Michael R. Solomon

Archive for the ‘Consumer Behavior’ Category

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:




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.”

DO Make a Spectacle of Yourself

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


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



“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



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


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:


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.


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.

Adonis or Atrocious?

In Chapter 5, Chapter 7, Uncategorized on July 19, 2010 at 10:41 am

Adonis or Atrocious Wood and Solomon 2011

Finally out!  A review of avatar source effects.

Bricks AND Clicks

In Chapter 9 on July 15, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Bricks and clicks Solomon Jul 2010

Leggo My Logo

In Chapter 16 on February 11, 2010 at 11:27 am

It’s not news that brands are everywhere.  Product placement has morphed into branded entertainment which threatens to morph into reality wallpaper that covers our lives wherever we turn.

A brilliant Oscar-nominated animated piece called Logorama produced by a couple of French filmmakers shows what happens when marketers get carried away.  Check out the complete film before they yank it:


Here’s more background on product placement for those who are just now waking up and smelling the coffee (this sentence brought to you by Starbucks):

Back in the day, TV networks demanded that producers “geek” (alter) brand names before they appeared in a show, as when Melrose Place changed a Nokia cell phone to a “Nokio.” Today, real products pop up everywhere. Many are well-established brands that lend an aura of realism to the action, while others are upstarts that benefit tremendously from the exposure. For example, in the movie version of Sex and the City Carrie’s assistant admits that she “borrows” her expensive pricey handbags from a rental Web site called Bag Borrow or Steal. The company’s head of marketing commented, “It’s like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. It gives us instant credibility and recognition.”

Bag Borrow or Steal got a free plug (oops, they got another one here!). In many cases, however, these “plugs” are no accident.  Product placement  is the insertion of real products in fictional movies, TV shows, books, and plays. Many types of products play starring (or at least supporting) roles in our culture; the most visible brands range from Coca-Cola and Nike apparel to the Chicago Bears football team and the Pussycat Dolls band.  The TV shows that feature the most placements include The Biggest Loser (it showed about 4,000 brands in just a three-month period), American Idol (how subtle is that Coca-Cola glass each judge holds?), The Apprentice, America’s Next Top Model, and One Tree Hill. This practice is so commonplace (and profitable) now that it’s evolved into a new form of promotion we call branded entertainment  where advertisers showcase their products in longer-form narrative films instead of brief commercials. For example, SportsCenter on ESPN showed installments of “The Scout presented by Craftsman at Sears,” a 6-minute story about a washed-up baseball scout who discovers a stunningly talented stadium groundskeeper.

Product placement is by no means a casual process: Marketers pay about $25 billion per year to plug their brands in TV and movies. Several firms specialize in arranging these appearances; if they’re lucky they manage to do it on the cheap when they get a client’s product noticed by prop masters who work on the shows. For example, in a cafeteria scene during an episode of Grey’s Anatomy it was no coincidence that the character Izzie Stevens happened to drink a bottle of Izze Sparkling Pomegranate fruit beverage. The placement company that represents PepsiCo paid nothing to insert the prop in that case, but it probably didn’t get off so easily when the new brand also showed up in HBO’s Entourage, Big Bang Theory, and The New Adventures of Old Christine on CBS.

Today most major releases brim with real products, even though a majority of consumers believe the line between advertising and programming is becoming too fuzzy and distracting (though as we might expect, concerns about this blurring of boundaries are more pronounced among older people than younger).  A study reported that consumers respond well to placements when the show’s plot makes the product’s benefit clear. Similarly, audiences had a favorable impression of when a retailer provided furniture, clothes, appliances, and other staples for struggling families who get help on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.


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

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