Monday, June 28, 2021

Shift Shoppers from Thinking You Shifty

With marketing, inauthenticity is not the direct opposite of authenticity. Authenticity is generated by a clear meaning from the marketer, which provides comfort to the consumer. Inauthenticity is generated from a shifting meaning that triggers not just discomfort, but discomfort because of suspicions of moral failings. As a consequence, consumers experience betrayal and express contempt. That’s according to a set of Yale University and University of Pennsylvania reviewers of studies about inauthenticity in marketing communications.
     An overarching cause identified in these studies is the contradiction between a marketer’s claims and what the consumer discovers upon closer examination or subsequent experiences. The researchers placed the instances they analyzed into three categories—deceptions, ulterior motives, and adulterations. Other research points to dangers that you will inadvertently take actions which end up being considered inauthentic in one or more of these realms.
     Deceptions occur when you’re seen as not keeping your promises. Stay aware of your customers’ understanding of what you’re promising them, and when there are changes in what you can deliver, head off any negative effects on your customers’ long-term view of your business. Consumers’ purchase intentions are lower when a marketer makes a commitment and then fails to keep it than when the marketer makes no commitment at all. Be careful when using puffery—lavish, often exaggerated, claims about a store or about products carried by the store.
     Ulterior motives are especially likely to be suspected in settings where altruistic intentions are the norm. We expect nonprofits to place service over growth. We expect elected officials to place our interests as constituents above theirs. Even if you deliver on those promises, you still risk being seen as inauthentic if you also emphasize the benefits your actions are generating for yourself. Moreover, in such contexts, even bragging about being authentic increases the probability you’ll be perceived as inauthentic.
     Adulterations refer to an action you take being perceived by consumers as disturbing the essence of a product. To avoid this, don’t present genetically modified produce as equivalent to the natural, for instance. Indicate on packaging that the item has been processed, depict the item in a color not generally found in nature for that item, and stock the item in an aisle featuring processed foods rather than among non-GM produce. When introducing product extensions, maintain the brand standards and style of the reference item at least until the extensions build their own following.

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Puff Down for Authenticity 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Challenge the Elderly Following Success

I recently asked about 100 senior adults how willing they’d be to engage in certain wellness activities and then how demanding they think each of the activities would be for them. I chose the activities from the five pillars of senior wellness used by AARP: physical exercise, nutrition, mental stimulation, sufficient sleep, and socializing. For each of the pillars, I presented my survey participants one activity which seemed to me to be relatively easy (“On 5 days each week, walk quickly for 15 minutes” for the physical exercise pillar) and one which seemed to me to be relatively harder (“On 3 days each week, exercise vigorously for 1 hour”).
     We might assume that the higher the rating of difficulty for an activity, the less willing a senior would be to do it. And that was generally how the seniors answered the questions. But about 20% of my sample responded differently. The higher they rated the effort required, the higher they rated their willingness to commit to doing it for the next year. “Bring on the challenge!” they seemed to be saying.
     What was going on? A clue comes from a set of studies at North Carolina State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Washington University in St. Louis. A total of 80 generally healthy, well-functioning adults ranging in age from 63 to 84 years were assigned a series of tasks which required cognitive ability and performance speed. The seniors’ decisions, performance, and physiological indicators of task engagement were compared to those of a set of younger adults, ages 20 to 40 years.
     Prior research finds that as we enter advanced age, we monitor our effort expenditures strictly. If a task seems more difficult, we’re less likely to take it on. This held in the North Carolina/Pennsylvania study. However, the older adults also were more sensitive than the younger adults to success at an earlier task. They seemed more willing to agree to a challenge if it was seen as worthwhile.
     The outliers in my study may have been interpreting my “How much effort would each wellness activities require?” to mean, “For each activity, how worthwhile would it be to exert effort?” If so, those who had previously been successful at an easier activity may have wanted to take on the difficult activity, considering it as better for wellness. Challenge the elderly, but give them success at an easier endeavor first.

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Poke Sedentary Seniors’ Assets 

Monday, June 21, 2021

Pivot a Bit with Status Seekers

When your shoppers feel that their status is inferior to others, they’ll respond by seeking to raise their social standing. To profit from that, pivot a bit rather than meet it directly.
     Researchers at Boston College, Boston University, and London Business School asked women about purchasing a jewelry charm celebrating physical fitness. Prior to making the selection, some of the women were asked to imagine they were doing well in a professional development course, some were asked to imagine just that they were doing poorly, and the rest were asked to imagine they were doing poorly plus that most of their classmates were in poor physical shape.
     Those imagining they were doing poorly in the course expressed more interest in the charm than did those imagining they were doing well. And the instructions to imagine that classmates were in poor physical shape increased interest even further. Believing you are doing relatively poorly in one domain pivots your motivation into showing off achievement in another domain.
     The phenomenon was also implied in a survey of car bumper stickers. The researchers examined automobiles parked in the visitor lot of the Severiano Ballesteros golf course in the swank Swiss resort town of Crans-Montana. The researchers predicted that the bumper stickers on the less expensive makes, such as Chevrolet and Citro├źn, would refer to themes other than golf more often than would those on the premium makes, such as BMW and Mercedes. This is indeed what was found. Among the other themes were travel destinations and extreme sports. The alternatives were seen on 84% of the less expensive makes while on only 35% of the premium makes.
     The most direct way to respond to being behind is to move ahead. Work to prevail in the professional development course. Devote funds over time to buying, or maybe renting, a luxurious car to pull into the golf course visitor lot.
     Yet the advantage of the pivot holds for marketers when meeting this approach, too. Repairs to the consumer’s self-concept last longer if the connection between the compensatory consumption and the threatened domain is only hinted at. In HEC Paris studies, people made to feel their intelligence was questioned were then asked to evaluate products associated with intellectual skills. When the products were presented with a slogan like “Magazine for the intelligent reader,” the consumer ended up fretting more than when the item was presented without the slogan.

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Profit from Status with Loyal Customers 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Round Down Accounts Receivables

In rounding up from your debtors overdue payments, you’ll want to minimize the necessary force. Best to keep it easy for them to do right. Researchers at Seattle University, Rutgers University-Camden, and Microsoft Corporation say that one way to accomplish this is to state the overdue amount to end in a 0 or a 5, rounding down the full amount as necessary.
     For amounts under $10, this meant using either a whole dollar or 50¢ ending. For other amounts less than $1,000, this meant using a $0 or $5 whole dollar amount. For amounts of at least $1,000, $50 and $100 endings fit the rule. The researchers analyzed use of these rules in contexts ranging from library fines to cable TV services to credit card bills.
     The technique works because when people are under stress, rounded numbers are easier for them to process than other numbers. Because we’ve five fingers on each hand and ten fingers total, our brains find comfort in processing numbers ending in 5 or 0. The debtor is more likely to pay attention to the dollar amount, and paying one’s attention is a necessary step toward paying one’s money. Along with this, because numbers ending in 5 or 0 stay in the brain better than numbers ending in another digit, the responsibility for the debt stays closer to the front-of-mind.
     The facilitation of payment is measurable, but this does not guarantee payment will be made. In the cable TV context, payment rates improved by about 8%. Further, the technique is expected to work only if the debtor has sufficient funds to make payment without borrowing from another source. Still, here’s a simple way to improve collections when combined with other inducements and pressures.
     Improving payments helps the consumer as well as you, for they can maintain momentum climbing out of debt. Researchers at Northwestern University analyzed this phenomenon. They found that a good predictor of the consumer’s success was the number of credit accounts closed toward the start of a debt elimination program. The dollar balance of the credit accounts closed at the start was not a good predictor of success. Instead, the momentum of closing accounts signaled the difference.
     Psychologists talk of a “flow state” in which a person who makes a consumer decision then becomes more likely to make another similar decision and then yet another. Flow your consumers into good financial habits.

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Round Up Benefits for the Shopper 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Shrink the Logo to Discourage Knockoff Buys

When someone acknowledges purchase of a counterfeit item, they might be pleased with themselves for pulling it off or disgusted with themselves for being fooled. It depends on when they discover the item is a knockoff. In either case, though, damage is done.
     The damage from the disgust spreads broadly, according to studies at Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Ono College, and INSEAD. Upon learning an item was counterfeit when they were seeking the name brand good, study participants wanted to get away from the situation. And people told a fountain pen or a computer mouse was counterfeit performed less well, compared to those not told this, when using a pen or a mouse physically resembling the counterfeit. This sort of spread generates disgust, going beyond distrust, toward your business, other products you sell, and the services you market.
     But with consumers who intend to make a counterfeit purchase, the damage is to marketers who want to sell the genuine items, usually at a higher price. Researchers at Islamic University of Science & Technology in India reviewed studies conducted since the early 1990s investigating why people knowingly seek out knockoffs of luxury items. Based on what they found, the researchers then give advice for reducing the lure of the fake.
     Some of those techniques make sense as soon as we think about them for a bit: Launch less expensive lines for bargain shoppers who want the prestige, but can’t afford the tariff. Maintain a socially conscious image. Some shoppers justify their purchase of knockoffs through resentment. They decide that the marketer of the genuine items exploits people and that the brand promotes elitism. Luxury item advertising designed to produce envy fosters such resentment.
     However, one of the recommended techniques is counterintuitive: If prestige comes from the brand name, make the logo on the genuine item less prominent. When the identifier is less conspicuous, the carbon copy won’t be able to flash the prestige as clearly, consequently losing appeal.
     This technique is supported by prior research which found that sophisticated purchasers of luxury items actually prefer a less showy logo. Consider sunglasses. A number of years ago, researchers at University of Pennsylvania and Southern Methodist University tallied how about 85% of sunglasses selling for about $100 included a brand name or logo easily visible to others. But for sunglasses selling above the $500 mark, the percentage was about 30%.

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Counter Counterfeits’ Attraction 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Mow Down Astroturfing Influence

Just after receiving an avalanche of messages urging him to support legislation favoring insurance companies, U.S. Senator Lloyd Benson declared, “A fellow from Texas can tell the difference between grass roots and AstroTurf.” And as that happened was born the term “astroturfing” to refer to artificially generated messages designed to portray widespread public support for an opinion favored by the astroturfing sponsor. While grassroots campaigns are bottom-up, astroturfing is top-down. The deception is not necessarily in the content of the messages. They might be multiplying the voice of what people are really thinking. The deception is in claiming the messages were created by a range of members of the public.
     Between 2016 and 2018, Twitter identified 10 million tweets generated by 4,500 accounts which were probably phony, 3,800 of those accounts believed to be affiliated with the St. Petersburgh Internet Research Agency, a top source of fake messages worldwide. Astroturfing is now more prevalent in online postings intended to influence voters than in messages designed to directly influence politicians. This makes it not only more prevalent, but also more pernicious, conclude researchers at University of Zurich and University of Passau. When the messages do not genuinely reflect the public’s consensus, online astroturfing progressively eats away at the electorate’s understanding of truth.
     The researchers explored ways to head off this decay. The most effective way they found was to inoculate citizens with warnings about the specific arguments likely to be used by astroturfers and then explanations of why those arguments are flawed. Like an inoculation against disease, this intervention needs to happen in advance, and that requires you to spot campaigns early.
     This technique also requires you to continually deliver booster shots of warnings and refutations. In the studies, the protection of an initial inoculation against astroturfing’s damage faded after about two weeks.
     The AstroTurf grass substitute doesn’t need periodic fertilizing or mowing. To combat distortions of reality, astroturfing does necessitate the parallels of that maintenance. The deep roots of astroturfing in history show how it keeps popping up. The declaration by Lloyd Benson, the senator representing Texas, about being able to distinguish genuine from fabricated expressions of opinion was made in 1985. Not far back enough to convince you of my point? Okay, recall that Shakespeare wrote in “Julius Caesar” of how Cassius created fake letters from the public in order to persuade Brutus to carry out the assassination.

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Encourage Reviewers to Identify Themselves 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Court Courtesy by Using Older Providers

In the US, full-time employment of people at least 65 years old in service and sales positions has been substantially increasing over the past years. Analysis of results from a set of more than one hundred studies indicates this means those service and sales settings are showing more courtesy. You’ll decrease friction by hiring and retaining older employees.
     The University of Southern Mississippi, Istanbul Technical University, and Artvin Coruh University researchers who analyzed the studies attribute this effect to what has been labeled “senior cool.” University of Zurich studies conclude that what distinguishes people who live happily into their advanced years is a habit of composure and poise which reduces problems of daily living to manageable levels.
     As we age, we become less upset. Anger and defensiveness fade. Behind this is a recognition that the remaining life span is limited, so what time we have should be invested in pleasant experiences. This positivity bias calms the customers, clients, and patients who are receiving services, melting away their rude treatment of the service providers, which then further reduces any friction. Along with this, any consumer rudeness becomes more likely to be interpreted by the senior as a call for help, and the response of helpfulness also turns around upset.
     The 103 samples used to document this included a total of 48,067 frontline employees. The large and diverse sampling across age ranges from numerous cultures when subjected to sophisticated statistical analyses of the results allowed the researchers to tease apart the elderly employee service courtesy effect. It was found to be stronger in settings like health care than in settings like hotels.
     The effect also held true more in cultures with low power distance belief, such as America and Austria, than in cultures with high power distance belief, such as China and Columbia. The “power” refers to the degree of influence people have over others. The “distance belief” refers to the degree to which a consumer accepts that there are wide differences in the amount of power possessed by people. North American and European residents have relatively low PDB, believing that in retail transactions, for example, the salesperson and the shopper deserve to have about an equal amount of influence.
     In high PDB cultures, the emotions of service providers are little valued. Consumer rudeness is insensitive to a gentle, solicitous response. In such cultures, the service provider’s age might make little difference.

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Proceed to Protect Your Staff from Insults 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Maximize Profits from Minimalists

Some people aggressively limit their consumption. This tendency could be called voluntary simplicity, reduced consumption, anti-consumption, or inconspicuous minimalism. Well at least those are the names researchers at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Villanova University, and University of Southampton used when advising you how to sell to the minimalists.
     Here’s my version of the four types, using what those researchers and work by others has discovered:
     Consumers who engage in voluntary simplicity hold that by devoting less attention to acquiring material objects, they’ve more money and time to expend on meaningful experiences. Their objectives are not to deprive themselves of creature comforts or avoid responsibilities to others, but rather to continually assess how best to allocate their resources in ways which develop enduring self-worth.
     Attract this category of prospective shoppers by adding to each offering the opportunity to learn something new. A subtheme motivation is to learn skills which will enable them to depend less on others, simplifying social relationships.
     Reduced consumption may originate from the consumer’s economic constraints. Because it’s less central to the self than voluntary simplicity, reduced consumption has a shorter life. When the economic situation improves, so can materialism. Further, those engaging in reduced consumption might splurge for special occasions, such as celebrating a birthday or finally landing a job.
     Having this in mind, maintain with these prospective customers a desire to up their purchasing quantity in the future. For now, accentuate the utility of offerings, presenting part of that utility as an ability to add on to an acquisition later rather than needing to replace it. Pruned-down appliances with optional upgrades are an example.
     Purchase habits of anti-consumption consumers are harder to change than are those for the other three types. But those habits are also highly predictable. These people have decided to boycott specific item types or brands they consider to be immoral. Their disgust with these is deeply felt and broadly announced. By listening, you’ll discover how to avoid stepping on their toes as you propose alternative brands and items.
     Inconspicuous minimalism is the arena of consumers who avoid pretentious indicators when purchasing luxury products. Because this category goes for luxury, they’ll generally have ample funds and be willing to spend. Just be sure to show them a selection of items carrying secret handshake indicators. The Coach handbag reveling a subtle logo along with the high design quality of Coach is an example.

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Keep It Simple, Whatever That Means!