Friday, May 20, 2022

Just Emphasize the Gist for Older Readers

Ethical professionals provide to elderly prospects written information when asking those prospects to complete challenging decisions. To help ensure these prospects understand the information, format the text in accord with the distinctive ways older adults read: They skip words and backtrack. It takes them longer to comprehend text than when they were younger. And to a greater extent than for younger adults, they seek the gist—the essential meaning—and attend less to the details. Elderly decision makers are risky readers.
     Cornell University researchers explored how changing the format of information influences younger and older adults’ decision making. Study participants were assigned to choose among options for health insurance and prescription drug insurance plans by using information about attributes of the options. For one of the decisions, the information was presented in a gist format (“Extremely Poor” to “Extremely Good” on the attribute), and for the other, in a verbatim format (exact numbers such as prices and durations).
     The mean average age of the younger adult participants was 26 years and of the older adult participants, 71 years. In response to my email inquiry about the findings to the lead researcher, Julia Nolte, she wrote, “The younger adults sampled a significantly higher proportion of unique/novel information when the information was presented in a verbatim format. In contrast, older adults reviewed a higher total amount of information when the information was presented in a gist format. Older adults also voiced stronger subjective preferences for receiving gist-style information and demonstrated a preference for gist processing.” This was in the face of the finding that decision satisfaction was lower when participants reviewed gist information than when participants reviewed verbatim information.
     In well-intentioned efforts to help the elderly deal with comprehension difficulties, you might present bullet points summarizing what you’ve already written or you might use a diagram to depict certain points. These aids could be useful, and they might be necessary for legal defensibility of your services. However, these measures do not substitute for a highlighted statement of the gist. In fact, an abundance of repetition can impede comprehension, trapping the elderly reader in a web of confusing qualifiers.
     Which brings to mind that there’s a qualifier in this research area: Skipping words occurs more often among elderly adults who read English text than among elderly adults who read Chinese characters. This is attributed to the Chinese characters taking longer to decode.

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Keep Senior Shoppers From Worst Impulses 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Subject the Shopper to Program Descriptions

Marketers are more influential when using proper grammar. But the grammatical rules might depend on the context.
     Researchers at Winthrop University and University of Central Florida described a loyalty program in one of two ways to different sets of people. The wordings were similar to: 
  • Consumers who accumulate $1,500 of purchases receive a $150 cash bonus 
  • This program requires $1,500 of purchases to receive a $150 cash bonus
     The participants were then asked to assess for a program described in that way how likely they’d be to join, how good a fit the program would be for them, and how difficult it would be to accumulate the $1,500 in purchases.
     Results showed how, compared to those given the second program description, those given the first description were more likely to say they’d join, that the program fit them well, and that it would be relatively easy to earn the reward.
     The researchers say this happened because the first program description emphasized the consumer while the second description emphasized the program. The grammatical subject of the first sentence is “Consumers,” not “This program.” The first description felt more personalized.
     Other of the researchers’ studies supported this explanation. However, those other studies suggested that making the consumer the subject really matters only if two conditions are met. First, the recipient of the ad must believe that what’s being offered will work better for some people than for others. A weight loss program would qualify here, while paper towels probably would not. Second, the ad recipient must perceive that they are among those who might benefit most from the offering. A device to improve your golf score would not qualify with a professional golfer, but probably would with a duffer.
     Another grammatical topic in selling turns out to be proper punctuation. Researchers at Boston College found that the best alternative depended on the auditory context, and say it has to do with shopper arousal. When sedate music was playing in the grocery produce aisle, shoppers were more likely to purchase a box of strawberries if the signage read “Berries?” than if the sign read “Berries.” But if the music was stimulating, “Berries” sold more boxes.
     The researchers attribute these findings to an evolutionary predisposition. Our brains drive us to be curious when we’re feeling safe from intrusion, and questions trigger curiosity. When we’re highly aroused, our brains prefer the certainty of statements.

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Mind Your Ps & Qs in Reviews 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Picture Misleading Consumers

We might deceive consumers while striving not to. Towson University researchers present as an example of this the risk from including a visual image in an ad. The problem arises because the image diverts attention from the text.
     In one of their experiments, people were presented with a print advertorial arguing for replacing sugar with stevia in the reader’s diet. The text described in detail both the benefits and the risks of using stevia. For some of the participants, the ad also included a large photo of a slim woman, while for the other participants, the large photo was of the same woman overweight. The objective of the experiment was to compare the influence of the text with the influence of the image on the participant’s attitude toward using stevia.
     The data showed the image exerted substantially greater influence, overwhelming the balanced argument in the advertorial’s text. Study participants viewing the photo of the slim woman were more likely to favor using stevia than were those viewing the photo of the overweight woman.
     Another analysis from the set of studies verified how the presence of an image diverts attention from the text in an informative ad: Compared to people presented the ad without the image, those presented the ad with the image were more likely to comment on the image (“The model looks great”) and less likely to comment about the intent of the ad (“I’d use stevia”).
     The researchers’ point is that a picture used in an ad could impede the ad’s viewers from appreciating the facts in the text. Pictures are easier to understand than complex text, and a consumer’s mind prefers simplicity. The ads in the experiments were designed to have complex text. Complexity is a likely characteristic in ads for items like pharmaceuticals, where the consumer needs to weigh benefits against side effects. The researchers would caution marketers to be careful that images in these ads are not deceiving consumers.
     Other research finds that the mere presence of a photo increases trust in whatever’s in accompanying text. When neurological conclusions were presented to brain scientists, those also shown brain scan photos attributed more credibility to the neurological conclusions. Yet the photos were not at all objectively related to what was said to the brain scientists about the neurological conclusions.
     Photos increase the appeal of text-heavy advertorials. But use photos which support the message.  

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Give Shoppers Reason to Believe 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Herald Brand Heritage with Trim Tales

Brands which consumers consider to have a heritage garner extra trust and greater satisfaction. To establish brand heritage in the consumer’s mind, marketers frequently use stories. Kiel University and University of Washington researchers explored what components of these stories prove most effective.
     The top three components from their studies: 
  • Foundation date. Most fundamental to a heritage image is having been around for a while. To enlarge this time, you might choose to move back beyond the start of the brand to talk about the years when the idea for the brand began. The researchers note that the foundation date could be used in a brand logo. This might augment its impact. Including in the story the geographical locations in which the brand heritage was created was not found in the studies to increase effectiveness. 
  • Continuing influence. The downside of giving yourself a history is that you might come across as outdated. To avoid this, successful stories of heritage will link what happened in the organization’s past to what is important to today’s consumers and to what the consumers can expect in the future. 
  • Distinctive technology. Talk about your distinctive methods of production, especially those methods with a long history or methods people generally associate with the brand. Those associations can themselves be developed through repetition in marketing communications.
     Two other story components commonly used to portray brand heritage were found in these studies to contribute little. Because trim tales are generally preferred by consumers, who are already bombarded with information, check that your stories intended to portray heritage include the three elements identified above as effective. You might choose not to use the two components described below. However, prior research has found the two to be useful in brand stories more generally. 
  • Outlasting hurdles. Renditions of overcoming hurdles and resolving conflict keep the audience engaged. These story elements also indicate the brand will last, reinforcing a brand heritage image. Still, while consumers root for the underdog, those same consumers like to associate with winners. Therefore, to get the best from portraying yourself as an underdog brand, project your commitment to winning. 
  • Founder family. The specific group of people—whether a family by blood relationships or by work relationships—responsible for founding the brand are often featured protagonists in these stories. Stories not just about the founders, but also told by a founder, persuade shoppers well of lasting brand value.

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Risk Underdog Appeal When Risk is Low 

Friday, May 6, 2022

Shelve the Hedonic, Sign the Utilitarian

When someone is deciding whether to purchase a healthy food, bonus pack promotions—more product at the same price—carry more influence than price promotions—a price discount on the same amount. For an unhealthy food that will bring hedonic pleasure from consumption, people prefer a price discount to a bonus pack. The discount justifies the purchase.
     However, when a food retailer is deciding how to display vice foods to draw shopper attention, price discount promotions might not be best. Researchers from Universidad de Salamanca and KU Leuven asked a sample of shoppers at a large European food store to rate a range of fast-moving consumer goods categories to indicate the degree to which these shoppers bought each type of goods for practical purposes to satisfy routine needs versus to satisfy desires for enjoyment.
     The researchers then observed in the store whether promotional materials for items from the categories used shelf signage, end-of-aisle displays, and/or island displays. These observations were done daily for one year. Lastly, scanner data from the registers was collected to track daily sales volume and spending over that year for the items.
     Careful statistical analyses of this wealth of data indicated that shelf signage combined with price promotions should be the display modality of choice for utilitarian items. This modality shows off the product choice surrounded by alternatives, encouraging the analytical comparison by attributes generally used by shoppers when selecting a utilitarian item. Shelf signage accompanied by a product promotion—emphasizing benefits other than price—failed to notably increase item sales.
     Sales of hedonic items were best displayed on islands. This isolation of the item from alternatives triggers the impulse decisions associated with selecting pleasure-oriented offerings. In his reply to my inquiry about the study, lead researcher Dr. Álvaro Garrido Morgado added, “A hedonic product presented in an island will increase its sales in the same proportion if it is not promoted or if the promotion is on price. By contrast, product promotions intensify the increase in sales of these hedonic products caused by their presentation in islands.”
     The researchers point out how their findings can help a retailer not only with deciding how to display items, but also in negotiations with suppliers. Manufacturers of utilitarian products might be pleased to save the costs of fancy display fixtures and payment for prime display locations, redirecting those amounts to price discounts to be highlighted on signage.

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Offer Bonus Packs of Virtue, Discounts on Vice 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Distance for Prestige, Close for Strength

When status from item ownership is an important benefit to people you want to buy the item, keep some distance. Distance in ads, that is, between visual depictions of the item and any visual depictions of people using or admiring it. Additional open space supports portrayals of prestige.
     Researchers at Nanjing University, National Sun Yat-sen University, and Northwestern University saw this effect in their experiment involving a coffee machine. The machine was given a fictitious name, Porallés, to avoid having the participants carry a pre-existing product image into the experiment.
     The participants were shown an ad which featured a man standing behind a kitchen counter, with the coffee machine placed either close to the man or some distance from the man. For some of the participants in each of the groups, the ad carried the tagline “Aromatic coffee, distinguished taste. Luxurious life, prestigious choice.” For the other participants, the tagline was “Aromatic coffee, trendy taste. Cozy life, popular choice.”
     After viewing the ad, each participant was asked how willing they’d be to pay a premium price for the Porallés. Analysis of the results showed a significantly higher willingness to pay the premium among those presented the “distinguished taste” tagline when the machine was shown at a distance from the model compared to when the machine was shown close to the model.
     Among study participants shown the “trendy taste” tagline, there was a hint of a difference in the other direction—a higher willingness to pay the premium when the machine was shown close to the model. Replying to my inquiry about the study, Prof. Angela Y. Lee, one of the researchers, wrote, “That hint of difference you mentioned is important, too. The distance effect goes both ways. To enhance status, spatial distance helps. To enhance closeness, spatial proximity helps.”
     Also, bringing the item and the model together in an ad works well when what you want to portray strength. Researchers at National University of Singapore and University of British Columbia asked undergraduates to evaluate the effectiveness of a fictitious acne care product. In some ads, an image of an acne-free face was positioned touching an image of the product. In other ads, the two images were placed apart. Both ads included identical text describing why the product works well.
     The predicted product effectiveness was greater from study participants shown the images touching than for those shown the other ad.

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White Out If Product Color Matches Better