1. Wine descriptions make us more emotional about wine

    June 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Adelaide press release:

    Research by the University of Adelaide has shown that consumers are much more influenced by wine label descriptions than previously thought.

    A consumer study by wine researchers at the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine has shown that far more than just influencing consumer choice, wine descriptions can alter consumer emotions, increase their wine liking and encourage them to pay more for a bottle. The study has been published in the journal Food Research International.

    “Choosing the right wine at the point of sale whether in a wine store, in a restaurant or online can be a difficult task,” says project leader Associate Professor Sue Bastian.

    “The importance of wine labels and label information has been widely studied and it’s been clearly shown that they represent useful information which influences consumer choice. Our study extends these findings, showing that wine descriptions also influence our whole wine consumption experience.”

    “Cleverly written wine and producer descriptions when coupled with unbranded wine tasting can evoke more positive emotions, increasing our positive perception of the wine, our estimation of its quality and the amount we would be willing to pay for it.”

    The researchers conducted a study with Australian white wines and 126 regular white wine consumers. The consumers evaluated the same set of three commercially available white wines (Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc) under three information levels: a blind tasting with no information; the provision of a basic sensory description; and provision of an elaborate/emotional description.

    The presentation of more elaborate wine descriptions, which included information regarding winery history and positive wine quality statements, significantly increased the preference rating the consumers allocated to the wines.

    Further to this, the results showed that if the expectations elicited by the wine description closely matched the actual liking from tasting, consumers felt far more positive emotions than if it didn’t meet expectations.

    “These findings have important implications for wine producers and the hospitality industry in that descriptions require more than just wine tasting notes,” says Dr Lukas Danner, post-doctoral research fellow and first author on the study. “Companies could even consider involving consumers in label description optimisation.”


  2. Study suggests poor understanding of ratios leads to bad shopping decisions

    June 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Miami press release:

    Consumers make poor purchase decisions when they need to work with ratios to assess a product’s value, says a new study published in the May 2017 of the Journal of Marketing Behavior, from the University of Miami School of Business Administration. In situations where consumers must average ratio information, such as comparing the fuel efficiency of two cars using the ratio miles per gallon, they often flub the numbers by incorrectly assuming the mathematic equation to find miles per gallon would be to average the sum of the mileage of both cars and then divide by two, instead of using a more complex equation needed to accurately compare ratios. This incorrect way of crunching the numbers leads to only 25-30 percent of shoppers getting the correct answer.

    “People rely heavily on the ‘normal’ way to compute an average and if they simply had ready access to software that calculates the average of ratios, they could make more informed decisions about many big-ticket purchases, such as cars,” said Michael Tsiros, professor of marketing at the University of Miami School of Business Administration. “If you think about how many different ways we miscalculate the average of ratios, you’d realize how much of an impact this likely has on our stock purchase decisions that can also suffer from the same bias given they can also be compared as ratios,” said Tsiros, who conducted the study with a colleague from Texas A&M University.

    Methodology

    The researchers conducted two studies to demonstrate consumers’ difficulty in dealing with ratios. In the first study, participants were assigned word problems that, in order to arrive at the correct answer, required them to use the formula for averaging ratios. The majority, 53 percent of the participants selected the response that reflected the arithmetic average vs. the average of ratios. In the second study, participants received information on the cash ?ow, discount rate, and growth rate of three stocks and were asked to allocate $1,000 across them. Similar to the first study, 48 percent of participants’ selections reflected the incorrect use of the arithmetic average formula.

    “Whether the decision is about allocating funds properly to a 401K plan or finding a washer and dryer that uses a lower ratio of water per load, this study points to the significant need for something like a ratio calculator built on to relevant shopping websites or perhaps in-store,” continued Tsiros. “Maybe it’s an easy mobile app. Whatever it may be, the return that comes with going the extra mile for your customer, especially those making big-ticket purchases, is a smart business decision.”


  3. Linguistic style is key to crowdfunding success

    June 10, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Illinois at Chicago press release:

    In one of the first crowdfunding studies focusing on social enterprises, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have found that how a pitch is voiced and worded is much more important for social entrepreneurs than for their commercial counterparts.

    The researchers examined 656 Kickstarter campaigns from 2013 and 2014. They found that linguistic styles that made the campaigns and their founders more understandable and relatable to the crowd boosted the exposure and success of social campaigns — but hardly mattered for commercial enterprises.

    Research on what makes a crowdfunding projects successful has mostly focused on content, or what one says, and “ignored linguistic style, or how one speaks,” says Annaleena Parhankangas, assistant professor of managerial studies in the UIC College of Business Administration, who led the study.

    “Here, we show that the persuasiveness of entrepreneurs’ stylistic expressions is dependent on their category membership — that is, whether they are social or commercial entrepreneurs.”

    Short, easily understood and compelling stories, particularly when designing crowdfunding “pitches,” or videos, are effective for campaigns addressing social good. However, these styles matter less for campaigns serving consumer markets, the study found.

    Parhankangas said social entrepreneurs “also need to build personal rapport with the audience, by sharing personal experiences and using a highly interactive style,” such as asking a series of questions rather than presenting statements. For commercial entrepreneurs, style does not matter as much, and content is likely to be enough to persuade their audience to invest.

    Parhankangas said the popularity of crowdfunding for entrepreneurial fundraising is growing fast. Social entrepreneurs in particular are finding it to be an important method of funding, as more traditional means of financing have proven inadequate. About 1,250 active crowdfunding platforms worldwide raised about $16.2 billion for companies and causes in 2014, according to the Massolution 2015 Crowdfunding Industry Report.

    “Early-stage entrepreneurs are increasingly involved in the theatrical pitching of their projects to various audiences at forums, such as accelerator demo days, pitch mixers, competitions, and online crowdfunding sites,” she said. “How they deliver the message matters — and, as a result, it is important to study how entrepreneurs’ language use affects their chances of raising funding.”

    An interesting avenue for future research would be to investigate professional investors’ sensitivity to linguistic styles in crowdfunding pitches, Parhankangas said.


  4. Consumers see much greater risk than reward in online ads

    May 29, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign press release:

    Personalized ads now follow us around the web, their content drawn from tracking our online activity. The ad industry has suggested we’re OK with it — that we see benefits roughly equal to perceived risks.

    A study by University of Illinois advertising professor Chang-Dae Ham says otherwise, suggesting the industry may want to reconsider its approach.

    The perception of risk is much stronger than the perception of benefit,” Ham found in surveying 442 college students on how they coped with what is known as online behavioral advertising. “That drives them to perceive more privacy concern, and finally to avoid the advertising,” he said.

    The study appears in the May issue of the International Journal of Advertising.

    Previous studies have looked at various aspects of OBA, but Ham said his is the first to investigate the interaction of various psychological factors — or mediating variables — behind how people respond to it and why they might avoid ads.

    “The response to OBA is very complicated,” he said. “The ad avoidance is not explained just by one or two factors; I’m arguing here that five or six factors are influencing together.”

    Ham examined not only interactions related to risk, benefit and privacy, but also self-efficacy (sense of control); reactance (reaction against perceived restrictions on freedom); and the perceived personalization of the ads.

    He also looked at the effect of greater and lesser knowledge among participants about how online behavioral advertising works. Those with greater perceived knowledge were likely to see greater benefits, but also greater risk, he found. Similar to those with little perceived understanding, they tilted strongly toward privacy concerns and avoiding ads.

    Ham’s study of online behavioral advertising follows from his interest in all forms of hidden persuasion, and his previous research has looked at product placement, user-generated YouTube videos and advergames. But OBA is “a very special type,” he said, in that it elicits risk perceptions and privacy concerns different from those in response to those other forms.

    The study conclusions could have added significance, Ham said, because research has shown that college-age individuals, like those in his study pool, are generally less concerned about privacy than those in older age groups.

    If his findings are an accurate reflection of consumer attitudes, Ham said they could represent “a really huge challenge to the advertising industry” since online behavioral advertising represents a growing segment of advertising revenue.

    Ham thinks advertisers, in their own interest, may want to make the process more transparent and controllable. “They need to educate consumers, they need to clearly disclose how they track consumers’ behavior and how they deliver more-relevant ad messages to them,” he said.

    Giving consumers control is important because it might keep them open to some personalized online advertising, rather than installing tools like ad blockers, in use by almost 30 percent of online users in the U.S., he said.

    With little understanding of online behavioral advertising, and no easy way to control it, “they feel a higher fear level than required, so they just block everything.”

    It’s all the more important because the technology is only getting better and more accurate, Ham said. Tracking systems “can even infer where I’m supposed to visit tomorrow, where I haven’t visited yet.”


  5. Study suggests photos are more credible but cartoons are more persuasive when conveying a message

    May 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) press release:

    If you’re creating a message to educate, inform, or persuade, don’t underestimate the power of a well-executed cartoon. A new study at the University of Illinois suggests if you’re trying to convince the public to change their stance on a topic such as wind energy, you may be more successful if you use a cartoon rather than a photograph.

    “Photographs were shown to be more credible, but cartoons were more likely to change behavior,” says U of I agricultural communications professor Lulu Rodriguez who led the study. “A cartoon grabs people’s attention long enough to deliver the message. That’s what you need in today’s message-heavy atmosphere. Why not use a tool that has proven ability to cut through the others and inform people in a way that actually works?”

    In the study, participants were shown one of two versions of the same set of brochures. Each set was designed to debunk a myth about wind energy, the intent being to give readers scientific information about wind energy and assuage their fears. Each pair of brochures was identical in design, text, color, size, etc. The only difference was that the originally designed brochures featured a beautiful, professional photograph of wind turbines, while the look-alike brochures created for the study swapped out the photograph with a cartoon.

    “You have to spend more time with a cartoon to figure out the meaning of the illustrations, and the situation,” Rodriguez says. “People look at cartoons longer, so they’re more cognitively engaged with the cartoon. Usually it includes humor and people work hard at figuring out the punch line. The photos used to represent wind energy on the original brochures were just beautiful scenic shots of the turbine blades or a landscape dotted with turbines so people didn’t look at them as long.”

    Interestingly, the respondents said the content was better in the cartoon brochures (even though the text was identical), but the credibility was lower than the brochures using photographs.

    “It may be because of the more light-hearted approach of cartoons,” Rodriquez says. “Cartoons make a topic like wind energy, which may be a bit scary to people, more accessible. But this notion of credibility is a different issue. We teach students to be conversational in writing. Don’t put on your ‘tuxedo’ language. And yet, people associate big words with credibility.”

    Rodriguez says the use of comics has already been shown to be effective in explaining scientific concepts and principles in high school chemistry classrooms. (Rodriguez is also the director of the agricultural communications program in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the College of Media.) She says she has not seen the comparison of photos versus cartoons studied in non-classroom settings.

    In addition to educational settings, the power of cartoons to persuade can be of value to agencies working to educate the public about a science-laden concept — one for which they would like to change opinion, intentions, or behaviors.

    “My interest is in making science more accessible to the public,” Rodriguez says. “This study offers real recommendations to communicate science better to a general audience. Understanding the science helps get people past whatever might be controversial about a scientific breakthrough or innovation. The controversies usually arise out of a lack of understanding.”

    In terms of wind energy, Rodriguez says, people worry about claims that the turbines kill birds, when in fact, cars kill more birds. “We kept hearing scientists say that people do not fully understand wind energy. So we thought, how can we deflect that misunderstanding?”

    Rodriguez cites communicating about GMOs as another possible case in which incorporating cartoons may inform people.

    “Most people don’t know about all the regulatory layers at the local and national level involved in producing GMOs. If you try to describe that for people in text, they may not get it or they may not be motivated to read lines and lines of words. Perhaps a cartoon showing safety regulations or the similarity of genetic engineering to natural crossing of plants would be more convincing,” she says.

    “I have a colleague who actually did this to explain how they got the vitamin A into golden rice using a cartoonish infographic. Not very scientific — but people get it. It’s a lot easier to explain complex scientific concepts that way.”

    Rodriguez admits that text and photos may be the easier route to take.

    “Truth be told, this is easy to recommend, but cartoons and effective information graphics are difficult to create. You have to hire someone with real skills to do it. Making things easier to understand is a difficult thing to do,” she says. “And, when people hire an advertising agency to create a brochure for their product or cause, they may lean toward using photos because they convey prestige or credibility. It may be difficult to convince them to use a cartoon because they think it reduces the classiness of the brochure.”

    The article, “The impact of comics on knowledge, attitude and behavioural intentions related to wind energy,” is published in an issue of the Journal of Visual Literacy.


  6. We buy what we grasp: How our hands lead us to choose certain products

    May 23, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Bocconi University press release:

    The things we touch while shopping can affect what we buy, according to studies by Bocconi Department of Marketing’s Zachary Estes and University of Innsbruck’s Mathias Streicher.

    In “Touch and Go: Merely Grasping a Product Facilitates Brand Perception and Choice,” published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, they conduct a series of experiments and show that blindfolded people induced to grasp familiar products (a bottle of Coke, for example) under the guise of a weight judgement task are then quicker in recognizing the brand name of the product when it slowly appears on a screen, include more frequently the product in a list of brands of the same category, and choose more often that product among others as a reward for having participated in the experiment.

    The authors suggest that tactile exposure to the object “activated the conceptual representation of that object, which then facilitated subsequent processing of the given object.

    In “Multisensory Interaction in Product Choice: Grasping a Product Affects Choice of Other Seen Products,” published in Journal of Consumer Psychology, via another series of experiments, Estes and Streicher demonstrate that grasping an object can facilitate visual processing and choice of other seen products of the same shape and size. “For instance,” explains Estes, “when you’re holding your mobile phone in your hand, you may be more likely to choose a KitKat than a Snickers, because the KitKat is shaped more like your phone. What we find is that consumers are significantly more likely to choose the product that is similar to the shape of whatever is in their hand. For instance, when confronted with a choice between a bottle of Coke and a can of Red Bull, participants who held a bottle of Fanta were more likely to choose a bottle of Coke, but those who held a can of Fanta more often chose the can of Red Bull. These studies show that our hands can lead us to choose certain products.”

    However, there are two caveats to this effect, one situational and one personal. The situational constraint has to do with visual density. That is, some product arrays are very sparse, with plenty of space between the products, whereas others are very dense, with many products placed right next to one another. It turns out that when the visual array is overcrowded the hands have an even larger influence on product choice. “As visual perception becomes less reliable,” the authors write, “tactile perception assumes a greater role in the recognition of object shape.”

    The second constraint is more personal: it depends on one’s “need for touch,” or how much people like to touch products while shopping. Some people really like to pick products up and feel them, and others don’t. As expected, the scholars find that the hands have much more influence on product choice among those consumers who really like to handle products.

    “These results have direct implications for product and package designers and marketing managers,” Estes concludes. “For one thing, distinctive product shapes like Coca-Cola’s iconic bottle design can provide a powerful source of brand identity and recognition. Second, consumers tend to choose products that are shaped like the things they often hold, like a mobile phone, a wallet, or a computer mouse when shopping online. Product designers could create packages that mimic those commonly held forms, and marketing managers can accentuate this effect of product touch by placing several products near one another, and by encouraging consumers to touch the products on display.”


  7. Study suggests moviegoers’ taste in movies is idiosyncratic and at odds with critics’ preferences

    May 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the New York University press release:

    Our taste in movies is notably idiosyncratic, and not linked to the demographic traits that studios target, finds new study on film preferences. The work also shows that moviegoers’ ratings are not necessarily in line with those of critics.

    “What we find enjoyable in movies is strikingly subjective — so much so that the industry’s targeting of film goers by broad demographic categories seems off the mark,” says Pascal Wallisch, a clinical assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Psychology and the senior author of the study, which appears in the journal Projections.

    “Critics may be adept at evaluating films, but that doesn’t mean their assessments will accurately predict how much the public will like what they see,” adds co-author Jake Whritner, a graduate of the Cinema Studies Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and currently part of the Cognitive and Data Science Lab at Rutgers University-Newark.

    Over the past century, filmmakers have sought to control viewers’ attention through different editing and shooting techniques, with the assumption that the audience will respond in the same way.

    However, while neural and attentional processing has been extensively examined, the level of agreement in the appraisal of movies among viewers has not been studied. Similarly, while past research has analyzed the relationship between reviews and box-office success as well as agreement among critics for films, none have explored agreement between critics and the general public.

    To address these questions, the researchers considered more than 200 major motion pictures, taking into account popularity, financial success, and critics’ reviews. They then surveyed over 3,000 participants, asking them to give a rating of how much they liked each of the films in the sample that they had previously seen. The researchers also asked participants to provide demographic information (e.g., age, gender) and whether they consider movie critics’ recommendations in choosing which movies to see.

    Finally, Wallisch and Whritner gathered reviews from 42 publicly accessible critics or rating sites (e.g., IMDb) for each of the films in the sample.

    The results generally showed low levels of correlation in movie preferences among study participants. However, there were some patterns. As the number of jointly seen films increased, so did the correlation of the ratings for such films — at least up to a point. When the number of ratings for a given film reached between 100 and 120, correlation grew to its highest point — but as this number continued to increase, correlation for that film’s ratings began to dip, before spiking up again at around 180 commonly seen films.

    Looking at demographics, the survey showed greater agreement in film ratings among male participants than among females — and this difference between genders was statistically significant. However, agreement among both men and women in films was relatively low. There was also little correlation between movie ratings and age — however, because the overall sample skewed younger, the significance of this result is limited. In general, neither gender nor age had much of an effect on inter-subjective agreement. Overall, the low inter-subjective agreement could account for all the vehement disagreements between people on whether or not a given movie was good: on average, one could expect a 1.25-star difference in disagreement on a scale from 0 to 4 stars.

    Turning to correlations with movie critics, the connection between the ratings of critics and any given participant was no better than the average correlation between participants. Even a critic as well regarded as the late Roger Ebert did no better in predicting how well someone would like a movie than a randomly picked participant in the sample. In contrast, critics agreed with each other relatively strongly. In fact, the best predictor of a critic’s response to a film was that of other critics while the best predictor of a non-critics’ response were the aggregated evaluations of other non-critics such as those on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) — but not the aggregated ratings of critics such as Rotten Tomatoes. So it is not the aggregation of ratings per se that improves predictability, but aggregation of non-critic ratings.

    “Something about being a critic seems to make the recommendations of critics unsuitable for predicting the movie taste of regular people,” the authors conclude. “This study is the first to quantify this in an adequately powered fashion, and it helps to explain why people often perceive critics to be out of touch.

    “There are some people in our sample who are ‘superpredictors’ — they perform as well as the best aggregated non-critic ratings when it comes to predicting average non-critics will like. Short of these exceptional predictors, if someone seeks recommendations about what to see, their best bet is to either consult sites that aggregate individual judgements, or to find other individuals or critics with similar tastes.”


  8. Differences in levels of trust and power can affect buyer-supplier performance

    May 17, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Penn State press release:

    Mutual trust does not appear on the ledger sheets of buyers and suppliers, but researchers suggest that levels of trust between companies may be an important influence on how they operate and perform.

    “In business settings, we tend to believe that the more that a business trusts the other, that business will be perceived as less opportunistic, in other words, the higher the level of trust, the lower the opportunistic behavior,” said Veronica Villena, assistant professor of supply chain management, Penn State. “In this study, we actually show that it doesn’t work like that. It’s not about the level of trust, though. It’s about the asymmetry, or the difference between the levels of trust.”

    In a study, the researchers, who released their findings in a recent issue of Production and Operations Management, found that trust reduces opportunistic behavior only when both sides have similar levels of trust. However, a buyer or supplier with a higher level of trust than its counterpart is more likely to be perceived as being more opportunistic, not less opportunistic.

    Business experts tend to focus on size differences in firms as the primary driver of opportunism in buyer-supplier relationships. For example, big buyers, which have more employees, larger sales, or both, are perceived as being more likely to take advantage of their smaller-sized suppliers.

    “One example of this might be if you’re a smaller supplier working with a company that has big purchasing power,” said Villena. “Obviously, that company can press the smaller supplier to do things for it. But what if it’s the other way around? These kinds of asymmetries happen all the time.”

    The researchers found that the size asymmetry — and, thus, power asymmetry — influence the perceptions of opportunism. For example, bigger buyers tend to perceive smaller suppliers as less opportunistic while smaller suppliers perceive their bigger buyers as more opportunistic. On the other hand, bigger suppliers are not necessarily perceived as opportunistic by their smaller buyers.

    Suppliers may feel they have more to lose from future dealings than buyers, according to Villena, who worked with Christopher W. Craighead, Dove Professor of Supply Chain Management, University of Tennessee.

    She added that while supply chain management is often viewed as solely a statistical endeavor, soft skills are often required in maintaining buyer and supplier relationships.

    “In supply chain, we particularly talk about the hard skills — the size and power of a firm — and we tend to overlook the soft side, which is trust, reciprocity, interpersonal relationships,” said Villena. “In this case, we show both are important, but the one with the higher impact is these softer skills.”

    The researchers collected survey and archival data from 106 buying companies and their matched suppliers from Spain during 2011 to 2012.

    The survey asked how long the companies worked together and the perception of trust of companies on their counterparts. Questions also asked whether the companies believed their counterparts engaged in opportunistic behaviors, such as hiding information or exaggerating their needs to further their own interests.

    The archival data was collected from the SABI database, which contains business information from companies in Spain and Portugal.


  9. To sell more healthy food, keep it simple

    by Ashley

    From the Journal of Retailing at New York University press release:

    Despite extensive research on how to persuade consumers to improve their diets, academicians have largely failed to present food retailers with easy-to-use suggestions. Brian Wansink, director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab and a leading expert in changing eating behavior, seeks to change this by providing an organizing framework that integrates insights from marketing, nutrition, psychology, public health, and behavioral economics research to suggest dozens of small, low-cost, in-store changes that retailers can use to boost sales of fish versus hamburger and apples instead of candy bars.

    In “Healthy Profits: An Interdisciplinary Retail Framework that Increases the Sales of Healthy Foods,” to be published in the June 2017 issue of the Journal of Retailing, Wansink sketches out a health predisposition pyramid – in essence, a hierarchy that places health-vigilant shoppers at the top and health-disinterested shoppers at the base, with so-called health-predisposed shoppers in the middle. He points out that different marketing interventions are more or less successful with each of these groups. For instance, research has shown that shoppers who are most interested in healthy eating are more interested than health-disinterested shoppers in recipe kiosks that might suggest ways to cook fish, whereas candy-free checkout aisles and front-of-store fruit displays attract all categories of shoppers.

    Where, how, and when retailers can best influence shoppers are all areas that call for more research, Wansink points out, and at the same time, the studies that have been done, while providing valuable insights, form no cohesive, actionable plan for retailers. Wansink advocates a comprehensive approach that focuses on making the selection of healthy foods convenient, attractive, and normal (CAN) and provides a retail intervention matrix that organizes key research findings into a sensible pattern that is easy to understand and practical to implement.

    The intervention matrix was put to work in Norway by a large grocery chain seeking to reposition itself around environmentally sustainable fish. All 457 stores in the chain used the traditional marketing mix of altering the variety, packaging, advertising, and price promotions of fish. Over a two-year period, these efforts consistently increased sales by 9 percent. Subsequently, 239 stores added strategies from the intervention matrix; the average increase was 28 percent more fish per transaction than in the first group of stores. “This example shows one way research findings can be extrapolated, organized, and presented in a way that is compelling for managers who have little time or tolerance for ambiguity and nuance,” says Wansink.


  10. Study suggests crowdsourcing creates a ‘win-win situation’

    April 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Concordia University press release:

    From Wikipedia to 99designs, and Google to LEGO, crowdsourcing has changed the way the world does business.

    By partnering with the masses through innovative campaigns, companies can benefit from a vast amount of expertise, enthusiasm and goodwill, rather than from paid labour.

    But what’s in it for the crowd?

    Why do ordinary people sign on to help design or produce a product without much compensation? Why do they volunteer their time and skills to a company that profits? And how can a firm better address the crowd’s needs in order to to maximize value for all involved in the co-creation project?

    Zeynep Arsel, associate professor of marketing at the John Molson School of Business, investigated these questions in a new article published by the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research. The article was based on Eric Martineau’s thesis supervised by Arsel at the John Molson School of Business Master of Science Program.

    For the study, Martineau and Arsel looked at two cases: Threadless, a growing company that uses the wisdom of the crowds to produce artistic T-shirts, and a Montreal-based startup that sought to use the same model for fashion accessories.

    The researchers observed participants in the local startup, conducted interviews with community members and carefully monitored online forums to see who was participating and why — as well as what was in it for them.

    Arsel and Martineau then analyzed the similarities and differences between the techniques successfully implemented by Threadless and the startup.

    “Even though the startup ultimately didn’t succeed, our research gave us an invaluable opportunity to understand what works in co-creation projects and what does not,” Arsel says.

    “This allowed us to explain why people participate in co-creation projects and what benefits they receive, other than monetary compensation.”

    Their findings are the first to show that there are four different types of members volunteering in these communities:

    1. Communals build skills and community bonds;

    2. Utilizers join the communities to sharpen their skills without much intention to form social bonds;

    3. Aspirers lack both skills and bonds, but aim to gain more of both;

    4. Tourists are minimally invested in both community and skills and infrequently participate.

    “For some members, the bonds established through these communities matter most. Others simply participate in co-creation projects to sharpen their Photoshop skills or get better at design in general,” Arsel explains.

    She adds that the presence of all four types of members in a collective creativity project is not only essential for the company itself, but also beneficial for other members.

    The researchers found that different kinds of members work together to not only create value for the firm, but also to generate benefits for themselves and other members, such as social connections, status within online communities and improved skills.

    “If companies better understand the value that participants receive and what they get out of this arrangement, they can manage these communities to maximize value for both sides. It’s a win-win situation.”

    Partners in research: This study was funded in part by FQRSC and the Petro Canada Young Innovators Program.