Sunday, June 23, 2013

Consumers Like Matching Brands

No, this isn't a promotion for Tostitos.  If you were to ask me which nacho chips and salsa sauce to consume, and I'm not sure why you ever would, I know I wouldn't recommend national brands like Tostitos.  As for salsa sauce, I prefer to make my own from scratch and would be happy to pass along a recipe.  But we're not here for recipes, we're here to better understand the psyche and behavior of consumers, and that's where the nachos example comes in handy.

As it turns out, based on a series of experiments conducted at the University of Minnesota (USA), researchers have found that when people consume certain products in tanden - such as nacho chips and salsa sauce - they enjoy the products more if the brands match.  So if you were to snack on, say, a bag of Tostitos nacho chips and Old El Paso salsa sauce while watching a televised football game, you wouldn't enjoy the snack as much as had the chips and sauce brands matched (such as Tostitos chips and sauce or Old El Paso chips and sauce).  Similarly, we might imagine that you would say your burger was tastier had the ketchup and pickles brands matched.

As to why matching brand labels lead to greater enjoyment, the researchers suggest that they encourage consumers "to believe that the products were tested and designed to go well together."

There is no universal answer to which brand a consumer likes the most.  The brand a consumer prefers for a particular product depends on the brand of other products with which it is being combined.  A company that offers products that are consumed together will have an advantage over other rival brands that do not offer both individual products, since consumers will want to have matching brands.

So now you know why many of the recipes - there I go again - on food packages tend to include certain ingredients that bear the same brand as the purchased item - often obscure or hard-to-find ingredients that only the brand offers.

Another comment regarding the nachos and salsa - based on simple learning principles, such as classical conditioning - if you find you are always munching on the same snack every time you watch a football game, you've probably trained yourself to associate these things.  And if your team wins, you'll probably enjoy your chips and dip even better.

One final nachos point - if you find the Tostitos logo particularly memorable or likeable, it could be because of the embedded image of two happy consumers (well, I don't really know how happy they are) - the two 't's in the center of the brand name - holding a giant nacho chip over a bowl of salsa sauce - the dotted part of the letter 'i'.  For the sake of closure (although this example is more consistent with the perceptual principle of figure-ground than closure) let's just assume the chip and salsa are both Tostitos, and that the consumers are happy.

Source : Ryan Rahinel and Josepth P. Redden. Brands as Product Coordinators: Matching Brands Make Joint Consumption Experiences More Enjoyable. Journal of Consumer Research, April 2013.

Friday, June 14, 2013

More Evidence That Marketing Kills

According to new research published in the online only journal BMJ Open, the more teens are exposed to tobacco ads, the more likely they are to take up smoking.  In short, marketing kills.

In their paper, "From never to daily smoking in 30 months: The predictive value of tobacco and non-tobacco advertising exposure," a research team led by Matthis Morgenstern described how they monitored more than 1300 young German non-smokers aged 10 to 15 years old in terms of their exposure to ads over a 2.5 year period.  Specifically, the adolescents were asked how often they had seen images promoting popular cigarette brands in Germany as well as for other non-tobacco products, such as chocolate, clothes, mobile phones, and cars.  They were questioned again 30 months later and asked how many cigarettes they smoked to date and whether they had become regular smokers. You ain't going to like the results, but given the title of this post, you can probably guess what the researchers found:

  • One in three kids (406) admitted to having tried smoking during the 30 month period
  • One in 20 (66)  said they had smoked more than 100 cigarettes (and thus can be classified as    established smokers)
  • A similar proportion (58) said they now smoked every day
  • The greater the exposure to tobacco ads, the greater was the likelihood that the teen would take up smoking
  • Among various factors linked to the kids taking up smoking, smoking among peers proved the strongest influence, followed closely by exposure to tobacco ads.
Summing up their findings, the researchers claim that tobacco ads really do persuade teens to take up smoking, with every 10 sightings boosting the risk by almost 40 per cent.  One caveat that undermines these findings is the fact a large proportion of the original 2300 students involved in the research dropped out.  Thus, it could be there was something else at play that influenced the results relative to the nature of the people who remained in the study.

Source:   Matthis Morgenstern, James D Sargent, Barbara Isensee, Reiner Hanewinkel. From never to daily smoking in 30 months: the predictive value of tobacco and non-tobacco advertising exposure. BMJ Open, 2013 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002907

The results of the German research remind me of a series of studies that appeared in the December 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Marketing Association, which provided much fuel for the fire during the litigation against the tobacco industry around that time.  According to one study, after the launch of RJ Reynold's Joe Camel campaign to promote Camel cigarettes, 33% (86 out of 261) of 13-19 year old smokers smoked Camel compared to 8.7% (8 out of 92) 21 and up adult smokers, and the younger group reported much higher exposure, awareness, and liking for the cool Joe ads.  Less than 1% of the young smokers smoked Camels prior to the J.C. campaign.  By the way, if you are a teen reader, don't look at the ad to the left - I don't want to be held responsible for any nasty habit you may acquire.  Is it me, or is smoking oh so 20th century?

Maybe it's me, but I just don't get the fascination for blowing smoke, but this is an orally-fixated world we live in.  I guess people need something to do when they're not gabbing away on their new teddy bears (aka the mobile phone).  As for 21st century smoking, there have been some interesting articles of late in The New York Times on the newly emerging human foible known as 'vaping' - that is, the consumption of electronic cigarettes.  Although there is evidence that the e-cigs effectively cut into rates of smoking traditional nicotine sticks, government officials are doing what they can to restrict their availability and consumption.  The more things change . . .

Further Reading:

You can find my earlier post on e-cigs here.

Fischer PM, Schwartz MP, Richards JW, Jr, Goldstein AO, Rojas TH. Brand logo recognition by children aged 3 to 6 years. Mickey Mouse and Old Joe the Camel. JAMA. 1991 Dec 11;266(22):3145–3148.

A tool to quit smoking has some unlikely critics.  (7 Nov. 2011)

E-cigarettes are in vogue and at a crossroads.  (12 June 2013)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

You Are What You Eat

After an 8-month hiatus, I'm back, now dedicated to regularly maintaining this site with a general focus on new insights into consumer behavior.  My earlier posts are still available at my original connectingwithconsumers site.

By now, I hope you've read my book, Psychological Foundations of Marketing.  If so, you might think you now know everything there is to know about the psychology of consumers, but I am afraid you would be sadly mistaken.  Only the tip of the iceberg.  What better place to re-start to fathom the depths of consumer behavior than to look at some recent findings linked to gluttony.

If You Watch a Lot of TV, Your Children Are Probably Fat

I've long been intrigued, as have many others, with the effects of heavy TV viewing on our fragile minds and bodies.  And researchers have long pointed out how ill those effects may be.  About 100 years ago when I was pursuing my PhD in Philadelphia, I became engrossed by the ideas of Sol Worth and George Gerbner, two communication theorists whose writings I compared for a project assigned by one of my professors at the time, Richard Chalfen, author of Photogaffes.  Gerbner's enculturation research demonstrated how heavy viewers (i.e., more than 4 hours/day) perceived the dangers and risks of everyday life as closer to the world depicted on TV than in real life: compared with light TV viewers (i.e., 2 or fewer hours/day), they overestimated the amount and likelihood of violent crimes, believed they were more at risk to be a victim of a violent crime, overestimated the number of persons employed in law enforcement occupations, and so on.  More recently, my friend LJ Shrum and his colleagues found similar effects in terms of consumers' views about materialism and worldly possessions, such that heavy TV viewers believed they owned fewer nice things than the typical consumer, and their perceptions of the material world (e.g., goods and products possessed by the average homeowner) were more akin to how these things were depicted on TV than in reality.  In short, the researchers found that heavy consumption of TV leads to materialism and decreased life satisfaction. 

Which brings us to gluttony.  University of Michigan researchers Kristen Harrison and Mericarmen Peralta wanted to take this line of research a step further by asking whether heavy household consumption of commercial TV (as opposed to commercial-free digitally recorded TV, etc. that is less apt to air a lot of food advertising) leads to altered perceptions of what makes for a healthy meal and greater junk food consumption.   The researchers interviewed  US parents and preschoolers to determine how family characteristics (such as child and parent media exposure and child dietary intake) were linked to children's eating behavior and perceptions of what comprised a healthy meal.

To make a long story short, their expectations were confirmed: heavy commercial TV consumption led to more junk food consumption by the parents and their children had distorted views of what constituted a healthy meal.  Imagine how this might work - the parents are vegetating all night long in front of the boob tube, consuming - in addition to bags of potato chips, chocolates, beer, etc. - commercial after commercial for all the crap marketers are trying to get you to wolf down at uncontrollable rates, like potato chips, chocolates, beer, etc.  The next morning, little Billy sits down at the breakfast table, and Mom and Dad encourage him to eat his heaping bowl of overly sugared chocolate cereal by suggesting how if he does so, he will grow up to be 'big and strong' like Batman or whatever inane role model the kid idolizes.  'And don't forget to eat your double cheeseburger at lunch, Billy - it's good for you.'

What's particularly scary about this research is that Harrison and Peralta found these effects in preschoolers.  Prior research had confirmed the existence of a link between child TV viewing and obesity in childhood, but the new study may be the first to shed light on the development of ideas about healthy meals in the preschool years.  According to Harrison:

Even though parents and other caregivers are the primary gatekeepers regarding young children's food intake, children are still learning about food as it relates to health from family, media, and other sources, and may use this knowledge later on to inform their decisions when parents or other adults aren't there to supervise them.The preschool years are especially important, because the adiposity rebound in kids who grow up to be normal weight tends to be around age 5 or 6, whereas for kids to grow up to be obese, it happens closer to 3.  We need to know as much as we can about the factors that encourage obesogenic eating during the preschool years, even if that eating doesn't manifest as obesity until the child is older.

Source: International Communication Association (2013, June 6). Parents with heavy TV viewing more likely to feed children junk food. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from­ /releases/2013/06/130606101724.htm

Further reading:
E. J. Boyland, J. A. Harrold, T. C. Kirkham, C. Corker, J. Cuddy, D. Evans, T. M. Dovey, C. L. Lawton, J. E. Blundell, J. C. G. Halford. Food Commercials Increase Preference for Energy-Dense Foods, Particularly in Children Who Watch More Television. Pediatrics, 2011.

University of California - Los Angeles (2010, February 10). Childhood obesity: It's not the amount of TV, it's the number of junk food commercials. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from­ /releases/2010/02/100209095753.htm 

If You Spend All Day Texting and Gabbing on Your Mobile Phone, It's No Wonder You're a Dummy

It's a mean old world for the little ones - dangers lie at every corner, or more likely, with each new technology.  Afraid your kids will become obese if they watch too much commercial TV, you might encourage them to stick to their portable devices.  But research recently conducted at the Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine in Providence, Rhode Island found a link between texting, Internet and social networking activities and poorer academic performance.  This research involved female university students who reported their daily use of 11 different forms of media, including TV, social networking, talking on the mobile phone, texting, video game playing etc. Media use in general was associated with lower grade point averages and other negative academic outcomes, whereas more time spent reading newspapers and listening to music were linked to positive academic performance.  No wonder I did so well in school, back when I was reading 4 newspapers a day, constantly listening to music, and the Internet and portable devices hadn't yet been invented.

Source:  The journal Emerging Adulthood.

 Nobody Believes a Fat Doctor

I just can't resist mentioning a couple other recent studies on gluttony and obesity.  Here's one that caught my eye, a Johns Hopkins University survey of nearly 400 adults, asking how credible a physician would be who is either normal weight, overweight, or a blimp.  On a 5-point scale (with 5 being the highest credibility level), trust levels came out as follows:  4.0 for a normal-weight physician, 3.4 for an overweight physician, and 3.3 for an obese physician.  Similarly, likelihood of following the physician's advice declined as the physician's weight increased (3.9, 3.5, and 3.5, respectively).  What I find particularly interesting in these results is the lack of statistical difference between the overweight and obese categories.  In others words, as soon as your doctor noticeably gains weight, you'll probably find him or her to be less believable, blimp or not.

SourceInternational Journal of Obesity

But . . . If You Are Fat, Your Doctor Won't Care About You

Finally, also coming out of the Johns Hopkins research labs, an investigation involving 39 primary-care physicians and 208 of their patients found that physicians were more likely to express empathy, concern, and understanding with normal weight patients than with overweight and obese ones.  Fortunately for the weight-challenged patients, this link did not carry over to the quantity of physicians' medical questions, medical advice, counseling or treatment regimen discussions.  Hey, but who goes to the doctor's to make new friends anyway?

Source:  The journal Obesity.

Don't forget . . . more postings at my previous site,