Michael R. Solomon

Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Multitasking – Hyperlinear processing or just zoning out?

In Chapter 2 on August 30, 2009 at 12:31 pm

This week press reports discussed a study by Stanford researchers that documents inferior performance by multitaskers on a variety of measures.  The study set out to identify the unique cognitive abilities investigators assumed multitaskers must possess so the results came as a big surprise.  One of the researchers summarized the results: “Multitaskers were just lousy at everything.”


These findings are disquieting to those of us who deal with supreme multitaskers everyday – in the college classroom.  By one estimate, 80 percent of teens today engage in multitasking, where they process information from more than one medium at a time as they attend to their cell phones, TVs, instant messages, and so on. One study observed 400 people for a day and found that 96 percent of them were multitasking about a third of the time they used media.

As we earnestly try to accommodate the younger generation’s need to check their Facebook pages, text message and seemingly everything else not related to the ongoing lecture do we do these kids a disservice?  Last semester I took the draconian step of forbidding the use of laptops in my classroom.  My students weren’t happy – but maybe they actually heard some of what I said.

Adapted from Michael R. Solomon, Consumer Behavior:  Buying, Having and Being 9th ed, Prentice Hall, to be published January 2010.


When does targeting become profiling?

In Chapter 2 on August 26, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Behavioral targeting – or racial profiling? Marketers are testing billboards with tiny cameras that use software to determine that a person is standing in front of a billboard. Then the program analyzes the viewer’s facial features (like cheekbone height and the distance between the nose and the chin) to judge the person’s gender and age. Once the software categorizes the passerby, it selects an advertisement tailored to this profile – an Hispanic teenager for example sees a different message than the middle-aged Asian woman who walks behind him.

How far should marketers go to customize the messages they send us?

Adapted from Michael R. Solomon, Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having and Being 9th ed, Prentice Hall, to be published January 2010:

Color My World

In Chapter 2 on August 21, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Adapted from Michael R. Solomon, Consumer Behavior:  Buying, Having and Being 9th ed, Prentice Hall, to be published January 2010:

Welcome to the new era of sensory marketing, where companies pay extra attention to the impact of sensations on our product experiences. From hotels to carmakers to brewers, they recognize that our senses help us to decide which products appeal to us—and which ones stand out from a host of similar offerings in the marketplace.

For example, researchers report that colors influence our emotions in profound ways. Evidence suggests that some colors (particularly red) create feelings of arousal and stimulate appetite, and others (such as blue) create more relaxing feelings (American Express launched its Blue card after its research found that people describe the color as “providing a sense of limitlessness and peace.”).  Advertisements of products presented against a backdrop of blue are better liked than when shown against a red background, and cross-cultural research indicates a consistent preference for blue whether people live in Canada or Hong Kong.

People who complete tasks when the words or images appear on red backgrounds perform better when they have to remember details, while they excel at tasks that require an imaginative response when these are displayed on blue backgrounds.  Olympic athletes who wear red uniforms are more likely to defeat competitors in blue uniforms, and men rate women who wear red as more attractive than those who wear blue. In one study, interior designers created bars decorated primarily in red, yellow or blue and people were invited to choose one to hang out in. More people chose the yellow and red rooms, and these guests were more social and active. – and ate more.  But, partygoers in the blue room stayed longer. For marketers, color choices may go well beyond aesthetics.

When the inmates run the asylum

In Chapter 1 on August 18, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Adapted from Michael R. Solomon, Consumer Behavior:  Buying, Having and Being 9th ed, Prentice Hall, to be published January 2010:

Consumer-generated content, where everyday people voice their opinions about products, brands, and companies on blogs, podcasts, and social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and even film their own commercials that thousands view on sites such as YouTube, probably is the biggest marketing phenomenon of this decade. The ad a pair of brothers created for Doritos that ran during the 2009 Super Bowl scored top honors as the spot the most viewers remembered – it beat out other expensive entries by a lot of ad pros (many of whom are getting a bit nervous as they look in the rear-view mirror).

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know that already.  Still, even grizzled veterans of Web 2.0 (well, I’m grizzled anyway) need to step back now and then to let the enormity of this cultural shift sink in.   Simply put, we’re seeing a fundamental transformation in the way people on the street relate to popular culture.  Why? Because increasingly we see ourselves not just as consumers of culture but also as producers of culture. Indeed, a recent survey reported that fully 1/3 of young people who use social media such as Facebook and YouTube consider themselves to be broadcasters in addition to audience members!

Heavy Users – or Micro Users?

In Chapter 1 on August 3, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Adapted from the forthcoming (9th edition) of Consumer Behavior (Prentice Hall):

Building loyalty to a brand is a very smart marketing strategy, so sometimes companies define market segments when they identify their most faithful customers or heavy users. As a rule of thumb marketers use the 80/20 rule; 20% of users account for 80% of sales.

How valid is this guideline in today’s micro-fragmented market?  A study Catalina Marketing conductd suggests not very.

Today the logic of the 80/20 rule still applies but the proportions are on steroids:  Catalina’s study of 54 million shoppers reported that only 2.5% of consumers account for 80% of sales for the average package-goods brand.  The 1% of pet owners buy 80% of Iams pet food spend $93 a year on the brand and the 1.2% of beer drinks who account for 80% of Budweiser sales spend $170 on Bud each year. Of the 1,364 brands the researchers studied, only 25 had a consumer base of more than 10% that accounted for 80% of volume.

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