But those things take time to see results. And while we don’t believe in quick fixes, there is one easy (though not necessarily cheap) way to instantly look more powerful—at least in the minds of a lot of guys: Shopping for stuff with a broad or wide design—like a watch with a large face, or a car with a wider hood, according to a new University of Kansas studypublished in the Journal of Conusmer Research.
In the study, researches conducted five different experiments in which subjects were asked to look at pictures of human faces with varying width-to-height ratios (ranging from narrow faces to wider faces), as well as pictures of different products that might have similar designs to a human face—like a watch or car.
Then, they were asked to look at the different pictures while thinking about different scenarios, like “preparing to encounter either an old high school bully or a former sweetheart at a 10-year high school reunion or a business trip that might require a difficult negotiation,” according to the study’s press release. In psychological studies, these thought experiments are designed to cue up the need to feel dominant.
The general consensus? When people were in scenarios where they wanted to display power over others—like with the bully or during a business negotation—they favored products with wider product designs.
“It’s probably because people view the product as part of themselves,” says Ahreum Maeng, a lead author on the study. “They would think, ‘It’s my possession. I have control over it when I need it, and I can demonstrate my dominance through the product.'”
Companies generally assume that if they make a mistake while designing or manufacturing a product, they should keep that information to themselves. But new research by Professor Taly Reich and her collaborators suggests that revealing mistakes can enhance consumer preference.
Companies are often reluctant to advertise their mistakes. However, new research by Taly Reich at Yale SOM with collaborators Daniella Kupor at Boston University and Rosanna Smith at the University of Georgia suggests that there is a potential upside to companies letting consumers know about them. Across a variety of products, results published in the Journal of Consumer Research find that consumers actually prefer products that were “made by mistake” over identical products that did not involve a mistake in their creation.
Reich and her co-authors first tested this preference by giving consumers a choice between a new type of chocolate and extra money. One group of participants read that the chef that made the chocolate had roasted the beans longer than usual on purpose, while another group read that the additional roasting time was accidental. People who read the “mistake” description were more likely to opt for the chocolate compared to those who read the “intentional” description.
But is this just a case of a “happy accident”? Would consumers still prefer products made by mistake if the mistake made the product worse? To test this, consumers were presented with a drawing with a mark that took away from its appeal, but were either told that the marked artwork was made by mistake (the artist accidently marked the drawing) or intentionally (the artist decided to add the mark). Consumers were more likely to purchase and willing to pay a higher price for the detracted artwork made by mistake compared to the artwork made intentionally. “These findings suggest that consumer interest in products made by mistake is not restricted to cases in which a mistake enhances the product,” Reich says.
The researchers then explored the reasons behind these preferences. They proposed that consumers perceive mistakes to be more improbable than intention because of a well-established psychological phenomenon called the intentionality bias. “People assume that others do what they intend to do,” says Reich. Thus, a product that was made by mistake is deemed as more unlikely than a product that was created without a mistake. This sense of improbability leads consumers to see the product as more unique, which then enhances their preference for it.
To test this explanation, the researchers varied how unique a product was. Consumers learned about a hip-hop song that included the sound of the producer’s breath. When participants thought the breath recording was accidental, they perceived the creation of the song to be more improbable and expressed more interest in buying it. Importantly, the study also included a third condition in which people learned that the song was made accidentally, but that the outcome of the mistake was not unique (i.e., many producers record their breath into their mixes). This time, the song that was made by mistake—and which had a non-unique outcome—did not elicit a greater purchase intent. This finding supports the notion that consumers prefer products made by mistake because they perceive them to be more unique.
Finally, the researchers analyzed sales of vintage photographs on eBay. Controlling for factors such as picture size and date of sale, the researchers found that buyers paid an average of 58% more for photos with blurriness, a double exposure, a finger in the frame, or other mistakes. In other words, photographs with objectively negative properties received a premium relative to those with no such negative property.
While mistakes are typically not perceived positively, these results suggest that companies that hide mistakes might miss an opportunity to attract customers. Learning that product was “made by mistake” increases consumer preference because it enhances perceptions of product uniqueness.“In this way, consumers are consuming not just the product, but also its creation story,” Reich says.
For 25 years, photojournalist Lauren Greenfield has traveled the US and the world documenting what she calls “the influence of affluence”: a culture-wide aspiration to wealth that, fueled by mass media, only seems to deepen as social mobility stalls.
Greenfield and her camera have captured the glittering and grim elements of a society fixated on conspicuous consumption. Her subjects—raining dollars at strip clubs, oligarchs’ wives, houses shuttered and abandoned in the wake of the financial crash—are familiar images, rendered here as cultural artifact.
“The trends and behavior and attitudes that she’s depicting . . . are in many ways the dominant trend of our culture for this period from 1980 to the crash,” sociologist Juliet Schor told Quartz.
Greenfield’s photographs are collected in a book and traveling photography exhibition entitled Generation Wealth. Together, the photographs offer visual evidence of what Schor describes in the book’s preface as the defining social principle behind consumption: “What we want is determined by the social worlds in which we live.”
The exhibit concluded a run in Los Angeles in August and opens Sept. 20 at New York’s ICP Museum. Quartz spoke to Greenfield about consumption, aspiration, and what we lost by keeping up with the Kardashians.
Quartz: You started the project photographing young people in Los Angeles in the early 1990s. Did the trends that you document originate in Los Angeles, or was LA just one of many places where this attitude toward materialism was forming?
Lauren Greenfield: A lot of the drivers behind the trends come from the media, so starting with the kids growing up in LA felt like being close to the flame. It was a place where you could see the extreme manifestations of what was happening all over.
Going back and looking at these 25 years in retrospect, it was really interesting to see, for example, [a photograph of] Kim Kardashian at 12 at one of the parties. It was not a picture that was even in my original edit, because she was insignificant then. But Keeping Up With the Kardashians has been in a way a touchstone for the work, and her fame and rise has been symbolic for the work. So the fact that she was a kid here, growing up at that time, was significant to me.
The other thing I saw as beginning these changes were the Reagan ‘80s. The idea at that time that having money was good, and maybe even [meant] that you were a good person. Oliver Stone created Wall Street, and this character Gordon Gekko, who was intended as a villain ended up, ironically, becoming a role model to a generation on Wall Street, many of whom are in this book.
Those two things [were significant]. [You had] the inundation of media that started with MTV and exploded to all the cable channels, the internet, and social media, and with that the explosion of marketing going directly to the most vulnerable: kids, girls. And then the ethos in the air from the Reagan ‘80s and this shift from a more idealistic, socially minded view from the ‘60s and ‘70s to money becoming more important in the 80s.
Much of your work focuses on the things people buy in place of real social mobility. Can you talk more about the significance of conspicuous consumption as equality and mobility decline?
The backdrop to people prizing bling and “fake it to you make it” so much is that we have less social mobility we had in the 70s—progressively less—and more concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.
For a lot of people, the traditional American dream does not feel in reach. . . . This idea of meritocracy, that if you work hard you can be successful, is not within reach for a lot of people. I think it’s [the social critic] Chris Hedges who says that this kind of fictitious social mobility is the only social mobility that feels real.
I was so influenced by Juliet Schor’s view that our reference group has changed. We used to compare ourselves against our neighbors who lived in our community and aspired to the person who had the slightly better model home down the road, or the slightly better model car. Now we spend more time with people we know on TV than our neighbors, and we want what they have.
Even though the 1% is a small group, it’s constantly thrown in everybody’s face because the images are so ubiquitous in the media. There’s what Schor calls an “aspirational gap,” where keeping up with the Joneses has literally become Keeping Up With the Kardashians. We want what they have, and there’s no way where the traditional avenue of hard work and doing a little bit better than your parents is going to get you to Kardashian level. That’s fantasy land.
The publication of this project coincides with the early days of the Trump presidency. How does Trump fit with the cultural shifts you’ve documented?
[The Trump presidency] felt like an expression of all of the things I had been documenting: People valuing money, and monetary success being considered an indication of character and achievement. This idea of “fake it ‘til you make it”: you can have somebody with no experience in the job. The importance of celebrity: a reality star being able to leverage that into the highest public office in the land
The rise of narcissism. Really changing the idea of public service: helping people less fortunate doesn’t seem like part of the equation. In a way, the values of capitalism undermining the values of democracy.
And then on the gender side, I was really struck also by the connections: beautiful women being an expression of success, making money from the commodification of the body with the beauty pageant business. . . . I could not have predicted it, but I felt like the work shows the culture that gave rise to it.
The Lures of Advertising – How Susceptible are You? Donna L. Roberts, Ph.D. In the competitive and cluttered environment of today’s commercial marketplace, the average American is inundated with between 3000 and 5000 advertising messages per day in various forms, and yet, considers their effect inconsequential (Du Plessis, 2008; Kilbourne, 1999; Vollmer & Precourt, 2008). …
The science behind Wall Street executives’ love of huge watches. Humans generally don’t like people with wide faces, because they’re perceived as dominant and menacing. But products with wide faces, such as watches, are a different story Source: Wear this to feel dominant during business negotiations By Leslie Albrecht Wall Street execs love to wear […]
Consumer behavior literature supports this assumption by documenting how a logo’s meaning can affect attitudes toward and beliefs about associated brands. New research by a University of Kansas marketing scholar documents both how and when consumers attribute the meaning of a visual element to their broader environment instead of the brand itself.
“We know that the key to stimulating desire for safety-oriented products lies in increasing consumers’ motives for safety,” Nelson said. “But this study suggests that rather than relying on people’s memory of events to guide the level of safety they should seek, a more effective marketing strategy would be to increase one’s perceptions of unsafe environmental conditions.”
Safety-oriented products are products that shield a consumer — or his or her possessions — from the consequences of negative events, such as a home security system, car insurance, even a bicycle helmet.
Nelson finds that logos featuring elements oriented to appear unstable cue inferences of unsafe conditions, and since safety-oriented products are resistant to inferences that they are unsafe, the inference is instead applied to the broader environment.
This perception of an unsafe environment increases the perceived usefulness of safety-oriented products, which suggests that in some cases a logo with a meaning opposite to the desired product or brand beliefs may ironically increase demand for the product.
“Our findings demonstrate the wide-reaching effects of brand logos and point to easy and effective ways to encourage consumer safety through visual design,” Nelson said.
A core assumption underlying logo design is that inferences generated from a design are applied to the product or brand to which the logo is attached. Nelson’s research demonstrates that some products are resistant to particular inferences, which leads such inferences to be applied instead to one’s environment.
“Specifically, when considering safety-oriented products, consumers exposed to unstable-looking brand logos infer the presence of unsafe conditions, and because safety-oriented products are resistant to inferences that they are unsafe, the inference is instead applied to one’s environment.
“Overall the present findings suggest that in some cases, a logo design that is opposed to desired product or brand beliefs may ironically help boost demand,” Nelson said.
Her research builds on literature in visual design, inference-making and intuitive physics to explore both how and when consumers use brand logos to infer the condition of their environment and how this ultimately shapes product-based outcomes.
Nelson co-authored the study with Ryan Rahinel, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Cincinnati.
Watch a video of Nelson presenting her research:
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How do you know when you’ve found “the one”? Is it the bubbly feeling that melts through your body when you look into their eyes? Is it your heart doing somersaults in your chest when they enter a room?
It might actually be your mutual love of Coca-Cola.
Researchers from the Fuqua School of Business have found that the strength of a relationship is dependent on the commercial brands that each partner prefers. Published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the study called “Coke vs. Pepsi, Brand Compatibility, Relationship Power and Life Satisfaction” was conducted by Fuqua professors Tanya Chartrand, Grainne Fitzsimons and Gavin Fitzsimons, along with former Fuqua Ph.D. student Danielle Brick.
“As close relationships involve repeated, frequent interactions in diverse settings and strong mutual interdependence whereby the outcomes of one’s decisions affect both the other person and the relationship itself, individuals are often constrained by their partner’s preferences and the demands of the relationship,” Grainne Fitzsimons said.
They researchers explored the connection between the individual brand preferences, power distribution and life satisfaction of partners in long-term relationships. They defined brand compatibility as “the extent to which individuals in close relationships share similar brand preferences” and hypothesized that the presence or absence of brand compatibility is consequential in determining one’s life satisfaction.
Across six studies, the researchers explored their hypothesis that tested the amount of power that each individual holds in his or her relationship, the levels of brand compatibility and overall happiness of each individual. They used brand preferences in soda, coffee, chocolate, beer and automobiles when analyzing couples.
The studies revealed that the connection between brand compatibility and life satisfaction is directly related to one’s power in his or her relationship. In addition, high-power individuals are less affected by the lack of brand compatibility in their relationship and are more likely to assert their brand desires over those of their partner.
Alternatively, low-power individuals are generally more conscious of brand compatibility. When these low-power partners do not get to enjoy their desired brands, they often perceive greater relationship conflict and feel less satisfied with their lives. The researchers concluded that brand compatibility within a close relationship predicts life satisfaction only for individuals who experience low levels of power in their relationship.
Having equal power is helpful, but not necessarily sufficient in maintaining a healthy relationship, Fitzsimons explained.
“These couples may do what negotiation scholars call logrolling, where they trade off on preferences depending on what’s most important,” she said. “So if someone loves cars and cares a lot about them, that person’s preferences should be given more weight.”
The researchers also suggested that brand compatibility has a higher impact on how long a relationship lasts than differences in race, religion and personality do. This happens because issues of brand compatibility constantly occur. Some partners might not mind if their significant other holds the same beliefs as they do, but constant controversy over a grocery store shopping list can weigh down a relationship.
So although some Duke students may be able to tolerate their partner cheering on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during basketball season, they may be less inclined to accept constant fighting about buying Coke or Pepsi.
However, there is still hope for couples who love different brands of junk food.
“I think partners in healthier relationships who have effective communication and who are genuinely concerned with each other’s welfare are probably more likely to find good solutions for problems like these small incompatibilities,” Fitzsimons said.