Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Power of Customers’ Mindset

By Kelly Goldsmith, Jing Xu and Ravi Dhar

MITSloan Management Review

Are your customers in a concrete or abstract mindset as they think about purchasing your product? The answer can affect how much they buy.


Every day consumers make purchase decisions by choosing among large sets of related products available for sale in the aisles of stores. What factors might systematically affect how consumers make decisions among an array of products? Our research explores one aspect of that question.

As most marketers realize, not all shoppers are created equal. Within the same store, one may be searching for a specific product to meet an immediate need, while others may simply be browsing. Just as they can have different goals when they enter a store, individual consumers may approach purchase decisions with different mindsets that can affect how they shop. In social psychology, a mindset is defined as a set of cognitive processes and judgmental criteria that, once activated, can carry over to unrelated tasks and decisions. In other words, if you get a consumer thinking a certain way, that way
of thinking — that mindset — can influence his or her subsequent shopping behavior.

In particular, social psychologists have identified two distinct mindsets that are relevant to how consumers make decisions when choosing among large sets of related products: abstract and concrete. An abstract mindset encourages people to think in a more broad and general way. Consumers in an abstract mindset who face an array of related products will focus more on the shared product attributes associated with an overarching purpose — for example, the general category of hair care or car maintenance. Conversely, a concrete mindset draws attention to lower-level details and attributes associated with execution or usage; consumers in a concrete mindset will thus focus on factors that differentiate between products.

In our research, we examined how abstract versus concrete mindsets affected consumers’ purchase decisions. (The research results are described in detail in a working paper called “The Role of Abstract and Concrete Mindsets on the Purchase of Products from Adjacent Categories.”) In a series of experiments, we found that mindset matters. When consumers must decide whether or not to make purchases from a variety of related but different product categories — such as toothpaste, mouthwash and dental floss in an array of oral care products — an abstract mindset increases the number of products consumers select. But the reverse occurs when consumers choose among products that are similar enough that consumers could substitute one for another — such as a variety of beverages. In those cases, a concrete mindset increases the number of products consumers want to buy.

In the experiments, we first used exercises that prior research has suggested should help establish an abstract or a concrete mindset — such as asking some participants to write about a year from now (an assignment likely to induce an abstract mindset) while others were asked to write about tomorrow (which is likely to induce a concrete mindset). We then compared the purchase intent — and in some experiments, actual purchases — of consumers in an abstract versus concrete mindset. We found that it is not a question of one mindset being better than the other at increasing consumers’ likelihood of purchase. Instead, the effect of concrete and abstract mindsets varied with the type of product arrays from which consumers were choosing.

Specifically, when faced with a choice among different types of products that relate to the same overarching goal — for example, the various kinds of products available in the oral care aisle — having an abstract mindset, rather than a concrete one, increased the number of products purchased. This presumably occurred because an abstract mindset draws attention to the higher-level purpose — in this case, oral care — which in turn increased consumers’ interest in all means serving that goal — toothbrush, floss, etc. — and thereby increased the total number of products consumers wanted to purchase.

However, when consumers chose among products that were similar enough to be substituted for one another — such as an array of beverages — an abstract mindset decreased interest in purchasing additional products when compared to a concrete mindset. That is because an abstract mindset leads to a focus on the higher-level goal — such as satisfying one’s thirst — and, presumably, to the fact that one beverage is sufficient to satisfy that abstract goal. Conversely, consumers with a concrete mindset focused on the differentiating factors between products — and were thus likely to select a greater number of substitutable products than their abstract-focused counterparts did.

These findings have two clear and straightforward implications for managers: To increase sales, companies should consider matching or manipulating the mindset of the consumer.

Matching the Mindset. The nature of the retailer or the types of products offered may naturally promote a more abstract or concrete mindset upon which businesses can capitalize. In some cases, consumers may tend to approach a retailer planning to make purchases for distant future use; for example, consumers may be evaluating furniture that will be delivered in a number of weeks. The literature on abstract versus concrete mindsets suggests that when consumers consider products for distant future use, they may naturally be in a more abstract mindset than consumers who are evaluating products for immediate consumption. Our research suggests that retailers who recognize that their products may promote distant future considerations (and thus a more abstract mindset) may increase sales if they organize their product offerings in a way that highlights their products’ relationship to a common higher-order goal. For example, a furniture retailer might group products in a way that showcases how different types of furniture all share the benefit of adding comfort and warmth. Conversely, for retailers such as snack vendors who recognize that their products promote fairly immediate use and hence a more concrete mindset, grouping similar, substitutable snack products together should help maximize consumers’ purchase rates.

Manipulating the Mindset. While matching the mindset may be an effective strategy for retailers whose goods naturally promote a distinct mindset, for many retailers the variety of products they offer is such that no clear mindset predominates. For these retailers, manipulating consumers’ mindset as they view specific sets of products may be one effective way to increase purchase rates.

Imagine a retailer offering a large set of related but different products in an oral care aisle. Our findings suggest that, to increase sales, that retailer should consider promoting a more abstract mindset as consumers make their product considerations. For example, managers could implement promotions highlighting the individual products’ relatedness to the overarching, higher-level purpose (i.e., oral care, as opposed to simply clean teeth) in order to increase consumers’ propensity to purchase more types of oral-care products. Conversely, for a retailer offering a large set of substitutable products, such as drinks in a beverage aisle, the opposite suggestion holds. In-store communications promoting a more concrete mindset — by stressing the individual and unique benefits of various products — could be used to increase total sales.

While we believe our work suggests important practical implications for retailers, future research is necessary to fully explore and understand the observed effects. We hope that the current research will prompt future inquiry into this area.

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Making Advertising Relevant To Boomers

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Courtesy of Matt Thornhill and Media Post Publications

In a national study called “The New Generation Gap Study” done for TV Land in 2007, consumers of all ages were asked if they agreed with the statement: “If it is done right, advertising definitely influences my purchases.”Some 55% of younger adults, those under age 45, said they agreed. But so, too, did 55% of Boomers. (Wow, only 55% agreed to that? Well, that must mean John Wanamaker really was speaking the truth when he allegedly said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”)

Nonetheless, we’ll take this as good news: Advertising can influence purchases.

The bad news is that, in study after study, Boomers tell us most advertising is not even intended for them. Last summer, Google and Nielsen fielded a national study among adults of all ages to learn more about online activity and media usage. They asked if we wanted to include any questions in the survey to update information we had published in our book, Boomer Consumer, in 2007.

Two questions we added to the study were about the intended target of advertising. Sure enough, Boomers told us the vast majority of advertising they see on TV or on the Internet is intended for “someone younger than I.”

Our question: Advertisers communicate with consumers in a variety of ways. In general, who would you say most advertising is intended for?  

Google/Nielsen Consumer Study,
Summer 2010
On TV
On the
Internet
Someone YOUNGER than I 79% 84%
Someone MY AGE 19% 15%
Someone OLDER than I 3% 2%

As you have read here, this is a demographic cohort that spends over $2 trillion annually on consumer goods and services. Yet, 8 out of 10 Boomers tell us they think the advertising they see — presumably on shows they watch and Web sites they visit — is intended for younger consumers.

It’s no wonder the average tenure for a chief marketing officer is less than two years. Heads certainly need to roll if advertising dollars are so poorly deployed.

Make it Relevant

The fix for this problem is easy to spot, but perhaps difficult to pull off. First, you don’t have to double your advertising budget and develop a completely separate marketing program to reach Boomers. All you have to do is make your current programs relevant to consumers across all age groups and generations.

That means look for ways to make your product, packaging, pricing, messaging and distribution relevant for more than simply your traditional advertising or marketing sweet spot — adults 25-54, or moms with young kids. Take a look at your advertising over the last several years. Do you always show the “ideal” target consumer enjoying your product or service? Do that year in and year out, and you will effectively communicate that is the only person who should use your product.

Instead, use messaging techniques that cut across age groups or generations. We work with clients to find the attributes and benefits that are universal — appealing to a broad range of consumers and relevant to all.

Two examples: There is universal appeal in the Dove brand’s Campaign for Real Beauty approach, and it is relevant for women of all ages. The new Old Spice campaign may appear to be for young, virile men, but the underlying message that this brand is for a “man’s man” is universal.

The goal is advertising that isn’t targeting young adults or Boomers, but more consumers.

Boomer Project founder/president Matt Thornhill is an authority on marketing to today’s Boomer Consumer. He has appeared on NBC, CBS and CNBC, in “BusinessWeek,” “Time,” “Newsweek” and “The New York Times” and countless others. Matt is also the co-author of the business book “Boomer Consumer.” Boomer Project is a marketing research and consulting firm and has done work for Johnson & Johnson, Lincoln Financial, Samsung, Hershey’s Foods and Home Instead Senior Care. Reach him here.

The Brain in Your Gut

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Found this fascinating lecture on the “brain in your gut” given by Heribert Watzke on TED.com.  Certainly adds new meaning to the term “gut instincts”.

Social Media Marketing is All About Changing the Conversation

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Are you caught up on Mad Men?

In this week’s episode, the agency (Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce) deals with the fallout of losing their largest account. New clients are hesitant to hire them, because word about town is that the agency’s future is cloudy at best. Peggy’s advice, which Don Draper takes to heart, is simple: “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

There couldn’t be a better motto for social media marketing.

Brands of all sizes are realizing more and more that social media is the conversation, but with super powers: while in-person conversations typically begin and end at the water cooler, online conversations don’t. A negative take on your brand can spin wildly out of control on Facebook or (especially) Twitter, with thousands of people joining in the conversation. Positive messages can circulate too, but the negative ones typically have more steam.

That leaves brands with three options for how to get social media on their side, requiring increasing levels of buy-in: they can monitor the conversation, they can engage in the conversation, or they can change the conversation, Don Draper-style.

Monitoring the Conversation

Monitoring the social media conversation is a good start, and while it doesn’t do anything to change public perceptions of your brand, it may provide the compelling data you need to get your CEO on board with a social media strategy.

There are a few tools you can use to quickly get going, and they’re easy to use:

  • Google Alerts – If you manage a brand and aren’t using Google Alerts, start now. It emails you with regular (or as-it-happens) updates when you get mentioned online. It works well for tracking bigger things like blog posts; less so for lively Twitter discussion.
  • TweetDeck – One of a number of Twitter clients that pops up notifications for search terms (like the name of your brand). TweetDeck is especially useful if you’re handling several Twitter accounts at once.
  • TweetBeep – For if you can’t handle keeping a Twitter client open. It’s basically Google Alerts for Twitter, keeping you posted by email on what’s being said in tweets.
  • Kurrently – Searches Twitter and Facebook in real-time, and you can grab an RSS feed of its results.
  • Collecta – Attempts to combine all of the above, searching the web, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and others, offering RSS feeds for your search terms.

If your brand is big enough or interesting enough that people are talking about it, then you need to be monitoring the conversation. Once you do, you’ll realize that your social media efforts need to go a step further.

Engaging in the Conversation

There are a few terrific examples of brands engaging in the conversation and winning big because of it. Often Twitter becomes a vehicle for world-class customer service, and we’ve seen if from Southwest Airlines, Dell, and, of course, Comcast.

Clicking on the Comcast link in the paragraph above takes you to an article from way back in 2008, as Comcast has been on the forefront of Twitter conversation about its brand from the beginning. They’re generally credited with pioneering the “customer service on Twitter” model, in which company reps monitor Comcast-related tweets and then respond to people that are having trouble with their cable service.

But even better than just reacting to customers’ conversation is creating an environment where your customers know they can come to you online. If discussion flows freely between your company and your customers, and not just in times of crisis, then you’ll be poised to dramatically strengthen relationships and foster new brand advocates. Which drives the bottom line.

Changing the Conversation

The brands with the strongest commitment to social media, however, are also the ones reaping the greatest rewards. Changing the conversation means turning bad vibes into good vibes, or (more commonly) creating a conversation where there wasn’t one before.

Citing the best examples is almost unnecessary. Old Spice, of course, generated no end of conversation with the “Smell Like a Man, Man” character and series of online videos. The commercials would have been a successful TV campaign of their own—but it was social media that really got conversation about Old Spice going.

An even better example is Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice campaign on Facebook—not because of the details of the campaign itself, but because of how it changed the conversation. It’s Burger King. It’s fast food, it’s served by someone making minimum wage, and the menu features items like “funnel cake sticks”. And yet, Burger King (thanks to the good folks at Crispin Porter + Bogusky) made us forget about greasy hamburgers for a while and got us talking about a brand that wasn’t afraid to push buttons.

In Mad Men, Don Draper’s reaction to losing their big tobacco client was not to wallow in self-pity and board up the office windows. The prevailing conversation was about the agency’s failures, so he changed it. And if twenty-five years of TV watching has taught me what to expect, then we’ll see it pay off handsomely.

The conversation is always going on. If your brand is big enough, you’re already being discussed. And if the message isn’t good, then you know what to do.

Change it.

Courtesy of Courtney Crane and SOCIAL MEDIA TODAY.

5 Traits Event Organizers Want From Speakers

Photograph taken from Leonard Kleinrock and th...

Image via Wikipedia

1) Understand the event’s community – get to know your audience ahead of the event. Spend some time with them (online or in person), and make sure you’re current with the most relevant topics of discussion or debate. This will also help if you choose to have a Question and Answer session. Find out who the other speakers are, and publicly reach out to them. This will help build momentum and comraderie in advance of the event, itself.

2) Promote the event – a speaker’s own following or readership is great source of potential attendees for a conference. Organizers are aware of this and will notice when you actively promote the event to your community. Get the word out on your blog, shared calendars, message boards and social networks.

3) Are dependable – organizers will choose speakers who show up on time, have all their materials, are prepared for AV mishaps, and can adapt to last minute changes. Your reputation matters. Many speakers don’t realize it, but conference organizers of different events compare notes and talk amongst themselves to share their experiences working with speakers, on and off the stage.

4) Expect the unexpected – when it comes to professional events, Murphy’s Law prevails. Don’t assume there will be a dependable Internet connection. If you plan on presenting a “live demo”, make sure you have backup screenshots handy in case the Internet connection isn’t as speedy or stable as you need.

5) Participate in the event – don’t just fly in, speak, and fly out. It doesn’t matter how busy you are, the event is your customer, and the audience is your extended community. Be approachable and make time to engage with attendees in the halls, in other sessions, at lunch. Be willing to do an impromptu podcast, and be a good sport about having your picture taken with attendees. It will be worth your time, you’ll meet interesting people and you just might learn something!

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Courtesy of SLIDESHARE.

Short Film Produced Entirely On The IPhone.

Check this out. It’s a link to Vimeo where you can watch a short film shot and edited by two enterprising film students at USC ENTIRELY ON THE IPHONE! Think of that when your marketing team says you don’t have the resources to produce quality videos for the Internet.

As the great Stan Lee from Marvel Comics always answered, “Nuff said”.

9 Ways to Build a Twitter Community with Substance

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Ah, Twitter. I keep seeing all these people saying “Yay! 1,000 followers!”. And then I get sad, because I think they’re really missing the point. Connecting with people is great, but don’t you want to connect with people who will enrich your experience overall?

Everyone uses Twitter differently and I get that. But I know what’s worked for me. Much of it hasn’t been deliberate or engineered, it’s just what makes natural sense to me. But in case there’s a tip or two in here, I agreed to post about my thoughts on building community on Twitter. Here’s my take.

1. Start With Twitter Search.
Go to search.twitter.com and type in a word or phrase that represents something you’re interested in. Try something like “I’m reading” to home in on people sharing the books they’re reading. Or how about “foodie” to find other culinarily-minded folks? Be creative. Try a bunch of different words. Then follow people who are talking about subjects and areas of interest for you.

Oh, and emphasis on talking; if they’re just dropping links and rarely carry on conversation with anyone, you aren’t going to get much out of the interaction and you’ll end up disappointed.

Go ahead and follow some of the usual suspects if you like, or find “recommended” follows from Twitter, but I’m much more of a fan of finding the like minds than the notable ones. They’re harder to find, but can really be the lifeblood of a great community. Many of my favorite Twitter friends aren’t on the big radar screens (and I hope they never are, lest I have to stand in line to talk to them!).

2. Tweet, even if no one’s watching.
When people visit your profile page to decide whether or not to connect with you, what you have there gives them some dimension and perspective, even if only a few people are officially “following” you. Oh, and don’t forget to put up an avatar (of your face please, not a logo, my .02) and fill in the bio stuff. People notice, and it makes you instantly feel and seem like a real human who’s on Twitter to get to know people. That’ll attract like minds to give you a chance.

3. Look at other people’s lists.
Once you find a handful of people that you enjoy following, check out their lists. See who they follow. Look on their profile page and see who they’re replying to. Follow a few more people that look interesting, conversational, and engaged. You don’t want to mass follow hundreds – Twitter will suspect you’re a spam artist – but get started with 20 or 30 and get chatting. Already have a solid following? You need step 4.

4. Jump into conversations that look interesting.
The way Twitter gets good: you have to talk with people. The way to talk with people is to start interacting with them. If there’s an interesting or fun discussion going on, jump in! @ reply someone that you’ve never chatted with before and offer a contribution or a funny. Sometimes you’ll get ignored; that’s part of the deal, I’m afraid. But often times, folks on Twitter are very open, conversational, and eager to meet new people. This is public discourse, not a private chatroom. Consider yourself welcome.

There are tons of Twitter chats that happen regularly; find one in an area that interests you and jump in. They’re fast moving, but you’ll undoubtedly meet people and make some connections.

By the way, I’d hope it goes without saying, but “jumping in” doesn’t mean “hey I saw you tweeting about lawnmowers and I wanted you to see my new website! Check it out!”. That’s just irritating. If you don’t recognize that or see why people would find that annoying, your problem is more complicated than Twitter.

5. Lose your obsession over who’s following and who isnt.
A long while back, I talked about the fallacy of tools like Qwitter (those that tell you who stopped following you). There are some different perspectives in the comments, but overall I don’t recommend you waste too much time and energy over that part. It’s just a follow. A click. Not some demonstration of your worth as a human being. Twitter also does a good job of automatically and misguidedly unfollowing people when they clean out spam and such, which means some unfollows are totally unintentional.

I never, ever notice or pay attention to who unfollows me. I focus on participating in the community that wants to be there. If someone valuable goes away, I’ll notice and track them back down.

As for how many followers you have, remember these things. Twitter has a massive abandon rate, which means that many people will follow you and never return, never say a word, never see a thing you post. Twitter is also thick with spammers and auto-follow bots, so a good chunk of any of our follower counts are made up of complete garbage.

The numbers are inflated. They’re inaccurate. And while reach can be important depending on your goals for participation on Twitter, relevant reach is what matters, and that is only ever built with time and concerted participation.

6. Think farming.
Jay Baer wrote a good post about how social media is like farming. Twitter is very similar. The problem is that too few people have the patience to be a farmer. Cultivating the seeds of relationships and trust takes time. And you can’t shortcut it; if you don’t sow the seeds at the beginning of the year and tend to them properly, you’ll have nothing to harvest at the end of the season.

And there’s no last-minute shortcut that will fix that. You can’t just throw $99 at it and buy a field of crops to harvest, much less one that will support a crop the following year. Try to treat Twitter followers like bargains on a WalMart shelf, and that’s exactly the quality of the network you’ll end up with.

7. Don’t namedrop.
You don’t need to fish the pools of the “popular” to get people to notice you. Calling out celebrities or the Twitterati to bait them into some kind of conversation or to look at your blog isn’t going to do you much good. Bragging about the recognizable people you know or talk to or just had coffee with can easily come off as very (very) thinly veiled self-importance. Be gracious. Be humble. Be real and genuine. Focus on making real connections with real people, no matter who they are.

It’s easy to tell the difference between someone who really has their head in the game, and someone who’s just trying to get people to notice them. Really. We can tell.

8. Share stuff.
Some of my favorite follows on Twitter are people who mix up conversational updates and back-and-forth with others with links to great stuff. Sometimes it’s a thought provoking blog post. Other times it’s an article, or a video, or something just to make me laugh.

Twitter is like this micro library of stuff wandering around for the finding. Share the stuff you find (in moderation). Being a resource to others is a great way to find common ground to talk about, kick around ideas, or open up new dialogue.

9. Have some personality.
The reason things like chat have always been so popular is because you can talk with real, live people over a computer. How cool is that! No crazy phone bills, you can talk to several people at once, and it’s fun to pick out the individual personalities, find the people who like the things you do, talk away about everything from work to life to the movie you just saw and hated.

Twitter is just the new version of chat. We didn’t want people in our AOL chat rooms selling us their “Make Money Online” course, either. With exception I’m sure, we don’t love them in our Twitter stream. We just want to talk and get to know one another. Open doors. Find affinities. It’s really pretty simple at its core, but man do we try to make it way too complicated.

In Conclusion…
I get asked all the time how I “got all my followers”. I didn’t set out to amass a pile of people, but I set out to build a diverse, active network. In that sense, my secrets are these:

•I did all the stuff above. Some I realized I was doing later.
•I’ve never in my life asked for a follow unless I wanted to DM someone and couldn’t. I’ve NEVER begged for followers to reach some kind of “milestone”. It doesn’t matter.
•I converse a lot, and I make it a point to be as responsive as I can. Look at my Twitter page, and you’ll see that the vast majority of my posts are replies to other people.
•I share my own posts about twice a day if I think they’re worth it. I share bunches of stuff from other people that I find interesting, informative, funny. But I’m not a link feed, either.
•I’ve been doing this for over two and a half years, nearly every day. I’m present. I participate.
•I try to be conversational, responsive, engaged, and polite. The same way I’d want people to be with me.
•I started with zero followers, too.
That’s just my method. It seems so simple and obvious to me, but maybe it’s not.

Remember: Twitter is just the medium. These same principles apply across many things, online and off. It all – always – comes down to your honest intent to build a network of people to talk to, to learn from, to share with. ALL of this depends on your desire to use Twitter that way, and not just to amass a collection of people that you can pimp your junk to. Twitter can be a gateway to a much more dimensional relationship with people, or it can just be a means to a rather disappointing end.

Whether you have the patience, time, and desire to invest in it is really up to you. Does that help? What would you add? What’s worked for you, and where are you still struggling? Let me know how I can help some more in the comments.

Courtesy of Social Media Today.

About the Author. Amber Naslund is director of community for Radian6, and a blogger, author, and communications strategist helping businesses make things happen through better communication.