Michael R. Solomon

Archive for 2017|Yearly archive page

Managing for Media Anarchy: The New Map of Digital Real Estate

In Consumer Behavior on June 1, 2017 at 1:48 pm

 

Published as a guest post on Jamie Turner’s blog, The 60 Second Marketer:

When people discovered that dropping Mentos candies into a bottle of Diet Coke creates a geyser that shoots 20 feet into the air, more than 800 videos flooded the Internet to document the volcanic possibilities.  

To read more, please visit:

http://60secondmarketer.com/blog/2017/06/01/managing-media-anarchy-new-map-digital-real-estate/

 

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Swimming with the (Digital) Fishes: The Perils of Screen Addiction

In Consumer Behavior, self-concept digital identity marketing advertising on May 22, 2017 at 12:25 pm

It’s no secret that many kids (and quite a few grownups as well) are spending a big chink of time everyday in front of a screen (about 11 hours per day on average by some estimates). Some are shopping, some are sexting, maybe a few outliers are doing homework. Many get drawn into immersive multiplayer videogames and literally lose track of time as this alternate universe replaces “reality.”

Parents may find this concerning, but they may be unsure how –or if — they can address the issue. How’s this for “tough love?”A Chinese man got so upset about the amount of time his adult son spent playing videogames that he took a novel approach: He hired “digital hit men” in the form of other gamers to kill off all of his son’s characters in the games.

Psychologists compare screen addiction to chemical dependency, to the point of inducing symptoms of withdrawal when users are deprived of their fix. As one expert noted, “Everyone is a potential addict—they’re just waiting for their drug of choice to come along, whether heroin, running, junk food or social media.”

When Lo Cal is a No Go

In self-concept digital identity marketing advertising on May 11, 2017 at 9:33 am

Weighing scales

The way an offering is presented carries a lot of weight. To read more, please go to http://www.michaelrsolomon.com/blogs/

DO Make a Spectacle of Yourself

In Consumer Behavior, Uncategorized on May 4, 2017 at 9:29 am

TEXACO STAR THEATRE

One approach to break through the advertising clutter and ramp up consumers’ engagement with a brand is to create a spectacle, where the message is itself a form of entertainment.  In the early days of radio and television, ads literally were performances—show hosts integrated marketing messages into the episodes. Today live advertising is making a comeback as marketers try harder and harder to captivate jaded consumers:

  • Jimmy Kimmel did a skit on his night-show program about Quiznos Subs.
  • Axe body products sponsored a posh Hamptons (New York) nightclub for the whole season where it became The Axe Lounge with branding on the DJ booth and menu and Axe products in the restrooms.
  • A British show broadcast a group of skydivers who performed a dangerous jump to create a human formation in the air that spelled out the lettersHOND and A.
  • Honda built a musical road in Lancaster, PA; grooves in the cement create a series of pitches that play the William Tell Overture when a car drives over them.
  • A public health campaign to promote awareness of colorectal cancer erected a 20-foot long inflatable colon in the middle of Times Square.
  • In Hollywood 500 guests showed up for what they thought was the debut of a new TV series called Scarlet. The event was in reality part of a new campaign for LG Electronics’ new line of Scarlet TVs.

It pays to turn your audience into part of the show.  Do make a spectacle of yourself!

 

 

The (Svelte) Chicken or the Egg? Does “the Media” Make us Fatophobic?

In Consumer Behavior, self-concept digital identity marketing advertising on May 1, 2017 at 9:07 am

Depositphotos_62256353_l-2015

 

“The media” gets a heavy dose of  criticism when it gives us what we crave:  Images of slim, hot women or buffed men.

Are advertisers to blame for showing us what we expect to see?  Fattism is deeply ingrained in our culture: As early as nursery school age, children prefer drawings of peers in wheelchairs, on crutches, or with facial disfigurements to those of fat children. During one two month period, four young Brazilian women died in widely publicized cases of anorexia, which sparked an international debate about body image and eating disorders. The first to die was a 21-year-old model who stood 5 feet, 8 inches tall but weighed slightly more than 80 pounds when she collapsed at a fashion shoot in Japan.  In one survey, more than twice as many female respondents said they were concerned about their weight than about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. Only 40 percent said they were satisfied with their physical appearance.

Can – or will – “the media” (whatever that is) change this predilection?  In Spain, the government imposed a controversial ban on extremely thin models as measured by their body mass index, or BMI (a formula that takes into account both height and weight). It requires a BMI greater than 17.4 for female models younger than 18 years old, or 18.5 for models older than 18 years old. For a 5-foot, 9-inch model older than 18, that translates to a weight requirement of 126 pounds. Unilever, in turn, banned the use of so-called “size 0” models in its ads for products ranging from Lux shower gel and Sunsilk shampoo to Slim-Fast diet drinks.

In one of the most blatant (and effective) government-sponsored propaganda efforts in recent history, bureaucrats during World War II blanketed our country with images of Rosie the Riveter, a heavily-muscled factory worker.   The campaign aimed to change women’s expectations about themselves and drive them from their homes into factories to take the place of their men who were otherwise occupied on the battlefield.  Rosie’s success is but one illustration that “the media” can in fact engineer the way we think about ourselves.  But, be careful what you wish for:  Whoever is in charge gets to decide what a “desirable” body should be.

The Digital Self: Cosplay is Not Just Child’s Play

In Consumer Behavior, Uncategorized on April 27, 2017 at 11:22 am

 

Depositphotos_113631178_l-2015

As I frequently talk about in my keynotes, one of the fundamental changes in consumer behavior today is an erosion of the boundaries between offline and online activity. For millions of people, the distinction is irrelevant. They cross back-and-forth numerous times every day – and many exist simultaneously in both realms as they navigate the physical world while immersed in their phones.

One consequence of this profound shift is that we need to be vigilant about the impression we make in both domains. Identity management is a fundamental social concern in our social and professional lives – both in the physical world and in the online world.  It’s a priority no matter whether we network in an office building or at a virtual trade show, or flirt in a bar or on Facebook.

As consumers effortlessly travel back and forth between their physical and digital environments, this movement creates tremendous new business opportunities – just as a busy highway generates demand for rest areas!

Already we see a cottage industry emerging as consultants offer to customize Facebook profiles and help people generate a photo or avatar to represent their online identity.  That’s one example of what happens when we travel into our online reality, but what happens when we make the return trip back to the real world?

Researchers are just starting to investigate how our experiences in online formats stay with us when we return to our corporeal selves. We know that when we assume an avatar identity, we transfer many of the interaction norms we use in the physical world. Just as in real life, male avatars in Second Life leave more space between them when they talk to other males than when these users talk to virtual females, and they are less likely to maintain eye contact than are females.

Work on so-called “Proteus effects” demonstrates that the social feedback experimental subjects receive when they assume a virtual identity (such as being accepted or rejected by avatars of the opposite sex) lingers when they later interact with people in the real world.  Rejection hurts, whether you receive it in an online format or as your physical self.

On a more optimistic note, the early evidence that our virtual encounters shape our “real world” self-concepts present some promising therapeutic and marketing implications:  Consider for example the potential to elevate the self-esteem of the thousands of disabled people who currently patronize virtual worlds like Second Life gathering spots, where they can easily talk, flirt, and even dance.  Or, think about the virtual branding experiences we accumulate during the course of our cyberjourneys; their lasting impact provides yet another reason to take emerging practices like advergaming very seriously.

In addition, the fantasy identities people create online sometimes travel back with them:  Witness the growing global phenomenon of cosplay, where participants congregate at restaurants, clubs and conventions in full regalia as their avatars or other favorite characters from comic books and movies.  We can expect this activity to influence fashion trends, licensing deals and perhaps the entertainment industry as social gamers and moviegoers increasingly import media characters into their daily lives.

 As these applications proliferate (and they will), the outmoded distinction between a real world and a virtual one will disappear. This process will bring us back full-circle to the task of identity management, regardless of whether the self we project is made of atoms or pixels.

 

The Digital Self: You Are What You POST

In Chapter 6, Consumer Behavior, self-concept digital identity marketing advertising on April 24, 2017 at 9:25 am

Depositphotos_83400794_original

In a recent post, I wrote about the prevalence of “fake news” with regard to the images of men and women we see in advertising:

http://michaelrsolomon.com/2017/04/17/the-photoshopped-self-fake-news-or-the-new-reality/

I noted that people have been manipulating their images for centuries. But the big news today is that mainstream consumers now employ the same methods that used to be available only to the rich and famous as they actively manage their digital selves.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the entire cosmetics and apparel industrial complex owes its very existence to the desires of the masses to manage their social identities. Professional “identity managers” assume many forms, from hairstylists and cosmetologists to wardrobe consultants and resume writers. Doctors perform nearly 860,000 cosmetic-surgery procedures in the U.S. each year alone.  In some circles nose jobs or breast implants are part of the rite-of-passage for teenage girls, and an increasing number of men spring for pectoral enlargements.

We may still need a trained surgeon to reshape a troublesome nose, but we can undertake other makeovers on our own. This is especially true when it comes to the identity we express on digital platforms. As I noted previously, Hugh Hefner probably owes his fortune to the abilities of the technicians who created Playboy’s centerfolds beginning in the 1950s – these airbrushed women literally do not exist, at least as they appear in the magazine.

Today, many techie teenagers can effortlessly produce the same results with PhotoShop or even SnapChat.  Millions of us manage – and embellish — our digital identities when we strategically populate a Facebook profile page or post a self-aggrandizing entry (perhaps with vintage photo from 20 years ago to match) on an online dating site.

Many marketers don’t seem to grasp the steady expansion of their customers’ energies and even their very identities into online realms. Indeed, the firm line many of us draw between “real world” and “online” activities grows increasingly porous; the distinction will probably seem quaint to our grandchildren.  Already many millions of consumers commute back and forth between their real and digital selves multiple times each day. It’s unlikely that the 10 million kids who visit a virtual world like Habbo Hotel for an hour or more each day would regard that aspect of their lives differently from the time they spend running on the playground.  A lot of kids really are what they post, and so are their parents.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Color Me Sold

In Consumer Behavior, Uncategorized on April 20, 2017 at 8:06 am

Social engineering concept

 

 

 

Back in the day, an executive at Campbell’s Soup reportedly chose the red and white iconic can because he liked the colors of Cornell’s football uniform. Today we know that color choices can’t be made so casually.

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 go well beyond aesthetics or nostalgia for college uniforms.

The PhotoShopped Self: Fake News or the New Reality?

In Uncategorized on April 17, 2017 at 8:37 am

Mature woman body before and after liposuction. Plastic surgery concept.

In Israel, an advertiser must state if it has used any kind of digital editing to create a slimmer model. Norway, France, and now the U.S. are considering similar measures.

For now, let’s put aside the rebuttal by industry insiders that this practice is so pervasive such a law is highly impractical.  Let’s also side-step the more abstract philosophical arguments about how we know that anything is real.

The debate more generally highlights our fundamental tendency to believe that what we see in the media is “real” unless we are otherwise advised – and likewise our tendency to put more stock in what we see than in what we know.  The true reality: Most of us are quite gullible and we’re quite content to be so.  We willingly “suspend disbelief” any time we attend a live theatre production or watch a television sitcom.  During these performances we enter into an unwritten compact with the show’s creators to assume that what we see is really happening.  Even the current craze for “reality shows” belies the fact that there’s very little that’s real about them.  Contestants are carefully screened, often coached, and sometimes willing to say or do whatever it takes to stand in the media spotlight.

Performances and marketing communications alike need to “sell” the receiver to achieve their objectives.  Sophisticated digital technologies that remove cellulite or add higher cheekbones simply make the sales job a bit easier.  Editing, whether roughshod or subtle, has been a fact of life for eons.

You don’t need to be a supermodel to “manage” the way you appear to others.  In fact we all do it every day.  If we didn’t, we would have no need for mirrors. Sixty years ago, the sociologist Erving Goffman, among others, wrote extensively about the elaborate process of impression management.  Since that time, volumes of social psychological studies have empirically documented the preening process and the huge impact physical appearance exerts on our judgments of those around us (“beauty is only skin deep, but ugly is to the bone”).

Furthermore, we know that our perceptions of our own attractiveness profoundly influence feelings of self-worth as well.  Way back in 1902, the sociologist Charles Horton Cooley wrote about the looking-glass self that operates as a sort of psychological sonar: We take readings of our own identity when we “bounce” signals off others and try to project their impression of us. Like the distorted mirrors in a funhouse, our appraisal of who we are depends on whose (imagined) perspectives we take.  We also calibrate these sonar readings to the external standards we adopt:  Studies show that young women alter their perceptions of their own body shapes and sizes after they watch as little as 30 minutes of TV programming.

But these standards have always been idealized. Throughout history, cultural elites and rulers have meticulously edited the impression they communicate to their peers and followers.  It’s hard to imagine that Julius Caesar, George Washington, or the British royal family (past and present) didn’t have strong opinions about which of their images would adorn currency or portraiture and the details that might appear (most likely with some embellishment) in official biographies.  Today of course a massive public relations machine carefully crafts the images of celebrity clients. And, our First Lady’s recent settlement in a libel suit against The Daily Mail to protect her image as “…one of the most photographed women in the world” speaks volumes about the careful cultivation of a public persona.

Every society anoints certain men and women as aesthetic ideals, and motivates emulation of these ideals as it rewards attractive people (however defined) and makes life a bit more difficult for the rest of us. While there is legitimate cause for concern, the current discourse about the demoralizing impact of digitally altered photography is old wine in new bottles. Just as the victors in a war get to write its history, people with resources always get to manipulate the image they convey to others. Today they just have access to more powerful tools that enable them to do this.

Here’s what is different now: Mainstream consumers can play with the same tools as they too carefully sculpt their public images. At the risk of stating the obvious, the entire cosmetics and apparel industrial complex owes its very existence to the desires of the masses to manage their social identities. Professional “identity managers” assume many forms, from hairstylists and cosmetologists to wardrobe consultants and resume writers. And, more radical approaches that used to be available only to those with significant resources now are in the mix as well.  Doctors perform nearly 860,000 cosmetic-surgery procedures in the U.S. each year alone.  In some circles nose jobs or breast implants are part of the rite-of-passage for teenage girls, and an increasing number of men spring for pectoral enlargements.

We may still need a trained surgeon to reshape a troublesome nose, but we can undertake other makeovers on our own. This is especially true when it comes to the identity we express on digital platforms. Professional editors have long been able to wield their airbrushes to give us advertising images of breathtakingly beautiful people who literally do not exist in the real world. Indeed Hugh Hefner probably owes his fortune to the abilities of the technicians who created Playboy’s centerfolds beginning in the 1950s.   Today, many techie teenagers can effortlessly produce the same results with PhotoShop or even SnapChat.  Millions of us manage – and embellish — our digital identities when we strategically populate a Facebook profile page or post a self-aggrandizing ad (perhaps with vintage photo from 20 years ago to match) on an online dating site. To repurpose an old joke, “On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog.”

 

Four Reasons Why You WANT Your Customers to Complain (to YOU)

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2017 at 8:56 am

woman holding, opening gift box, displeased with what she received

 

From ihatestarbucks.com to boycottwalmart.meetup.com, irritated customers have launched hundreds of gripe sites to air their grievances against companies. The practice is so widespread that some firms proactively buy unflattering domain names to keep other people from buying them. Xerox, for example, registered xeroxstinks.com, xeroxcorporationsucks.com, and ihatexerox.net. About 20,000 domain names end in “sucks.com.” About one-third of these sites are registered to none other than the companies they slam; owners include Walmart Stores, Coca-Cola, Toys “R” Us, Target, and Whole Foods Market.

A number of factors influence what we’ll do after we’ve been wronged. People are more likely to take action if they’re dissatisfied with expensive products such as household durables, cars, and clothing than for problems with inexpensive products. Ironically, consumers who are satisfied with a store in general are more likely to complain if they experience something bad; they take the time to complain because they feel connected to the store. And, if a company resolves the problem, a customer feels even better about it than if she hadn’t complained in the first place! The moral: Although nobody likes criticism, organizations should encourage people to complain for these reasons:

  1. They get the chance to correct the situation.
  2. They will avoid an escalating problem that results when consumers take to social media to let others know they’ve been treated badly. People are more likely to spread the word about unresolved negative experiences to their friends than they are to boast about positive occurrences.
  3. They collect valuable insights about customers’ experiences that will (hopefully) help them to improve for future customers.
  4. If the consumer does not believe that the store will respond to her complaint, she will be more likely to simply switch than fight as she just takes her business elsewhere.
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