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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Reduce Risk Fears by Introducing Choices