irony is that the effect shows up more as false memories than as the experience of forgetting. More often than saying they’ve forgotten a fact or where they learned a fact, seniors exposed to the stereotypes are mistaken in what they say they remember or where they learned it. This misplaced sense of certainty makes the effect even more treacherous.
     To reverse the effect when working with seniors:
  • At the same time that you are alert to the possibility of memory impairment in your customer or client, place more emphasis on the objective of the task than on it having to do with memory. 
  • Acknowledge correct memories by the consumer and give praise without being patronizing. 
  • When your shopper experiences a senior moment, where the experience is of a temporary mental lapse rather than a false memory, be patient, avoid embarrassment, and then move on. 
     Stereotypes about aging go beyond assumptions about memory, and they can influence the behavior of shoppers who are far from being elderly. Consider the classic study by John A. Bargh, Mark Chen, and Lara Burrows at New York University in which undergraduates exposed to terms like “old,” “retired,” and “wrinkle” as part of an assigned task walked more slowly when leaving the lab than did students not exposed to the words.
     The truth is that your senior citizen customers and clients do walk, think, and decide more slowly, on average, than their younger counterparts. The problem arises when a retailer stretches that to assume the senior is inept.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Chart Your Numbers’ Compelling Backstory

In your sales presentations, a chart with information of potential high importance to the consumer will come across as no more than trivial if that chart lacks a backstory. All good stories create tension and then propose a way to resolve it. Determine the tale you want your data to tell and then design a graphic to complete the job.
  • What do you want the chart’s audience to do about the issue? Not only know about the issue, but also do about the issue. Contribute to a cause? Select a particular item among alternatives? Vote for the candidate or issue you favor? 
  • What do the data say about the particular issue? Most data sets can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and many data sets are rich with possible directions for action. Because your audiences will probably spend only a limited time looking at the chart, focus the visual on what counts most when it comes to your issue. 
  • What will the viewers want to believe and feel about the issue? The evidence counts for a lot, but the truth is that people are more persuaded by what they want to conclude. In designing the chart, also keep in mind that beliefs are more influenced by shapes than hues, while feelings are more influenced by hues than shapes. Bold, solid, angular, and sharp shapes appeal to those who favor independent action. Airy delicate, round, and smooth shapes appeal to those who favor collaboration. Warm colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—stimulate consumers to make decisions more quickly. Cool colors—greens, blues, violets, and whites—increase consumers’ satisfaction with their current consumer decisions. 
     Data visualization expert Bill Shander, CEO of Beehive Media, describes various questions effectively answered by persuasive charts he’s encountered in his career. Here’s my version of his list from which you can select one or more to answer your own audiences’ questions:
  • Comparison. How do a set of alternatives stand against each other? 
  • Trends & deviation. How is an important consideration changing over time? 
  • Proportions. How influential a role is your recommendation playing in the audience’s whole picture? 
  • Relationships. What are the connections among causes and effects? 
  • Distribution & geography. Where and how broadly is the issue showing itself? 
     Mr. Shander also verified that the most effective storytelling is interactive. Encourage interactivity with rhetorical questions on the chart, such as, “Which cleaning wipe looks best for you?”

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Consider Contagious Magic Low Among Seniors

Contagious magic refers to the belief that two inanimate objects which are close exert a strong influence on each other.
  • Researchers at Yale University and Bar-Ilan University found that people place a higher value on items if they had been used by a well-regarded celebrity like George Clooney than if by someone with an evil reputation like Saddam Hussein. The difference faded if people were told the item had been thoroughly cleaned. 
  • Researchers at Arizona State University and New Zealand’s University of Aukland saw how a guitar purchaser said having a respected rock star sign the guitar caused the guitar to produce better music. This was especially true when the guitar was a replica of the instrument used by the rock star. 
     Because contagious magic is common among consumers and often operates below the level of conscious awareness, wise retailers take it into account when influencing shoppers to make objectively valid purchase decisions. However, a set of studies at Duke University and Davidson College indicates you need not be so concerned about contagious magic when selling to seniors. The assessment questionnaire included items like “You’re better off avoiding fruit and vegetables that were touched by a bad person” and “The chances of a recipe going wrong increase when an unlucky cook helps to assemble the ingredients.” Those over 70 years old were less likely to agree with the items than were young adults.
     Two factors help explain these results. One, which seems obvious when you think about it, is that seniors have had more life experiences. Black cats crossed their paths many times without dire consequences and countless tasty meals have been assembled with the help of people largely unsuccessful in life and including produce having been touched by God knows who. The other factor which appeared in the studies is less obvious: Contagious magic depends on a consumer aiming for control in uncertain purchasing circumstances, and the psychology of senior citizens is to be less concerned with negative consequences than are younger adults.
     There are circumstances in which older adults fail to objectively evaluate probabilities. They’re more likely than younger adults to believe in the basketball hot hand—that a player is more likely to get the ball through the hoop after making several successful shots than after missing one. The hot hand belief has been debunked by research. But so has the assumption of prevalent senior superstitions.

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Monday, April 2, 2018

Offer New Customers 15%-35% Discounts

One problem with attracting new customers by offering price discounts is that it establishes expectations of discounted prices on subsequent transactions. The bargain hunters might sign on with you for a first sale, but will sign off as soon as another good discount comes along elsewhere. Or if you do continue giving substantial discounts, your business profitability suffers.
     Researchers at Aalto University and Hanken School of Economics in Finland find this is much less likely to occur if the initial discount is between 15% and 35% than if it is outside this range. The reason for this has to do with the degree of attention the shopper devotes to analyzing the reason the retailer is offering the discount. When a discount’s very small, such as 5%, shoppers consider it too trivial to even analyze. When the discount is large, such as 70%, the shopper’s attention is directed toward determining if the item is of sufficient quality rather than whether the retailer will continue to offer value. Consequently, the extreme discounts fail to build customer retention as strongly as do the midlevel discounts. Digging into their research findings, the researchers recommend that, for purposes of customer retention and lifetime revenues, it is better to offer no introductory discount than to have one above 40%.
     Studies at Georgia State University and University of Leeds indicate that these types of effects are strongest with shoppers who have PTPK—pricing tactics persuasion knowledge. Such shoppers tend to carefully consider how retailers use pricing tactics to influence the consumer to buy, and so are more likely to become repeat customers when the midlevel introductory discount sets off that type of thinking.
     There’s also another problem with introductory discounts, however: Customers who become regulars start wondering why they’re paying more than someone who hasn’t shown long-term loyalty to you. They might become tempted to stop giving you their business so they can then take advantage of the new user rate.
     One solution is to offer rewards to regular customers, such as with frequent shopper programs. Research findings from London Business School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggest another tactic: Tell new customers that the reason they’re getting a discount is to compensate for the hassle of changing habits and integrating the purchase into their lives. This justifies the discount in a way which makes the experienced user not begrudge the benefit given to succeeding generations.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Activate Prior Knowledge for Senior Persuasion

Recount benefits of a product or politician to a consumer in similar ways often enough and the consumer could become certain of the existence of the benefits. The effect is so well-established by decades of research that consumer scientists coined the term “truth effect” to refer to it.
     The problem is that the beliefs due to the truth effect do not need to be true. What is repeated gets easier to understand, and ease of understanding facilitates persuasion. Consumers might be fooled by any misleading messages which happen to be much easier to comprehend than are accurate complex messages.
     The problem is more severe in older than in younger adults because of how age impacts memory. People remember both a statement and the degree of truth. Older adults tend to forget the degree of truth. In one study, participants of varying ages were presented various true and false statements three times. The statement “Corn chips contain twice as much fat as potato chips” was presented with a correct “False” designation each time. Later, the younger adults in the study remembered the statement as false much more often than did the older adults.
     Researchers at Duke University and Claremont McKenna College find that senior citizens can mobilize an effective defense against this problem: Activating their past experiences. In those cases where the older adults take the time to consider what they already know about a topic, they are more resistant to chicanery.
     For the seniors to take the time, they must believe they have the time. As our objective is to ethically persuade our consumers, don’t rush them. The researchers say that seniors will then naturally activate memories of past experiences because they’ve become accustomed to doing so in their daily lives. The evidence is that older adults learn to use this as a way to compensate for other cognitive deficits.
     The effectiveness does depend on the older adult having built the subject matter knowledge in the past. If it’s not there to consult, the senior can be more easily fooled. This argues for the ethical persuader to take even more time, beyond not rushing the client, in order to educate the client.
     The results can explode myths of the relentless deterioration of abilities with advancing age. It might explain why University of Waterloo researchers found no evidence senior citizens were more susceptible to financial scams than were younger citizens.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Leave Diners with Leftovers

When a restaurant server offers to wrap leftovers before presenting the check for the meal, diners are more likely than otherwise to become repeat customers. A group of Iona College researchers explored the how of this finding.
     People are less likely to take leftovers when they need to ask the server to wrap them than when the server initiates the offer. They also are less likely to either make or accept the request when dining with people they are trying to impress. The reason is shame. Years ago, diners who are now senior shoppers would rationalize taking the leftovers by saying they wanted a “doggy bag.” A way around this is for the server to first address the offer to take leftovers at the person at the table who seems to be most socially dominant. When that person accepts the offer, the hesitation on the part of the others disappears. This requires servers to attend to the table’s interpersonal dynamics.
     As the restaurant operator, pay attention to containers in which you package the leftovers. Having it recyclable reinforces the social consciousness of reducing food waste, so further eases any embarrassment at carrying the leftovers. The package is also an opportunity to feature your restaurant during carrying. Put the name and location on the container or the bag holding the container. Those passing by will consider it as a dining recommendation, and the customers will be reminded of the good feelings when finishing off the remains.
     Researchers at Drexel University were also interested in the marketing of leftovers. In their, case, though, it was a category of foods called VASP for value-added surplus products. VASP are foods created using byproducts from the manufacture of other products. These byproducts are then turned into something new. For example, “spent grain from beer brewing can be dried and made into granola rather than being discarded. Carrot peels can be dried and added to a powdered soup mix.”
     That was the description presented to a group of consumers who were then asked what would increase their interest in VASP. A principal finding was that there wasn’t much resistance to purchasing or consuming such foods. The acceptance was particularly good when benefits to the environment and social responsibility in reducing food waste were highlighted. Of the names proposed to the consumers to replace the strange sounding “VASP,” the consumers’ favorite was “upcycled.”

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Subtract from the Senior Digital Divide

How can marketers ease the resistances older adults have to embracing digital technologies such as self-checkout and ordering via kiosk? After analyzing 144 studies about such questions, researchers at Free University Berlin and Technical University Dortmund conclude that the marketers should be marketing usefulness and ease of use.
     As to ease of use, it can be a tough sell. The digital divide between younger and older adults is not so much a sharp line as it is a gradual decline. As people age, their abilities to perceive and to learn fade. Technology use becomes more difficult. Studies document how seniors, because of vision impairments, have trouble navigating websites that are easily handled by younger people. Because of reduced touch sensitivity, the seniors stumble when aiming for graceful interaction with touch screen transactions.
     As to perceived usefulness, marketers should recognize that as people get older, their needs shift, and usefulness is a direct function of how well needs are met. Compared to younger adults, seniors place more emphasis on protecting against errors and losses than on taking chances and gaining more. So tell the older adults stories about people who were at risk of making a mistake, but used the technology to turn things right. When the seniors do use a technology well, praise them. However, too much praise for their successes will make them fret that you’re not leveling with them. They’re always on guard. Similarly, be ready to honestly discuss privacy concerns expressed by senior shoppers about consumer technologies, but going into needless detail will arouse rather than ease resistances.
     Advanced age brings increased appreciation for social relationships and a desire for gentle rather than breathtaking stimulation. The most common internet activities of older adults center on communication and entertainment. This indicates a value in introducing seniors to digital technologies in the world of retailing by highlighting or creating benefits for communicating with others and being entertained. If you use a game format as a teaching tool, though, use a game in which motor speed isn’t required.
     One theory is that the digital divide is due to today's older adults having grown up in a world without personal computers. Therefore, seniors in the future, having been exposed to the internet of everything, won’t have these resistances. However, the researchers reviewing the 144 studies say the digital divide won’t disappear because it’s due to such a substantial degree to ability declines.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Spark Nicknames in the Name of Love

In year 2011, it was not unusual to hear somebody refer to Target Stores as “tar gay,” as if with a French accent, inspired by the retailer’s aspirational claim to a high fashion reputation. In my hometown of Vacaville, California is a locally-owned café named Pure Grain Bakery. My wife and her friends never call it that. They abbreviate it to PG, even though in their earlier years, friends reserved that letter pair for other friends who were with child and in more recent years, for movies they might not want to view with children. Business Insider has compiled a list of nicknames for McDonald’s across ten countries, from Mickey D’s in the U.S. to Mak Kee in Hong Kong.
     Bestowing nicknames on businesses is usually a sign of customer affection, and customer affection is good for business. Researchers at University of North Dakota, University of Minnesota, and University of St. Thomas find this applies to products as well as stores. Purchase intentions increased and persisted when consumers were encouraged to nickname items. Creating the nickname requires an investment of time and thinking plus gives a sense of personalizing. All this produces a feeling of ownership which people fulfill with actually buying the item.
     To build a sense of companionship with your store or with a product you sell, you could give a nickname, such as McDonald’s did with their flagship Big Mac. If you choose this route, select one that fits a predominant characteristic of the retailer or item. In the research, the assigned name Muggy produced higher purchase intentions than did Bob for a mug. Blue worked better for a blue stapler than did Steve.
     Better, though, is to have the shoppers and customers christen the prospective possessions. When naming our children or pets, the highest feelings of bonding come with choices fitting our cultural and family history as well as our heartfelt wishes for the child or pet. We’d presume the same for other types of naming.
     The profitability drive of self-selected nicknames often goes beyond the initial purchase. Arizona State University and Texas Christian University studies described people who called their cars by pet names and purchased guns in what the purchasers later described as a moment of passion. Those consumers subsequently spent six times more for accessories, on average, than did those not evidencing the sorts of involvement and intimacy signaled by chosen nicknames.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Become a Third Place for Future Third Agers

When researchers at Ghent University and Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School asked groups of older adults how they’d like to be referred to by marketers, the name “seniors” was well-received. Playing to negative reviews was “third age,” seen in uses such as by the Third Age Foundation, where childhood is the first age and the second age covers raising a family and pursuing a career.
     Maybe the poor reception for that name was because many older adults are still engaged in their careers. Still, marketers are wise to recognize that with older adults living longer, those people we’ll call seniors are potential customers for a good while after retirement.
     Results from studies at Macquarie University and University of Tasmania suggest you keep in mind another third: Position yourself as a third place for future third agers. In this usage, the first place is home, the second place is work, and the third place is where you, the marketer, offer services to the senior. The studies find that you achieve this position by encouraging customers and clients to behave like a community.
     The researchers tell of a 68-year-old client who learned that an 88-year-old client was having trouble reading labels while grocery shopping and so arranged to help her with her shopping every fortnight. Other aspects of creating a sense of community were facilitating access of the seniors to information and giving them ample opportunities to make choices. The results, the researchers said, could be viewed as empowering the clients. Third places empower us.
     At the same time, citizens of good communities are not unpleasantly intrusive. Researchers at Université Paris-Est, Monash University, and Concordia University interviewed French consumers about those consumers’ experiences with restaurants, cafés, department stores, concert halls, and libraries. The findings from the analyses were that establishments which evoke certain reactions are especially likely to become third places.
     Many of those reactions identified by the researchers, such as authentic interactions with store staff, are what you would probably expect for a “third place” award. Beyond this, though, there was another reaction which may not have sprung to your attention: Security from intrusions. Café seating which allows those who desire to sit with the back to a wall. A women’s cosmetics section with alcoves in which the shopper can feel a sense of privacy. Waiting rooms insulated from the noise of barking dogs, car repairs, or emergency clinic hustle.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Practice Personal Selling

Personal selling—the technique of face-to-face persuasion by a salesperson—does have disadvantages compared to, let’s say, targeted marketing or mass advertising. Personal selling requires high labor costs, depends on staff who might become unreliable or inconsistent, and can reach only a limited number of prospects.
     Yet when it comes to return on investment, personal selling outdoes those other two methods, according to a meta-analysis of hundreds of studies by researchers at University of Missouri, University of Miami, and Kühne Logistics University. Using what is called “short-term elasticity” for the measure of sales revenue increases as a function of selling method expenditures, personal selling was about 31% more profitable than mass media advertising and about 6% more profitable than targeted marketing. Further, the effects of the marketing communications on sales are sustained substantially longer with personal selling than with the other two methods.
     This last isn’t surprising, since personal selling, when done properly, develops relationships of the shopper with the selling staff. The shopper senses that they are the focus of caring attention and customized messages as they interact with the salesperson and the products. On the salesperson side of the equation, personal selling provides more opportunities than the other two methods for closing the sale right there.
     Of course, few retailers would use only personal selling without incorporating other advertising and promotional techniques. For purposes of assessing relative ROIs, the researchers statistically teased out the effects from what in the real world operates as synergistic marketing initiatives.
     Still, a verification of the payoff from personal selling is useful. Those payoffs will be at their greatest when the personal selling shows expertise:
  • Aside from thieves, consumers choose to be acknowledged when they enter a store or a department within a store. Beyond that initial contact, shoppers want staff available to answer questions. 
  • Coach your staff to be order getters, not only order takers. They should do this in a way which recognizes a prevailing truth: People prefer to buy than to be sold. Gently, but decisively, spiral the shopper in toward purchases which will both meet the customer's desires and boost your retailing profits. 
     Practice personal selling in the sense of valuing it as a professional skill, in the spirit of a medical practice. Also practice personal selling in the sense of continually improving your skills, in the spirit of practicing a musical instrument. Over time, become a virtuoso.

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Media-Chat with Seniors

When Tracey Crouch, Britain’s Minister of Sport and Civil Society, was awarded an additional portfolio by Prime Minister Theresa May, Ms. Crouch was promptly nicknamed in the media “Minister for Loneliness.” Her mandate is to address an epidemic of loneliness, especially among older adults, a mandate accompanied by a multimillion-pound fund to carry out the work. The government estimates that half the number of adults at least age 75 in England live alone, with many not having in-person visitors for weeks at a time.
     Mental health professionals at Israel’s Shinui Institute and Center for Academic Studies have seen the same problems of loneliness and need for solutions among their country’s elderly population. These professionals cite studies showing loneliness increases the probability of death by 30% to 60%. The American Association of Suicidology reports that although in 2012 those aged 65 and older made up less than 14% of the U.S. population, they accounted for more than 16% of suicides, with a major risk factor being social isolation and loneliness.
     Remedies certainly should include arranging for visitors to seniors and providing socializing spots for seniors. NBC News reported that some on social media doubted the seriousness in Ms. Crouch’s appointment, pointing out that it coincided with government funding cuts for community halls, day care centers, and public libraries.
     But social media—actually media in general—might provide a supplemental remedy in the form of opportunities for chatting. Researchers at the London School of Economics find that when socially isolated people watch TV shows featuring people who seem like friends to them, the people feel less lonely. A natural extension of this is that organizations ranging from social service agencies to ecommerce vendors can assist seniors and build consumer loyalty via remote gabbing. It might not even need to be two-way interchanges. Those characters on the TV shows who seem like friends aren’t really conducting dialogues with the viewers.
     This helps explain the popularity of TV shopping networks among the elderly. Researchers at Philadelphia University and University of Tennessee-Knoxville surveyed 295 TV home shoppers who were at least 60 years old. These survey respondents reported that the infirmities of old age made it more convenient to shop via TV than to go out to a store. Still, staying home could be lonely. Another reported value in TV shopping came because the hosts attended to chatting with the audience and each other.

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Right Neighborhood Blight with Shoppers’ Sight

Require the pot dispensary to go from the neighborhood, and the neighborhood might go to pot. That’s the conclusion in a Journal of Urban Economics study based on data collected by USC and University of California-Irvine researchers.
     The researchers begin by acknowledging how both politicians and the politicians’ constituents generally believe marijuana dispensaries attract crime in ways similar to what has been seen with liquor stores. So after the City of Los Angeles decided to close down more than 400 dispensaries, did the crime rates in the neighborhoods of those shops subsequently plummet?
     It appears not, at least in the short term. Instead, when the rates in those neighborhoods were compared with the rates in neighborhoods where dispensaries were allowed to remain open, the evidence indicated property crimes and theft from vehicles increased while the rates of other crimes did not change much over the next few months.
     Why is this? The answer began to emerge when the researchers went on to find a similar effect in areas adjacent to restaurants temporarily closed for health violations. Property crime rates increased until the restaurants opened again. The reason had to do with what the researchers called “eyes on the street.” An open store or restaurant attracts traffic, and moderate amounts of traffic deter criminal activity.
     This doesn’t mean we should allow the unhealthy restaurants to stay open. Poisoning the customers is worse than having their cars broken into. It does mean we should encourage enough foot traffic around neighborhood stores so that even if one shuts down, there are still plenty of eyes on the street.
     Encourage the success of stores where people want to dwell. Cafés, dress shops, hardware stores, and book shops are examples. But any store appealing to a specialty interest and staffed by experts can increase dwell time. Advocate for plazas where people can gather and decorative streets where they can stroll.
     Doing this requires attention. Keeping up appearances outside your store can be more difficult than handling the interior décor. Store owners frequently don’t own the building itself so have limited control over the exterior. Municipalities short on funding may emphasize attention to industrial parks and Big Box power centers, since they pay such a high percentage of the property and sales tax revenues. Small to midsize independently-owned retail operations get fewer publically-funded amenities. And often, there’s lax enforcement of city regulations mandating quality standards for exteriors.

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Inspire Seniors with Interval Training

Physical exercise of any sort, as long as it’s not punishing, helps maintain health in senior citizens. But high-intensity interval training, in which pushing hard alternates with not pushing hard, holds promise for actually improving health.
     Mayo Clinic researchers assigned sedentary men and women at least age 65 to exercise on a stationary bicycle. For some of these seniors, the instructions were to pedal hard for four minutes, rest for three, and then repeat that sequence three more times. This took about half an hour and was to be done three times a week. Participants in another exercise condition were instructed to peddle at a moderate pace for thirty minutes a few times a week and lift weights lightly on the other days. Twelve weeks into the program, the interval training group showed superior gains in endurance even down to the cellular level. Nearly 400 genes associated with muscle cell health were functioning better, while in the moderate exercise group, it was only 19.
     Participants in both groups, as well as in a group that was assigned to do vigorous weight training, showed improvements in physical fitness and blood sugar regulation to a degree not seen in a group assigned to not exercise. Still, pushing hard paid off for the seniors as long as they had an opportunity to pull back periodically. The researchers even described it as reversing the effects of aging.
     Parallel effects can occur with mental exercise. Challenging the older brain activates plasticity—the ability of the brain to physically change as a result of learning—and brain flexibility—the ability of the brain to use its current physical structure to meet novel challenges by rearranging tasks. The effects are stronger when there are intervals of rest which allow the changes to take hold.
     Interval training also makes the activity more engaging. Interruptions increase enjoyment. It’s an example of what psychologists call habituation. Massage therapists report that the client generally likes the massage better when they’re rubbed for a while, pounded for a while, kneaded for a while, and then rubbed again than if there’s no change. Inserting a commercial break in a nature documentary stimulates willingness to donate.
     There is a difference between the physical and intellectual though. Younger adults are more susceptible to habituation than older adults. But the relative advantages of high-intensity interval training are more compelling for older than for younger participants.

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Saturate Hungry Shoppers with Vibrant Colors

When shoppers are anxious to use a purchase soon, they’ll consider items with saturated colors to be a better value for the money. The reason, according to studies at Boston College, is that vibrancy makes items look larger, which in turn is due to how saturated colors grab the brain’s attention. Another way of stating the effect is that if consumers place a higher value on an item being larger, they are willing to pay more for it when colors on the item are saturated.
     Although the experimental stimuli in this study were laptop computers and suitcases, I believe the relationship between saturated color and perception of larger size would also hold for packages in which items are contained. It did hold true for one example of a container: The researchers found that people placed more jelly beans in a cup when the cup had highly saturated colors. It seemed that the people perceived the cup as being larger than it otherwise would be. The effect also held for surroundings: The ceiling height of a room was estimated to be lower when an ottoman with high instead of low color saturation was the measurement standard.
     To use this finding as a marketer, recognize that a color’s saturation refers to a property other than its hue. Red is a different hue than green or blue. Saturation refers to the purity or the colorfulness of the hue. The attention-grabbing property of saturation may have evolutionary origins in that ripe fruits and venomous animals in nature tend to have more saturated colors than their surroundings.
     However, when the shopper intends the purchase for future rather than immediate use, avoid highly saturated colors. In these situations, the influence of shape is greater than the influence of color. Vibrant colors can interfere with the brain’s processing of shape, so it’s best to keep down the vibrancy.
     There are other ways to draw attention, and those also can give the perception of better value. At University of Southern California, shoppers presented with two unfamiliar products in a category—one of the products in an unusually-shaped container and the other one not—said, on average, that they’d get more for their money if they were to buy the product in the unusual container. The researchers concluded it’s because the unusual shape draws more attention, and the consumer’s brain subconsciously translates the extra attention into higher worth.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Segment Your Senior Market

Senior citizen shoppers differ in ways important for you to know. Certainly, abilities almost always deteriorate as we age. All consumers have that in common. But even with this, people age at different rates. Beyond that, because life experiences condition our shopping behavior, there is more variation among older than among younger adult shoppers simply because the older adults have had a greater multitude of life experiences.
     Researchers at Wageningen University approached this issue by considering criteria for useful segmentation of the senior market. Here is my version of the list:
  • Distinctiveness. The marketing approaches effective with each segment must be different enough to justify attention to which segment a shopper belongs. 
  • Substantiality. The number of seniors in a segment must be large enough to justify special attention to that segment. 
  • Stability. Membership in the identified segments must last at least the duration of a marketing campaign. 
  • Identifiability. To use the segmentation, the marketer must be able to tell who falls into what group. 
     The researchers then applied this framework to understanding the actual heterogeneity among elderly consumers who are selecting foods to purchase. Their review of the literature produced another list, this one of factors marketers might be able to profitability attend to for a segmentation of the market. These are not completely independent factors. They are associated with each other. Here’s my version of that list
  • Gender. Of the four factors, this one has the easiest identifiability. One implication is that women, compared to men, are more accepting of foods serving a nutritional function without highly pleasurable taste. 
  • Cognitive age. More important than calendar age is how old the shopper feels in their mind. Cognitively younger seniors are less likely to accept senior discounts than are cognitively older ones. 
  • Life stage. Seniors who are retired and on a fixed income purchase differently than do people of the same age who are still employed. Death of a mate, birth of grandchildren, remarriage, and relocation are other life events which often place a consumer into a distinctive life stage. 
  • Time perspective. Seniors with serious health problems consider their time as more limited than do younger seniors in good health. Hedonic products like tasty foods are especially appealing to seniors having a limited time perspective. Similarly, advertisements portraying strong positive and negative emotions, although attractive in general to seniors, carry extra influence with the segment having a limited time perspective. 
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Monday, February 19, 2018

Crowd Humanized Brands Cautiously

When shoppers feel crowded, their behavior changes. According to studies at Columbia University and University of British Columbia, when shoppers from Western cultures are in tight spaces, they want greater variety among products. If they have fewer choices, they'll become less comfortable. Researchers at University of Kansas, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and University of Toronto found that one major effect is a retreat to safety. For instance, shoppers who encountered crowds of unfamiliar bodies preferred to shop for their headache relievers at a pharmacy than at a convenience store. In casinos, crowding moved typical gamblers toward less risky wagers.
     More recently, researchers at Lehigh University and Drexel University pointed out that the impact of crowding on a specific consumer depends on the prior experiences of the consumer shopping in crowds, the expectations of the consumer about the degree of crowding they’ll encounter, and the personality structure of the consumer. Those points preceded the researchers considering a question: Do shoppers respond differently to humanized brands when shopping in circumstances the shoppers consider to be crowded?
     Humanized brands—more commonly called anthropomorphized brands by marketing scientists—are those that have human-like characteristics. This might come from how the item looks, in a picture or name of a person on the packaging, or in the way an advertisement or the salesperson describes the item. The answer to the question turned out to be: Yes, shoppers who feel crowded will view a humanized brand much less favorably if the presentation of the brand indicates a desire to interact with the shopper.
     In one of the studies, a fictitious brand of coffee maker was presented to one group of consumers with the buttons arranged to resemble a human face and the tag line, “Together, you and I will explore a variety of coffee drinks.” The participants’ purchase intentions for the coffee maker were significantly less than was true with participants presented the coffee maker in less crowded circumstances or with the buttons not resembling a face and the less intrusive “I am Aroma. I will perfectly complement any occasion!” tag line.
     However, in a parallel set of studies in which the participants were made to feel uncrowded, the results were reversed: The “Together, you and I….” resulted in higher purchase intentions than did the “I am Aroma.”
     When using in-store or other public area signage which is promoting your anthropomorphized brands, carefully consider the likely degree of perceived crowding among the intended audiences.

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