1. Now or later: How taste and sound affect when you buy

    July 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Brigham Young University press release:

    There’s a reason marketers make appeals to our senses; the “snap, crackle and pop” of Rice Krispies makes us want to buy the cereal and eat it. But as savvy as marketers are, they may be missing a key ingredient in their campaigns.

    New research finds the type of sensory experience an advertisement conjures up in our mind — taste and touch vs. sight and sound — has a fascinating effect on when we make purchases.

    The study led by marketing professors at Brigham Young University and the University of Washington finds that advertisements highlighting more distal sensory experiences (sight/sound) lead people to delay purchasing, while highlighting more proximal sensory experiences (touch/taste) lead to earlier purchases.

    “Advertisers are increasingly aware of the influence sensory cues can play,” said lead author Ryan Elder, associate professor of marketing at BYU. “Our research dives into which specific sensory experiences will be most effective in an advertisement, and why.”

    Elder, with fellow lead author Ann Schlosser, a professor of marketing at the University of Washington, Morgan Poor, assistant professor of marketing at San Diego State University, and Lidan Xu, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, carried out four lab studies and a pilot study involving more than 1,100 study subjects for the research, published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

    Time and time again, their experiments found that people caught up in the taste or touch of a product or event were more likely to be interested at an earlier time.

    In one experiment, subjects read one of two reviews for a fictional restaurant: One focused on taste/touch, the other emphasized sound/vision. Participants were then asked to make a reservation to the restaurant on a six-month interactive calendar. Those who read the review focusing on the more proximal senses (taste and touch) were significantly more likely to make a reservation closer to the present date.

    In another experiment, study subjects read ad copy for a summer festival taking place either this weekend or next year. Two versions of the ad copy existed: one emphasizing taste (“You will taste the amazing flavors…”) and one emphasizing sound (“You will listen to the amazing sounds…”).

    When subjects were asked when they would like to attend, those who read the ad copy about taste had a higher interest in attending a festival this weekend. Those who read ads emphasizing sounds were more likely to have interest in attending the festival next year.

    If an advertised event is coming up soon, it would be better to highlight the more proximal senses of taste or touch — such as the food served at the event — than the more distal senses of sound and sight,” Schlosser said. “This finding has important implications for marketers, especially those of products that are multi-sensory.”

    As part of the study, researchers also learned an interesting insight into making restaurant reviews more helpful. In their field study, the authors analyzed 31,889 Yelp reviews to see if they could find connections between the sensory elements of a reviewer’s experience and the usefulness of a review.

    They found reviews from people who emphasized a more distal sense (such as sight) were rated more useful when the review used the past tense (“We ate here last week and…”), while people emphasizing a proximal sense (touch) had more useful reviews when they used the present tense (“I’m eating this right now and it is so good!”).

    “Sensory marketing is increasingly important in today’s competitive landscape. Our research suggests new ways for marketers to differentiate their products and service, and ultimately influence consumer behavior,” Elder said. “Marketers need to pay closer attention to which sensory experiences, both imagined and actual, are being used.”


  2. Study looks at how to improve customer experience

    July 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Twente press release:

    Customer experience plays a major role in why consumers choose a specific product or service. But how do you improve that customer experience? University of Twente PhD student Harald Pol has been conducting research into the question of how organizations do this successfully. He defended his dissertation, Mastering Meaningful Customer Connections, on June 16.

    Loyalty

    A customer’s emotional experience of an organization, product or service is an important factor in determining that customer’s loyalty. There is also an economic aspect: customers will not only return sooner and more frequently, but by creating an experience, organizations can also ask a higher price for their products and services. The most obvious example of this is a simple cup of coffee: at a ‘normal’ catering establishment, you will pay about €2.50 for this, while at Starbucks this is around €3.75, and on the terrace of a café on the Place du Tertre in Paris you can easily pay about €8 for the same cup of coffee.

    Personal relationship

    Pol decided to search for explanations using the Relational Models Theory (Fiske, 1991), a theory that had until recently mostly been used to describe and explain relationships between individual people. He noted that there are two common types of relationships: Communal Sharing and Market Pricing. With Communal Sharing, both parties invest in the relationship without keeping track of what the relationship is yielding. The main values experienced are equivalence, concern for the surrounding environment and concern for each other. Market Pricing focuses on the profits and losses of the relationship. If these profits and losses cease to be in balance, the relationship finishes.

    Focus on feeling versus focus on prices

    In certain sectors, it is possible to see trends in how organizations project themselves: telephone providers often emphasize lower rates or favourable terms and conditions, and in the energy sector too, many companies compete on price to win over customers from their competitors. Companies that are less able to differentiate themselves in this way often make a transition to emphasizing Communal Sharing: they increasingly compete using the feeling behind the product.

    Exerting influence successfully

    Companies really are able to influence the emotional nature of the customer relationship using specific words and images — this is known as ‘priming’. This is particularly effective when it occurs unconsciously and when the words or images used fit the customer’s motivations for using a particular service. One of the secondary studies shows that a leaflet which contains personal images will have a more positive impact on the customer’s experience and inclination to switch than a leaflet that includes only business images.

    ‘The relationship models used by customers provide a deeper insight into the conscious and — more particularly — the unconscious thoughts and feelings of customers,’ explains Pol. ‘They demonstrate the specific values that customers apply in relation to the organization. Often, these values remain invisible. But if organizations can identify and explore these values, customer behaviour can be understood and predicted better. Relationship models enable organizations to see and understand customer satisfaction, confidence, loyalty and likelihood to recommend.’


  3. Study suggests tendency to trust may be inherited, but distrust is not

    July 3, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Arizona press release:

    Research has shown that how trusting a person is may depend, at least in part, on his or her genes. However, distrust does not appear to be inherited in the same way, according to a new study led by the University of Arizona.

    The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explores distrust as a separate and distinct quality from trust.

    “This research supports the idea that distrust is not merely the opposite of trust,” said Martin Reimann, assistant professor of marketing in the UA’s Eller College of Management and lead author of the study.

    “Both trust and distrust are strongly influenced by the individual’s unique environment, but what’s interesting is that trust seems to be significantly influenced by genetics, while distrust is not. Distrust appears to be primarily socialized,” Reimann said.

    Reimann and his colleagues — UA assistant professor of management and organizations Oliver Schilke and Stanford sociologist Karen S. Cook — studied sets of adult identical twins — who have identical genetic relatedness — and adult fraternal, or non-identical, twins — who have different genetic relatedness.

    Based on the core principles of behavioral genetics, if genetics explain variations in distrust and trust behaviors, then identical twins should behave more similarly to each other than fraternal twins, since the genes of identical twins are shared, while the genes of fraternal twins are only imperfectly correlated, Reimann said.

    Studying the two different types of twins allowed researchers to estimate the relative influence of three different factors on twins’ trust and distrust trust behaviors: heritable factors — that is, genetic influences; shared environmental factors — that is, common experiences of growing up in the same family and interacting with the same immediate peers; and unshared environmental factors — or the siblings’ unique experiences in life.

    For the research, 324 identical and 210 fraternal twins participated in a study task that asked them to decide how much money to send to another study participant — representing trust — and another task that asked them to decide how much money to take away from another participant — representing distrust.

    The researchers found that the identical twin pairs behaved more similarly than the fraternal twin pairs in their trust behaviors but not their distrust behaviors, suggesting that genetics influence trust, but not distrust.

    Overall, analyses estimated that trust is 30 percent heritable, while distrust is not at all heritable. Meanwhile, the estimated contribution of shared environment to distrust was 19 percent, while shared environment didn’t contribute at all to trust.

    Unshared environment — or the twins’ independent experiences in life — had the biggest impact on both trust and distrust, with unshared experiences contributing 81 percent to distrust and 70 percent to trust. In other words, much of a person’s propensity to trust or distrust is neither inherited nor commonly socialized. It is instead influenced by unique experiences in life.

    “We all have a stock of past experiences that we draw on to help determine how we are going to behave in different situations, and future research should look at what particular types of life experiences could be the most influential on trust or distrust,” Reimann said. “Disposition to trust, however, is not a product of experience alone; genetic influence is also significant. But we don’t see the same genetic influence with distrust.”


  4. Study suggests anxious adults drawn to advertising messages that feature home concepts

    by Ashley

    From the Vanderbilt University press release:

    New research by Steve Posavac, E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Marketing at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management, uncovers another consequence of anxiety symptoms: susceptibility to certain marketing themes.

    According to a paper recently published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, individuals with relatively elevated symptoms of Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder (ASAD) are more favorable to advertisements with home concepts.

    “Importantly, our research suggests a vulnerability to persuasion among those with adult separation anxiety disorder symptoms that goes beyond simply the appeal of a product itself,” Posavac and co-author, psychologist Heidi Posavac, write. “Featuring the concept of home as an advertising theme leads to more favorability towards the persuasive attempt.”

    The paper says consumer advertising regularly invokes the idea of home, citing recent Super Bowl ads by Jeep and Budweiser as examples.

    Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder is a psychological condition in which an individual has excessive anxiety regarding separation from places or people to whom he or she has a strong emotional attachment. The lifetime incidence of adult separation anxiety disorder in the United States is estimated to be 6.6 percent, but a much higher percentage may experience symptoms.

    In a study conducted at Vanderbilt Business’ Behavioral Research Lab, participants completed a questionnaire to measure ASAD published by the American Psychiatric Institute. Later, they read an internet advertisement for a fictitious airline: one version incorporated a theme of “coming home to family,” the other promoted a message of “seeing new things.” Participants with high ASAD symptoms had more favorable attitudes toward the home-themed ad, while those with little to no symptoms offered no preference.

    While the Posavacs’ findings may suggest an opportunity for marketers, they caution that it may also reflect a threat for sufferers of adult separation anxiety disorder. Should marketers be able to identify and target a subgroup of consumers with ASAD or ASAD symptoms, home-themed advertising might increase sales, but the impact on the consumers themselves might not be so positive.

    “Whether in individual treatment sessions, or with a psychoeducational approach, individuals experiencing chronic adult separation anxiety may be well served by clinicians who help to inoculate them against the possibility of coming under undue influence by savvy marketers,” the authors write.


  5. Research suggests sexual appeals in ads don’t sell brands, products

    July 1, 2017 by Ashley

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

    Could it be that sex actually does not sell? An analysis of nearly 80 advertising studies published over more than three decades suggests that’s the case.

    “We found that people remember ads with sexual appeals more than those without, but that effect doesn’t extend to the brands or products that are featured in the ads,” says University of Illinois advertising professor John Wirtz, the lead author of the research.

    Wirtz and his co-authors conducted a first-of-its-kind meta-analysis of 78 peer-reviewed studies looking at the effects of sexual appeals in advertising. Their findings were posted online this week by the International Journal of Advertising.

    Their research found that not only were study participants no more likely to remember the brands featured in ads with sexual appeals, they were more likely to have a negative attitude toward those brands, Wirtz said.

    Participants also showed no greater interest in making a purchase. “We found literally zero effect on participants’ intention to buy products in ads with a sexual appeal,” Wirtz said. “This assumption that sex sells – well, no, according to our study, it doesn’t. There’s no indication that there’s a positive effect.”

    Co-authors on the research were Johnny V. Sparks, a professor of journalism at Ball State University, and Thais M. Zimbres, a doctoral student at the University of California, Davis.

    As defined in the research, sexual appeals included models who were partially or fully nude; models who were engaged in sexual touching or in positions that suggested a sexual encounter was imminent; sexual innuendoes; and sexual embeds, which are partially hidden words or pictures that communicate a sexual message.

    “The strongest finding was probably the least surprising, which is that males, on average, like ads with sexual appeals, and females dislike them,” Wirtz said. “However, we were surprised at how negative female attitudes were toward these ads.”

    When not separating the results by gender, the effect of sexual appeals on participants’ attitudes toward ads was not significant, he said, but separately “they’re just going in completely opposite directions.”

    Wirtz said he decided to pursue this research because he sees meta-analysis – the application of statistical procedures to data from a range of studies – as a powerful tool.

    “The average number of participants in each individual study was about 225, but by using a meta-analysis, we could combine studies and conduct some analyses with more than 5,000 participants – in one analysis, with more than 11,000,” Wirtz said. “This means that our results present a more accurate picture of what happens when someone sees an ad with a sexual appeal.”

    The implications of the research for advertising practitioners are mixed, given that ads with sexual appeals are remembered more – and advertisers want people to remember their ads, Wirtz said – yet they don’t appear to help in selling brands or products. “Certainly the evidence indicates that the carryover effect to liking the ads doesn’t influence whether they’re going to make a purchase,” he said.

    This could be one reason why a national restaurant chain, known in recent years for ads selling its sandwiches with scantily clad models in suggestive poses, made a very public break with that approach in a three-minute commercial in the last Super Bowl, Wirtz said.

    “If the ‘sexy ads’ had been effective, it’s unlikely the company or ad agency would have made such a drastic change,” he said. “When product is moving, people don’t make changes.”


  6. 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.”


  7. 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.


  8. 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.”


  9. 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.


  10. 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.”