Tag Archives: Toronto

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.

Design Thinking vs. Behavioral Economics

Crate and Barrel sells various cookware. Most products in this store are grouped into product categories. However, some are grouped into why we need them. The two “ad hoc categories” are [7 Essentials for Every Kitchen] and [Everything You Never Knew You Needed].



Ad hoc categories, coined by Barsalou, motivate impulse buying. I bought some tools I did not plan ahead and saw some customers standing in front of the two sections for a while.

Barsalou, Lawrence W. (1983), “Ad hoc categories,” Memory & Cognition, 11 (3), 211-227.

People construct ad hoc categories to achieve goals. For example, constructing the category of “things to sell at a garage sale” can be instrumental to achieving the goal of selling unwanted possessions. These categories differ from common categories (e.g., “fruit,” “furniture”) in that ad hoc categories violate the correlational structure of the environment and are not well established in memory. Regarding the latter property, the category concepts, concept-to-instance associations, and instance-to-concept associations structuring ad hoc categories are shown to be much less established in memory than those of common categories. Regardless of these differences, however, ad hoc categories possess graded structures (i.e., typicality gradients) as salient as those structuring common categories. This appears to be the result of a similarity comparison process that imposes graded structure on any category regardless of type.

Interestingly, the two ad hoc categories in the Crate and Barrel tap into different psychological processes. [7 Essentials for Every Kitchen] are the products used by others. They nudge you to follow others, which is often recommended by behavioral economists. In contrast, [Everything You Never Knew You Needed] are the products useful for you. They help you discover your own unmet needs, which is always suggested by design thinkers.

Then, which framing is more effective between “competing against others” and “following your heart”?



We can answer this question by comparing the sales numbers between spatula and dual citrus squeezer. The two products belonged to the [Everything You Never Knew You Needed] four years ago. Now, only spatula belongs to the [7 Essentials for Every Kitchen]. If spatula sales have increased and squeezer sales did not, behavioral economics beats design thinking. In contrast, if spatula sales dropped and squeezer sales did not, design thinking beats behavioral economics.



K-Beauty items in Canada

The Face Shop is a skincare and cosmetic manufacturer, retailer, and a franchise business. It is a subsidiary of LG Household and Health Care of LG Corporation.



The Face Shop had its store inside one of the biggest shopping malls in Toronto, CF Toronto Eaton Centre. Similar to the stores located in Seoul, a lot of young, Chinese female customers browsed items. However, this store differs from the stores in Seoul in a few ways; it carries fewer items and its visitors show virtually no interest in mask packs, probably one of the best selling items.




My companies added their opinions. First, Face Shop sells inexpensive cosmetic items in Korea but it cannot help but charge more in Canada because of transportation cost and tax. Second, Face Shop store has no clear message. Just around the corner, Aveda sell environmentally friendly items and other luxury brands sell upscale items. Finally, this brand has no name in Canada; running its own stores is risky even for global electronics players. In sum, Face Shop needs to learn the fact that other Korean or Asian skincare and cosmetic companies enter Canadian market more easily by introducing their items to Chinese customers at more established Chinese grocery stores such as T&T super market.



Green package design: Boxed water stands out from the crowd

Many people are now buying water in bottles rather than drink straight from the tap because bottled water has been perceived to be safer and of higher quality than tap water, and it was viewed as a healthful alternative beverage to soft drinks or alcohol. Although purity marketing successfully increases sales of bottled water, it failed to address that plastic water bottles waste our environment.


DML_Boxed water is better(1)


One company takes a bold and interesting step forward. Water is in paper boxes and its brand name is “Boxed Water Is Better.” The package says boxes are better than plastic bottles for several reasons.

  • 76% of our box is composed of a renewable resource.
  • Our boxes are made of trees from well-managed, FSC certified forests.
  • We efficiently ship our boxes flat to our filler to lower our carbon foot print.
  • Our boxes are recyclable at participating facilities.


DML_Boxed water is better(2)

Empathic story-telling print ad in Canada

Canadians living in Ontario buy wines at LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). People working at this place often check photo-ID (e.g., driver license) to verify whether the buyer is old enough to drink alcohol. These carefully-managed and highly safe liquor stores sometimes make their customers unhappy, in particular, those who forget to bring their IDs.




Therefore, LCBO needs to educate their potential customers to always present their IDs to the employees at LCBO. Instead of forcing us to do something, it tell a gentle story that people can easily empathise with. Inside the toilette of one of the University of Toronto buildings, a black-and-white print advertisement is placed on the wall. It shows two photos with a sentence, “First year or fourth year?” This advertisement nicely associates what we find it difficult in our daily school life (e.g., guessing someone’s year) with what they find it difficult in their workplaces (e.g., guessing buyer’s age). Empathic story-telling works for advertisement.

Umbra, Toronto-based global design company

Umbra is a Canadian design company. I have bought a few home decorative items including its signature garbage cans (Later I learned it is called Skinny Can and was designed by Karim Rashid and David Quan). Interestingly, Umbra items are not expensive. Its affordable price might have allowed me to try several different items. Every single item I have ever used has absolutely satisfied me. The website says,

We are a Toronto-based homeware design company born over 30 years ago when graphic designer, Paul Rowan, couldn’t find a nice window shade to hang in his apartment window. So, he made one and people liked it. He soon teamed up with childhood friend, Les Mandelbaum, and Umbra (in Latin, “shade”) was born. Les and Paul began reimagining everyday items into modern ware.

Today, Umbra is recognized all over the world for bringing intelligent design to everyday items. An in-house team of international designers allows us to come up with original design that speaks universally and personally to a broad customer base. The journey that started in Toronto continues—our designs can be found in over 120 countries.


Recently, I had a chance to pay visit to its flagship store located in downtown Toronto. This store welcomed visitors to enjoy Umbra items. In particular, I had a brief meeting with Paul Rowan, one of the co-founders of Umbra. He is approachable, funny, and lively. We discussed the design competition successfully held in Seoul in 2014. He also introduced me a Korean designer who is currently working at the in-house team of international designers.

With a lot of curiosity, I visited the Umbra design studio located in Scarborough the next day. I met with Sung Wook Park. He graduated from OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) University and joined Umbra about 4 years ago. He is now a creative lead for jewelry, photodisplay, and wall decor items. He explained to me the overall history of Umbra and kindly taught me the trend, the popular material in the next couple of years, and several counter-intuitive international (e.g., Canada vs. US vs. Japan) sales patterns regarding photo frames and wall decor items. I have asked any business issue his design team needs to address as well while introducing numerous successful design items to the global market. Meeting with Paul and Sung Wook gave me a glimpse into the life of the North American designers.


Traditional building with a modern twist in Korea

20100730_Designworks 002

Toronto has many traditional buildings with a modern twist. The house previously used for Rotman Designworks studio was a good example. From the outside, it was a plain three-story house. However, it had interesting modern flavors inside: boards were installed on the white walls, desks and chairs ran on wheels, and newly installed toilette were clean.

I searched for compatible Korean examples for the past couple of years and finally found a right one. It is a small resort called Gurume (“into the clouds” in Korean). It opened July in 2014 at Andong, about 4 hours drive from Seoul. Kimchimari, a blogger, said

it consists of 7 different historical Korean homes with their ages ranging from 200-400 years old. Each home has been relocated from their original location to the resort as vacation villas for people to experience first hand how Korean scholars lived centuries ago.

I stayed a night at one of the historical Korean homes and enjoyed its traditional – and modern aspects. As for the traditional aspects, I enjoyed the rich scent surrounded by the wood materials, cool breeze naturally created through the middle space of the house, and the soothing sounds from the nature with the super-bright moon shine at night. As for the modern aspects, I loved everything about bathroom; a newly installed basin, a shower with high water pressure, and the Aesop shampoo. I found that although I want to travel in the past and enjoy tradition, I do not want to sacrifice the convenience the modern society provides. When marketers and designers aim to create a unique experience either by putting nostalgic flavor to the common products or by adding modern twist on the historically preserved concepts, they should focus on how modernity can eliminate inconvenience.

DML_Gurume (4)

DML_Gurume (5)

DML_Gurume (3)

Expert Products, Novice Consumers


Crate and Barrel, one of my favorite stores following Pottery Barn and Williams and Sonoma, has a section called “Everything You Never Knew You Needed.” It introduces highly specialized kitchen utensils including jar spatula, melon baller, strawberry huller, avocado slicer, dual citrus squeezer, egg timer, and herb scissors.

At first, they look useless for many who do not cook often. Even if they do so, they can slice avocados and trim herbs using existing kitchen utensils. However, it is true that people often fell in love with a product only after they experience it. For example, I love the salad spinner by OXO, Panini grill by Breville, and wine decanter by Spiegelau. Although I am able to dry vegetables, grill sandwiches, and oxygenate wines without using these products, they make my cooking experience enjoyable. Indeed, I believe most smart kitchen products are the nice marriage of careful observation of people’s behavior in the kitchen with just a bit of technological flavor. If I should slice many avocados and trim a lot of herbs all the time, I may need a slicer and a pair of scissors designed exclusively for them to enjoy my cooking experience.

This leads us to a series of critical questions about new product development. Should designers and marketers ignore the novices’ voices (e.g., I am fine with an existing slicer) but listen to the experts’ voices more carefully (e.g., I need a better slicer for avocados)? If so, how do designers and marketers confirm that there will be a market for highly specialized expert products (e.g., avocado slicer)? Alternatively, how should designers and marketers “educate” novices when launching highly specialized products so that the newly developed products are appealing to novices ?



Street people: East vs. West

20130717_Street people @ Seoul

Street people are the people who live a public life on the streets of a city. Some ask us to view them as our community members (e.g., Homelessguide) and others consider them as business opportunities (e.g., Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid). Regardless of our objectives whether we want to help them or make money from them, we need to understand street people more deeply.

From the psychological point of view, their behavior differs depending on where they live. Most street people whom I have seen in Seoul have avoided interacting with me; they hide themselves from public. In contrast, many street people I have met in Toronto have tried to interact with me; they ask passers-by for change and sometimes chat briefly. It seems that social issues (e.g., losing faces or keeping distant from people) are more critical to relatively passive, Asian street people whereas economic issues (e.g., making money) are more desperate to relatively active, North American street people.

By Jonathan Jenkins, Toronto Sun, August 14, 2011
By Jonathan Jenkins, Toronto Sun, August 14, 2011

If their behavioral difference comes from how WE treat them, we should not ask street people to change their behavior: Instead, WE may need to change the way we treat them. In particular, Asians including me may need to invest social resources (e.g., smile) rather than economic resources (e.g., money) to befriend street people.