December 18, 2008

Text from the side of a can of Glory Foods collard greens:

“Glory Foods Sensibly Seasoned vegetables are savory, lower sodium, seasoned without meat products that taste great.”

Proof that the underappreciated hyphen is not a punctuation mark to be ignored.

December 15, 2008

Previously I have done all my pumpkin blogging on the jewelry site– obviously wildly thematically inappropriate, so I’m moving it on over here, thus bringing to a screeching halt the appearance that this is going to be a marketing research blog only.

I have 7 winter squash and pumpkins of varying sizes left over from my autumn squash-buying frenzy. I took on the warty green hubbard yesterday. Luckily I went straight to the throw-it-off-the-front-porch method of opening, because even AFTER I had opened it, I stil couldn’t cut it with my butcher knife. I roasted it in two very large halves,a dn when I scopped the flesh out, I could see that the hard shell was nearly a half inch thick. No kidding. Kinda scary.

So I’m in my art show booth, people are coming in and out. I’m a confirmed introvert, but I want to be a good retailer. Do I greet every one, whether they make eye contact or not? Should I try to engage them in conversation? How come they seem to leave immediately whenever I stand up and say hello?

Well, I have no idea. We introverted types need a “handbook of human interaction” or something.  So when I came across “Rapport Building Behaviors Used By Retail Employees”*, I was hoping for some insight.  Most of it was exactly what you’d expect: customers like attentive, courteous, personal, helpful behavior.  Wow. Who’da thunk it?

One little bit did catch my eye, though: they identified a number of rapport-building strategies, but found that customer’s perception of rapport did not increase when several of these strategies were used at once. So one at a time will do.  If you can manage to be very good at some rapport-building behaviors when the situation requires it, that’s enough. You don’t have to try to charm their pants off the whole time they’re in your booth.

Still seems like some of these behaviors are turn-offs in an art show setting. I’d be interested to  find research explaining why that might be.


*D. Gremler, K. Gwinner. (2008). Journal of Retailing 84:3. 308-324.

Mere Categorization

December 11, 2008

Here’s an interesting one: apparently there’s some evidence that just putting things into more categories makes shoppers happier, even if you don’t actually change the numbers of things on offer. They* call it the “Mere Categorization Effect”.  So yes, you don’t have to actually increase the variety of options in order to make people feel like they have a good choice and afterward feel good about their own choice– all you have to do is divide things up and give them a label. If the category happens to be informative and useful, so much the better.  But it doesn’t need to be in order for there to be an effect. 

The researchers think it’s a perceptual cue that helps people identify differences among things. Too much variety all mushed up can make it hard on people (especially those who aren’t already familiar with the choices) to see the differences between similar things, which makes them not feel as in control of their choice. That’s a big turn-off, and sometimes leads to the result that they feel overwhelmed, give up, and leave without purchasing– but a shopper who feels fully informed and in control of the implications of their decision is a happy shopper.  And the simple act of dividing things up a little more can make them feel that way.

 This seems easy enough to implement by artists and crafters, whether the display is bins of prints, trays of pendants, a table filled with scarves or vases. For me, as I mentioned, I use frames to display my work. Some of them can hold a large number of items– in particular, my earring display usually holds over 80 pairs.  I thought that the more I had out, the easier it would be for someone to find the right pair for them.  But it sounds like I’d do better dividing that one display into several smaller displays–  if I do it right, it might seem like I have more variety even if I don’t actually have as many pairs out.  Nifty!


*Mogilner, Rudnick, and Iyengar. 2008. “The Mere Categorization Effect: How the presence of categories increases chooser’s perception of assortment variety and outcome satisfaction”. Journal of Consumer Research 35: August. 202-215.

Circles and Squares

December 10, 2008

Every now and then I like to browse through marketing research journals to see what research is being done out there that might give me a better grip on how to approach things in my business.  I do art shows, have work in galleries, and sell online. I need all the marketing help I can get.

An article by Michael Maimaran and S. Christian Wheeler caught my eye yesterday: “Circles, Squares, and Choice: The Effect of Shape Arrays on Uniqueness and Variety Seeking”*.

Ok, I make a lot of pendants. In my art show booth, I display them in frames. There are lots of circles, squares, and diamonds, and no two are alike.  Plus, I imagine that a desire for uniqueness is a good part of what makes my customers tick, so natually this caught my eye. What they did was show people a simple array of shapes, either on their own or in the context of some other distractor task, and then allow them to choose from among several items for a reward.  Bottom line, when people had been shown a set of shapes with only one item different (the uniqueness condition), they tended to go for the items that were unique. And when they were shown a varied set of shapes, they went for a variety of items.  It’s pretty interesting, because just this meaningless set of shapes was enough to get them thinking about the value of uniqueness, or the value of variety, and influence their choices in an entirely different decision task.

Now, with respect to my booth, I’m not sure what wisdom to draw from this.  My display has both uniqueness and variety in spades. But maybe if I want to focus someone’s attention on a particular piece, I can change how I have things organized– I wonder if I present a row of circular pendants and throw in one square one, if that square one will draw people’s attention, and cause them to pick a unique item– either that square, or another.

Having various shapes mixed together as I tend to do may make people feel good about the variety available, but since most do not buy a selection of items (Alas– I’d love it if they did!), switching the organization to help them think about uniqueness may help them make their choice– or make help them want to make a choice in the first place.

*Journal of Marketing Research 45 (December 2008), 731-740

Hello world!

December 10, 2008

Not sure I really need a second blog, but here we are.  I’m  a paper/jewelry artist, see, and I have another blog ostensibly dedicated to showing off my handiwork and keeping people updated about my business, but I keep wanting to write about things wholly unrelated to art there. This doesn’t really help my business much, so I’ve exiled all (well, most) off-topic posts to this new blog.

Things I’m likely to write about here: cooking, gardening (herbs, pumpkins), and arts business stuff, but no promises.

No promises at all. I will aim to update weekly, and see how that goes. Low expectations is the name of the game for now.