Category Archives: Cases

Can we teach others how to make Kimchi?

I enjoy watching The Chef Show, an American television cooking show. It features actor Jon Favreau and chef Roy Choi with guests. This cooking show challenged my stereotype of Asian chefs and Korean food.

In one episode, Chefs Roy Choi and David Chang demonstrated how to make Kimchi. They broke down the authentic Korean food into 16 ingredients. I was surprised by this because I eat Kimchi everyday but have never listed its ingredients. In sum, two chefs analyzed a holistic item successfully, whereas an everyday consumer failed to do so.

Experts are able to analyze holistic items because they are often asked to do so. Two chefs could list sixteen food ingredients because they have to explain to viewers how to make Kimchi. Similarly, wine lovers could elaborate why they like a specific wine (e.g., Tannin, flavor, color, etc.) because they have to explain to others why they like it.

In contrast, novice consumers are rarely asked to decompose their holistic experience. For instance, I do not have to explain to others why I enjoy emmental cheese, why I choose the chicken with classic buffalo flavor, or why I order a smoked salmon with scrambled egg. This is why I need *supports* like vocabulary or category when asked to answer why I like a specific cheese, chicken, or brunch menu.

One of my favorite *supports* is  Brunswik’s Lens Model. This model helped me correct my first impression about Germany, helped designers evaluate concepts in a consistent way, and helped researchers understand how DEOs communicate with their followers. This model help us decompose a holistic item into analytic components.

Lee, Younjoon and Jaewoo Joo (2016), “How a Design Executive Officer Can Craft an Organizational Culture,” Design Management Journal, 10 (1), 50-61.

… We collected leadership cues from two parties, the CEO and employees, and then mapped them onto Brunswik’s Lens Model, a psychological framework often used in Social Judgment Theory. Our newly adopted research framework helps us better understand the designer’s unique leadership style; unlike non-design business CEOs, the design CEO or DEO (Design Executive Officer) used a wide variety of visual cues… the DEO tacitly communicates visual (tangible) cues with employees for reward and authorization. In particular, the DEO is good at incorporating a tangible benefit and infusing a live and vivid characteristic into an environment. We found that the DEO utilizes visual cues effectively when communicating leadership.

What are the constraints contemporary artists overcome?

People assume that constraint-free activities such as doodling help them become creative. However, psychological researchers suggest a different story, that is, constraints are actually the power house of creativity. Studies showed that people used a given product creatively, enjoyed creative experience, and developed creative toys and when they were provided with a time/input/resource constraint and then overcame it.

Similar to psychological creativity, constraints may contribute to art creativity. I found evidence at the Urban Break 2021, the largest urban and street art fair in Asia.

The Urban Break 2021 proposes the broadened spectrum of the art fair, trying the new contemporary art genre, combined the urban art and the street culture. The urban art is pioneering a new flow, becoming a mainstream icon in the art market. Urban Break is aimed at cultural convergence and extension by embracing native and foreign street artists, galleries and lifestyle brands.

In this art fair, numerous paintings and sculptures made me nervous and confused because I do not understand most of them. Only when I meet the art pieces that look familiar but slightly different, I was able to understand the intentions of the artists, enjoying them. To me, artwork looks creative when its artist communicated with me through something I am familiar with. It does not look creative when its artist communicated with me something I have never seen before.

This suggests that constraint plays a key role to shape creative experience. When artists work with constraints (e.g., something visitors are familiar with such as Mona Lisa painting, David sculpture, or Statue of Liberty), visitors enjoy their paintings and sculptures better and more creatively.

Mehta, R., & Zhu, M. (2016). Creating When You Have Less: The Impact of Resource Scarcity on Product Use Creativity. Journal of Consumer Research, 42(5), 767–782.

Dahl, D. W., & Moreau, C. P. (2007). Thinking Inside the Box: Why Consumers Enjoy Constrained Creative Experiences. Journal of Marketing Research, 44(3), 357–369.

Moreau, C. P., & Dahl, D. W. (2005). Designing the Solution: The Impact of Constraints on Consumers’ Creativity. Journal of Consumer Research, 32(1), 13–22.

Burroughs, J. E., & Mick, D. G. (2004). Exploring Antecedents and Consequences of Consumer Creativity in a Problem-Solving Context. Journal of Consumer Research, 31(2), 402–411.

Will be canned wine successful?

I drink wine often. It goes well with dinner, helps me read papers, and soothes me at night. In the past, I enjoyed numerous marriages of soil, weather, and grape variety. Now, my tongue is developed although I neither remember one nor am able to elaborate why I like one.

Recently, I went to Urban Break 2021 and saw a pop-up store of Babe Wine, a brand name of a canned wine. It attracted a crowd of visitors. Out of curiosity, I sampled a sip of Grigio, Rose, and Red. They differed from the wine I experienced before. They came out from icy-cold cans and had bubbles. I ended up failing to like this wine.

Despite of my disappointment, this canned wine attracts attention internationally. “From 2016-2020, BABE’s CAGR was nearly 2,000% according to IRI. These numbers quickly caught the eye of beverage giant Anheuser-Busch, who acquired Babe in 2019.” According to the article in Forbes, “Babe specifically focused on targeting the wine lover who cracked open bottles on the regular, but “couldn’t name a single brand,” says Ostrovsky.”” 

Why do people like a canned wine I do not? Indeed, I have a long history of prediction errors. On one hand, I once thought that BTS, Tiktok, and Instagram would fail to make a presence. On the other hand, I expected that Clubhouse, a social audio app, and Gathertown, a meta-verse service, would succeed in Korea. Not surprisingly, my predictions were proven to be incorrect.

Then, how could experts like me (e.g., wine lovers) predict whether a product is successful in the market when it is designed for novices (e.g., canned wine)? About 10 years ago, researchers at University of Oxford and New York University suggested that an accurate prediction of an extreme event is an indication of poor forecasting ability. This suggests that even experts who have forecasting abilities predict only non-radical events. Predicting the next hit is beyond our control.

Denrell, J., & Fang, C. (2010). Predicting the Next Big Thing: Success as a Signal of Poor Judgment. Management Science, 56(10), 1653–1667.

Successfully predicting that something will become a big hit seems impressive. Managers and entrepreneurs who have made successful predictions and have invested money on this basis are promoted, become rich, and may end up on the cover of business magazines. In this paper, we show that an accurate prediction about such an extreme event, e.g., a big hit, may in fact be an indication of poor rather than good forecasting ability. We first demonstrate how this conclusion can be derived from a formal model of forecasting. We then illustrate that the basic result is consistent with data from two lab experiments as well as field data on professional forecasts from the Wall Street Journal Survey of Economic Forecasts.

How to force myself to read a book?

I find myself reading books challenging. Most books are too long to start and I am too busy to finish reading book. Therefore, I have applied numerous insights obtained from behavioral research to force myself to read books.

So far, the most effective method is to buy a physical book. This is particularly effective when the book is not available at a local book store and it needs to be delivered to me in the mail. My intention to finish reading the book *irrationally* increases because it has a physical form and I do not want to waste, interestingly, its delivery cost.

Atasoy, O., & Morewedge, C. K. (2018). Digital Goods Are Valued Less Than Physical Goods. Journal of Consumer Research, 44(6), 1343–1357.

Digital goods are, in many cases, substantive innovations relative to their physical counterparts. Yet, in five experiments, people ascribed less value to digital than to physical versions of the same good. Research participants paid more for, were willing to pay more for, and were more likely to purchase physical goods than equivalent digital goods, including souvenir photographs, books (fiction and nonfiction), and films. Participants valued physical goods more than digital goods whether their value was elicited in an incentive compatible pay-what-you-want paradigm, with willingness to pay, or purchase intention. Greater capacity for physical than digital goods to garner an association with the self (i.e., psychological ownership), underlies the greater value ascribed to physical goods. Differences in psychological ownership for physical and digital goods mediated the difference in their value. Experimentally manipulating antecedents and consequents of psychological ownership (i.e., expected ownership, identity-relevance, perceived control) bounded this effect, and moderated the mediating role of psychological ownership. The findings show how features of objects influence their capacity to garner psychological ownership before they are acquired, and provide theoretical and practical insights for the marketing, psychology, and economics of digital and physical goods.

The second most effective method is to bookmark with sticky notes after briefly reading the table of contents. I often stick only three notes on the pages I want to read to relieve burden. When I see them, I *mistakenly* think I already started reading the book.

Kivetz, R., Urminsky, O., & Zheng, Y. (2006). The Goal-Gradient Hypothesis Resurrected: Purchase Acceleration, Illusionary Goal Progress, and Customer Retention. Journal of Marketing Research, 43(1), 39–58..

The goal-gradient hypothesis denotes the classic finding from behaviorism that animals expend more effort as they approach a reward. Building on this hypothesis, the authors generate new propositions for the human psychology of rewards. They test these propositions using field experiments, secondary customer data, paper-and-pencil problems, and Tobit and logit models. The key findings indicate that (1) participants in a real café reward program purchase coffee more frequently the closer they are to earning a free coffee; (2) Internet users who rate songs in return for reward certificates visit the rating Web site more often, rate more songs per visit, and persist longer in the rating effort as they approach the reward goal; (3) the illusion of progress toward the goal induces purchase acceleration (e.g., customers who receive a 12-stamp coffee card with 2 preexisting “bonus” stamps complete the 10 required purchases faster than customers who receive a “regular” 10-stamp card); and (4) a stronger tendency to accelerate toward the goal predicts greater retention and faster reengagement in the program. The conceptualization and empirical findings are captured by a parsimonious goal-distance model, in which effort investment is a function of the proportion of original distance remaining to the goal. In addition, using statistical and experimental controls, the authors rule out alternative explanations for the observed goal gradients. They discuss the theoretical significance of their findings and the managerial implications for incentive systems, promotions, and customer retention.

Certainly, I want to read more books without tricks. However, I have insufficient self control resources and mispredict my available time. I use these tricks to drive me to start and finish reading books.

Less is better for flower?

Less is often better. Chris Hsee demonstrated in his experiment that an overfilled ice cream serving with 7 oz of ice cream was valued more than an underfilled serving with 8 oz of ice cream. However, participants indicated greater willingness to pay for an underfilled ice cream than an overfilled one ($1.85 vs. $1.56). This is because, according to him, when participants determined the value of each option alone (i.e., separate evaluation), they focused on an easy-to-evaluate attribute (whether an ice cream is overfilled or underfilled) and failed to consider a hard-to-evaluate attribute (the amount of ice cream). However when indicating their willingness to pay together (i.e., joint evaluation), they considered the hard-to-evaluate attribute important. Note that a hard-to-evaluate attribute is an attribute that “people do not know whether a given value on that attribute is good or bad.”

I had a similar experience at the Nicolai Bergmann, a flower shop located in Seoul, Korea. A preserved, overfilled flower attracted my attention when I entered the store. However, I found another flower next to it and it was in a square box. Although the overfilled flower attracted me first, I chose the boxed one for several reasons. The primary reason was that when comparing these two flowers side-by-side, I considered their hard-to-evaluate attribute (the amount of flower) seriously. I expect many other visitors may reach the same conclusion.

Hsee, C. K. (1998). Less is better: When low‐value options are valued more highly than high‐value options. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making11(2), 107-121.

This research demonstrates a less-is-better effect in three contexts: (1) a person giving a $45 scarf as a gift was perceived to be more generous than one giving a $55 coat; (2) an overfilled ice cream serving with 7 oz of ice cream was valued more than an underfilled serving with 8 oz of ice cream; (3) a dinnerware set with 24 intact pieces was judged more favourably than one with 31 intact pieces (including the same 24) plus a few broken ones. This less-is-better effect occurred only when the options were evaluated separately, and reversed itself when the options were juxtaposed. These results are explained in terms of the evaluability hypothesis, which states that separate evaluations of objects are often infuenced by attributes which are easy to evaluate rather than by those which are important.

Mask pocket – customer insights during COVID-19

Wearing a face mask is mandatory in many restaurants. However, we take our mask off when the food comes. Experts often suggest diners to bring a clean, breathable container like a small mesh laundry bag or a brown bag to put the mask in. However, I have not formed this healthy habit yet. Therefore, I often place my mask on the table and then blame myself.

Recently, I found a clever solution for this issue at Joo Ok, a Korean contemporary dining restaurant in Seoul. This restaurant does not blame me but helps me follow rule.

Joo Ok is the creation of Chef Shin Chang Ho, winner of a Michelin star in the 2018 – 2021 editions of The Michelin Guide to Seoul. Its cuisine captures the essence of Korea’s four seasons, based on fermented jang sauces and vinegar, the pillars of Korean cuisine. Perilla oil pressed from seeds harvested in Chef Shin’s mother-in-law’s vegetable garden in Jinju, and some 30 varieties of homemade vinegar, brewed using proprietary recipes, are the stars of Joo Ok’s cuisine.

In this restaurant, diners are provided with mask pockets made by recycled paper. Certainly, they are not permanent and feasible solutions for every single restaurant. However, after having experienced a carefully designed mask bag, I start considering whether a mask bag is on the table when evaluating my restaurant experience.

During COVID-19, customer insights have been consistently discovered and converted into interesting new products, like a mask spray with essential oils.

“Lay rationalsim” leads consumers to choose subscription services

Subscription-based model attracts attention. It helps firms to stabilize profits, obtain insights, and forecast sales, enabling them sustain.

However, marketers have to pay attention to consumer psychology when they develop a subscription service. That is, pain of payment is detached from joy of enjoyment. When consumers consider subscribing a service or not, they emphasize the realized pain of payment rather than their expected joy of enjoyment. In this case, they tend to rely on “lay rationalism” and base their decisions on reason than on feeelings (Hsee et al. 2014, pg. 134). In order to use reason to guide decisions, consumers may calculate the cost effectiveness of a service rigorously (e.g., how much I will enjoy later based on how much I pay now).

Since payment-enjoyment time gap leads consumers to rely on lay rationalism, they may like a subscription service that is is easy to calculate its cost effectiveness. Take an example of the following 2 TB Dropbox service. The cost effectiveness of the two billing cycle options are easy to calculate and easy to compare because their pay period is identical (month). I subscribed this Dropbox service because I found it easy to calculate cost effectiveness.

In contrast, when cost effectiveness is difficult to calculate, a subscription service may not be chosen. Take an example of the following 3 TB Dropbox space. In this case, the cost effectiveness of the two billing cycle options are difficult to calculate and difficult to compare because their pay periods differ (year vs. month). I assume many others hesitate to choose one of the two options.


Hsee, C. K., Yang, Y., Zheng, X., & Wang, H. (2014). Lay Rationalism: Individual Differences in Using Reason Versus Feelings to Guide Decisions. Journal of Marketing Research, 52(1), 134–146.

People have a lay notion of rationality—that is, the notion of using
reason rather than feelings to guide decisions. Yet people differ in the degree to which they actually base their decisions on reason versus feelings. This individual difference variable is potentially general and important but is largely overlooked. The present research (1) introduces the construct of lay rationalism to capture this individual difference variable and distinguishes it from other individual difference variables; (2) develops a short, easy-to-implement scale to measure lay rationalism and demonstrates the validity and reliability of the scale; and (3) shows that lay rationalism, as measured by the scale, can predict a variety of consumer-relevant behaviors, including product preferences, savings decisions, and donation behaviors.

Why are we attracted by Starbucks toys?

Starbucks Coffee Korea recently launched a set of limited edition Playmobil toy figures. Customers get one of six tall-size beverages with an accompanying Playmobil figure for $12.

Today at a nearby Starbucks, I found several customers paid extra to have a barista figure. Another Starbucks was crowded even though customers have to leave store shortly due to social distancing regulations. It suggests this campaign increases offline store traffic.

Why do adults like Starbucks toys? Although brand power and scarcity play key roles, a more deeply rooted reason is that Playmobil figures are whimsically cute. “Cute products (e.g., an ice-cream scoop shaped like a miniature person or a dress with tropical colors and pink flamingos) can have whimsical nature, which is associated with capricious humor and playful disposition. Whimsical cuteness is … associated with fun and playfulness.” (Nenkov and Scott 2014, pg. 327).

Interestingly, whimsically cute products do not necessarily appeal when they are designed for kids. Contrary to our belief, whimsical cuteness attracts adults. This argument is supported by the experimental findings obtained from a marketing paper.

After viewing one of two cookies (neutral vs. whimsically cute), in an ostensibly unrelated study, participants were asked to imagine that they were attending a dinner with friends, and because they were watching their weight and were concerned about health-related issues, they were carefully evaluating their entree options. One option was rich and delicious but much more fattening, while the other option was more healthy but not quite as tasty as the richer option. They were then asked to indicate their preference for the rich versus healthy entree on a 7-point scale, ranging from 1 (will definitely have the rich entree) to 7 (will definitely have the healthy entree).

When two cookies were presented under “The Cookie Shop,” participants indicated significantly weaker preference for the healthy entree when they had earlier viewed the whimsically cute cookie than when they had viewed the neutral cookie. However, no such differences occurred when two cookies were presented under “The Kid’s Cookie Shop.”

Nenkov, G., & Scott, M. (2014). “So Cute I Could Eat It Up”: Priming Effects of Cute Products on Indulgent Consumption. Journal of Consumer Research,41(2), 326-341.

This article examines the extent to which consumers engage in more indulgent consumption when they are exposed to whimsically cute products and explores the process by which such products affect indulgence. Prior research on kindchenschema (baby schema) has found that exposure to cute babies or baby animals leads to more careful behavior (see the study by Sherman, Haidt, and Coan), suggesting restraint. The present research uncovers the opposite: consumers become more indulgent in their behavior after exposure to whimsically cute products. Drawing from research on cognitive priming, kindchenschema, anthropomorphization, indulgence, and regulatory focus, this research posits that exposure to whimsically cute products primes mental representations of fun, increasing consumers’ focus on approaching self-rewards and making consumers more likely to choose indulgent options. These effects do not emerge for kindchenschema cute stimuli, since they prime mental representations of vulnerability and caretaking. Four empirical studies provide evidence for the proposed effects and their underlying process.

How thick is 2cm-thick steak?

Thickness matters when cooking steak. A rule of thumb is to cook a 2cm-thick piece of steak for 2 minutes for rare, 4 minutes for medium, and 6 minutes for well-done. However, we struggle with guessing how thick a piece of steak is. Seven years ago, I met a clever solution for this problem at a grocery store where there was a manually carved wood plank. Since it shows how professional providers empathize with novice customers, I have shared it with many planers and designers. Recently, I met a similar but more carefully designed wood plank at a different grocery store in Seoul, Korea. According to the website, Gourmet 494 is

a space for food, entertainment and communication, built on the concept of “grocerant” (grocery + restaurant) for the first time in Korea where groceries (food ingredients) and restaurants (food and beverages) come together in one place

Wood plank tells that thickness is difficult for people to evaluate. A specific value (e.g., 2 cm) is hard to tell another value (e.g., 3 cm) because we are not sensitive about it. About this issue, a group of psychologists introduced a concept of General Evaluability Theory about 10 years ago.

Hsee, C. K., & Zhang, J. (2010). General evaluability theory. Perspectives on Psychological Science5(4), 343-355.

A central question in psychology and economics is the determination of whether individuals react differently to different values of a cared-about attribute (e.g., different income levels, different gas prices, and different ambient temperatures). Building on and significantly extending our earlier work on preference reversals between joint and separate evaluations, we propose a general evaluability theory (GET) that specifies when people are value sensitive and when people mispredict their own or others’ value sensitivity. The GET can explain and unify many seemingly unrelated findings, ranging from duration neglect to affective forecasting errors and can generate many new research directions on topics ranging from temporal discounting to subjective well-being.

In the section of Nature, the authors wrote the following. According to them, human beings do not seem to have an innate or stable scale to evaluate values on thickness.

Nature refers to whether human beings have an innate and stable physiological or psychological “scale” (reference system) to evaluate values on an attribute. The attribute is inherently evaluable if they do or inherently inevaluable if they do not. Ambient temperature is an example of an inherently evaluable attribute; even without learning or social comparison, we can tell what temperature makes us comfortable and happy and what does not. Other examples include amount of sleep, social isolation, or connectedness. The size of a diamond and the power of a car are examples of inherently inevaluable attributes; without learning or comparison, we would not know how to assess such variables. Of course, some people know how to evaluate diamond size and car power, but such knowledge is learned, not innate. Because people possess innate reference systems for inherently evaluable attributes but not for inherently inevaluable attributes, value sensitivity (without learning or comparison) is higher for inherently evaluable attributes (H1.3). More precisely, people in SE are more sensitive to differences on an inherently evaluable attribute than to differences on an inherently inevaluable attribute, holding their sensitivity to the two types of differences in JE constant; see our discussion of the Mode × Value × Nature interaction later in this article.

It should be noted that classifying a variable as inherently evaluable does not mean that it is immune to the influence of external reference information (such as social comparison); instead, it means that people can evaluate the variable even without such information. Also, inherently evaluable variables are not always associated with basic biological needs—they also include socio-psychological variables, such as loneliness, depression, and sense of achievement. (For details, see Hsee, Yang, Li, & Shen, 2009.)

Look and feel mismatch: Looking heavy but feeling light

We sometimes experience sensory disconfirmation, meaning we expect to feel A but actually feel B. For instance, iPhone looks like a product with light plastic but it is made by heavy metal. In particular, disconfirmation between visual and haptic information (or mismatch between look and feel) is critical for business.

Showroom (Curated by Sarah Robayo Sheridan, January 21 – March 5, 2016)

“How do Toronto artists perceive new social and visual orders brought about by a decade of rapid urban development?”

Commonly, a showroom is intended to present a generic ideal of living, devoid of the nuances of lives as they are lived. The artists in this exhibition, however, turn our attention to the influence of lifestyle marketing in constructing the form and texture of the cityscape. By turns, critical, comedic and formal, the works deepen given knowledge of architecture, place, and the social order.

Fitness equipment looks heavy and rough. However, some artists challenge our intuition: dumbbells are light and sandbags are soft in the exhibition. According to research, when negative sensory disconfirmation is introduced, the source of disconfirmation can sometimes be perceived positively. To go further, the more our intuitions are challenged by look-and-feel mismatch, the more we may become creative.

Sundar, A., & Noseworthy, T. J. (2016). Too Exciting to Fail, Too Sincere to Succeed: The Effects of Brand Personality on Sensory Disconfirmation. Journal of Consumer Research, 43(1), 44–67.

Across four studies, the authors demonstrate that consumers intuitively link disconfirmation, specifically sensory disconfirmation (when touch disconfirms expectations by sight), to a brand’s personality. Negative disconfirmation is often associated with negative posttrial evaluations. However, the authors find that when negative sensory disconfirmation is introduced by an exciting brand, the source of disconfirmation can sometimes be perceived positively. This occurs because consumers intuitively view disconfirmation as more authentic of an exciting personality. Similarly, despite the wealth of literature linking positive disconfirmation to positive posttrial evaluations, the authors find that sensory confirmation is more preferred for sincere brands because consumers intuitively view confirmation as more authentic of a sincere personality. The authors conclude by demonstrating the intuitive nature of this phenomenon by showing that the lay belief linking brand personality to disconfirmation does not activate in a context where sensory disconfirmation encourages a more deliberative assessment of the product.