Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Social Influences on Consumption

A nice summary article on the effects of social influences, brands, and marketing on consumption choice in the Toronto Star. I still think this is very odd stuff. A few highlights:

To analyze shoppers buying batteries, for example, she asked her mystery shoppers to stand at a rack looking at camera film located near a rack of batteries. There was no interaction between the battery shoppers and the film browsers. Argo wanted to know if the mere presence of another shopper affected a buyer's choice. It did.

When anyone was standing beside the battery shoppers, most would buy the most expensive brand. If no one was there, they'd buy a cheaper brand; if there was a crowd of three or more, they would always buy the expensive brand.


The brain scans measure neural activity and, for the marketing tests, the increase in oxygen to the part of the brain associated with pleasant emotions. When appealing images are presented to a subject, the pleasure part of his or her brain lights up on the scans.

The most famous application is a 2004 study in which researchers monitored brain scans of 67 people who were given both Coca-Cola and Pepsi. In the first test, results were evenly split on their favourite drink.

In a follow-up test, however, they were told which brand they were drinking, and more people said they preferred Coke.

"That tells me brands matter," says Moore. "When people knew it was Coke, more of their brains lit up."

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