Warning: Your surname can make you an impulsive shopper!!!

So here we are thinking for the last topic , writing our last blog  and to compliment the scenario what I find is a theory called the ‘Last Name Effect’. How perfect could it get???

Sheakspere once said “what’s in a name?” well he definitely din’t have the psychological insights but, since I do, I must say there is a lots in the name. Names have implication and may even be responsible for shaping more life-choices than we would admit.

A recent study, The Last Name Effect, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, states people whose surnames start with letters late in the alphabet may be the fastest to buy. According to researchers Kurt A. Carlson and Jacqueline M. Conrad (2011) the habits are linked to childhood where there is a system of “alphabetization” of students. People who grow up with last name like the Zaveri’s have a very different experience from their classmates like the Bowman’s. And as a result, those with names near the end become more opportunistic and respond more quickly to what the researchers term “acquisition opportunities..”

In a series of 4 experiments, Carlson and Conard found out that late-in-the-alphabet participants like Young tended to make hastier purchases and take more chances than folks with last names like Appel and Bowman( would wait 25% more time). The supporting theory of why this is the case goes back to grade school, when kids with surnames starting with Y, Z, etc. were constantly stuck at the back of the line and the last to get their pick at the cafeteria or to get into any line. Carlson adds “For years, simply because of your name, you’ve received inequitable treatment, So when you get to exercise control, you seize on opportunity. It’s a coping strategy, and over time it becomes a natural way to respond.”

Now I wonder if this could solve the mystery of why some people tend to shop more impulsively those others? Also, maybe next time I want to cut down on that entire impulse buy I take a friend whose name starts with the early letters. I am sure there is no harm in trying it out. Anyways to get back to the name if this is not strange enough continue reading? The affects of the name don’t end there.

According to a study “Why Susie Sells Seashells by the Seashore: Implicit Egotism and Major Life Decisions” by Pelham, Mirenberg, and Jones ( 2002) our names, as words that we naturally associate with, might influence significant life choices that we make (such as where to live and what occupation to pursue).  The concept is called “implicit egotism” . This association with the name makes people choose cities and to even careers that resemble their name.

Weird as it may sound I am not sure if the concept of Dean the Dentist living in Denver or Tracey the teacher staying in Tennessee really holds true but the 2 studies highlighted definitely lend a few insights to the marketers.

Firstly considering the last name effect maybe it would make more sense for marketers to target more customers with a last name towards the end, as they are more prone to impulsive buys. So all you Young’s and Wilson’s out there be prepared for more junk mails from ebay and Amazon!! But mind you Mrs. William’s who was once Miss Bell may not fall for this trick.

Similarly when we talk about the name playing a significant part in association. Could we think of this as a tool for further categorization / segmentation of the market.  A Harvey or Harry would associate more with Harley Davidson than maybe a John or Zake?????  Similarly a person would relate more to another person with a similar name does this mean that personalized testimonials would work better???  What do you think – will this study work in the real world?? Can name be taken as a factor for marketers to target a particular group more prominently???

Well the answers to all these questions can only be guessed ambiguously but for all you Young’s and William’s out there next time you shop impulsively you can stop going down the guilt trip and conveniently blame it on to your ancestors. As far as the Bell’s go I am afraid we will have to wait for another research study !!!!



The Golden Arches escalate Reading Speed!!!!!

Well we all know that Mc Donald can increase the waistline, increase cholesterol, increase obesity in children leading to future risks and the list of studies just don’t seem to end but let me tell you all this now passé.

Gone are the days when the repercussion of a fast food joint were restricted to eating . A recent study conducted by Chen-Bo Zhong and Sanford E. DeVoe at the University of Toronto reveled that a mere exposure to the most prevalent golden arches can  actually induce haste and impatience, in ways that have nothing to do with eating.

In the study researchers found that exposure to fast-food symbols — including the logos of McDonald’s, KFC, Subway and Taco Bell — make people both less likely to save money and more likely to feel like they’re running out of time.

The study was conducted by exposing students to nearly subliminal flashes of images (for 12 to 80 milliseconds) that included, in some cases, fast-food logos. The students were then asked to read text and choose between two different kinds of skin-care treatments — a three-in-one or a separate cleanser. As it turns out, the subliminal exposure to fast-food marketing caused the students to read “significantly faster” and made them more likely to choose the more time-saving product.

As if the guilt of having an increased waistline wasn’t enough. Now it turns out a just a glance at the Subway on my way to the high street can make me stressed and impulsive.  Various researchers have carried out similar studies. Remember the Red Bull Gives You wings Papper that discussed how the exposure to a Red Bull logo on a car in a video game induced the element of speed in them?

One of the first studies to really inspect this was conducted by Grainne M. Fitzsimons, Tanya L. Chartrand, and Gavan J. Fitzsimons in 2008. In this study, the researchers validated that participants who were subliminally primed with the Apple logo (a brand that consistently encourages its consumers to “Think Different”) were more creative in a standard laboratory creativity task than those who were exposed to the IBM logo.

Another recent study by Chen-Bo Zhong and Nina Mazar showed that participants who were exposed to products that were branded as ‘green’ were more humane and charitable than those who just saw regular products. However, they were less altruistic when they were asked to buy the product. This is an interesting twist because this could mean that actually buying the product nullifies the influence the brand has subconsciously.

So the next time I want to speed up I should walk past the KFC store…. not particularly a negative effect I must say or expose myself to an Apple logo for that sudden burst of creativity needed to write my next blog…..hmmm….. Well not sure if that is going to help but what I believe is that these studies definitely give useful insights into the idea of influencing consumers.

With the immense brand clutter the consumer experiences, the usual forms of media like television advertising or print allows the consumers to put up defense mechanism while being exposed to the ad thus making it ineffective. However brand managers could use insights from these studies and expose the consumers to brands in such way that it subconsciously targets them.  Subtle and smart product placements in movies and video games, web placement, viral videos or even interesting use of the ambient media seem to be the way to reach the consumers mind before they even realize they are being targeted.

What do you think do subconscious exposure of brand really affect our state of mind? If yes, Is it good or bad?