Tag Archives: Consumer Behavior

“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.

Asians love making choices

Many Asians live on rice rather than bread. Since it used to sell in heavy bags, they did not have options to choose. However, people nowadays decrease the amount of food to consume and increase the diversity of means to enjoy. A wide variety of small-portion “meal kits” become highly popular. Certainly, rice is not exceptional.

When I visited Tokyo, Japan, I found a store called Akomeya in Shinjuku area. This store is located across Blue Bottle and has more customers than it. When I entered this store out of curiosity, I found it sells small packages of numerous types of rice. In Akomeya, customers could make a choice out of many options, which does not usually happen when buying rice.

Although freedom of choice may not be a pillar of Western culture any more, it may still be attractive for Asians.

Mochon, D. (2013). Single-Option Aversion. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(3), 555–566.

This article documents single-option aversion, an increase in consumers’ desire to search when faced with a single option. This effect can lead to a product being chosen more often when competing alternatives are included in the choice set, contrary to various rational models of search, as well as to recent research on choice conflict showing that additional options can lead to higher deferral rates. A series of lab studies document this effect, differentiate it from other context effects, and test some of its boundary conditions. The results suggest that single-option aversion is not driven by the information provided by the additional options, that the desire to search is critical for this effect to occur, and that the effects of single- option aversion are not limited to the immediate choice set. These results have both practical and theoretical implications for the understanding of consumer search and choice deferral.

People need vocabulary to develop taste

Barry Schwartz argues in his book, the Paradox of Choice, that increasing choices does not make us happy. Instead, reducing choices boosts sales and giving more options lowers choices.

Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically. —quoted from Ch.5, The Paradox of Choice, 2004

Then, does giving more choices enhance the enjoyment choosers experience? It may not be, either. I had a similar experience at the cheese section of the Annam Gourmet at Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. It provided a wide variety of cheeses. Therefore, spent a significant amount of time in carefully comparing multiple cheeses and eventually choosing one. When I tasted the selected cheese, unfortunately, I was confused which one to choose because I spent too much time on thinking about several cheeses.

Then, what could marketers do to help people enjoy their experience? One suggestion is that when customers experience the option, they are reminded which one was chosen. For instance, if the option name is shown, customers will be able to keep focused on it.

Nekkid Wings is a chicken wing restaurant in Seoul, Korea. Customers select one out of twelve flavors for a bucket of five wings. Some flavors are safe (e.g., classic buffalo) and others are risky (e.g., parmesan garlic). Most customers order multiple buckets and try safe and risky flavors together. The flavor names printed on the paper help customers focus on which flavor they are testing.

West, P. M., Brown, C. L., & Hoch, S. J. (1996). Consumption Vocabulary and Preference Formation. Journal of Consumer Research, 23(2), 120–135.

Consumers’ understanding of their own preferences can be aided by a “consumption vocabulary”—a taxonomy or framework that facilitates identifying the relation between a product’s features and one’s evaluation of the product. In the absence of such a vocabulary, consumers’ understanding of their own preferences will require more extensive experience and may never fully develop. The effect of such a vocabulary is tested in two experiments in which subjects provided with a vocabulary (1) exhibit better-defined and more consistent preferences than control subjects, (2) show improved cue discovery, and (3) show learning (i.e., increases in consistency over time). All results hold regardless of the functional form of the model used to assess subjects’ preference formation.

Empty space sparks creativity

Space matters when we need creativity. According to research, when a ceiling is high, people become creative because a high (vs. low) ceiling primes the concept of freedom (vs. confinement). Similarly, Jump Associates has various types of cubicles for designers; “garage” cubicles are widely open for those who want to be creative, whereas “Zen rooms” are tiny small cubicles. Interestingly, Dev Patnaik, the founder of the Jump Associates, mentioned that US people prefer garage offices whereas Japanese clients like Zen rooms.

When I visited the design department at the University of Sao Paulo, one of the best universities in Brazil, I was shocked by its building. It has a huge empty space in the middle and has tons of bright, natural lights. I learned that empty space not only increases the perceived value of a product inside. It boosts the creativity of the people inside.

Inside the building, the walls allow people to write and erase easily, which also may enhance creativity.

Meyers-Levy, J., & Zhu, R. (Juliet). (2007). The Influence of Ceiling Height: The Effect of Priming on the Type of Processing That People Use. Journal of Consumer Research, 34(2), 174–186.

This article demonstrates that variations in ceiling height can prime concepts that, in turn, affect how consumers process information. We theorized that when reasonably salient, a high versus low ceiling can prime the concepts of freedom versus confinement, respectively. These concepts, in turn, can prompt consumers’ use of predominately relational versus item-specific processing. Three studies found support for this theorizing. On a variety of measures, ceiling height–induced relational or item-specific processing was indicated by people’s reliance on integrated and abstract versus discrete and concrete ideation. Hence, this research sheds light on when and how ceiling height can affect consumers’ responses.

Why does the amount of Coke differ across bottles?

When I had a lunch at Buenos Aires, Argentina, I ordered four bottles of Coca Cola. Interestingly, bottle sizes differed and the amount of soda in each bottle looked different. I simply thought this was due to the Quality Control failure of the Coca Cola in Argentina.

After coming back from Buenos Aires to Seoul, I met an interesting case about Corona Beer. When this competitive Mexican beer was initially introduced to US in 1980s, American beer companies were concerned about the disruptive competitor. Budweiser soon noticed that, however, the amount of beer differed across bottles. Corona claimed that this reflected the Mexican spirit of leisure. Similar to what Corona did, Coca Cola may want to express its Argentinian spirit of leisure.

One of the most well-known reframing strategies in marketing is PAD (Pennies-a-day) strategy, the temporal reframing of a transaction from an aggregate expense to a series of small daily or ongoing expenses. According to Gourville (1998), it fosters the retrieval and consideration of small ongoing expenses as the standard of comparison, whereas an aggregate framing of that same transaction is shown to foster the retrieval and consideration of large infrequent expenses. This difference in retrieval influences subsequent transaction evaluation and compliance.

Gourville, J. T. (1998). Pennies-a-day: The effect of temporal reframing on transaction evaluation. Journal of Consumer Research24(4), 395-408.

To increase transaction compliance, marketers sometimes temporally reframe the cost of a product from an aggregate one-time expense to a series of small ongoing expenses, often in spite of the fact that the physical payments remain aggregated. This temporal reframing is identified in this article as the “pennies-a-day” (PAD) strategy. A two-step consumer decision-making process of (1) comparison retrieval and (2) transaction evaluation is posited to explain the effectiveness of this strategy. In a series of laboratory studies, general support for PAD effectiveness across a range of product categories and specific support for the proposed two-step model was found. The PAD framing of a target transaction is shown to systematically foster the retrieval and consideration of small ongoing expenses as the standard of comparison, whereas an aggregate framing of that same transaction is shown to foster the retrieval and consideration of large infrequent expenses. This difference in retrieval is shown to significantly influence subsequent transaction evaluation and compliance.

Why do people choose beers on the left side of the menu?

One of the most famous pubs in Prague, Czech Republic, is Strahov Monastery Brewery.

Perched atop the city part of the Strahov Monastery compound and the lush surrounding Petrin Hill, the Strahov Brewery is a delightful find in the bustling city of Prague. Just steps from the massive Prague Castle complex, the microbrewery serves about ten variations of St. Norbert beer (3 all year round and 7 seasonally) and the brews are all delicious and fresh with crisp hints of unique flavors.

This brewery has an eye -pleasing beer menu. It introduced five different beers with color, ABV (Alcohol By Volume), IBU (International Bittering Units) scale, description, hops, availability, price, and food pairing. Much like the positioning map beer menu at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the Strahov Brewery menu eased the burden of my decision-making.

Interestingly, I found that everyone ordered Amber Larger, Dark Larger, or IPA. These three beers were placed on the left side of the menu and each one was supported by its own comment: representing 70% of the production, award winning, or brew master recommended. I noticed that a vertical line in the middle of the menu plays a role of the “visual barrier” and therefore the two beers on the right side did not attract attention. The menu designer used mere categorization effect smartly.

Mogilner, C., Rudnick, T., & Iyengar, S. S. (2008). The Mere Categorization Effect: How the Presence of Categories Increases Choosers’ Perceptions of Assortment Variety and Outcome Satisfaction. Journal of Consumer Research, 35(2), 202–215.

What is the effect of option categorization on choosers’ satisfaction? A combination of field and laboratory experiments reveals that the mere presence of categories, irrespective of their content, positively influences the satisfaction of choosers who are unfamiliar with the choice domain. This “mere categorization effect” is driven by a greater number of categories signaling greater variety among the available options, which allows for a sense of self‐determination from choosing. This effect, however, is attenuated for choosers who are familiar with the choice domain, who do not rely on the presence of categories to perceive the variety available.

How could we stop cigarette butt litter?

Cigarette butts are the tail ends of the cigarette left over after someone has smoked it. They are under-acknowledged, but widespread, pollutants. At the Quora, someone said the following.

In fact, thanks to the fact that for decades smokers just didn’t care where they threw them, there are very likely cigarette butts in the Amazon rain forest, at the North Pole, and on the fast-disappearing Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Practically the only place they are difficult to find is where they belong – in the trash bin.

To tackle this issue, various efforts have been suggested. According to Tara Rohan, for instance, posters and videos have been provided to educate people about the environmental impacts of cigarette-butt litter. Alternatively, cans have been installed in select neighborhoods. Most of these efforts aim to nudge smokers to throw cigarette butts in trash bins. Recently, I have noticed an interesting approach in London, UK.

At the Portobello Road market in London, bins are installed for those who want to throw gums and cigarette butts. For an unidentified reason, these bins have baby faces. As research suggests that large, round eyes, high eyebrows, and a small chin yielded the perception of a babyish facial appearance.

Since baby face or Kindchenschema (baby schema) is “related to the vulnerable nature of a living entity, it elicits responses from adults that increase the infant’s chance of survival. These include increased attention to and protection of the helpless infant (Brosch, Sandder, and Scherer 2007; Lorenz 1943) and increased carefulness and caretaking behavior (Sherman, Haidt, and Coan 2009). (Nenkov et al. 2014, pg. 326)”

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

Although adding a human face to the tip jar backfires, having a baby face even contributes to the success of high-ranking Black executives. Designing cigarette bins like cute babies must be effective to collect cigarette butts. I wish similar bins are installed in other markets and cities as well to stop cigarette butt litter.

Livingston, R. W., & Pearce, N. A. (2009). The teddy-bear effect: Does having a baby face benefit black chief executive officers?. Psychological science20(10), 1229-1236.

Prior research suggests that having a baby face is negatively correlated with success among White males in high positions of leadership. However, we explored the positive role of such “babyfaceness” in the success of high-ranking Black executives. Two studies revealed that Black chief executive officers (CEOs) were significantly more baby-faced than White CEOs. Black CEOs were also judged as being warmer than White CEOs, even though ordinary Blacks were rated categorically as being less warm than ordinary Whites. In addition, baby-faced Black CEOs tended to lead more prestigious corporations and earned higher salaries than mature-faced Black CEOs; these patterns did not emerge for White CEOs. Taken together, these findings suggest that babyfaceness is a disarming mechanism that facilitates the success of Black leaders by attenuating stereotypical perceptions that Blacks are threatening. Theoretical and practical implications for research on race, gender, and leadership are discussed.