1. Facebook ‘likes’ don’t work like marketers think they do

    March 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Tulane University press release:

    Social media managers who think that simply building up followers on Facebook is enough to boost a brand’s sales may not “like” a new Tulane University study featured in Harvard Business Review.

    Turns out, Facebook likes don’t work the way most brand managers think. Likes alone don’t drive purchases. If companies want to convert social media fans into more active customers, they have to engage them with advertising, said lead author Daniel Mochon, assistant professor of marketing at A. B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University.

    “When we think of Facebook, we think of it as a very social platform. Most companies think that those social interactions will lead to more customer loyalty and more profitable customers,” Mochon said. “That’s not necessarily the case. Customers rarely post on a brand’s page on their own and typically only see a fraction of a brand’s Facebook content unless they are targeted with paid advertising”

    Mochon, Janet Schwartz, Tulane assistant professor of marketing and Dan Ariely of Duke University worked with Karen Johnson, deputy general manager of Discovery Health, to design a study using the Facebook page of the insurance company’s wellness program Discovery Vitality. Consumers can earn points for engaging in healthful behaviors, such as exercising, and redeem those points into rewards.

    The team wanted to find out if getting customers to like Vitality’s page would spur them to earn more health points. They invited new customers to take a survey and randomly invited them to like Vitality’s Facebook page. Those who weren’t invited served as a control group.

    The team monitored both groups for four months and found no difference in reward points earned, suggesting that liking the page and being involved in its social community weren’t enough to change behavior. Vitality then paid Facebook to display two posts per week to the liking group for two months. That group earned 8 percent more reward points than those in the control group.

    Authors suspect that the ads were effective because they were more likely to reach customers. Facebook’s algorithm filters content by users’ preferences and activities. When a company posts content, there’s no guarantee it will make it into their followers’ timeline unless it’s boosted content.

    “To our knowledge this is the first causal demonstration of the effect of Facebook page liking on customer behavior — specifically behavior that takes place offline,” Schwartz said. “The results suggest that Facebook pages are most effective when they are used as a form of traditional advertising rather than as a platform for social interactions.”

    The full study, “What are likes worth? A Facebook page field experiment,” is online and pending publication in the Journal of Marketing Research.


  2. How your brain makes articles go viral

    March 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Pennsylvania press release:

    It is a question that has mystified countless people: Why does one article spread like wildfire through social media and another — seemingly similar — doesn’t? How does your brain decide what is valuable enough to read and share?

    Christin Scholz and Elisa Baek, both students in the Ph.D. program at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, are the lead authors behind two new research papers that document for the first time the specific brain activity that leads us to read or share articles — in this case, health articles from the New York Times. And by looking at this specific pattern of brain activity in 80 people, they also were able to predict the virality of these articles among real New York Times readers around the world.

    Fundamentally, explains Emily Falk, Ph.D., senior author on both papers and the director of Penn’s Communication Neuroscience Lab, specific regions of the brain determine how valuable it would be to share information, and that value translates to its likelihood of going viral.

    “People are interested in reading or sharing content that connects to their own experiences, or to their sense of who they are or who they want to be,” she says. “They share things that might improve their relationships, make them look smart or empathic or cast them in a positive light.”

    By using fMRI, the researchers were able to measure people’s brain activity in real time as they viewed the headlines and abstracts of 80 New York Times health articles and rated how likely they were to read and share them. The articles were chosen for their similarity of subject matter — nutrition, fitness, healthy living — and number of words.

    The researchers honed in on regions of the brain associated with self-related thinking, regions associated with mentalizing — imagining what others might think — and with overall value.

    Although it might be intuitive to expect people would think about themselves in deciding what to read personally and think about others in deciding what to share, the researchers found something else: Whether they were choosing to read for themselves or deciding what to recommend to others, the neural data suggest that people think about both themselves and others.

    In fact, the researchers report in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, that thinking about what to share brought out the highest levels of activity in both of these neural systems.

    “When you’re thinking about what to read yourself and about what to share, both are inherently social, and when you’re thinking socially, you’re often thinking about yourself and your relationships to others,” says Baek. “Your self-concept and understanding of the social world are intertwined.”

    A second study, to be published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), shows how these brain signals can be used to predict virality of the same news articles around the world.

    When stories go viral through the 4 billion Facebook messages, 500 million tweets and 200 billion emails shared daily, they can have real impact on our health, politics and society. But not all articles are shared equally. Why do some articles get shared while others don’t?

    By looking at brain activity as 80 test subjects considered sharing the same New York Times health articles, researchers predicted an article’s virality among the actual New York Times readership, which shared this group of articles a combined total of 117,611 times.

    They found that activity in the self-related and mentalizing regions of the brain combine unconsciously in our minds to produce an overall signal about an article’s value. That value signal then predicts whether or not we want to share.

    Even though the pool of test subjects — 18-to-24-year olds, many of them university students, living around Philadelphia — represented different demographics than the overall New York Times readership, brain activity in key brain regions that track value accurately scaled with the global popularity of the articles.

    “If we can use a small number of brains to predict what large numbers of people who read the New York Times are doing, it means that similar things are happening across people,” Scholz says. “The fact that the articles strike the same chord in different brains suggests that similar motivations and similar norms may be driving these behaviors. Similar things have value in our broader society.”

    Scholz acknowledges that exactly how we’re thinking about ourselves and others varies from person to person. For example, one person may think that an article will make her friends laugh, while another may think that sharing it will help his friend solve a particular problem. But neural activity in regions associated with the self and with social considerations serves as a type of common denominator for various types of social and self-related thinking.

    “In practice, if you craft a message in a way that makes the reader understand how it’s going to make them look positive, or how it could enhance a relationship,” Scholz says, “then we predict it would increase the likelihood of sharing that message.”


  3. Study suggests website design can reduce risk of “incompatible purchases”

    March 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC) media release:

    Small changes in the website design of online shops could significantly reduce the risk of incompatible purchases by customers, concludes a recent JRC study published on 10 March in PLOS ONE. Warning messages appealing to the customer’s emotions and information provided at check-out were the most effective methods of avoiding disappointment.

    Have you ever bought a video game or a DVD online and only noticed when trying to use it, that it is not compatible with your device? While the digital market is growing and the choice for e-commerce platforms and sellers is expanding, consumer policies have to ensure that the rules and regulations that apply to online shopping are up-to-date and effectively protect all customers.

    Laboratory experiment to test effectiveness of nudges

    The JRC conducted a laboratory experiment with 626 participants to test whether web design could reduce the number of incompatible purchases online. During the experiment, the participants of different age, gender and educational backgrounds had virtual currency to purchase digital products on an e-commerce website, and then test their purchases.

    The purpose of this experiment was to see how the participants reacted to the different kind of nudges, i.e. warning messages and compatibility information provided by the e-commerce website regarding the products they were purchasing.

    Emotive warnings and information at checkout most effective

    Messages appealing to the customer’s emotions, such as ‘To avoid disappointment, please ensure that the product you are buying is compatible with your device,” combined with an emoticon (a sad face) were the most effective in preventing a participant from purchasing an incompatible product. Surprisingly, a traditional warning message, such as “Please ensure that the product you are buying is compatible with your device” was as effective as no warning message at all.

    The study also concluded that compatibility information provided at the moment of the check-out was more effective than the same information provided on the product description page, and that logos were more effective than text.

    Elderly people more likely to purchase incompatible products online

    Although older consumers have greater shopping experience and a smarter and more sophisticated choice process when it comes to traditional shopping, the study confirmed that they are disadvantaged in online shopping environments. Because of difficulties linked to processing information and using the Internet effectively, as well as lack of social networks online which would help them to navigate the electronic market place, they are more likely to buy incompatible products.

    The study also concluded that the level of education had no impact on the final results.

    Safe online shopping at heart of EU consumer policy

    Ensuring safe and satisfactory online shopping experience for all customers is part of the EU policy objectives linked to consumer protection and the Digital Single Market. The Consumer Rights Directive (2011/83/EU) contains specific provisions on online shopping which require that consumers are informed about the main characteristics, functionality and interoperability of the products they are purchasing. However, even when the information is available, it might be hidden or consumers might not be able to understand or interpret it, which leads to mistakes, disappointment, frustration and ultimately lack of trust in online shopping.

    The results of this study indicate that the right kind of nudges would be an effective solution for encouraging safe and satisfactory online shopping. With small changes to the website design, e-commerce platform owners could avoid disappointed customers and increase the usability of their website.

    The study aims to feed into policies and regulations at EU level to protect consumers, in particular vulnerable consumer groups.


  4. Retail therapy for jealous partners

    January 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Society for Consumer Psychology media release:

    Have you ever felt jealous about the attention your romantic partner was giving to someone else? Perhaps your significant other seems to be enjoying a conversation with someone a little too much, or a co-worker is flirting with your partner at a company holiday party.

    Researcher Xun (Irene) Huang, PhD, was eager to investigate whether these feelings of jealously motivated consumers to buy things that were more likely to recapture the attention of their partners. She and her team conducted a series of five different experiments, and the results revealed that feelings of jealousy increase the desire for eye-catching products — such as a bright colored coat instead of a dull-colored one, or a T-shirt with a big logo design versus a low-key design. A summary of their findings is available online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

    We believe that this effect is not just restricted to jealousy in romantic relationships,” says Huang, a professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “Children can be jealous of a sibling’s relationship with their parents, or workers might be jealous of a colleague’s close relationship with a supervisor.”

    The researchers also found that the desire for eye-grabbing products disappeared when there was little chance that the product would be noticed by others in public. Participants who were experiencing feelings of jealously in one experiment were more likely to buy a noticeable gold lamp for their office, a public place. But if they were buying a lamp for their bedroom, interest in a gold lamp versus a plain grey one was equal.

    The researchers were surprised to discover that the desire to recapture someone’s attention with eye-catching products even outweighed the risk of public embarrassment. In one experiment, participants were asked to imagine that they had been invited to a party. One group had been invited to a costume party organized by friends, and the other group had been invited to a formal welcoming party for new staff members at their company.

    Then they were asked to choose whether they’d prefer to wear an ordinary pair of sunglasses to the party or a unique and eye-catching pair. The researchers found that participants who were experiencing feelings of jealously opted to wear the eye-catching sunglasses to both types of parties, even though they could garner negative attention for this at a formal work party.

    These findings also have implications for marketing, Huang says. Print advertisements and in-store displays can capture situations in which jealously is at play, which could motivate consumers to buy products that will attract someone’s attention. Television commercials that promote attention-grabbing products might also be effective during sit-coms in which jealously is a common theme.


  5. Get better customer service by choosing your words wisely

    January 3, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of British Columbia media release:

    senior_phoneThe next time you make a complaint to your cellphone or cable company, don’t get personal.

    New research, published recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology, from the University of British Columbia has found that what you say to customer service employees can determine the quality of service you receive. For example, personally targeting employees by saying, “Your product is garbage” instead of “This product is garbage,” can trigger negative responses from service employees.

    We know that customer service quality suffers when customers are rude or aggressive to employees,” said David Walker, the study’s lead author and assistant professor in the faculty of management at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. “But our research is one of the first to pinpoint the specific words service employees hear from customers that can undermine the quality of customer service.”

    The researchers analyzed 36 hours of calls and over 100,000 words between a Canadian call centre’s customers and employees through transcript and computerized text analysis in a multi-level, multi-source, mixed-method field study. They found that more than 80 per cent of the calls contained aggressive customer language or interruptions. When customers were not aggressive towards employees, fewer than five per cent of calls had customer service problems, such as an employee making a blunt comment or using a raised voice.

    But, when customers targeted their aggression using second person pronouns (e.g. you, your) and interrupted the employee, customer service worsened in more than 35 per cent of calls. The researchers also found that these problematic effects were significantly reduced when customers used positive words like great and fine, suggesting that customers might be able to help employees provide better service by using more positive words.

    “In general, when customers use aggressive words or phrases to personally target customer service employees, or when they interrupt the person they are talking to, we found that the employee’s negative reaction is much stronger,” said study co-author Danielle van Jaarsveld, associate professor at the UBC Sauder School of Business.

    Based on these findings, researchers say customers can get better service from call centre employees through their choice of language and ability to follow conversation rules. Mixing positive language into the conversation can also lessen some stress that service employees experience on the job and result in better customer service.

    If customers change their language so that it’s less about the employee and more about the product or problem in question, they can improve the quality of the customer service they get,” said Walker. “Employees can handle a lot, but when aggressive language and interruptions happen together — combined with minimal positive language from the customer — employees get to a point where customer service quality suffers. Customers need to remember that they’re dealing with human beings.”


  6. A social reboot for illegal downloaders

    by Ashley

    From the Inderscience media release:

    computer frustrationUnauthorized downloading of digital goods, including copyright music, videos, computer games, and images has become an increasing problem for content providers and those who hold the copyright on such goods and expect remuneration for distribution.

    A new research study in the International Journal of Business Environment suggests that content providers must take a pragmatic view based on social consensus to persuade illicit downloaders that their behaviour is economically and ethically unacceptable behaviour among their peer group or other social group to which they belong.

    Eva Hofmann of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University, UK and Elfriede Penz of the Institute for International Marketing Management, at Vienna University of Economics and Business, in Austria, explain that unauthorised sharing of digital content, often referred to as “piracy,” is well-entrenched in popular culture. However, they have discerned a difference in the way those downloading pirated content and the legal downloaders decide on how to obtain the content they desire from the internet.

    Inherent in the problem for copyright holders is that digital goods can be duplicated endlessly without loss of fidelity, this benefit of the digital realm makes piracy easy but also points to the value of such goods as being less than traditional, physical items in the realm of content, such as CDs and DVDs. This makes the moral decision less onerous for illegal downloaders than were they to steal a CD or DVD from a high street shop.

    Interestingly, some earlier studies have suggested that online piracy does not detrimentally affects sales of physical goods and that many so-called pirates actually spend more on entertainment overall. Nevertheless, the sale of CDs and related goods are in decline and the industry blames piracy largely for declining numbers of units shifted. Conversely, consumers often cite the high price of digital goods as justification for engaging in unauthorised downloading.

    “In the era of digitisation, exchanging goods for material and immaterial compensation or for a feeling of sheer altruism remains an important human behaviour,” the team says, “But rather than tightening enforcement to protect their assets content providers would benefit more by initiating communication with the illegal downloaders and profiting from global online networking rather than fighting it.”


  7. Want to give a good gift? Think past the ‘big reveal’

    December 9, 2016 by Ashley

    From the Association for Psychological Science media release:

    PresentsGift givers often make critical errors in gift selection during the holiday season, according to a new research article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

    The research, led by Jeff Galak (Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business) and co-authors Elanor Williams (Indiana University Kelley School of Business) and Tepper School Ph.D. student Julian Givi, suggests that gift givers tend to focus on the moment of exchange when selecting a gift, whereas gift recipients are more focused on the long-term utility or practical attributes of the gift.

    “We studied many existing frameworks from research in this area, trying to find a common ground between them. What we found was that the giver wants to ‘wow’ the recipient and give a gift that can be enjoyed immediately, in the moment, while the recipient is more interested in a gift that provides value over time,” explained Galak. “We are seeing a mismatch between the thought processes and motivations of gift givers and recipients. Put another way, there may be times when the vacuum cleaner, a gift that is unlikely to wow most recipients when they open it on Christmas day, really ought to be at the top of the shopping list as it will be well used and liked for a long time.”

    The researchers found that this differential focus on the moment of exchange and the desirability of the gift showed up in a number of different ways. For instance, some gift giving errors included:

    • Giving unrequested gifts in an effort to surprise the recipient, when they are likely hoping for a gift from a pre-constructed list or registry;
    • Focusing on tangible, material gifts, which are likely to be immediately well received, when experiential gifts, such as theater tickets or a massage, would result in more enjoyment later on;
    • Giving socially responsible gifts, such as donations to a charity in the recipient’s name, which seem special at the moment of gift exchange but provide almost no value to recipients down the road.

    The researchers make recommendations for those hoping to choose better gifts, advising them to better empathize with gift recipients when thinking about gifts that would be both appreciated and useful.

    “We exchange gifts with the people we care about, in part, in an effort to make them happy and strengthen our relationships with them,” Galak added. “By considering how valuable gifts might be over the course of the recipient’s ownership of them, rather than how much of a smile it might put on recipients’ faces when they are opened, we can meet these goals and provide useful, well-received gifts.”


  8. The healthiest eaters are the most culturally fit

    November 7, 2016 by Ashley

    From the Society for Personality and Social Psychology media release:

    comfort food curryHow to be a healthy eater depends on culture. A recent study shows that in the U.S. and Japan, people who fit better with their culture have healthier eating habits. The results appear in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

    “Our results suggest that if you want to help people to eat healthier — or if you want to promote any type of healthy behavior — you want to understand what meaning that behavior has in that culture, and what motivates people to be healthy in that culture,” says lead author Cynthia Levine.

    Healthy eating can help reduce one’s risk for a number of different diseases down the line, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

    “In the U.S., having choice and control and being independent are very important,” says Levine. “Giving people lots of healthy choices or allowing people to feel that they have control over whether they eat healthy options is likely to foster healthier eating.”

    In Japan where the culture places more emphasis on interdependence and maintaining relationships, a focus on choice and control is less likely to be the key to more healthy eating, write the authors.

    “Instead,” says Levine, “in Japan, promoting healthy eating is likely to be most effective when it builds on and strengthens social bonds.”

    Research

    In a series of studies, the international team of researchers from the U.S., Japan, and Chile analyzed samples of eating habits of middle-aged adults in the United States and Japan. The researcher’s utilized data that included how often people eat certain items each week, including fish, vegetables, or sugary beverages, as well as some information on cholesterol and how participants relate to food when under stress.To understand how well people in each country fit in with the predominant culture, participants responded to a series of statements such as “I act in the same way no matter who I am with” (a statement reflecting independence) or “My happiness depends on the happiness of those around me” (a statement reflecting interdependence). Participants with high scores on independence have the best cultural fit in the U.S. Participants with high scores on interdependence have the best cultural fit in Japan.

    Healthy Habits

    In the U.S., which favors independence, being independent predicted eating a healthy diet including higher amounts of fish, protein, fruit, vegetables, and fewer sugary beverages. The research also showed the more independent adults were less likely to use food as a way to cope with stress.While the overall diets in Japan were healthier than U.S. participants, those in Japan who rated themselves as more interdependent showed healthier eating habits then their Japanese peers who did not.

    This research is consistent with other work showing that fitting into one’s culture shapes the healthiness of one’s food consumption.

    Levine is interested in utilizing these results for future studies that further reveal the role of culture in everyday behaviors.

    We would like to explore how these cultural differences in the meanings of common behaviors can be utilized to encourage healthy eating or healthy behaviors,” says Levine.

     


  9. Why do consumers participate in ‘green’ programs?

    August 11, 2016 by Ashley

    From the Michigan State University media release:

    thinkingFrom recycling to reusing hotel towels, consumers who participate in a company’s “green” program are more satisfied with its service, finds a new study co-led by a Michigan State University researcher.

    Doing good makes customers feel good, and that “warm glow” shapes opinion, said Tomas Hult, Byington Endowed Chair and professor of marketing in the Eli Broad College of Business. But it gets more complicated when companies throw incentives into the mix.

    “Companies are increasingly adopting sustainability initiatives and ultimately these ‘green’ programs are intended to be good for the environment and also increase customers’ satisfaction,” said Hult, who is director of MSU’s International Business Center. “Our research helps strike the right balance between incentivizing customers to participate in green programs and focusing on the bottom-line performance of the company.”

    Hult and researchers from Cornell University and Florida State University conducted four studies in three service settings: restaurants, hotels and online retailing. They found the types of rewards offered by companies to participate in sustainability programs could affect satisfaction.

    The researchers tested two types of incentives: those that benefit solely the consumer (i.e. loyalty points) and those that benefit another organization (i.e. charitable donations).

    For green program participants, rewards that benefit another organization created the highest rate of satisfaction about the business.

    And for those who chose not to participate in a green program, self-benefiting rewards cast doubt about the motive of a program. That scenario offers nonparticipants an opportunity to rationalize their decision to not participate, and lack of guilt translates into feelings of satisfaction about the business, Hult said.

    People will interpret incentives in whatever way best suits their egos, he said. So for both groups to be happiest, a company should allow customers to choose between a reward that benefits themselves or another organization.

    Many managers, particularly in the hospitality industry, are reluctant to introduce sustainability initiatives that might negatively influence the guest experience, Hult said. But this research, one of the first of its kind, provides managers with guidance on how to best design such programs as well as best practices for “green marketing.”


  10. When selling good karma goes bad

    May 16, 2016 by Ashley

    From the University of California – Riverside media release:

    woman contemplatingWhen you’re paid to sell things, it doesn’t hurt to be able to stretch the truth or prey on people’s emotions once in a while. Most advertisers probably don’t spend too much time thinking about karma, then, but perhaps they should–at least if they want to get better at their jobs.

    A new study by researchers from the University of California, Riverside and the University of Louisville has examined how consumers’ beliefs about karma influence their responses to charitable appeals in advertising. The findings show that people who believe in karma, despite seeing the positive benefits of doing good deeds, do not always respond favorably. The results suggest advertisers and marketers should consider customers’ karmic beliefs when seeking to incentivize pro-social behaviors.

    Forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research, the study, “In Pursuit of Good Karma: When Charitable Appeals to Do Right Go Wrong,” was authored by Katina Kulow, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Louisville. She completed the research as a graduate student under the direction of Thomas Kramer, associate professor of marketing at UCR’s School of Business Administration.

    Although karma, the belief that the universe bestows rewards for doing right and exacts punishments for doing wrong, is largely an Eastern philosophy, there are numerous examples of the notion in Western culture as well, much in line with the sayings “you reap what you sow” and “what goes around comes around.”

    As a naturalistic principle, karma shares properties with other irrational beliefs, such as superstition and fate, which help explain life events or occurrences that are otherwise difficult to understand. Most Americans are unlikely to admit they are irrational, but a growing body of research shows otherwise, raising previously unanswered questions about the effects of karma on consumer behaviors.

    In a series of experiments done both in person and online, the researchers examined how consumers’ belief in karma affected pro-social behaviors–in this case donating either their time or money to a charitable cause. It would seem likely that people who believe in karma, as compared to those who do not, should be more influenced by charitable appeals to engage in acts of kindness, which would in turn stand them in good stead for karmic rewards.

    The results from the study showed the situation is more complex. When asked to donate their time to help other people, those who believe in karma responded more favorably than those who do not. However, the favorable response was lost when the focus of the charitable appeal was shifted from a benefit to others to a benefit to one’s self, indicating that people with karmic beliefs can be discouraged from donating if they perceive the motivation to be selfish.

    These results challenge a common myth among marketers that consumers can be prompted to engage in charitable behaviors if they themselves benefit for doing the good deed, such as receiving awards or prizes. In essence, this commonly used marketing tool may not be effective in people with strong karmic beliefs,” Kramer said.

    When asked to donate money, there were no differences in responses among people who believed in karma and those who did not, even when the focus of the charitable appeal was on helping others. Kramer said the finding was interesting, because it could be argued that donating money helps people in need, and therefore should be rewarded with good karma in a similar way to a donation of time.

    This may be because monetary donations do not represent the same level of personal effort and sacrifice as time donations, which interferes with the consumer’s ability to make the social connections that would make them deserving of good karma” Kramer said.

    Kramer said professionals in non-profit marketing, as well as companies that form partnerships with charities for marketing purposes, should consider these findings as they develop campaigns that aim to incentivize pro-social behaviors.

    Ultimately, the likelihood that people with karmic beliefs will respond positively to a charitable appeal rests on whether they perceive the action as something that they can be legitimately rewarded for,” he said.