Monday, July 15, 2024

Meld Girl- & Boy-Marketing Language

In the early 1970’s, actress and activist Marlo Thomas initiated her “Free to Be You and Me” project, designed to reduce gender stereotypes in children’s decision making. Now, more than a half century later, the state of California is requiring large retailers who sell toys in the state to maintain a gender-neutral aisle. The sponsor of the law, California Assemblymember Evan Low, says he was inspired to introduce his bill by an 8-year-old girl who asked, “Why should a store tell me what a girl’s shirt or toy is?”
     In October 2021, the same month that bill was signed into law, LEGO announced their “Ready for Girls” initiative. LEGO identified a problem—and also an opportunity to increase sales to a broader audience—with their survey results indicating how at that time 76% of parents reported they’d encourage LEGO play by a son, but only 24% would encourage LEGO play by a daughter.
     Yet, a California State University, Fullerton project finds that differences persist even now in media targeted to boys and girls—differences which could encourage self-stereotyping. This conclusion was based on studies of language characteristics in cartoon franchises associated with toys which a sample of U.S. parents said are targeted to girls, are targeted to boys, or are gender neutral. Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake were among the franchises considered girl-targeted; GI Joe and Star Wars, boy-targeted; and Care Bears and Harry Potter, gender neutral.
     Then, a machine-assisted analysis of language used in the franchise cartoons showed that scripts in the girl-targeted series were more emotionally positive overall than in those targeting boys. Scripts targeting girls did feature more phrasing expressing sadness, but also more phrasing expressing affiliation, which could be seen as a means for easing sadness. Scripts in boy-targeted series featured more phrasing expressing anger, power, and risk. Further, by comparing scripts of older and newer series from the same franchises, the researchers saw evidence that differences in language characteristics between girl-targeted and boy-targeted cartoons have decreased over the years.
     The researchers recommend marketers attend to the remaining differences when crafting messages intended to persuade children. The researchers also urge marketers to avoid language likely to reinforce negative self-stereotypes limiting a child’s developmental options. “This is not a call to cancel traditional gender representations, but rather a call for more balance,” they write. They’re acknowledging the cultural forces which expect circumscribed sexual roles.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Discontinue Dichotomies If Continuums Fit 

Monday, July 8, 2024

Straighten Product Presentation Up & Across

Of the range of characteristics determining the appeal of a song, you’d think the angle of lines on the album cover would be less important than the style of the music. And you’d be right. The fact that the angle of those lines makes any difference at all seems strange. Yet that’s what a Vilnius University and University of Groningen study documented. And this carries a message for product presentation more generally.
     In one of their experiments, the researchers asked participants to evaluate album artwork and, while looking at an image of the album, listen to a song from that album. The band name and song were chosen to be unfamiliar to the participants. For some of the participants, the album cover included a grid of perfectly horizontal and vertical lines—a cardinal design. For the other participants, the cover included the straight lines at a 45-degree angle—an oblique design. Keeping the album cover in view while the song plays duplicates what’s done by streaming services like Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora.
     Each participant was told they should listen to the song for as long as they wanted. The people exposed to the cardinal album design chose to listen about 42% longer than did those exposed to the oblique design. Further data analyses suggested that this difference was due to song appeal induced by the orientation of lines on the album cover.
     In another of the researchers’ analyses, the cardinality characteristic of each of hundreds of actual music albums reflecting a range of music styles was measured and statistics about the album’s success in the marketplace were gathered. It turned out that albums with covers having higher cardinality had achieved better sales.
     The researchers relate their findings to past studies showing how respected landscape and portrait paintings include many more vertical and horizontal lines than angled lines, and how people will gaze at a painting for a longer time when the painting is displayed in a cardinal compared to oblique orientation. The explanation is that our brains find a cardinal orientation easier to mentally process, and people usually prefer what is easier to process. The lesson beyond album covers and fine art is to keep information simple for the shopper and customer to process.
     There are exceptions. Sometimes angles or curves work better to portray enthusiasm or femininity. But as a rule, keep product messages straight up and across.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Mean More with Mean Ratings 

Monday, July 1, 2024

Expand Experiences by Inspiring Intimacy

Would diners at your restaurant be more willing to tolerate longer wait times when accompanied by a close friend than if dining alone? Yes, for a number of reasons. The reason experimentally supported by studies at Texas A&M University, Harvard University, and University of Maryland is that consumers are attracted to the opportunity to create shared memories of experiences.
     Marketers can make an otherwise less-favorable experience more attractive by providing for physical togetherness with a relationship partner. In one of the studies, a participant was more likely to choose two free adjacent Cirque du Soleil tickets in row 55 than two free non-adjacent tickets in row 10 when the companion was a close friend rather than a casual acquaintance. Those participants imagining they were accompanied by a close friend reported placing more importance on the ability to create shared memories.
     This shared-memory effect is stronger regarding hedonic experiences—those in which pleasure comes from the experience itself—than regarding utilitarian experiences—where the pleasure comes from the outcome. In another of the studies, participants were asked to assume they were spending a week in Barcelona with a romantic partner and were offered a free upgrade to first-class on a train to Figueres. But the two partners would need to sit eleven rows apart rather than together, as with their coach seats. Then for some of the participants, the ride was described as an interesting narrated tour. For the other participants, the ride was described as not having much to see along the way.
     Participants in the second group expressed a greater interest in the free upgrade and also said they’d care less about creating shared memories.
     The researchers also find that the attractiveness of an experience can be increased by pointing out to the consumer how shared memories can be created even when the participants do not live through the experience physically together. This is useful to marketers because shoppers are going solo in life, such as choosing to live alone, but hesitate going solo to activities, since they think it wouldn’t be as much fun without a close companion.
     What goes into a customer’s memory to be shared also is affected by whether the experience is shared with others. People in a group are greatly influenced by what happens early on. First impressions set the scene. Solo consumers are more influenced by what happens to them late in their experience.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Enable Shoppers to Revisit the Already Done 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Pile Plenty of Political Polls on People

Voters who support a particular candidate for elective office consider the results of a political poll as less believable when that preferred candidate does less well in the poll. It’s an example of motivated reasoning, in which consumers’ beliefs are influenced more by what they already believe or want to believe than by new information.
     Researchers at Witten/Herdecke University, University of Zurich, and University of Mannheim posit this phenomenon as harmful to society, since in a healthy democracy, voters should be keeping their beliefs correct and current. The research findings indicate that the problem is eased when more poll results from a broader range of sources are provided over the course of a campaign.
     The political affiliation of the voter and the source of news can make a difference. In the researchers’ data set, Democrats’ beliefs were affected more strongly by reports of poll results when the Democratic candidate’s support was increasing rather than decreasing. This was particularly true if the results were said to come from Fox News. When the Democratic candidate was said to be winning, a Democratic respondent weighed Fox News survey results around three times more strongly than when the Democratic candidate was said to be losing. In the case of a poll from an MSNBC source, the increase was more subtle. These considerations did not impact Republican respondents’ belief changes.
     Even when voters’ beliefs are accurate, the effect on support of a candidate isn’t straightforward. Those who believe their favored candidate is clearly prevailing might increase contributions of money and time to the candidate’s campaign because the voter wants to sponsor a winner. But they might instead decrease their further outlays, feeling it’s now unnecessary. Those who come to believe their candidate is far behind might increase campaign contributions because they fear the candidate losing, or they might decrease their contributions because they label the campaign as hopeless.
     Also acknowledge underdog effects. Underdog narratives draw empathy for those who, in the face of resource shortages, are determined to prevail. However, while people root for the underdog, they prefer to affiliate with winners. Show that your candidate has the makings for ultimately winning. You’ll also want to present the candidate as a good sport. Researchers at University of Maryland and Georgetown University say underdog positioning helps most if your target markets see the underdog as sincere, fair, principled, honest, trustworthy, and less than supremely competent.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Motivate the Rushed Toward Motivated Reasoning 

Monday, June 17, 2024

Accent Competence in Employees with Accents

A service provider achieves better results when the customer participates more fully in service provision, contributing knowledge and effort. Customer participation drives satisfaction and loyalty, generating higher customer retention, sales growth, and firm profitability.
     After noting such past findings, researchers at FHWien der WKW, Bern University of Applied Sciences, and University of Leeds go on to report how their studies show the effects on customer participation of foreign-culture accent detected in the provider by the customers. A customer becomes less interested in contributing to the service encounter when the provider has an accent the customer considers to be from an unfavorable culture. Unfavorable-culture accents discourage customer participation even in situations where the participation is required for successful completion of the service. The range of service settings explored by the researchers covered financial planning, air travel, and guided meditation.
     The researchers do fear that reports of these findings will be used to discriminate against employees by limiting those with certain accents to less favorable job assignments. They propose avoiding this by mixing unfavorable-culture accented employees with native speakers in service delivery posts. Another suggestion implicit in their findings is to overcome negative stereotypes associated with certain accents by ensuring that all employees deliver competent services in a caring manner.
     A quite different type of country-of-origin study suggests an additional remedy: Babson College researchers asked liquor store shoppers to sip a wine, then give their judgment of the quality. Some of the study participants were told the wine was from Italy, while others were told the wine was from India.
     The timing of the country-of-origin information determined how the stereotype operated: If the wine-taster was given the country-of-origin information before the sip, those tasting the “Italian” wine rated the product as having higher quality than those tasting the wine from “India.” If the information was given after the sip, the results were reversed: Those who had sipped the “Italian” wine gave lower ratings to the quality on average than those getting the wine from the same bottle, but told it was from India.
     It was as if the consumer who had enjoyed the experience went overboard in fighting against stereotypes about Italian and Indian wines.
     Applied to the foreign-accent problem, maybe starting provider-customer service contacts with text messages and then, after showing competence, revealing the foreign accent, could result in services delivered by those with the accent being rated as even better than by those without.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Empower Indirectly Using Co-creation 

Monday, June 10, 2024

Post Brand Selfies in Highly Positive Reviews

It’s just common sense that online shoppers feel more comfortable with a prior customer’s product review when there’s a product image in the posting. But common sense often is less than universally true when describing consumer behavior. Studies at ESSEC Business School and University of Maastricht provide guidance for when product images are most helpful. In the studies, review helpfulness was defined as the shopper finding value in the review because it reduced purchase uncertainty.
     Based on their findings, the researchers recommend that online retailers especially encourage customers to include one or more images in a review when the item is one that promises value primarily from the pleasure of use rather than the practical utility of the outcome of use and when the review is otherwise extremely positive. These are circumstances where the review reader is most likely to consider the inclusion of the image to have made the review more helpful.
     The researchers also suggest the image show the product in use. This is consistent with findings from another study about product images: Researchers at University of Hamburg, Vienna University of Economics and Business, and Columbia University compared three formats: 
  • Pack shot. A standalone picture of the item with the brand logo clearly displayed 
  • Consumer selfie. Like a pack shot, but the face of the selfie poster or item user is also in the frame 
  • Brand selfie. Like a consumer selfie, but rather than a face, only a hand holding the item is shown
     The brand selfie format produced evidence of the highest purchase intention by social media viewers. The explanation is in the ability of the viewer to imagine themselves holding the item. The pack shot doesn’t do as well in getting the viewer in touch with the item. And the human face in the consumer selfie directed thoughts away from the brand, toward the person shown.
     It’s on the idea of drawing attention in the wrong direction that studies at University of Maryland caution about the use of images in comparative advertising. Showing pictures of people using the product leads shoppers to start thinking about using the products themselves, and when they do this, they put too much mental energy into thinking about just the recommended product. They forget to pay attention to the comparative advantages. But an exception to this exception is when the comparative shopping decision is quite complex. Then an image helps.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Lend a Hand to Brand Selfies 

Monday, June 3, 2024

Upsell the Discounted Purchase

A $50 price break on items in a merchandise category draws shoppers. Once the shoppers arrive, we almost always prefer that they purchase the higher-priced alternative in that category covered by the discount. A tactic for giving a nudge toward this is offering the price break as non-integrated rather than integrated.
     The definitions of integrated and non-integrated were developed by researchers at University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Shanghai University for use in their studies which demonstrated the value of the tactic. An integrated price reduction is a discount shown directly on the price statement for each applicable item, as in the format “$179.99 each regular price. Now $129.99. Save $50.” A non-integrated price reduction is presented in a form separate from the item’s price information, such as via a coupon with a promo code to get $50 off the regular purchase price of applicable items.
     The researchers find that, compared to the situation with an integrated discount, shoppers are less likely to be thinking about the final prices of the item when using the non-integrated discount. The result is that the difference in prices between a lower-priced, less desirable item and higher-priced, more desirable item is psychologically smaller. The difference between regular prices of $22.99 and $40.99, each to be discounted by $10 with a promo code, feels smaller than does the difference between the discounted prices of $11.99 and $39.99 as shown on the price tags. A feeling of smaller additional financial outlay to upgrade achieves the objective of nudging the shopper toward purchasing the higher-priced alternative.
     Studies at Tilburg University and Macquarie University address the same objective when a retailer is using a multiple quantity discount: What difference does it make whether you say, “Buy two, get 20% off on both,” or “Buy two, get 40% off on the lower-priced item”?
     Overall purchase rates were about the same with either. Yet the two alternatives did result in different ways of selecting the items to purchase. For the “40% off on the lower-priced item,” shoppers tended to select a more expensive second item than under the “20% off on both.” Helping this along is that 40% looks larger than 20%, even though the 40% applies to only one of the pair. Shoppers want to maximize the return from the 40% discount, so they’re more open to a higher price point.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Stand Out 

Monday, May 27, 2024

Decelerate the Pace to Develop Contemplation

When producing a short video to persuade others—such as for social media platforms—we’ll often aim to stuff in as many selling points as possible. We also may recall the evidence that young adults—often a top target audience for our persuasion efforts—seek the excitement of speed. The result is a fast-paced portrayal in the short video.
     A set of studies from researchers at Tilburg University, Goethe University Frankfurt, and University of Colorado Boulder argue for us to consider slowing down. Sometimes, slow-motion video significantly enhances persuasion.
     The findings apply when the short video portrays complex movements which the viewer finds to be pleasant. Portrayal of a basketball dunk or wave crashing on the shore, for instance. Decelerating the action facilitates comprehension and appreciation of the details. The advice doesn’t clearly apply to longer videos, in which slowing the action can come across as boring, foolish, or faked.
     Nor is the advice intended for situations where the video viewer is not seeking comprehension fluency. Examples of this include portrayals of unpleasant images or with a consumer who prefers incomplete comprehension. But in the proper circumstances of the studies, slow-motion videos increased ad sponsor preference and willingness to pay compared to equivalent normal-motion videos.
     The advantages of sometimes slowing down apply not just to short videos, but also to entire sales transactions. There are circumstances in which we do well to slow down the shopper as they settle on a course of action. Premature closure can have bad consequences ranging from returned items to safety risk.
     Easing the speed is a particular challenge when serving people high in a personality trait called “need for cognitive closure.” These consumers want to make shopping decisions promptly and then lock in those decisions. They’re uncomfortable with ambiguity. They are the polar opposite of shoppers who evidence a strong need to analyze as much information as possible before deciding.
     Researchers at Baylor University and University of Cincinnati found that shoppers with a high need for cognitive closure will slow down their decision making and work harder to analyze information when they believe the effort will be useful for making similar decisions in the future. An example of this is when the choice is about a newly introduced item or experience which is likely to become recurrent. This finding indicates that a marketer can encourage more contemplation during a transaction by highlighting those characteristics of a choice.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Slow Decision Making Among Shortcutters 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Noodle the Value of Novelty for Seniors

After reviewing decades of research about how older people make purchase decisions, University of Stuttgart gerontologists noted a tendency for seniors to return to the same merchants and shops for the same brands. They attributed this to the appeal of familiarity.
     Younger consumers seek the excitement of novelty, while older consumers seek the calmness of familiarity. In one set of studies, participants were offered choices of tea, bottled water, and music. The older participants were more likely than the younger ones to select “a relaxing blend of chamomile and mint” over “a refreshing peppermint blend,” the bottle of “Pure Calm” water labeled in green over the “Pure Excitement” water labeled in bright orange, and the relaxed-tempo version of the song “Such Great Heights.”
     Such findings can lead marketers to avoid presenting novel offerings to seniors. However, a preference for the familiar is not the same as emotional upset from the unfamiliar. Results from a Stanford University study of people ranging in age from 18 to 94 years indicate that older adults actually experience less negative emotion when encountering novel situations in their daily lives than do younger adults
     Study participants were asked to rate their everyday experiences on dimensions of newness, unfamiliarity, and unexpectedness five times a day for a total of seven days. The accompanying emotional reactions were measured via participant self-ratings of intensity using positive descriptors, such as excitement and contentment, and negative descriptors, such as boredom and frustration.
     The researchers say the lowered emotional reactivity to novel situations among the older participants is due to a general lowered emotional reactivity which comes with advanced age. Researchers from University of Zurich contend that what distinguishes consumers who live happily into their advanced years is composure and poise. These reduce problems of daily living to manageable levels.
     The Stanford University researchers remind us that the nature of emotional reactions depends on the nature of the novelty. Being invited to explore new travel destinations is different from being required to change where you live.
     The Stanford University researchers present their findings as suggestive, not conclusive. They point to the evidence from prior studies that participation by older adults in a variety of experiences will contribute to physical, cognitive, and emotional health. So unless subsequent research results suggest otherwise, and without overwhelming the capacity to handle change, offer older customers and clients a smorgasbord of novelty to energize the familiar.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Keep Senior Shoppers From Worst Impulses 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Listen with Benevolent Intentions

Listening sells. In a literature review article, researchers at University of Haifa and Stanford University point to the evidence that agents of influence who listen well are more persuasive than those who don’t. Good listening builds trust, and trustworthiness leads to the target of persuasion taking advice and accepting claims. Trust increases brand loyalty, purchase intentions, and post-purchase satisfaction.
     When the agent of persuasion is viewed by the target of persuasion as listening well, perceptions of competence of the agent grow. Interestingly, perceptions of the target of persuasion in their own competence also grow.
     The accuracy of all these statements does depend on our definition of good listening, though. And the definition of good listening is necessary if we’re to make use of the findings to improve our skills.
     Some listening skills covered by the researchers’ definition consist of verbal behaviors. Examples include: 
  • Ask follow-up questions. These request more details on what the target of persuasion has just said. 
  • Paraphrase what the target has said. Changing the precise phrasing used by the target is evidence you’re paying attention and not mocking. 
  • Exclaim on what’s said. Periodically saying short phrases like “I see” and “Oh, interesting” signal attention without needing to interrupt the target. 
  • Be attentively silent. Providing the opportunity for the target to complete expressing themselves projects receptivity to the message.
     Some listening skills concern nonverbal behaviors, such as looking at the target, smiling, and nodding.
     These verbal and nonverbal behaviors are observable. In their review, the researchers also highlight what is called “benevolent intentions,” an element which is not directly observable. This consists of the agent of persuasion’s positive regard for the target.
     Researchers at University of Texas-Arlington, University of Chile, and Universidad del Desarrollo studied “active empathic listening,” which refers to a salesperson integrating a client’s words and nonverbal messages for an understanding of the client’s beliefs, feelings, and intentions. These researchers measured salesperson self-rated AEL using questionnaire items, “I listen for more than just the spoken words,” “I ask questions that show my understanding of my customer’s position,” “I show my customers that I am listening by my body language (e.g. head nods),” and, “I sense why my customers feel the way they do.”
     When AEL was carried out, the client rated the service as being of higher quality than otherwise. This held true even if the client didn’t like the salesperson.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Embrace Shopper Expertise 

Monday, May 6, 2024

Prompt Personalizing to Ease Change Resistance

Employees who personalize their workspaces are more committed to successfully implementing organizational changes. The University of Queensland researchers who verified this effect explain it in terms of territoriality—the feeling of ownership of the workspace—and change self-efficacy—the confidence an employee maintains that they’ll handle the challenges of the changes. When an employee’s need for territoriality is satisfied during periods of organizational change, change self-efficacy increases. Based on results from prior studies, the researchers theorize that this is because the employee’s self-identity then better incorporates the organizational identity.
     To establish territoriality, an individual will mark their space. Examples of marking include personalization, such as displaying diplomas and curated artwork on the walls and populating the workspace with items like books which are being read and mugs which trigger happy memories. When territoriality is threatened, the individual might engage in behaviors like erecting partitions.
     By encouraging workspace personalization, managers prepare their teams to commit to changes ahead. But the researchers caution against directing employees to personalize. That would risk erasing the autonomy and, therefore, individual self-identity associated with the personalizing. Taking account of this caution, I recommend instead prompting personalizing, such as by the manager commenting positively on the personalization by some team members in order to inspire other team members to participate.
     The researchers note that the advantages of workspace personalization can be undone with organizational policies of hot desking—assigning an employee a workspace for the day when they come into the office—and clean desk initiatives—which discourage the presence of items not directly related to one’s specific work tasks.
     Not that self-confidence from personalizing is always good. Colorado State University researchers found that drivers of cars with bumper stickers are more likely to honk, tailgate, and cut off other vehicles than are drivers of cars without bumper stickers. This held true whether the sentiment on the bumper sticker was about aggression or acceptance. “My Kid Is an Honor Student” as well as “My Kid Can Beat Up Your Honor Student.” “Visualize World Peace” as well as “Don’t Mess With Texas.”
     Moreover, the “bumper sticker aggression” showed up with window decals and personalized license plates. Consumers were using the personalizing of their cars to justify the expression of aggression in socially acceptable ways.
     Acceptable doesn’t necessarily mean safe. The Colorado researchers report that aggressive driving causes about two out of three auto accidents involving physical injury.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Lead Your Customers Through Changes Gradually 

Monday, April 29, 2024

Constrain Politician Parodies to Controllables

Among negative political ads are those in which the views, personality characteristics, speech patterns, or even physical traits of the opponent are mocked. Ridicule can entertain and arouse, leading to greater social media engagement. But to what degree does that happen? asked a team of researchers at Sorbonne Business School, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, EDC Paris Business School, Paris‐Est‐Créteil University, and California State University-Los Angeles.
     They found that the answer depends on whether what’s being ridiculed is a characteristic of the politician which is in the politician’s control or not. In one of the studies, French consumers were asked their intention to share a parody which ridiculed a characteristic of a politician. The politician was Emmanuel Macron. The controllable characteristic—used in the parody with some of the study participants—was Mr. Macron’s arrogance. The uncontrollable trait—used in the parody with the other participants—was Mr. Macron being married to an older woman. These two traits were chosen because Mr. Macron had been widely derided for each.
     People expressed greater intention to share the parody when the theme was a controllable trait. Data analyses indicated the reason is that mocking an uncontrollable trait arouses moral objections in the audience. This explanation was supported by results from the researchers’ analyses of parodies of political figures which had been posted on YouTube along with readers’ comments on such parodies.
     The implication for those aiming to win impact is to avoid satire which targets uncontrollable traits of the opposing politician. There’s clear evidence doing otherwise jeopardizes the social media sharing which helps the message go viral. The researchers also warn that the backlash aroused by parodist mudslingers can easily damage the reputation of the poster.
     Parodies are ridicule packaged in humor. Humor can serve as a distraction. The laughter keeps the audience from thinking about counterarguments. But a potential problem is that what some people consider to be funny, others don’t. If the humor falls flat, all that’s left is the ridicule. Your parody risks being seen by the consumers as mean-spirited, and that can interfere with your selling appeal.
     Researchers at University of Massachusetts-Amherst
demonstrated how humor differs even between the U.S. and the U.K., both of them individualistic cultures. Other research has shown how collectivist cultures—like in Japan—and family-oriented cultures—like in Mexico—come to dislike marketers who seem to depend on ridicule to make a point.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Endorse Policy, Not Character, Political Attacks 

Monday, April 22, 2024

Differentiate Virtual Social Media Influencers

A social media influencer is often a real human with a known personality, but also could be created using computer graphics software and then presented to the marketplace with a storyline complex enough to portray a memorable personality. That’s a virtual influencer. Researchers at University of Zaragoza compared the effectiveness of the two types when persuading consumers.
     Based on their study results, the researchers report that, overall, the two types can be equally influential. This is valuable for marketers to know because virtual influencers, compared to their human counterparts, are more reliably available, don’t change unless that’s intended, are more easily directed, and present less risk of becoming associated with distracting public scandals.
     Still, there are differences in the mechanism of persuasion for the two types. The human influencer’s power arises from development of a persona the consumer can identify with. The virtual influencer persuades based on the consumer’s perception of more objective, and therefore more useful, advice than would come from a human. The consumer impression that virtual-influencer creation requires artificial intelligence technologies strengthens the sense that the virtual influencer possesses strong analytical and logical capabilities.
     An implication, which is supported by the study results, is that marketers should employ human social media influencers for endorsements of hedonic, pleasure-oriented, items and employ virtual influencers for utilitarian item endorsements. The products used in the studies were a computer laptop as the utilitarian example and a hotel room as the hedonic example.
     Some virtual influencers, such as Any Malu and Anna Cattish are cartoonish versions of humans. However, most of the leading ones, such as Thalasya and Lu do Magalu, closely resemble a human’s appearance. This points to another issue for marketers to consider: Will such a close resemblance spook rather than enchant viewers?
     When people can’t tell whether a robot, a mannequin, or some other representation of a human is real or not, the people experience revulsion. If the android looks exactly like an attractive human being, people are attracted to it. If it looks similar to a human, but people can easily tell it’s not real, they’re amused. However, when the resemblance is very close, but they are not sure if it’s real, they’re creeped out. That dip in the positive emotion is why the effect is called the uncanny valley.
     It might be best to use a virtual influencer which resembles a human, but is easily distinguishable.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Remind Consumers of Robots’ Competence 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Curate Ads to Arouse Curiosity

As soon as a shopper focuses on your intentions to influence them toward buying a product, they become less likely to make the purchase. The effect is substantial. For instance, it cuts in half, on average, the persuadability of advertising. Researchers at University of Hohenheim attribute the effect to shopper skepticism and show that arousing curiosity via the ad can ease the skepticism.
     In the studies, consumers’ curiosity was aroused by showing pictures of gift items with information on the box labels too small to read or by listing prospective potato chip flavors with a few letters missing from each flavor name. In some of the studies and for some of the study participants, the ambiguity was subsequently resolved by clearly showing the full information.
     The resulting evidence was that aroused curiosity decreases skepticism about the messages in an ad and that resolved ambiguity produces pleasant feelings which spread to positive evaluations of items featured in the ad.
     A long train of research has shown how arousing curiosity in consumers and then satisfying the curiosity increases the potential of a sale. Research findings from Indiana University and University of Colorado-Boulder verified the value of a mystery ad format, in which you wait until the end to announce the brand name. Start off with an unusual story or absurd humor which dramatizes the category of item and hooks the ad’s viewer or listener into thinking “Who’s this commercial for, anyway?”
     These studies had to do with curiosity which is satisfied. Other research finds that unsatisfied curiosity motivates impulse buying. Gently kick prospective customers toward purchasing impulsively by prolonging their curiosity, advise researchers at University of Arizona and University of Washington. In one of their studies, they aroused curiosity by showing participants blurred images and assessed impulsive consumption by offering a quantity of chocolate candies and noting how many the person ate. When curiosity was aroused and a rewarding resolution was not provided, more chocolate candies were consumed.
     Another technique used to arouse curiosity was asking study participants to write about questions for which they wanted answers. The influence of curiosity without closure was seen not only in the choices made by the study participants, but also in their brain activity. People with unresolved curiosity showed elevations in blood oxygenation of the insula, a brain area associated with the desire for rewards when there is no surety of receiving the rewards.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Cruise Through When People Suspect Selling 

Monday, April 8, 2024

Tag with Likeable or Memorable Taglines

What we most like as consumers may be quite different from what we best remember as consumers. According to a set of studies at University of Missouri, City University of London, and University of Arizona, that statement holds true at least for a marketing tagline—the slogan a brand intends to grab our positive attention and carve a lasting positive impression. For Walmart, it’s “Save Money. Live Better.” For Sears, it was “The good life at a great price.” The linguistic properties of a likeable tagline differ from those for a memorable tagline.
     The difference has to do with the ease of mental processing. All else equal, consumers like simplicity, so a slogan that’s easier to mentally process will be liked better. Such taglines are relatively shorter, use highly familiar words, and refer to intangibles—concepts such as satisfaction and love. For instance, in the studies, taglines such as “The cure for mankind” were liked better than taglines such as “The antidote for civilization.”
     But when the mental processing of the tagline requires more time and effort to understand, the payoff is that it’s better able to burrow into the brain, making it more memorable. In the studies, these slogans included words which are less common and referred to concrete characteristics—what we can see, hear, taste, smell, or feel. For instance, taglines such as “Your word is our wedding ring” were remembered better than taglines such as “We keep your promises.” Using a metaphor in a tagline might also add to the complexity of mental processing.
     Well-established brands have less to gain from increasing memorability than they risk losing from unlikability, note the researchers. Fluent slogans are best. But for brands new to a marketplace, memorability counts, so refer to concrete concepts and use less-common words.
     The researchers explored the effect of including the brand name in the tagline—"Horlicks guards against night starvation” versus “Guards against night starvation.” They found that the inclusion increased the mental processing toll and so would be better for brands establishing a reputation.
     Another set of studies revealed an additional wrinkle: People were asked to think about the Walmart and former Sears slogans. It turned out this increased the amount of money the people were willing to spend during a shopping trip. In fact, the amount was twice as much after thinking about the slogan than after thinking about the store name.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Poke the Two Faces of Metaphors 

Monday, April 1, 2024

Order & Partition Custom Health Plan Options

The notion of choice architecture is that the format in which we present alternatives to the consumer significantly influences the consumer’s choices. A set of studies at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Columbia University, and University of Pennsylvania provides an example of choice architecture with findings about selecting a healthcare insurer. The researchers note that such decisions are complex because of the differences among plans in conditions covered, deductible amounts, and required copays; are important because of the effects of healthcare coverage on a subscriber’s lifespan and financial stability; and are of societal interest because of evidence that consumers often overpay for coverage.
     A primary reason consumers have difficulty making the best decisions involving future risk, such as healthcare insurance, is that people focus excessively on the worst possibilities and pay insufficient attention to the probabilities of the various future situations. Artificial intelligence which uses information about the individual plan shopper and the range of plan characteristics allows for optimizing choice.
     Consumers are likely to rebel against being given only one plan to select from. What’s needed is a set of recommendations and a nudge toward the best one rather than a directive. In my email exchange about the studies with Prof. Benedict Dellaert, the lead researcher, he wrote, “Besides the fact that consumers may not like receiving only one plan as a recommendation, another important reason to offer them a small set is that models/algorithms will often not have a perfect prediction for each consumer. Offering choice can improve the consumer-product fit.”
     The choice architecture tested in the studies combined ordering with partitioning. In one version of the presentations, healthcare coverage options were listed roughly in order from best to least good in likelihood of minimizing cost for the consumer. The options were then partitioned by initially limiting the display of choices to the top candidates, with the consumer able to view all the remaining alternatives by clicking on a button.
     Study participants were more likely to select an optimal plan with this type of choice architecture than with an unranked list or with only ordering or partitioning.
     Regarding you using such a choice architecture, Prof. Dellaert cautions, “The model/algorithm must be of sufficiently high quality, including in terms of reflecting the consumer’s best interest, for the ordering with partitioning to help. If the ordering is antagonistic to the consumer preference, the partitioning may instead harm the consumer decision outcome.”

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Reduce Risk Fears by Introducing Choices 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Donate Positive & Negative Right for Charity

Marketers soliciting charitable contributions via emotional appeals need to determine the optimal blend of positive and negative in campaigns. How much to show smiling children and a message of gratitude for the positive impact of past contributions? How much to show sad children alongside a message that failure to contribute endangers lives of kids like these? Which objectives are best achieved with text saying that the healthy animals or lush landscapes shown in the photos are due to donations from people similar to the person viewing the solicitation? And which objectives are best achieved by text saying that the dead animals and damaged landscapes shown are because people failed to step up to help?
     Researchers at Complutense University of Madrid used such materials to evaluate study participants’ reactions. The study is distinctive and the conclusions more trustworthy because in addition to the behavioral measures of willingness to donate, neuropsychological data were gathered. Analyses of participants’ eye movements and their brain waves—electroencephalogram tracings—were interpreted to assess the attention paid to the solicitations and the impacts on emotional arousal from the solicitations.
     The overall conclusions provide guidance for when to use each type of appeal. Employ a negative appeal when your main objective is to increase donations in the short term. Those solicited will contribute in an effort to ease their negative feelings stimulated by the ad. But if your main objective is to engage the person for the longer-term, such as to enroll in monthly giving, use a positive appeal.
     The results also have implications for placement of emotion-arousing stimuli in the images and text of a printed solicitation: People spend more time exploring the text area when the ad is positively-toned and more time exploring the image area when the ad is negatively-toned.
     Generally, the positivity of an attractive solicitor will increase contributions. But a University of Alberta study found an exception to that rule. The researchers set up a set of fictitious websites on which visitors were asked to financially sponsor a child from a developing country.
     When the children were portrayed as having severe needs, facial attractiveness made no difference in the willingness to help. But when the level of need was not severe, people demonstrated less compassion for attractive than for unattractive children. The researchers attribute this effect to people assuming that attractive children would be better able to recruit help on their own.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Profit Your Nonprofit by Arousing Gratitude 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Foment FOMO & Fear for Crypto Crazy

What persuades people to invest in cryptocurrencies, given the level of financial risk with even the most stable alternatives? In describing the popularity of cryptos, researchers at Universitat Ramon Llull note that financially vulnerable minorities are overrepresented among the range of investors. Therefore, perhaps the appeal is related to that of lotteries: The poor are drawn to dreams of cashing in big while ignoring the odds of crashing down big.
     Those researchers then go on to explore the power of FOMO. People’s caution about cryptos is dissolved by a fear of missing out on the astounding financial gains they believe others are achieving. For one of the studies, the researchers used as participants people who had recently invested in cryptos. The participants were asked to pretend they were considering another crypto investment. Some then read, “Other users, traders, and investors have posted comments and videos on this social media platform about the release of this crypto. They have commended the hype about this new crypto and how profitable it might be. So, you think you are missing out if you do not invest.” The others read, instead, “Other users, traders and investors have not mentioned anything about this crypto and have not shown any interest on this social media platform. So, you are not sure about the hype of this crypto and its profitability. You do not think you are missing out on anything if you finally decide not to invest.”
     As the researchers predicted, the fear of missing out resulted in higher agreement with, “It’s very likely that I will invest in this new crypto.” Additional studies in the set supported the conclusion that FOMO precipitated the investment interest and that this worked even when the investor had experienced prior losses. The implication is that sales of highly risky instruments can be increased with use of a FOMO appeal.
     However, consumer advocates and ethical financial advisors will want to curb financially vulnerable consumers’ attraction to crypto. The researchers found evidence that a fear message can counteract the FOMO effect. The text used in the study was, “9 out of 10 investors suffer severe losses when investing in crypto.”
     A separate project found the driving force of FOMO toward cryptocurrency investing is more likely in people who show high interpersonal agreeableness and low self-confidence. When a financial advisor identifies these characteristics in a consumer, delivering fear messages is especially important.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Dissect the Shopper’s Risk Tolerance 

Monday, March 11, 2024

Green Up Your Corporate Social Responsibility

Offering products designed with sensitivity to environmental welfare—green products—improves the attractiveness of a store carrying them. A University of Indiana analysis of 75 green product introductions finds that this doesn’t uniformly equate to more buying of the products, though. Increased profitability often comes from purchases of items not carrying the green designation. In fact, the presence of socially conscious products makes it more likely the customer will buy products that do not embody social consciousness. It’s as if having chosen the store is enough to satisfy the shopper’s desire to display green values.
     By comparison, when a brand designs its corporate social responsibility programs to benefit environmental welfare, the positive emotion among consumers results in increased purchases of the related products.
     For their analyses, researchers at Imperial College London and University of Southern California sorted CSR initiatives into three categories—targeted to fair labor practices, such as contributing resources for the betterment of its employees; targeted to community philanthropy, such as making donations to nonprofit organizations; and targeted to environmental sustainability, such as supporting the welfare of nature.
     Participants in the set of studies were each provided a description of a wine brand, hand soap brand, or stationary paper brand which engaged in one of the three types of CSR initiative, or in no CSR initiative. Each participant was also invited to purchase the described product, using a portion of money given to all as a stipend for study participation.
     Compared to those people not told of the brand’s CSR initiative, those told of an environmental CSR were more likely to spend their money purchasing the product. This was not generally true when the CSR initiative was described as targeted to employee welfare or community philanthropy.
     Further aspects of the studies identified the explanation for the effect as moral elevation, a characteristic measured by high degree of agreement with statements such as “The brand moves me because of the ideas it represents” and “The brand makes me want to be a better person.” CSR efforts targeted to environmental welfare generated greater moral elevation, and the moral elevation resulted in higher sales of the associated products.
     In the marketplace, shoppers will look for evidence beyond the CSR programs to judge the true values of a brand. Still, the general truth is that enabling shoppers to feel good about themselves improves sales, and environmentally-targeted CSR helps with that.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Wash Away Your Greenwash Products 

Monday, March 4, 2024

Couple Fiscal Intercourse

Marketers benefit when shoppers have money skills. The shoppers will be better able to pay their bills and so have funds to spend with you. Building those skills should begin early. As part of your community outreach, encourage parents to include their kids in financial literacy talk.
     A set of studies at Indiana University, University of Michigan, Yale University, and Northwestern University indicates that as those kids approach marriage age, the talk should include encouragement of husband and wife setting up joint rather than separate banking accounts at the start. During the first two years of marriage, couples who established joint accounts had a stronger relationship quality than did couples with separate accounts.
     The researchers attribute this to the partners with joint accounts engaging in more interpersonal dialogues about financial goals and more monitoring of each other’s spending habits. With joint accounts, each partner is thinking how they’ll justify large purchases to their mate. Regularly discussing expenditures and plans for expenditures with each other leads to insights about the important values each partner maintains—a valuable contributor to an enduring relationship.
     Couples often aim to balance their shopping tendencies. Tightwads—who recognize they should be more willing to spend money—tend to marry spendthrifts—who recognize they should be more cautious in spending. They married each other to help moderate the extremes. Joint accounts assist with this.
     The study of joint-versus-separate-accounts is notable because of the implications for the strength of marriages. It’s also notable because of the research methodology. In choosing a two-year tracking time, the researchers report that this span has been considered in prior studies as foreshadowing marital fate. 
     The research methodology also resolves causation direction. We might argue that couples who decide on their own to set up joint accounts already have a stronger relationship than do couples who decide to set up separate accounts at the start. So it’s not that joint accounts cause stronger relationships. It’s that relationship strength causes joint accounts. Or maybe it’s just that the two are correlated, caused by some other factor.
     The researchers addressed this by randomly assigning some of the couples in the study to set up joint accounts and others to set up individual accounts. When the researchers then assessed marriage relationship strength at six points over the first two years of the marriage, they could legitimately attribute the observed differences to the effects of the account type.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Include the Kids in Financial Literacy Talk 

Monday, February 26, 2024

Strengthen Weekday Sales with Music

Psychological depletion influences all sorts of consumer behavior, and it occurs not just within the span of a single day, but also in the difference between weekdays and weekends. A set of University of Bath and Babson College studies finds that in-store music boosts sales Monday through Thursday to a substantially greater extent than Friday through Sunday. The researchers’ explanation, supported by the studies, is that shoppers are under greater pressure during the workweek, and music fosters positive feelings in ways which enhance the shopping experience and restore depleted spirits. Music seemed to be more influential during later hours on the weekdays, when people would be expected to be more depleted than earlier in the day.
     The findings held for both background and foreground music in a grocery store field study. The researchers describe the background music as, “elevator music, with songs in major modes,” and no lyrics. The foreground music was, “songs that were popular at the time of the study and included vocals, likely to be recognized as individual songs.” The volume was designed to be just sufficient to be heard clearly over ambient noise in the store, and the playlist was long enough so that it avoided repetitiveness for employees as well as shoppers.
     The researchers point out their findings apply most clearly to retailers serving people on-the-job from Monday through Thursday. For a customer base composed primarily of vacationers or retirees, different strategies for using music would be called for.
     Other studies say that the music you play, as well as whether to play music at all, should reinforce the store personality you set. Among supermarket chains, Aldi stores don’t use music, Kroger stores do. The nature of the music also matters. If your sales depend on the shopper carefully analyzing the purchase decision, either do not have music or use music that is barely noticeable. Researchers at Columbia University and Northwestern University find that when a customer listens to the music in the store, their attention is taken away from analyzing the purchase decision. If you’re wanting the customers to try new brands or new products, eliminate intrusive music.
     Based on those same research findings, use noticeable music—such as music with lyrics—if you both expect and want the shopper to select items from habit without much thought. Noticeable music helps head off arguments the shopper might make to themselves about the purchase.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Use Music to Motivate, Not Disrupt 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Declare Inexperience to Experience Forgiveness

You want your frontline staff to be experts and for shoppers to recognize the expertise. Yet a trio of researchers at University of Bordeaux and KEDGE Business School find a payoff in boldly proclaiming that an inexperienced frontline staff member is, in fact, not yet an expert: If there’s a service failure during the subsequent sales transaction, the customer is more forgiving of both the employee and the retailer and, if the customer has already built an attachment to the retailer, is more likely to return in the future than if the warning of inexperience had not been provided.
     Based on their study findings, the researchers do add cautions: The customer must not have already experienced a series of service shortfalls from that retailer. And the announcement of employee inexperience must have been given upstream—prior to the service failure—such as by the employee wearing a badge labeled “In Training” or saying at the start, “This is my first week at the job.”
     Researchers from European School of Management and Technology, Loughborough University, Ruhr University Bochum, and FOM Hochschule Hochschulzentrum Berlin identify another effective upstream method, which they call psychological vaccination against disappointment. In their study, a group of 1,254 airline passengers were sent a pre-flight email saying the company’s commitment to service quality had earned it several awards. A set of passengers within the group also received, in their email, phrasing that said long waiting times at the baggage claim cannot be eliminated.
     Among the passengers who subsequently experienced long waiting times, customer satisfaction was clearly higher for those who had received the added message. Importantly, the added message did not decrease customer satisfaction among passengers whose waiting times were shorter. The psychological vaccine only helped. It didn’t hurt.
     Timing of a retailer’s response counts for the downstream, too: Researchers at IMED Business School in Brazil, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven find that an apology for a service failure and a promise it won’t happen again are both effective in recovering trust. But the timing of each influences the effectiveness. An apology, which is seen by the victim as demonstrating integrity, best comes promptly. A promise, seen as a sign of competence, best comes a few weeks after the incident. Perhaps this is because a credible promise requires gathering information about what occurred and what will work to correct the problem.

Successfully influence the most prosperous & most loyal consumer age group. For the specific strategies & tactics you need, click here.

Click for more…
Have Staff Who Show and Share Expertise