Did You Know?

Consumers Choose Differently When Looking up vs. Down

And other discoveries from marketing science


“Big picture” versus “up close” views influence consumer processing

According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, looking up versus looking down influences consumer processing and product choice.

A series of three experiments showed that downward head and eye movements evoked more concrete processing, while upward movements evoked more abstract processing.

"People are used to paying detailed attention when looking down because everything that happens close to them could be important or dangerous. However, people are more likely to think about the big picture when looking up because they are used to looking at things from more of a distance (to get the full picture)," write Anneleen Van Kerckhove, Maggie Geuens, and Iris Vermeir. 

In one study, consumers were asked to look either down or up when choosing between two printers—one described as very reliable (a specific feature) and the other described as high quality (a more general description). Consumers who looked down were more likely to select the reliable printer, whereas consumers who looked up were more likely to select the high quality printer.

These findings suggest that a product placed on a low shelf in a store may be evaluated in terms of specific features, cost, or the likelihood that the product will deliver on its promises. On the other hand, a product placed on a high shelf is more likely to be evaluated in terms of the general purpose it serves.

Van Kerckhove, Anneleen, et al., "The Floor Is Nearer than the Sky: How Looking Up or Down Affects Construal Level." Journal of Consumer Research, April 2015


Nostalgia weakens desire for money

Nostalgia is commonplace in marketing—and for good reason. In six experiments, Jannine Lasaleta, Constantine Sedikides, and Kathleen Vohs demonstrate that a sense of nostalgia-evoked social connectedness weakens people’s desire to have, hold onto, and obtain money.

In one study, consumers asked to think about the past were willing to pay more for a set of products than consumers asked to think about new or future memories. Another study showed an increased willingness to give more money to others after recalling, reflecting, or writing about a nostalgic past life event. Additionally, consumers asked to think about a nostalgic event were less willing to endure unpleasant sounds in exchange for a set amount of money than consumers who were asked to think about an ordinary event.

Research suggests that money and social connectedness are interchangeable resources, the authors write. Having enough of either resource allows people to expend less effort on the other. The benefits to marketers are clear: “The cue of social connectedness can shift people’s motivations such that prioritizing and keeping control over money becomes less pressing.”

Lasaleta, Jannine, et al., “The Nostalgia Effect: Do Consumers Spend More When Thinking about the Past?” Journal of Consumer Research, October 2014


“Ordinary” can be powerful

Marketing practitioners often try to transform ordinary consumption into an extraordinary experience to deepen the connection with consumers. But is this always the right strategy?

In a study reported in Journal of Consumer Research study, Amit Bhattacharjee and Cassie Mogilner asked 162 participants to rate the logos of Interbrand’s top 30 most-valuable brands on their association with “everyday” or “extraordinary” experiences. They then asked participants to rate how happy the brand makes them and their feelings of personal brand connection.

While “extraordinary” brands such as Disney, BMW, and Mercedes elicited greater happiness, participants reported a deeper sense of connection with the top “ordinary” brands like Coke, Microsoft, and McDonald’s.

Brand managers see experiential marketing—that is, framing consumption as an experience rather than a single purchase decision—as a way to provide greater value and build deeper brand connections. “These findings indicate that appealing to consumer experience may not be straightforward,” the authors write. “To realize the benefits of experiential marketing, brands must draw consumers’ attention to the type of experience and dimension connection that is appropriate for their target segment.”


Limited availability extends consumer enjoyment

The pleasure of consuming usually decreases with repeated consumption, but creating a sense of limited availability can slow satiation. In five studies, researchers found that telling participants that a product—grapes or chocolate—were available only for a limited time led them to enjoy the product for a longer time than participants who were told the product was commonly available.

In the case of the chocolate candy, participants also ate more, were more likely to purchase the candy and were willing to pay more for it. These effects emerged only after repeated consumption; limited availability did not affect initial liking of the product.  

While satiation is physiological, it also relies on how much attention people pay to the amount consumed. “Limited time only” messages trigger a focus on consuming as much as possible with less attention to the quantity consumed. Indeed, when nudged to pay attention to quantity consumed, people became satiated exactly like those who thought the chocolate was continuously available.

For firms facing a constantly changing set of consumer preferences, the results suggest an avenue to increase demand without incurring new product costs—as with McDonald’s McRib sandwich, which has cycled in and out of its menu for over 30 years.

Sevilla, J., and Redden,  J. P., “Limited Availability Reduces the Rate of Satiation,” Journal of Marketing Research, April 2014


Dynamic logos move customers

Brand logos that generate perceptions of movement engage consumers more and generate positive brand attitudes—as long as the dynamic imagery “fits” the brand. Forward-moving logos enhanced consumer liking for brands described as modern, while backward-moving logos boosted attitudes for traditional brands.

Cian, L., et al., “This Logo Moves Me: Dynamic Imagery from Static Images,” Journal of Marketing Research, April 2014


Consolation prizes dampen lottery hopes

Token prizes lower consumers’ expectations of winning the big prize, their valuations of the lottery, and their intentions to participate. Researchers demonstrate that because of the high likelihood of attaining the token prize, consumers shift their thinking from the value of the big prize to the probability of winning it.

Yan, D., et al., “Killing Hope with Good Intentions: The Effects of Consolation Prizes on Preference for Lottery Promotions,” Journal of Marketing Research, April 2014


Bad reviews, delivered politely, can be good 

Researchers found that negative reviews prefaced with a marker of politeness—a phrase such as “I don’t want to be mean, but …” or “I’ll be honest"—are seen as more credible and the reviewer more likable. And the effects can spill over to the product itself, increasing consumer willingness to pay and their evaluations of product likability.

Hamilton, Ryan, et al., “We’ll be Honest: This Won’t Be the Best Article You’ll Ever Read: The Use of Dispreferred Markers in Word-of-Mouth Communication,” Journal of Consumer Research, June 2014 


You can do it. We can help.

Brand use can improve performance on difficult tasks, according to a recent study. Students scored higher on exams when they used an MIT pen and showed better athletic performance when they drank water from a Gatorade cup. However, self-theory was key: those who believed they could improve their abilities through their own efforts did not experience these beneficial effects.

Park, J.K., et al., “I Think I Can, I Think I Can: Brand Use, Self-Efficacy, and Performance,” Journal of Marketing Research, April 2014



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