Tag Archives: marketing

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.

“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.

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.

Mini-me, 3D printer, and handmade effect

I once believed mini-mes are expensive because they are produced by cutting edge 3D printers, which differ from my 3D printer or a mere 3D food printer. A news article elaborates that human miniatures are not cheap.

Pinla3D scans its customers in-store and then gives them a choice of 3D model sizes. A 25cm (9.8-inch) figure costs RMB 3,580 (US$580), according to the store’s site. Three generations of one family can be immortalized in plastic at 1:9 scale for RMB 8,997 (US$1,470). That’s cheaper than we’ve seen it done by a Japanese startup site – with the added bonus that going in-person to the store will make the mini-me more accurate than submitting a bunch of photos to a website.

However, my belief was corrected when I visited Tianzifang in Shanghai, China. A series of mini-mes displayed outside a store cost only RMB 480 (US$ 68). I wondered how and why they are inexpensive.

The mystery was solved when I entered the store. These mini-mes were not produced by 3D printers. Instead, two people made mini-mes out of clay.

We tend to assign greater value to a product when it is made by human than when made by machine. It is called as “handmade effect.” Then, why did I observe a reverse handmade effect, that it, hand-crafted mini-mes are cheaper than the ones printed by 3D printers? I suspect the handmade effect is observed only when the people who make a product is clearly associated with the final product. If the association is not established so that buyers do not know who produce their purchased products, handmade effect disappears and buyers are not willing to pay more. If I come back to Shanghai, I suggest two mini-me makers to give their own name cards and personal stories to buyers!

Fuchs, C., Schreier, M., & van Osselaer, S. M. J. (2015). The Handmade Effect: What’s Love Got to Do with It? Journal of Marketing, 79(2), 98–110.

Despite the popularity and high quality of machine-made products, handmade products have not disappeared, even in product categories in which machinal production is common. The authors present the first systematic set of studies exploring whether and how stated production mode (handmade vs. machine-made) affects product attractiveness. Four studies provide evidence for the existence of a positive handmade effect on product attractiveness. This effect is, to an important extent, driven by perceptions that handmade products symbolically “contain love.” The authors validate this love account by controlling for alternative value drivers of handmade production (effort, product quality, uniqueness, authenticity, and pride). The handmade effect is moderated by two factors that affect the value of love. Specifically, consumers indicate stronger purchase intentions for handmade than machine-made products when buying gifts for their loved ones but not for more distant gift recipients, and they pay more for handmade gifts when purchased to convey love than simply to acquire the best-performing product.

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.

Donate in cash or by credit card

We often pay in cash or by credit card. Differently from cash, credit card often leads us to over-consumption. This is because credit card does not require us to write down the amount paid (rehearsal) and our wealth is not depleted immediately rather than with a delay (immediacy) (Soman 2001).

We could also donate in cash or by credit card. For example, visitors at the Tate Liverpool in UK could donate 4 pounds by inserting bills into a silver box or tapping their credit cards on a white device. Which donation mechanism benefits the museum better?

Soman, D. (2001). Effects of payment mechanism on spending behavior: The role of rehearsal and immediacy of payments. Journal of Consumer Research27(4), 460-474.

Past expenses have been shown to influence future spending behavior by depleting available budgets. However, a prerequisite for this relationship is the accurate recall of past payments and the experiencing of the full aversive impact associated with them. This article shows that the use of different payment mechanisms influences both these factors and hence moderates the effects of past payments on future spending. Specifically, past payments strongly reduce purchase intention when the payment mechanism requires the consumer to write down the amount paid (rehearsal) and when the consumer’s wealth is depleted immediately rather than with a delay (immediacy). Two experiments show support for the proposed theoretical framework.

If people avoid meeting with others, do marketers sell products online only?

Nowadays people avoid meeting others. We could buy products through mobile phones and order food at screens inside restaurants. A recent virus outbreak even encourages us to stop shaking hands with strangers.

Ironically, the more we avoid meeting others, I believe, the easier others sell their products to us. When I visited Prezzemolo & Vitale, a local grocery store in Notting Hill in London, an employee brought a lump of meat on a board, cut it into thin slices, and passed them over to passers by. Interestingly, most of those who tried samples bought several pieces of different types of meat. I was not exception.

When he looked at me with a slice of meat, I inferred, he made an effort to approach me. This inference is rarely made when I stand in front of machines such as mobile phones or kiosks. I conclude that when we meet people and machines, we may have different inference: people make effort to come close to us whereas machines do not. This inferred effort may play a critical role in determining our next behavior such as buying a product.

Morales, A. C. (2005). Giving Firms an “E” for Effort: Consumer Responses to High‐Effort Firms. Journal of Consumer Research, 31(4), 806–812.

This research shows that consumers reward firms for extra effort. More specifically, a series of three laboratory experiments shows that when firms exert extra effort in making or displaying their products, consumers reward them by increasing their willingness to pay, store choice, and overall evaluations, even if the actual quality of the products is not improved. This rewarding process is defined broadly as general reciprocity. Consistent with attribution theory, the rewarding of generally directed effort is mediated by feelings of gratitude. When consumers infer that effort is motivated by persuasion, however, they no longer feel gratitude and do not reward high-effort firms.

Effort not only dictates our behavior. It helps us enjoy what we do.

Norton, M. I., Mochon, D., & Ariely, D. (2012). The “IKEA Effect”: When Labor Leads to Love. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 22(3), 453–460.

In four studies in which consumers assembled IKEA boxes, folded origami, and built sets of Legos, we demonstrate and investigate boundary conditions for the IKEA effect-the increase in valuation of self-made products. Participants saw their amateurish creations as similar in value to experts’ creations, and expected others to share their opinions. We show that labor leads to love only when labor results in successful completion of tasks; when participants built and then destroyed their creations, or failed to complete them, the IKEA effect dissipated. Finally, we show that labor increases valuation for both “do-it-yourselfers” and novices.

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.