Monday, February 28, 2011

Coke Happiness Truck


People Who Think Their Partners Are a Perfect Fit Stay Happier—Even if They’re Wrong

Conventional wisdom says that if you idealize the person you marry, the disappointment is just going to be that much worse when you find out they aren’t perfect. But new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, challenges that assumption; people who were unrealistically idealistic about their partners when they got married were more satisfied with their marriage three years later than less idealistic people.
For the study, 222 couples were recruited as they applied for their marriage licenses at the Buffalo, New York, City Hall. “We’ve never had trouble getting people involved in our research, because people are interested in relationships and in understanding their own relationship,” says Sandra Murray of the University of Buffalo, a coauthor of the study. The participants filled out surveys on themselves, their partner, and their marriage every six months for three years.
Murray and her colleagues examined what people said about their hopes for an ideal partner, how they described their partners, and how the partners described themselves. From this, the researchers developed a ranking of how idealistic, and how based in reality, each person’s perception was. Some people were unrealistically idealistic; others were less idealistic. For example, say Joanne describes her ideal partner as athletic and smart, but not necessarily very creative. Her husband, Frank, is smart and creative, but not very athletic. If Joanne ranks him as more athletic than he is, then she’s being unrealistically idealistic about him.
People who had an unrealistically idealistic view of their spouse actually stayed happier over the next three years than people who were the least idealistic. Murray says she and her colleagues weren’t surprised to see this, even though it’s counter to conventional wisdom, because they have years of research pointing in this direction.
“People are very good at changing their definitions to match how they want to see themselves or how they want to see others,” Murray says. “Someone can decide they’re a good driver—even if they’ve had speeding tickets—if they’ve never been in an accident.” In the same way, people might be able to decide that their spouse matches their ideal, even if it’s not really true.

Social Break-Up


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Engagement-Centric Retailing

Read it by clicking here.o

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Staring Contests Are Automatic: People Lock Eyes to Establish Dominance

Imagine that you’re in a bar and you accidentally knock over your neighbor’s beer. He turns around and stares at you, looking for confrontation. Do you buy him a new drink, or do you try to outstare him to make him back off? New research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that the dominance behavior exhibited by staring someone down can be reflexive.
Our primate relatives certainly get into dominance battles; they mostly resolve the dominance hierarchy not through fighting, but through staring contests. And humans are like that, too. David Terburg, Nicole Hooiveld, Henk Aarts, J. Leon Kenemans, and Jack van Honk of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands wanted to examine something that’s been assumed in a lot of research: that staring for dominance is automatic for humans.
For the study, participants watched a computer screen while a series of colored ovals appeared. Below each oval were blue, green, and red dots; they were supposed to look away from the oval to the dot with the same color. What they didn’t know was that for a split-second before the colored oval appeared, a face of the same color appeared, with either an angry, happy, or neutral expression. So the researchers were testing how long it took for people to look away from faces with different emotions. Participants also completed a questionnaire that reflected how dominant they were in social situations.
People who were more motivated to be dominant were also slower to look away from angry faces, while people who were motivated to seek rewards gazed at the happy faces longer. In other words, the assumptions were correct—for people who are dominant, engaging in gaze contests is a reflex.
“When people are dominant, they are dominant in a snap of a second,” says Terburg. “From an evolutionary point of view, it’s understandable—if you have a dominance motive, you can’t have the reflex to look away from angry people; then you have already lost the gaze contest.”
Your best bet in the bar, though, might just be to buy your neighbor a new beer.

R U in Control?


Friday, February 25, 2011

Payday Proximity Changes Consumer Motives and Behavior

As any nine-to-fiver will testify, a new paycheck brings with it a familiar sense of freedom, albeit one that dwindles in lockstep with the balance in one's checking account. But, it’s not the checking account size that influences consumer behavior; rather, it’s the time that has elapsed since payday. 

In a study published in the September issue of the "Journal of Marketing," University of Utah marketing professors Himanshu Mishra and Arul Mishra report that this human impulse is more complex than previously thought.  

Payday proximity means more than awareness of the amount of money in the bank and product prices. It actually changes consumer motives, response to messages and purchase behavior, said Himanshu Mishra.

“Our findings are surprising because previous research has always considered preferences to be relatively stable, not changing much over time,” said Mishra. “We find that not only do preferences change during such a short duration—paycheck to paycheck, but also that they fluctuate between a promotion and a prevention focus.”

Newly paid consumers are more likely to spend money on “promotion-focused” products and services—those that make their lives better, if even in a small way. As the previous payday gets further away, though, consumers are motivated to choose products that are "prevention-focused"—that preserve their current standard of living.

And the results of their forthcoming study may have implications for advertisers and employers, not to mention consumers themselves.

"How Salary Receipt Affects Consumers’ Regulatory Motivations and Product Preferences," co-authored with Dhananjay Nayakankuppam of the University of Iowa examines how consumers' behaviors change as the length of time from their last paycheck increases. 

"As time goes by and your paycheck is almost spent, you want to maintain your status quo," says Himanshu Mishra.

The study's results could have several real-world applications, Mishra says. For instance, companies that are launching products might be well served to advertise them earlier in the month, when customers are more likely to have just been paid and are more receptive to new ideas. In addition, products with promotion or prevention-focused characteristics (whitening toothpaste vs. cavity-fighting toothpaste, respectively) might be more effectively advertised at different periods of the month.

Similarly, employers trying to promote certain employee programs may have greater success by timing their message appropriately, Mishra pointed out. For instance, a company-wide exercise program would attract more participants closer to payday since it is promotion focused, with participants working toward improving their lifestyle. An eat-healthy initiative would be more successfully promoted further from payday since it is prevention-focused with emphasis on avoiding certain foods in order to maintain a lifestyle.

"Those messages will have more influence then, because people are more in that mode, in that state of mind," Mishra says.

The study's inspiration came from personal experience, when Himanshu Mishra and Arul Mishra, were graduate students. Back then, they noticed that their own buying behaviors tended to become more prevention-focused as the duration of time from their last paychecks increased. 

The study was done in two segments. In the first, 61 participants—all with full-time jobs—were asked to document their buying choices over a month-long period, categorizing purchases as things they "aspired" to buy or "ought" to buy. In the second segment, they asked 152 participants to choose between a series of identically priced and sized products. The snack choice, for example, was chocolate cake (promotion focused) or fruit salad (prevention focused). 

The researchers found that the proportion of “aspired” products declined and the proportion of “ought” products increased as the participants got further away from their paychecks. The team also demonstrated that these results were not related to declining checking account balances during the month or to product prices.

After participants chose their products, some actually received their choices through a random-selection process in order to make the study more realistic.

"The idea was, whatever choice they were making should have some real consequences," he says.

Although participants ranged in age from 21 to 45, their ages made no discernable difference, Mishra says. Similarly irrelevant were family size and the presence of children. 

In the current economic downturn, with a higher percentage of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, Mishra says he believes the trends seen in this study could become even more pronounced.

"We do believe that when people are more reliant on receipt of paycheck, we will see a stronger effect emerging," he says.

French Bread Vending Machines

In previous postings, I have written about the rise of vending machines as a new channel/pop-up/branding tool, and I also mentioned this in The Future of Retail 1/10. Here is another twist...


The Evolution Of Online Journalism


Mean Girls and Queen Bees: Females Under Threat of Social Exclusion Respond by Excluding Others First

Many studies have suggested that males tend to be more physically and verbally aggressive than females. According to a new study, to be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, it may not be the case that women are less competitive than men—they may just be using a different strategy to come out ahead. Specifically, women may rely more on indirect forms of aggression, such as social exclusion.
To investigate how men and women respond when faced with a social threat, psychological scientist Joyce F. Benenson of Emmanuel College and Harvard University, along with her colleagues, asked volunteers to play a game against two hypothetical partners in which they accumulated points for money. Volunteers had the option of playing by themselves (compete-alone option), forming an alliance with one of the opponents, or cooperating with both of the opponents (in this strategy, they would avoid competition but split profits three ways).
During the game, some of the volunteers were confronted with the possibility of social exclusion. When the compete-alone option was described, volunteers were told that by selecting this option, they would “run the risk of being excluded by the two others.” The description of the alliance option included the statement, “If you and your partner win, then the third player will be excluded and will not win any points.”
The results revealed that when volunteers received the standard instructions—without the social exclusion clauses—there was no difference among male and female volunteers in the number of times they chose to form an alliance with another player. However, when the exclusionary instructions were used, female participants chose the alliance option more often than did male volunteers.
“As their primary competitive strategy to combat any social threat, females may attempt to form an exclusionary alliance, whereas males may endeavor to unilaterally and directly dominate an opponent,” the authors write. Women may be more sensitive than men to social exclusion, and when they feel threatened by the prospect of being left out, a woman’s first response may be to socially exclude a third party.
Preemptive social exclusion appears to be a valuable strategy for women because it allows them to protect their relationships by keeping an outsider at bay. Benenson points out that this may require a re-evaluation of presumed sex differences in competitiveness. She comments, “The same-sex social worlds of boys and girls and men and women then differ in that females have to worry about alienating others, whereas males worry about getting beaten up.”


Thursday, February 24, 2011

TV Still Rulez

Despite the rise of social media and all the focus on digital channels, it is crucial not to forget the "old" medias like TV...

  1. TV is the best profit generator
  2. TV has unbeatable scale and reach
  3. We’re watching more TV than ever before
  4. TV is the most talked about medium both on and offline
  5. All TV ads are response ads
  6. TV is the new point of sale medium
  7. TV is the dominant youth medium
  8. TV is THE emotional medium and emotional campaigns are more effective
  9. TV is the catalyst for other media
  10. TV builds brand fame
Read the whole story by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

People With Low Self-Esteem Show More Signs of Prejudice

When people are feeling badly about themselves, they’re more likely to show bias against people who are different. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, examines how that works.
“This is one of the oldest accounts of why people stereotype and have prejudice: It makes us feel better about ourselves,” says Jeffrey Sherman of the University of California, Davis, who wrote the study with Thomas Allen. “When we feel bad about ourselves, we can denigrate other people, and that makes us feel better about ourselves.”
Sherman and Allen used the Implicit Association Test (IAT)—a task designed to assess people’s automatic reactions to words and/or images—to investigate this claim. In order to reveal people’s implicit prejudice, participants are asked to watch a computer monitor while a series of positive words, negative words, and pictures of black or white faces appear. In the first part of the test, participants are asked to push the “E” key for either black faces or negative words and the “I” key for white faces or positive words. For the second task, the groupings are reversed—participants are now supposed to associate positive words with black faces and negative words with white faces.
Determining prejudice in the IAT is pretty straightforward: If participants have negative associations with black people, they should find the second task more difficult. This should be especially true when people feel bad about themselves.
But what psychologists don’t agree on is how this works. “People were using the exact same data to make completely different arguments about why,” Sherman says. There are two possibilities: either feeling bad about yourself activates negative evaluations of others, or it makes you less likely to suppress those biases.
In their experiment, Sherman and Allen asked participants to take a very difficult 12-question test that requires creative thinking. No one got more than two items correct. About half of the participants were given their test results and told that the average score was nine, to make them would feel bad about themselves. The other half were told that their tests would be graded later. All of the participants then completed the IAT and, as expected, those who were feeling bad about their test performance showed more evidence of implicit prejudice.
But Sherman and Allen took it a step farther. They also applied a mathematical model that reveals the processes that contribute to this effect. By plugging in the data from the experiment, they were able to determine that people who feel bad about themselves show enhanced  prejudice because negative associations are activated to a greater degree, but not because they are less likely to suppress those feelings.
The difference is subtle, but important, Sherman says. “If the problem was that people were having trouble inhibiting bias, you might try to train people to exert better control,” he says. But his results suggest that’s not the issue. “The issue is that our mind wanders to more negative aspects of other groups. The way around that is to try and think differently about other people. When you feel bad about yourself and catch yourself thinking negatively about other groups, remind yourself, ‘I may be feeling this way because I just failed a test or something.’”

Shopping With The Grim Reaper In Mind

Fear of death is a universal human emotion, but does it influence our behaviour as consumers? A new study explores how fear of the Grim Reaper translates in Canadian buying patterns.
Conducted by a graduate student at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business, the research has several implications for marketers in these uncertain times.
“It’s impossible to watch the news without being bombarded with reports of murders, terrorist attacks, life-threatening epidemics or environmental disasters,” says Alex Davidson. He explored the link between consumer behaviour and fear of death in his master’s thesis: “The Impact of Mortality Salience Effects on Consumer Behaviour.”
“We wanted to learn how anxiety affects consumers and what kinds of buying decisions they are likely to make when reminded of their mortality,” continues Davidson.

Death or the dentist?
As part of the study, Davidson designed an online survey of 540 Canadian men and women aged 18 to 40. Half the survey group answered a series of open-ended questions to increase their subconscious awareness of death – or in technical terms, their “mortality salience.”
Participants were asked to describe what emotions the thought of their own death aroused and their expectations about the death process.
The remainder of participants – the control group – was asked to describe their thoughts about going to the dentist and the type of pain it might cause.
All participants then answered another set of consumer behaviour questions. Some 290 usable responses were collected – enough to make the survey statistically reliable.
Among the findings, increased awareness of death made respondents with lower self-esteem more likely to purchase prestige items.
Yet for people with high self-esteem and older respondents, thoughts of mortality made them less likely to purchase prestige items.
Increases in mortality salience also made younger individuals and those with lower self-esteem less inclined to take chances when confronted with what they saw as risky purchase decisions.

“This was the first study of its kind to gather data in this area using online consumer panels,” says thesis supervisor Michel Laroche, Concordia’s Royal Bank Distinguished Professor in Marketing. “The approach permitted the testing of a hypothesis on a sample that reflects the Canadian population.”
Laroche was so impressed by the study that he recommended Davidson for Concordia’s Uma Sharma Memorial Graduate Award. The award is given to an MSc graduate for the quality and imaginativeness of their research.
“Every day people are confronted with purchase decisions,” observes Davidson. “Through this study, we’ve shown that mortality salience plays a greater role than we realized in that decision-making process. This type of research has implications for marketing, but it also offers a better understanding of economic history and the evolution of consumer practices.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Social Media Snakes And Ladders

Watch in larger scale by clicking here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Welcome to Social Entertainment - Annual Report 2011


Saturday, February 19, 2011

London Shop Tries Retail Hypnosis


Gigantic Promotion by WalMart


Retail Power at IKEA

IKEA in Santo Domingo was stormed by10 000 customers wanting to celebrate the store´s one year anniversary. This could be the ultimate campaign response...


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dial ‘5683’ for Love: Dialing Certain Numbers on a Cell Phone Changes Your Emotional State

A psychological scientist in Germany has found a way that cell phones, and specifically texting, have hacked into our brains. Just by typing the numbers that correspond to the letters in a word like “love,” we can activate the meaning of that word in our minds. The results are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
For the study, Sascha Topolinski and his students at the University of Würzburg in Germany created a list of German words that can be typed on a cell phone keypad without typing the same digit twice in a row. Also, each number combination could spell only one word.
For one experiment, Topolinski used a set of number sequences that correspond to positive words, like 54323 (“liebe” – love) and 373863 (“freund” – friend), and a set for negative words, like 7245346 (“schleim” – slime) and 26478 (“angst” – fear). Volunteers were handed a cell phone with stickers over the buttons so they could only see the numbers, not the corresponding letters, and were told to type the number sequences. After typing each one, they rated how pleasant it had been to dial the number on the phone. Volunteers believed they were participating in a study on ergonomics—in the debriefing afterward, none had any idea that the numbers might relate to words.
On average, volunteers preferred dialing numbers that related to positive words over those related to negative words. Merely dialing the numbers that corresponded to those letters—not even pushing them multiple times, as you’d usually do to text words on a 10-digit keypad—was enough to activate the concepts in their minds.
This induction of concepts also occurred in another group of volunteers  who were asked to dial phone numbers and then identify words on a computer screen immediately afterwards. Volunteers were able to identify words that were implied by the preceding phone number more quickly than words that were had nothing to do with the preceding number sequence.
Topolinski relates these findings to a psychology concept called “embodiment”—the idea that certain body movements can make you think about related ideas. Clenching a fist makes people think about power, for example, and holding a heavy clipboard makes them think something is important. “But this is a new door in embodiment research,” Topolinski says. “Participants always did some finger movements. They just typed numbers in the cell phone. But I could induce ’slime’ or ‘love’—any meaning. This was a kind of a motor cipher that you can encode into the muscle system and use to induce a variety of ideas in participants.”
The work has practical implications, too. In another experiment, Topolinski had volunteers type numbers that were supposed to go with specific types of businesses; a word that implied the German word for “jewelry” for a jeweler, or “apartment” for a rental office. After dialing the phone number and hearing an answering machine message, volunteers rated the business on its attractiveness. When the number matched the business, volunteers gave the business a higher rating than when they were mismatched; for example, a number for “wealth” for a financial counsel.
Business owners could take this effect into mind when choosing a phone number, Topolinski says. For example, “if you are a lawyer, try to get a phone number which implies the word ‘justice,’ or if you have a donation hotline, include the sequence 4483 for ‘give.’”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

‘Was Doing’ Versus ‘Did’: Verbs Matter When Judging Other People’s Intentions

Your English teacher wasn’t kidding: Grammar really does matter. The verb form used to describe an action can affect how the action is perceived—and these subtle variations could mean the difference between an innocent or guilty verdict in criminal law, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
William Hart, of the University of Alabama, was inspired to conduct the study by research on how people think about narratives. “Research was showing that when you describe somebody’s actions in terms of what they’re ‘doing,’ that action is way more vivid in [a reader's] mind” than if the action is described in terms of what the person ‘did.’ At the same time, other researchers had found that when people imagine action vividly, they were more likely to think the person performing the action was doing it intentionally.
In the new study, Hart and Dolores Albarracín of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign set out to bridge the research gap and learn whether verb form influenced people’s perceptions of intentionality—for example, if a person who “was shooting” a gun appeared to have more criminal intent than a person who “shot” a gun.
Study volunteers were asked to take the perspective of a judge in a criminal case as they read a short case report of a crime, in which one man shot another after an argument broke out during a dice game. The case report was written with verbs in either the imperfective (”was pulling out his gun”) or perfective (”pulled out his gun”) form.
Volunteers who read that the defendant “was firing gun shots” thought that the perpetrator had more harmful intent than did people who read that he “fired gun shots.” They also imagined the crime unfolding in more detail.
This phenomenon could clearly matter in criminal trials. “A defense attorney or a prosecutor could use these little differences to potentially change trial outcomes,” Hart says.
Verb choices can affect communication outside of the courtroom, too. People constantly judge each other based on whether someone did something on purpose or without thinking; in the latter case, we might be willing to cut someone a bit more slack. Hart calls it “startling” that one of the most important parts of social life—the ability to think about other people’s goals and intentions—can hinge on one small point of grammar.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Got a Goal?: A Helpful Partner Isn’t Always Helpful

You might think that a loving partner helps keep you on track—say, when you want to stick to your jogging or concentrate on your studies. But a new study in Psychological Science, a publication of the Association of Psychological Science, reports the opposite: Thinking about the support a significant other offers in pursuing goals can undermine the motivation to work toward those goals—and can increase procrastination before getting down to work.
The study’s authors, psychological scientists Gráinne M. Fitzsimons of Duke University and Eli J. Finkel of Northwestern University, call this phenomenon “self-regulatory outsourcing”—the unconscious reliance on someone else to move your goals forward, coupled by a relaxation of your own effort. It happens with friends and family, too.
Does this mean love doesn’t bring out the best in us? Yes and no, says Fitzsimons. “If you look just at one goal” in isolation—as the study does—“there can be a negative effect. But relying on another person also lets you spread your energy across many goals, which can be effective if your partner is helpful.”
The authors conducted three online experiments with participants recruited from a data-collection service. In the first, of 52 women, some were asked to focus on a way their partners helped them reach health and fitness goals; the control group instead entertained thoughts of their partners helping them with career goals. When asked how diligently they intended to work toward getting fitter and healthier in the coming week, the first group planned to put in less effort than the second.
Facing an academic goal, people also unconsciously outsourced their exertion to helpful partners. In the second experiment, 74 male and female students were given a means of procrastination—an engaging puzzle—before completing an academic achievement task that would help them improve their performance at university. Those who had mused about how their partner helps them with academic achievement procrastinated longer, leaving themselves less time to work productively on the academic task, than did control group participants.
“The first experiment was about intention. The second captures behavior,” says Fitzsimons.
But recognizing dependency also inspired devotion—and commitment. “In our study, women reported that their partners were very useful for their ongoing goals, giving examples like ‘I’d never get to the gym if my husband didn’t watch the children,’ or ‘I couldn’t stick to my diet without his support.’” Among 90 female participants, those who outsourced more to their significant other were also more likely to say they were committed to making sure their relationship would persist over time, suggesting that outsourcing can lead to positive relationship outcomes.

Pay Attention! Many Consumers Believe 36 Months is Longer than 3 Years

Consumers often have a distorted view when they compare information that involves numbers, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“As a consumer, would your preference for a dishwasher depend on whether its warranty level is expressed in months rather than years?” write authors Mario Pandelaere (Ghent University, Belgium), Barbara Briers (Tilburg University, the Netherlands), and Christophe Lembregts (Ghent University, Belgium).

To most consumers, the answer is “yes.” The difference between an 84-month and a 108- month warranty looks bigger than the difference between a seven-year and a nine-year warranty, despite the fact that both differences are exactly the same.
“Qualitative information can usually be specified in alternative units,” the authors write. “In many cases, however, the specific unit in which information is described is arbitrary. For instance, product quality ratings may be expressed on a scale from 0 to 10 or on a scale from 0 to 100,” the authors write. “People typically fail to realize that the unit of quantitative information is arbitrary. They just focus on the number of scale units used to express a certain difference.”

As a result, higher numbers seem to represent bigger quantities. This “unit effect” is the reason why consumers perceive a bigger difference between ratings 90 and 95 out of 100 than they do between a 9 or 9.5 out of 10.
In an additional study, the authors found that the unit effect can be used to encourage healthy food choices. In one experiment, participants exiting the lab were offered the choice between a complimentary apple or a Twix® bar. The energy content of these two choices was either expressed in Kilojoules (247 for the apple versus 1029 for the Twix®) or Kilocalories (59 for the apple versus 246 for the Twix®). “Participants more often chose the apple when the energy content was expressed in Kilojoules than in Kilocalories as the former difference (782 Kilojoules) looks much bigger in the latter one (187 Kilocalories).

However, the authors found that the effect was not replicated when people pay close attention to specific attribute information or when people are reminded of the arbitrary nature of the unit in which information is expressed.

Mario Pandelaere, Barbara Briers, and Christophe Lembregts. “How to Make a 29% Increase Look Bigger: The Unit Effect in Option Comparisons.” Journal of Consumer Research: August 2011

How Do Consumers React When Friends Provide Poor Service in a Business Arrangement?

When your friend is a service provider, things can get complicated. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, a problem can lead to feelings of betrayal or empathy, depending on the circumstances.

“Imagine that you are planning to celebrate your birthday at your favorite restaurant. You ask the owner to hold a sea-view table for you and he indicates that he will try to do so. When you arrive at the restaurant, however, he tells you that all of the sea-view tables have been taken. What would your reaction be?” write authors Lisa C. Wan (Lingnan University), Michael K. Hui, and Robert S. Wyer (Chinese University of Hong Kong).
The answer seems to depend on whether the owner is a friend or a business associate. “There is a common belief that friends are often tolerant of one another’s transgressions,” the authors write. “Surprisingly, our research indicates that friendship does not always mitigate negative reactions to a service failure.”

The researchers found that when consumers focus their attention on the provider’s obligation to respond to their needs, they react more negatively to a service failure when they are friends rather than business associates. “When their attention is drawn to their own obligation in the relationship, however, the reverse is true.”

In four experiments, the authors found that when participants considered the situation from the provider’s perspective and kept in mind their own obligations, they had a higher tolerance for others’ failure to respond.

The study sheds light on an apparent contradiction in previous research. Some studies have suggested that friendships can mitigate the consequences of a service failure; whereas others have found the reverse. “These discrepant findings may have resulted from differences in the extent to which participants were disposed to focus on their own obligations or others’ obligations in the conditions that were investigated,” the authors write.

“Although individuals in friendships are typically portrayed as caring and understanding when their partners make mistakes, this observation ignores the fact that individuals in such relationships also expect their partners to be concerned about them,” the authors conclude.

Lisa C. Wan, Michael K. Hui, and Robert S. Wyer. “The Role of Relationship Norms in Responses to Service Failures.” Journal of Consumer Research: August 2011

Guitar Heroes: When the Magic Transfers from Rock Stars to Instruments

Budding guitarists seek the magical powers of rock hero instruments, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“Like people from the Middle Ages who sought saints’ relics, modern consumers like the budding rock guitarist desire fetishes (objects perceived as magical and possessing extraordinary power)” write authors Karen V. Fernandez (University of Aukland, New Zealand) and John L. Lastovicka (Arizona State University).

“We live in a world where anybody with a modest amount of money can buy a close copy or a replica of a desired object,” the authors write. “We wanted to know why consumers who desired a particular rock star’s instrument would settle for replicas of it; and how those copies became perceived as special, magical objects in their own right.”

The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with sixteen men who owned more than one guitar and resided either in New Zealand or the United States. They found that many participants believed in the idea of “contagious magic” (the idea that two entities that touch can influence each other). For example, many fans want to have rock stars sign their instruments, and one established performer explained how he used another rock star’s discarded guitar strings.
The research also revealed that replica guitars appeal to participants’ belief in “imitative magic” (things that look alike are alike). “They often bought the best possible copy they could attain, and then if needed, made further changes to it so that it resembled the desired object even more closely,” the authors explain. For example, some consumers switch out knobs on their guitars to more closely resemble the instruments of the artists they admired.

When players acquire new instruments, they play them often and become bonded with the objects. “A guitar then often becomes perceived as a player’s confidant, companion, collaborator, wife, girlfriend, or muse,” the authors write. And guitar players act out their fantasies by playing their guitars in private and in public.

“A fetish object does not guarantee a hit recording, a major league record, or a safe return home from battle,” the authors write. “However, fetish objects increase confidence and reduce anxiety and hence increase performance.”

Karen V. Fernandez and John L. Lastovicka. “Making Magic: Fetishes in Contemporary Consumption.” Journal of Consumer Research: August 2011.

Not Actually Bad at Math or Auto Repair? Women Fear Being Stereotyped by Male Service Providers

Women prefer female service providers in situations where they might fall prey to stereotypes about their math and science abilities, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
“One of the most widely held stereotypes in North America is that women’s competence and aptitude in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) domains is less than men’s,” write authors Kyoungmi Lee (Yonsei University, Korea), Hakkyun Kim (Concordia University, Canada), and Kathleen Vohs (University of Minnesota).

In their study, the authors demonstrate that stereotypes about women’s STEM abilities shape women’s consumer behavior. In particular, women shun situations in which they fear they will be the brunt of the stereotype, especially those that involve male service providers in transactions that call for STEM abilities.

For example, when women want advice on investments or on buying a car they may wonder if they will receive unfair treatment or become an easy target for manipulation. The authors demonstrated that female consumers who are reminded of their gender identity expressed lower intentions to purchase service from firms that advertised themselves with male service providers. This pattern occurred for a tax firm that touted its service with male investment advisors and also in automobile repair and purchases.
“When the threat of being stereotyped is in the air, consumers become anxious when they contemplate transacting with outgroup vs. ingroup service providers if they are reminded of the negative gender stereotype in the STEM domains,” the authors write. “A rise in consumer anxiety, in turn, is the very driving force behind women’s disinterest in transacting with male service providers or salespersons.”
The researcher also led to an interesting way to reduce the anxiety related to the stereotype: vanilla scent. “In a vanilla-scented environment, the effect of possibly being stereotyped seemingly does not alter female consumers’ intentions to transact with firms, even when the firms promoted themselves using male salespersons,” the authors write.

Kyoungmi Lee, Hakkyun Kim, and Kathleen Vohs. “Stereotypes Threat in the Marketplace: Consumer Anxiety and Purchase Intentions.” Journal of Consumer Research: August 2011.

George Clooney or Saddam Hussein? Why Do Consumers Pay for Celebrity Possessions?

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research sheds some light into why someone would pay $48,875 for a tape measure that had belonged to Jackie Kennedy or $3,300 for Bernie Madoff’s footstool.

“Why do people pay money for celebrity possessions?” write authors George E. Newman (Yale University), Gil Diesendruck (Bar-Ilan University), and Paul Bloom (Yale University). “Celebrity items often have little functional value. And because the objects themselves tend to be relatively common artifacts (clothing, furniture, etc.) they are often physically indistinguishable from a number of seemingly identical products in the marketplace.”

The authors researched potential explanations for the phenomenon, delving into the concept of “contagion,” the belief that a person’s immaterial qualities or essence can be transferred onto an object through physical contact. “We were curious to examine the degree to which contagion beliefs may account for the valuation of celebrity items,” the authors explain.

In their first study, the authors asked participants how much they would like to own celebrity and non-celebrity possessions. They asked about well-regarded individuals (like George Clooney) or despised individuals (like Saddam Hussein). They measured the dimensions of contagion, perceived market value, and liking of the individual. “For well- liked celebrities, the primary explanation seemed to be contagion—participants expressed a desire to own some of the individual’s actual physical remnants,” the authors write. In contrast, when the items had belonged to a despised individual, people perceived that the items were potentially valuable to others, but contact with the hated individuals decreased the items’ value.
In a second experiment, participants reported their willingness to purchase a sweater owned by someone famous (well-liked or despised). However, the sweater was “transformed” by sterilization or preventing its resale. For well-liked celebrities sterilizing reduced participants’ willingness to purchase the sweater, while preventing the resale of the item had a comparably minimal effect. “In contrast, for despised individuals, the pattern was the opposite: removing contact only increased the sweater’s value while preventing the sale to others significantly reduced participants’ willingness to purchase it,” the authors conclude.

George E. Newman, Gil Diesendruck, and Paul Bloom. “Celebrity Contagion and the Value of Objects.” Journal of Consumer Research: August 2011.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Decay of Content