Tag Archives: Ho Chi Minh

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.

Are fresh fish better than canned fish?

I love canned sardines. Whenever I visit different cities, I buy a dozen of canned fish on the way back home. I was excited to find Annam Gourmet at Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam because it has a wide variety of canned fish, along with fresh fish.

Canned fish are fish which have been processed, sealed in an airtight container such as a sealed tin can, and subjected to heat. Canning is a method of preserving food, and provides a typical shelf life ranging from one to five years.

Some say I am obsessed with canned fish. Others suggest me to avoid them. I have long wondered whether canned fish are bad for my health and whether over-consuming canned fish harm my health. Recently, I met an article released from Consumer Reports that canned fish are as healthy for us as fresh fish, particularly for sardines and salmon. For canned tuna, however, we should be cautious about mercury.

Thankfully, my love for canned sardines survives. However, it is difficult to correct a belief that canned fish are dangerous. Updating our belief system is truly challenging.

Amir, O., & Ariely, D. (2007). Decisions by Rules: The Case of Unwillingness to Pay for Beneficial Delays. Journal of Marketing Research, 44(1), 142–152.

Since the emergence of neoclassical economics, individual decision making has been viewed largely from an outcome-maximizing perspective. Building on previous work, the authors suggest that when people make payment decisions, they consider not only their preferences for different alternatives but also guiding principles and behavioral rules. The authors describe and test two characteristics pertaining to one specific rule that dictates that consumers should not pay for delays, even if they are beneficial: rule invocation and rule override. The results show that money can function as the invoking cue for this rule, that the reliance on this rule can undermine utility maximization, and that this rule may be used as a first response to the decision problem but can be overridden. The article concludes with a discussion of more general applications of such rules, which may explain some of the seemingly systematic inconsistencies in the ways consumers behave.

How many items should be displayed in a store?

When we are curious about value of an unknown object, we often consider how many people surround it. If it is alone, we believe it is expensive. If it is surrounded by many others, we believe it is cheap. This is because, according to O’Guinn’s et al. (2015), as the social density of a given space increases, “inference of the subjective social class and income of people in that space” fall. Although we like different degrees of crowdedness (D&Department in Tokyo) and even view the same degree of crowdedness differently (Kronen Vanlose in Copenhagen), crowdedness decreases the value of a product.

O’Guinn, T. C., Tanner, R. J., & Maeng, A. (2015). Turning to space: Social density, social class, and the value of things in stores. Journal of Consumer Research, 42(2), 196-213.

This article is about social space and material objects for sale within that space. We draw primarily on Goffman’s (1971) concepts of use space and possession territories to predict that as the social density of a given space increases, inferences of the subjective social class and income of people in that space fall. Eight studies confirm that this is indeed the case, with the result holding even for stick figures, thus controlling for typical visual indicators of social class such as clothing or jewelry. Furthermore, these social class inferences mediate a relationship between social density and product valuation, with individuals assessing both higher prices and a greater willingness to pay for products presented in less crowded contexts. This effect of inferred class on product valuation is explained by status-motivated individuals’ desire to associate with higher-status people. To the best of our knowledge, this research is the first to reveal the link between social density, status inferences, and object valuations. As such, it makes a novel contribution to what has come to be known in sociology as the topological turn: a renewed focus on social space.

Then, could we apply the same logic to stores where products are surrounded by other products? In other words, does “product crowdedness” decrease product value as well? This is an important question as stores display items in different ways.

Some stores display various items with a lot of stocks. For instance, at Annam Gourmet, Ho Chi Minh, only a few cans of sea food are on the shelf space with multiple stocks.

Other stores display only few items with few stocks. For instance, Decium, a Canadian cosmetic company introduces a few items without showing their stocks.  

Two contrasting examples show that stocks determine the perceived value of products. Designers and marketers should decrease the number of products displayed in the store to increase their perceived value. There is a 8-minute video about an inside look at Decium to see how the company has managed to find success in the highly competitive, the multi-billion-dollar world of skin care.