The .99 Effect

We live in an era of manipulation. – by companies, by marketers, by advertisers and finally retailers and supermarkets. Stores’ often provide consumers with informational clues about the uniqueness/ benefit of their products and service quality and assist in shaping consumer attitudes and perceptions.

I often find myself walking in a supermarket with a pre decided list but the scène at the billing counter seems to be a little different. My cart is filled with ambiguous things. Some of which I need but most of them- results of clever and astute marketing.

The buy one get one free offer (boosts me up and I end up spending more than I usually would), the smell of the freshly baked croissants (the atmospherics undeniably work wonders on me), the mints and chocolates places strategically near the billing counter (how thoughtful of them to remind us to pick up our mints evrytime we visit them!)-  . Should I say we are being victimized?




Well, in that case knowing about these marketing biases should help me act more rationally? Maybe, or maybe not. After all, look at the and-ninety-nine-pence effect. You already know about this one, right?


Walk into a store, see how many products are priced with the decimals running into .99? Who do these retailers think they re kidding with a price like 9.99 or 199.99?


But if everyone gets it, why do retailers keep doing it? The answer is clear enough – Because it still works.


A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that when pens were priced at $1.99 and $4.00, only 18% of the participants chose the higher-priced pen; but when the pens were priced at $2.00 and $3.99, 44% of the participants selected the higher-priced pen. That one-cent price drop makes the $4 pen seem a lot cheaper.


Now looks like for some reason, we can’t take our eye off that leftmost digit. But we can at least try.





Week 4 – Attention Men!!!

According to the general notion and previous researcher “Men are more likely to respond to more utilitarian aspects of the shopping experience — such as, the product benefit, the availability of parking, whether the item they came for is in stock, and the length of the checkout line.” But somehow I wasn’t convinced with the whole utility aspect considering the drastic rise in high-end luxury products and lifestyle marketing for men.

So while I was thinking what my next blog would be I set out on an expedition to explore the forbidden arena of men and shopping. Now, I will not get into the never-ending debate of why men hate shopping? or do they actually hate shopping? What I am going to be writing about is conspicuous consumption in men.

In 2007, a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported that “romantically primed men (that is, men induced to think about sex by means of being shown pictures of attractive women) were more likely to splurge on items of conspicuous consumption, like a new car, a fancy watch or a new cellphone. At the same time, romantically primed men were not likely to increase their spending on inconspicuous items like an alarm clock or household cleaners.”

Does that mean men splurging on things like an Armani perfume or the Vertu Signature Cobra mobile handset, with a whooping £213,000 price tag, was courtesy a cute sales girl or an attractive female fellow shopper? Sounds like a very heavy price to pay for…

A new research by faculty at Rice University, (UTSA) and the University of Minnesota (“Peacocks, Porsches and Thorstein Veblen: Conspicuous Consumption as a Sexual Signaling System”) finds that men’s conspicuous spending is driven by the desire to have uncommitted romantic flings.

The research says “Just as peacocks flaunt their tails before potential mates, men may flaunt flashy products to charm potential dates. Notably, not all men favored this strategy – just those men who were interested in short-term sexual relationships with women.”

Its interesting how this works in a live situation but what got me thinking does this have an impact when a male is watching an advert with an attractive women, on television? Wonder if thats the reason a lot of advertising for men involves attractive women. Also what about men who are looking out for a committed relatonship are they completely away from the concept of conspicuous spending? sounds a little conspicuous to me…..

However, what I particularly found interesting is that even though the whole ‘peacock’ act of men is a way of signaling to potential mate, women can see right through this behavior. In the study, women found men who flashed high-end luxury product (say the Porsche in this case) attractive and someone they could date however they dint think of him as a marriage partner.

So all you men out there beware! Next time you walk into a fancy showroom and decide to spend make sure you are spending it on yourself and not on the cute salesgirl – because she knows exactly what you are up to!!!

Week 3:The Perfect Cocktail – Wine stirred with Music

If you though buying/drinking wine was all about the nose and the taste think again your ears might have an equally important part to play. Though I am not much of a wine drinker myself what induced me to write this blog is the intoxicating blend of wine and music. (I definitely wasn’t drinking while writing this blog)

The whole oral- aural saga of wine started with a study conducted by University of Leicester. The study showed that when a wine store played French music, most customers bought French wine, while German music spurred sales of German wine. Researchers theorized that French music made shoppers think of France, and therefore prepares them to buy its wines.

After reading this piece of research I thought to myself- Really??? I am not sure if I would let the store music decide my drink for the day… but apparently that’s the beauty of such atmospherics…

If this wasn’t surprising enough, a 2008 Heriot Watt University study based on the theory of cognitive priming, holds that certain styles of music stimulate, or prime, certain parts of the brain. When wine is tasted, these areas are already active and have a corresponding effect on our perceptions of taste.

Prof Adrian North of Heriot Watt, added: “It is widely acknowledged within the scientific community that music affects behaviour, however this is the first time it has been scientifically proven that music can affect perception in other senses and change the way wine tastes.”

The research showed that when a powerful, heavy piece of music (Jimi Hendrix’s version of All Along the Watchtower click to listen) is heard with, a wine such as 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, it is perceived as being 60 per cent more powerful, rich and robust than when no music is heard.”



Talk about cracking a bottle open to experience the hypnotic songs of The Doors or the strings of Greenday … wow! (I wonder which wine would go with the controversial rap songs of Eminem or the eccentricity of Lady Gaga ), mainly because music is so personal… What if I don’t like the song associated with a particular wine will that have a negative impact on me? Maybe I’ll have to hold on to get answers to this question…

What’s more astonishing?

A certain group of winemakers in Austria (SONOR WINES) have devised a small speaker (plays jazz, orchestra, electronic sounds) that can be inserted into their grape juice to make enhance the taste of wine. They believe the sound waves make yeast cells move around so they absorb more sugar, and create good vibes during the maturing process. With altered music distinctive wines are created.

Now the recipe of the music and wine cocktail may still be a mystery but sounds like its definitely made the concept of wine tasting more interesting to.

If the yeast cant resist grooving to the tunes of music and grapes we are just humans?







Creative or Manipulative

Any thought that is passed on to the subconscious often enough and convincingly enough is finally accepted. -Robert Collier 

We are living in an era where most consumers consciously prefer to stay unaware of majority of the brands, advertising and promotions that take place in the overcrowded arena of marketing. However, marketers have devised ways to break through this clutter and reach the consumer. My blog for the week focuses on one such creative weapon used by marketers.

I am sure most of you have heard of the song ‘Stairway To Heaven’ by English band Led Zeppelin(which happens to be one of my favorite). What’s that got to do with my blog?  Click here to hear the song don’t miss the reverse of the song. The phonetic reversal of a certain verse of the song gives way to a whole different satanic verse According to Stephen Davis, author of the Zeppelin saga, Hammer of the Gods, the controversy with the song began in 1982, when a prominent Baptist used his radio pulpit to preach that “Stairway to Heaven” carried subliminal backward messages.

Yes, subliminal advertising, that’s what I am going to be writing  about. The concept of subliminal advertising came into picture after the James Vicary –famous subliminal movie theatre research.

Subliminal message are any sensory messages below an individual’s absolute threshold for conscious perception. For example a visual stimuli may be quickly flashed before an individual may process them like in the case of Food Networks ‘Iron Chef America’ where the Mc Donalds logo appeared in the frames between the show or  visuals could be flashed and then masked, as it appears in the below ad, thereby interrupting the processing.

Or an audio message may be played below audible volumes

If you thought it was only restricted to the radio , tv or print. Think again!! Your very own supermarket could have subliminal messages persuading you to buy a product, which you probably wont otherwise. In a promotional campaign by Pepsi in the 1990’s, Pepsi sold cans with neon patters. These cans when stacked on top of each other spelled the word ‘SEX’

A study conducted showed that subliminal messages also influence how much a person is willing to pay for a product. 2 researchers exposed there volunteers to smiling and grumpy faces for 1/16 of a second. The ones that saw smiling faces were twice more likely to have more drink and pay more.(Buyology -Martin Lindstorm)

In 1978, there were seven surveys taken by 3,400 smokers between grades seven through twelve in Georgia, Louisiana and Minnesota and it showed that Camels were preferred by less than .05%. However, in 1988, RJR Nabisco launched the “Smooth Character”, a cartoon camel modeled after James Bond and Don Johnson. 5,000 children from California were polled and 22% of girls were smoking Camel cigarettes, and 24% of boys were smoking Camel cigarettes! This was a significant rise from the original .05%! Another study showed that children were as familiar with the “Smooth Character” as Mickey Mouse! Even if the sexual subliminal messages weren’t intended, or effective, it still gives off the subliminal message, “Smoke Camel cigarettes, and you will be cool and attractive!”

Infact, during the 2000 U.S. presidential campaign, a television ad campaigning for Republican candidate George W. Bush showed words (and parts thereof) scaling from the foreground to the background on a television screen. When the word BUREAUCRATS flashed on the screen, one frame showed only the last part, RATS. ( Smoking Pistols: George “Rat Ad” Bush and the Subliminal Kid) .

According to a 1999 Harvard study, which tested the power of subliminal messaging on 47 people in the age group 60-85, subliminal suggestions can influence people’s behavior.

Its not surprising that Subliminal tapes are sold by the millions to people that want to motivate themselves with custom subliminal messages. There are subliminal messages in songs. There are even computer programs so you can make your own custom subliminal message to yourself as you watch your computer each day. I am sure this is something you would take up consciously as a way to improve your life but what about all the others?

Till, today, there are no explicit bans against subliminal advertising, as there are no official guidelines or rules as to what constitutes a subliminal message. The reason being that more than 200 scientific studies had failed to replicate the original study. (Pratkanis and Aronson’) For every research study that comes along that shows any effect on choice, there are other studies that fail to find such an effect.

Despite all the controversy surrounding subliminal advertising the concept of it seems more vague and ambiguous than the effect it creates.

To conclude here are a few things to ponder upon …Are we being a victimized? Yes. Can we do anything about it? Apparently not! Does it really have an impact on us?…..Now that’s a subliminal though that I am going to leave you all with

Click here to see some more really cool subliminal ads .

The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife- David Ogilvy

Hello everyone ,

Firstly, I would like to welcome you to my blog – PsychADelicz

Secondly, why the name psychADelics for my blog? Well … apart from the obvious reasons that’s its got ‘psych’ and ‘ad’ to it, the word truly signifies the ambiguous and Ineffable nature of the consumer mind. Basically psychADelic is for all those interested in  demystifying the mystery called “CONSUMER”.

Through the weeks I will be covering a plethora of topics that have grabbed my attention. So come, join me on this mind-altering journey, as we try and explore the emotions, expressions, manipulations, illusions, delusions and many more interesting issues related to the world of consumer psychology.

To kick start the blog let me take you back in time with a few vintage ads. Hope you enjoy them and Happy Blogging to all!!!