Friday, November 20, 2020

Unmask Personal Heroes for Life

As the COVID-19 pandemic filled consumers’ minds with thoughts about death, consumers’ bellies got filled with unhealthy foods. The cause-and-effect is called Terror Management Theory. When facing our mortality, our consumption leans into the indulgent. One direction this takes is purchase of luxury items. Another is eating and drinking sugary treats.
     Studies at University of Leeds, University of Limerick, and Copenhagen Business School saw a way for marketers to bend habits back toward the life-sustaining: Encourage people to think about their personal heroes. A classic pop psychology tenet is that our personal heroes inspire life-affirming positivity. Now the psychology research studies, conducted during the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, see this other positive from heroes during times of widespread disease, local terrorist attacks, or other reminders of approaching or potential death. The mechanisms of action are increases in the meaning of life and in personal power, each climb shown to result from reflecting about an individual hero.
     In the studies, the prompt to the consumer was as simple as, “Think of a person you consider to be a hero, and then write down a description of this hero.” Heroes are often characterized as brave, self‐sacrificing, honest, and strong, with moral integrity. For the study participants who were identified as pondering about their mortality, thinking about the hero led to more choices of offered healthy foods, such as apples and bananas, over less healthy foods, such as cookies and chocolate cake. Compared to those not thinking about a personal hero, those doing so were also more likely to agree with statements such as, “I think I have a great deal of power.”
     The agent of persuasion also can become a hero of sorts in the mind of the consumer. Fans of psychiatrist Carl Jung maintain that when people shop, they see the salesperson as playing a dramatic role. People shop to solve problems, and clinical research convinced Jungians we expect specific sorts of problem solvers in our lives. Among these, the Superhero takes responsibility for rescuing us. The customer expects the Superhero to go above and beyond what most salespeople are able or willing to do.
     However, studies at Boston College indicate this dependence on a salesperson decreases rather than increases the shopper’s sense of power. Don’t count on these short-term transactions facilitating healthy habits in the same way that conjuring up recollections of a long-term personal hero will.

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Use Terror Management Theory for Status Items 

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