Music by design

Music by design

Music they say has healing powers. True that. It can lift your spirit. It can relax you. It can set your heart pumping faster. But could music influence you to buy wine from a particular country?

In a study of exactly that question, four French and four German wines, matched for price and dryness, were placed on the shelves of a supermarket in England. French and German music were played on alternate days from a deck on the top shelf of the display. And indeed, on days when the French music played, 77 percent of the wine purchased was French, while on the days of German music, 73 percent of the wine purchased was German. (Source: Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow)

As people strolled down the aisle they looked at different wines, pondering on each label concerning the grapes each wine is made from, the wine’s vintage, cost, etc. They consciously weighed all that information, and in addition they’d probably considered what they’ll be eating with the wine. But what worked on their sub-conscious mind was the music. And a little nudge like music turned out to be key in influencing their decision of the origin of wine.

When asked whether the music influenced their choice, only one shopper in seven said that it had, while the truth was just the opposite. And that’s because we don’t realize the extent of influence our environment has in our decision- making.

The next time you visit McDonalds, notice the pace of music. Greater the crowd, faster the music. Faster the music, quicker the food consumption. Quicker the food consumption, quicker the tables turn free. I’m not sure if they play slow music when the restaurant is relatively empty. Though that could make people eat slower and sit longer, creating the perception that the restaurant has a good number of visitors and is therefore doing well.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

Eyes are the window to your bedroom

We have often heard the phrase ‘Eyes are the window to the soul’. I believe it too, but I have found it difficult to explain how exactly looking into someone’s eyes says something about them or about what was going in their minds. Here’s an interesting finding.

In which one of the photographs, do you find the model more attractive? A or B?

Most of the men find picture B to be more attractive (unless you are into the ‘bitchy’ kinds). While both the pictures are the same, in picture B the size of pupils has been dilated.

Studies have shown that our pupils dilate wider than normal when we are excited about something and even someone. In 1965, pupillometry pioneer and psychologist Eckhard Hess asked men to compare the attractiveness of images of women with average-sized pupils to drawings in which the women’s pupil sizes were enhanced. Hess noted that “none of the men reported noticing the difference in pupil size” between the pictures, but the subtle change seemed to subconsciously influence the level of attraction they felt for the woman. When the woman had large pupils, she was said to be soft, more feminine and pretty, while when the very same woman had small pupils, the men described her as cold, hard and selfish. Therefore, men may unwittingly read pupil dilation as an advertisement of interest. Now I know why everyone seems so attractive at candle-light dinners!

Are women attracted to men with large pupils? The answer is sometimes. Apparently for women, smaller pupils being more attractive in a mate holds true, if they are into the ‘bad boy’ type or are seeking a short term fling. While women who preferred men with larger sized pupils sought long term relationships with ‘nice guys’ more often than not.

Given the above, I now feel the eyes are less of a window to one’s soul and more of a window to his or her bedroom.

Don’t worry, just drink

Trust building marketing initiativeBack when I used to work at Lowe Lintas, I used to strategize for a brand called Pureit, the water purifier from Hindustan Unilever. The product was test marketed in Chennai and at that point in time, 83% of households used to boil water for drinking purposes, as the water condition in Chennai was (and is) extremely bad. Moreover doctors had always been recommending to boil water. So boiled water was considered the gold standard in drinking water.

The challenge for us was to create the market for water purification systems and more precisely, to change the behaviour of the conservative Tamilians, who had been boiling water for generations, to let go of their old ‘boiling’ habit and switch to Hindustan Lever Pureit. We had created an ad campaign for Pureit, which ultimately went on to win an EFFIE – the advertising effectiveness award, but the ad campaign started only months after the actual launch.

Here’s the interesting part and probably the most effective piece of behavioural design we had implemented – we placed Pureit water purifier at doctor’s clinics. We requested doctors in Chennai to keep Pureit in their clinics as a service to their patients. Doctors agreed and Pureit was placed in thousands of clinics, with a sticker of it being ‘As safe as boiled water’ and another sticker of the toll-free number, which people could call to find out more. This simple intervention served as a sampler, product demonstrator, trial generator, doctor endorser, people-convincer and lead generator all in one.

People believed that the doctor wouldn’t keep the purifier in his clinic, if it weren’t safe enough for his patients to drink. So they drank without worrying, and many Tamilians changed their habit of boiling water, by switching to Pureit.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

Beware of large crockery

Beware of large crockery from the blog Behavioural DesignSo you’ve been trying to lose weight since sometime. And you’ve bought new fitness wear, taken membership to the gym, tried yoga, consulted a dietician, gone on different kinds of diets, even skipped meals, bought your favorite dress a size smaller so that you will motivate yourself to lose weight, but nothing has helped?

Try a simpler way. A few years ago, Brian Wansink invited a group of friends to a party and secretly conducted an experiment. Each guest was randomly given a Medium or Large sized bowl accompanied with a Medium or Large sized spoon respectively. The guests then helped themselves to ice-cream. Seconds before the guests took their first mouthful, the researchers weighed the bowls. Results revealed that those who were given the Large bowls and Large spoons had, on an average, taken 31% more ice-cream than their Medium bowls and spoons counterparts. Andrew Geier and his colleagues from University of Pennsylvania demonstrated that this effect is not confined to ice-cream and parties. In their study, a bowl of M&Ms was left in the hallway of an apartment, along with a spoon and a sign saying ‘Eat your fill: please use the spoon to serve yourself’. On some days they kept a teaspoon and on others a tablespoon. Findings revealed that using the larger spoon caused people to take almost twice as many M&Ms from the bowl.

So try replacing your crockery and cutlery with smaller sized ones and let me know if it works.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

Ek haath de, doosre haath le

Give and take

The headline translates to ‘Give with one hand, take with the other’. Right from the time we were 2 years old we’ve been taught how important it is to give and share our toys with others. But little do we realize that we can benefit immensely if we use this philosophy by design, to affect persuasion in our daily lives or even in business.

Here’s an interesting experiment conducted by psychologist Dravid Strohmetz that illustrates how spontaneous favors can elicit the need to reciprocate. In the experiment, waiters of a restaurant handed over bills to their customers, with or without sweets. In the first situation, diners were given their bills without any sweets at all. Then a second group was given one sweet. This simple gesture of kindness resulted an increase in tip of a mere 3%. The third group of diners received two sweets each; and compared to the first group, they gave 14% larger tips. Not bad. However, here comes the clever bit. For the fourth group, the waiter was asked to present the bill to the customers along with one sweet each, then, just as he was about to turn away from the table, he reached into his pocket and quickly handed everyone a second sweet. In terms of sweets per customer, everyone ended up with two sweets – the same as the customers in the third group. But psychologically this was very different. The waiter had just carried out an unnecessary and nice favor, and because of that, tipping increased by 23% as a result of the need of reciprocating the favor.

Simply put, we like people who help us, and we help people we like. So if you want help, try helping others first.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

Do the right thing

Here’s a smart way of how design can be at the core of how your company does business. This was in the news in the US in 2008, but is increasingly becoming relevant to the way design can be applied to get better business results today.

U.P.S, the logistics company, realized that their trucks would sit in the left lane, engine idling, waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, so that it could make a left-hand turn, something that was wasteful — of time and peace of mind, for sure, but also of gas and therefore money. We’re talking about more than 95,000 big brown trucks delivering packages every day. U.P.S realized that when you operate a gigantic fleet of vehicles, tiny improvements in the efficiency of each truck, translates to huge savings overall. So here’s what they did:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak2GqmrUnVw&w=420&h=315]

This design thinking helped UPS shave over 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes. That in turn resulted in saving roughly three million gallons of gas! It also reduced CO2 emissions by 31,000 metric tons.

So next time you are in any of the cramped metros of India (which would be quite often), plan your route so that you take as many free left turns as possible.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

Design can work in unexpected ways

The image of a small black fly inside the white urinals in the men’s bathroom has helped reduce spillage rates in the men’s rooms at airports. Yes its true. In response to dirty bathrooms caused by men urinating on the floor, an airport maintenance worker Jos Van Bedoff suggested that they etch the image of a fly onto the urinals to give men something to aim at as they hurry to and from flights. According to NPR science correspondent Robert Krulwich, who gave a fuller account of the story, the man thought back to his time serving in the Dutch army during the 1960s, when red dots had been painted on the latrines in the barracks to improve cleanliness. Sure enough, spillage rates in the airport men’s room dropped an estimated 80 percent after the fly was introduced, leading to a much cleaner bathroom. Fascinating how men instinctively aim at targets, and how a routine action can be disrupted by a simple, strategically placed graphic design.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

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