Manipulating Consumers November 2017
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Recent studies by researchers from Duke University (Durham, North Carolina) and Arizona State University (Tempe, Arizona) highlight the effects that a product's aesthetics can have on the product's consumption. During one study, visitors to a gym used less toilet paper with an embossed design than they did of plain paper. During another study, people ate fewer cupcakes that featured a delicate rose than they ate plain cupcakes. Consumers who generally appreciate the effort that goes into beautiful products show a reduced tendency to consume those products for fear of destroying beauty. Aesthetics can play an important role in attracting consumers to products, but an overly beautiful design may actually reduce consumption and sales.
Advertising often aims to manipulate consumers' thoughts and feelings to promote products and services. A study by researchers from Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois) revealed that successful advertising produces similar neural responses among multiple viewers. The researchers had study participants view multiple movie trailers and assigned neural-similarity scores according to how similar participants' brain patterns were during each trailer. Trailers with high neural-similarity scores had high recall among participants, and the movies the trailers promoted saw high ticket sales on their release.
A common assumption is that consumers will choose to buy products that have highest average user rating online; however, a study by two professors and a PhD graduate from Stanford University (Stanford, California) finds that some consumers prefer polarizing products—that is, products with many very high and very low ratings. The study reveals that consumers who aim to express themselves through the products they purchase prefer polarizing products that signal aspects of identity.