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?


Ditch the Basket for the Cart

A walk down the aisle of a supermarket is nothing less than going up and down an emotional roller coaster. The highs of looking at a mouth-watering chocolate cake with the lows of the price tag that comes with it.  The tug of war between the wants (junk, junk and more junk) and needs (healthy stuff) linger till I stride out of the store with bushels of unjustified items. So what do I do to reduce this pleasure vs. pain saga???? I pick up a basket!!! It not only makes me feel like I’ll shop more responsibly (well, at least I thought so) but also gives me the feel of a teeny workout.

Indeed, there’s a difference between choosing a cart and a basket: One helps you make healthier choices, while the other can lead you to stock up on vices. A  wild  guess of the wiser bet? “The basket” seems like an obvious response. Surprise Surprise!!!  A recent study published in the Journal of Marketing Research  found using a cart is better for your health than using a basket.

According to researchers, using a basket, “Leads to a preference for vices over virtues and for smaller, earlier rewards over larger, later monetary rewards. When you flex your arm toward you (as you would when putting something in a basket), you think of it as a treat, whereas when you flex your arm away from you (as you do when putting something in a cart), it serves a less personal purpose. It’s a process they call embodied myopia.

The researchers demonstrated that arm flexor contraction makes individuals more likely to choose immediately pleasing options.” Also the tension and strain of carrying a basket is likely to induce the shopper to seek immediate gratification and make unhealthy, wasteful purchases.

I find this downright backwards. I always thought big carts leave more room for oodles of junk food, while tiny baskets to lug around only have enough space for the healthy essentials. But apparently the research proves me all wrong. Researchers found shoppers were three times as likely to choose unhealthy items over healthy ones if they carried a basket And for most participants in the study, the immediately pleasing option they chose was chocolate. (Although I am still recovering from the anguish of being tricked by the petite, innocent looking basket, I absolutely love the thought of rewarding myself with a bar of chocolate, for every basket I carry :P)

Now the point of me choosing this topic for the blog is not to convince all my dear readers to pick up a cart for two items. That’s definitely going to do no good to your pockets or your health. But maybe this piece of information will help you become more aware, as consumers, of what you’re putting in your basket and why.

Another interesting thing to ponder upon – If our mind and body are connected in a way, that the impulse buying of unhealthy snacks is related to instant gratification, due to the strain caused, then can this be correlated to the fact that marketers selling junk food are more likely to do better in places where people are involved in some kind of physical activity???  Like a desert shop or supermarket close to a gym a fastfood joint outside a nightclub, close to railway stations???  Logically may not seem feasible, but isn’t consumer psychology all about defying all logic?????

Want A Women To Remember ?????

Now for all the men out there who thought women were just talkers and they don’t listen and remember anything you say here is a piece of advice try modulating your voice to a deeper voice . You think I am joking?????  You bet not…. According to a recent study by David Smith and colleagues from the University of Aberdeen in the UK a males voice is important for both mate choice and the accuracy of women’s memory.

In a series of two experiments, Smith and colleagues show that “memory in women is sensitive to male voice pitch, a cue important for mate choice because it can indicate genetic quality as well as signal behavioral traits undesirable in a long-term partner.”.

Wow that makes me think the deeper we dwell into the world of female psychology the more complicated or should I say the more basic it gets. Think about it centuries of evolution and innovation and the animal instincts in human kicks in someway or the others.  Now let me explain that bit. Remember those episodes of National Geography or Discovery showing how mating calls of men are important to attract the potential mate???

Well to get back to the experiments. In the first experiment, 45 women were initially shown an image of a single object while listening to the name of the object spoken either by a high or low pitch male or female manipulated voice. They were then shown two similar but not identical versions of the object and asked to identify the one they had seen earlier. The women were also asked which voice they preferred.


In the second experiment, as well as manipulated voices, the researchers used real male and female voices to test how 46 new women rated the voices and how they scored on object memory.In both cases, the authors found that women had a strong preference for the low pitch male voice and remembered objects more accurately when they have been introduced by the deep male voice. the significant imapct was not seen in men.

Now I know I am here to talk about consumer psychology and not animal instants. So how is this related to the world of marketing?

From the study Smith concluded: “that women’s memory is enhanced with lower pitch male voices, compared with the less attractive raised pitch male voices. The two experiments indicate for the first time that signals from the opposite-sex affect the accuracy of women’s memory.” Fascinating isn’t it Fancy hearing a man convincing you to buy a Domestos cleaner or a Loreal face wash???

This mean that an advert of a product that uses a low pitch male voice over is remembered more by women than an advert that uses a female voice over? Looking at it from another perspective could a male salesmen be better at selling high involvement products to women The use of females in adverts for men has been a prominent tool for marketers to grab male attention. With this study there could there be a role reversal. Maybe that’s the reason why Mr Muscle bought is a male figure with a low pitch to convince the ladies. What do you think??? Does the gender difference in voice over really have an impact on memory???





Fine the Fine Print

I started off this week’s blog research with a couple of topics in mind, as I was researching on them, I came across an advert that made me change my topic to something that we are forced to ignore “The FINE Print or the MOUSE print” Have a look at this Press Ad

Thicker hair in a week  by just using a shampoo  wow. Now that’s a revolution in shampoo. Oh wait a minute maybe I missed something. The * after  “In one week”.   Oh you can’t see it? Yeah. It is pretty small. But it is there and when you find the corresponding * with the info it reads “*versus unwashed hair”

Yes its true if you use Head and Shoulders your hair will look thicker than your unwashed hair!!!!!

Is that what they are trying to sell??? Is this what we want to buy? Just think about it with thousands of products shouting their presence advertisers are now resorting to such fine prints adverts to convince the consumers about their products???

According to the Advertising journal “The use of fine print and, more generally, advertising disclaimers, has also been the subject of numerous academic research efforts, including several content analyses Most of the research has been critical of that advertising practice, suggesting that viewers are unlikely to be able to read the messages because of the small print size and the brevity of their appearance or because the language used is incomprehensible to young audiences. Given that fine print statements often relate to a major selling point presented in an ad, critics point out that the communication value of an ad may be severely compromised when fine print disclosures are used (King 1990)”. Richards (1990, p. 83) suggests that “any ad that implies one claim and disclaims it elsewhere is potentially deceptive if consumers can have their attention diverted away from the disclaimer.”

The world is full of fine print. Fine print to hide information, fine print to misguide, fine print to emotionally rationalize. Fine print by- financial institutions, banks, cars manufacturers, beauty products, food industry, there’s no one to be spared. If the point of the information is to provide information to the consumers then why not give them out in a way that the consumers understand? Desite consumer complains there has been no law clearly defining the terms and the fonts for such information.

This video strikingly shows how we as consumers are swindled by these fine print clauses.

When I said there is no one to spare there literally isn’t anyone to be spared not even children!!!.  (Read more : A comparison of children’s and prime-time fine-print advertising disclosure practices.)

Take a look at this ‘innocent’ Disney commercial for instance

The fine print reads ” the family had been compensated for their participation”A free vacation? No wonder the Rodriquez family is happy and having a good time! Do children really understand this?

Want to see more check out this Ad By P&G

If you didn’t read the fine print, you would have assumed that P&G was giving one dollar to these causes for every bottle of Dawn sold.  I say spare the social causes atleast. What do you think? Is this ethical? Should there be a ban on fine print??? Do let me know your views on it……

To end my blog for the week i will leave you with 2 commercials that mock the concept of fine print. Hope you enjoy watching them!!!

Hampton Hyundai Commercial


Walt Massey Automotive commercial

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!!!

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