How the world’s best marketer got it wrong, but eventually got it right

How the world's best marketer got it wrong, but eventually got it right

The world’s best marketer – P&G launched a brand called Febreze in the US in 1996 as a spray that could remove bad smells from almost any fabric. The spray had been created when one of the P&G scientists was working with a substance called hydroxypropyl beta cyclodextrin (HPBCD). Apparently he was a smoker and one day when he got back from work his wife asked, “Did you quit smoking?” “No”, he said looking suspiciously. “You don’t smell like smoke”, she said.

P&G sensing a big opportunity spent millions perfecting the formula, producing colorless, odorless liquid that could make any stinky couch or jacket scentless. The marketing team decided that they should position Febreze as something that would allow people to rid themselves of embarrassing smells. They created two television commercials. The first showed a woman talking about how her jacket smell of cigarettes when she eats in the smoking section of a restaurant and the other, had a woman speak about her furniture smelling like her dog. In both cases Febreze eliminated the bad smells.

Febreze bombed.

P&G hired behavioural experts to help them figure out the problem and the new solution. When they visited a woman’s home, they observed that though her house was clean and organized, it stinked of her nine cats. The smell was overpowering but the woman couldn’t notice any smell. They figured that even the strongest scent fades with constant exposure. People who needed Febreze the most simply couldn’t detect bad smells in the first place!

They met hundreds of consumers looking for clues how to make Febreze a regular part of their lives. One day they met a woman, who used Febreze everyday. She used to spray Febreze whenever she would finish cleaning a room. Like in the bedroom, she vacuumed, made the bed, plumped the pillows, tightened the bed sheet’s corners, smiled with a sense of accomplishment and then took a Febreze bottle and sprayed it as a final touch. They saw the same pattern across thousands of hours of videotapes of people cleaning their homes.

That was it. The team decided to make Febreze a fun part of cleaning, at the end of the cleaning routine. They added more perfume, so that instead of merely neutralizing odors, Febreze had its own distinct smell. Febreze was repositioned as the nice smell that occurs at the end of the cleaning routine. Instead of eliminating scents, it became an air freshener, used as the finishing touch.  Febreze was relaunched in 1998. Housewives started craving the Febreze scent and the desire to make everything smell as nice as it looked. Within two months sales doubled. Now Febreze sales are more than $1 billion per year and products include candles, laundry detergents, kitchen spays, etc. P&G learned the lesson – no one craves scentlessness.

Source: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Hear the full story from Charles Duhigg here.

Mirroring others behaviour can get you likes

Mirroring others behaviour can get you likes

Often during a meeting or a negotiation we subconsciously mirror our colleagues’ or negotiators’ posture. The typical response is to change our posture, as if there were something wrong with being influenced by the other. However the following research suggests the exact opposite: Mirroring behaviour results in better outcomes for both.

Researcher William Maddux and colleagues conducted an experiment wherein MBA students were instructed to subtly mirror their partner during negotiation (e.g. lean back if the other person does) or not asked to mirror their partner. When one party was instructed to mirror the other, the two parties reached a deal 67% of the time. When they weren’t told to mirror the other, the parties reached a deal only 12.5% of the time.

Based on additional data from the research, they concluded that mirroring behaviour led to increased trust, and that increased trust typically led one negotiator to feel comfortable disclosing details that were ultimately necessary to break a stalemate and create a win-win situation for both parties.

Another research by Rick van Baaren and colleagues found that waiters at a restaurant increased their tip size by nearly 70% simply by matching their customers’ verbalizations, repeating back word for word the customer’s order, as opposed to saying “okay” or merely nodding.

Social psychologists Tanya Chartrand and John Barg say that matching behaviour of others creates feelings of liking and strengthens bonds between two people. It makes us say “yes” and do nice things for people we like.

At the same time, you don’t want your interaction to come across as mocking the other person. So the key is subtlety.

Sources: William Maddux, Elizabeth Mullen and Adam Galinsky – Chameleons bake bigger pies and take bigger pieces: Strategic behavioral mimicry facilitates negotiations outcomes – Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44, no. 2: 461-68 (March 2008)

Rick van Baaren, Rob Holland, Brejge Steenart, Ad van Knippenberg – Mimicry for money: Behavioral consequences of Imitation – Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 39, no. 4:393-98 (July 2003)

Tanya Chatrand and John Bargh – The chameleon effect: The perception-behavior link and social interaction – Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 76, no. 6: 893-910 (June 1999)

Haath laga ke dekh (Try touching me)

Haath laga ke dekh

Hello from New York. We’re here to attend MakerCon and MakerFaire and meet interesting people like authors, professors, makers, inventors, innovators, chip designers, product designers, design thinkers and of course behavioural scientists. More on that later.

Continuing with the blogpost, translated in English ‘Haath laga ke dekh’ means ‘Try touching me’, used here in a challenging tone and manner. You’ll hear a lot of it at crowded places like railway stations, bus stops, inside trains and buses where people jostle for space and there’s an invariable brushing of elbows and shoulders. Leading to mock fights of the ‘Hungama’ Bollywood movie-type, where men challenge one another saying ‘Haath laga ke dekh’.

But in this post we’ll be focusing on the positive aspect of touching. How and why touching can sub-consciously lead to positive outcomes. By touching we mean, a gentle brief touch to the forearm, for example, not the touchy-feely kinds.

In the study ‘The Effect of Touch on Women’s Behaviour’ by N. Gueguen, French men randomly approached 240 young women by saying, “Hello. My name is Antoine. I just want to say that I think you’re really pretty – I need to go to work now – but if you’d give me your number – I’ll call you later – and we could have a drink together someplace.” If the women refused, they’d say, “Its not my day. Have a good evening.” If they got her number, they’d tell her it was just a study, and the women would laugh. With half the women, the young men added a light one-second touch to the woman’s forearm. The other half were not touched. I know what you are thinking – what would happen if it were India? But stay with me on this one. I’ll give you other examples to illustrate the point too.

Outcome: When the young men didn’t touch, their success rate was 10% and when they touched, it was 20%. Why did it happen? Women didn’t think like Antoine is such a good toucher. It happened because on a sub-conscious level, touch imparts a subliminal sense of caring and connection. Social neuroscientist pioneer Ralph Adolphs says that nerve fibers especially in the face and arm are directly connected to areas of the brain such as the insular cortex, which is associated with emotion.

Subtle touching, like briefly on the arm, has provided a positive outcome in many researches and experiments – from increasing tips for servers in restaurants and bars, to the servers suggestion to order a particular dish being accepted more often, to the increase in percentage of shoppers in a supermarket purchasing the food they sampled, to the proportion of shoppers in a mall willing to answer a survey, to a 2010 study of Basketball in Berkeley that found that the number of high fives, chest bumps, hugs, etc. correlated significantly with the degree of cooperation among teammates and wins.

Haath laga ke dekh. Try touching, this time used in a persuasive manner 🙂

How to spot a liar

How to spot a liar

Some light reading on a Monday for a change.

You may have heard about the usual signs of how to spot when someone is lying, like liars tending to avoid eye contact or covering their mouths when talking or developing sweaty hands and faces or giving long and rambling answers to questions. Though intuitively appealing, it’s difficult to rely on these as proof, as these are also signs of nervousness and not necessarily proof for lying.

There is one scientific proof that can be relied with accuracy: Scientists at the Smell and Taste Treatment & Research Foundation found that when you lie, chemicals known as catecholamines are released, causing the tissue inside the nose to swell. Special imaging cameras showed that intentional lying causes an increase in blood pressure, which inflates the nose and causes the nerve endings in the nose to tingle, which makes you want to rub your nose briskly to get rid of the itch.

American neurologist Dr. Alan Hirsch and psychiatrist Charles Wolf did an extensive analysis of Bill Clinton’s testimony on his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and found that he touched his nose about 26 times when lying. Conversely, Bill Clinton did not touch his nose at all when he answered truthfully.

Hope you will use this knowledge with discretion. If you see us rubbing our noses in the meeting, it could be because we’re suffering from hay fever or cold.

What you wear can affect how you act

What you wear can affect how you act

We feel confident when we wear good clothes, and may be not that confident when wearing clothes we feel not good enough. Seems intuitive. But did you know that if you wear a white coat that you believe belongs to a doctor, your ability to pay attention increases sharply. While if you wear the same white coat believing it belongs to a painter, you will show no such improvement.

Dr. Adam Galinsky, a professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and his colleague Hoja Adam call this phenomenon ‘enclothed cognition’ to describe the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes. That’s a play off the term ‘embodied cognition’, a line of research that examines the ways bodily sensations influence our thoughts and emotions.

As a test of the ‘enclothed cognition’ perspective, their research explored the effects of wearing a lab coat on ordinary people. They had to look at two very similar pictures side by side on a screen and spot four minor differences. It was found that attention (finding more number of differences) did not increase when the coat was not worn or associated with a painter. Attention only increased when the coat was a) worn and b) associated with a doctor. The effect occurs only if you actually wear the coat and know its symbolic meaning — physicians tend to be careful, rigorous and good at paying attention.

“There is a huge body of work on embodied cognition”, says Dr. Galinsky. “The experience of washing your hands is associated with moral purity and ethical judgments. People rate others personally warmer if they hold a hot drink in their hand, and colder if they hold an iced drink. Other experiments have shown that women who dress in a masculine fashion during a job interview are more likely to be hired, and a teaching assistant who wears formal clothes is perceived as more intelligent than one who dresses more casually.”

Illustration by (now you don’t need to wear a labcoat for guessing that)

Stare at your own risk

Stare at your own risk

Just glancing at a photo of a rich and gooey chocolate cake can set your brain circuits sparking, switching on cravings and revving up your appetite.

The proof is in the brain scans. Researchers found that when people stare at sugary treats, regions of the brain known to be involved in appetite control and pleasure and reward light up, according to the study presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

The new study parallels earlier research in cocaine addicts. When addicts were shown anti-drug commercials that included crossed-out needles, the brain regions associated with pleasure fired up and the addicts reported increased craving. Contrary to public health officials’ plans, only the needles registered in the addicts’ brains, not the big red Xs crossing them out.

Dr. Kathleen Page, a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California says “We see parallels between substances of abuse, like cocaine, and highly palatable foods. Some of the same brain regions light up.”

Page and her colleagues scanned brains of obese Hispanic women looking at images of alluring foods such as cupcakes, chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookies. “What we saw was that the regions of the brain that are involved in reward and hunger lit up,” Page said. The women, who were also asked to rate their appetite at the beginning and end of the experiment, reported greater hunger and desire for food after looking at the photos.

And in an intriguing second experiment, the researchers asked the women to each consume a sugary drink of approximately 200 calories. Then the researchers repeated the scans as before with the women looking at photos of tasty treats.

“Surprisingly, consumption of the sugar drink actually increased the ratings of hunger and desire,” Page said. “We didn’t predict a hunger increase with the sugar drink. Apparently the brain saw it as an appetizer.”

It’s not clear how average people can protect themselves from photos of tempting treats, Page said. And it’s funny, but when I conducted the studies and looked at the pictures myself, I was thinking, I could eat a piece of chocolate cake right now.

Feel like having one?

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

Its all about the food, bugger

Its all about the food, bugger

Want your meeting to go well? Want to get that much needed approval from your client in that meeting? Want the participants at your workshop to be in a good mood? Want your wedding reception to be remembered?

You got it. Serve good food.

To understand how food can make you happy, it’s important to understand how the brain regulates mood. The brain uses neurotransmitters as communication signals to communicate with the rest of your body and to issue its commands. Typically, serotonin is the neurotransmitter most linked to happiness. Foods that aid serotonin production include fish, chicken, cheese, spinach and bananas.

While some foods have been proven to physically affect your brain chemistry, others make us feel good just by eating them. These are Comfort Foods.

Psychological studies have turned up evidence that the comfort foods we crave are actually artifacts from our pasts. We all have memories of happier times, and by eating foods that remind us of those times, we symbolically consume that past happiness. Comfort foods can also be linked to specific people in our lives: Eating a specific food that a loved one favored can produce happy thoughts by triggering fond memories or associations of that person. This makes comfort foods fairly unique to each individual. If your childhood birthday parties represented the pinnacle of happiness for you, you’d likely crave birthday cake or some variation of the dessert when you’re feeling the blues.

Although comfort foods (or the events attached to them) vary from person to person, the foods we associate with comforting or happy emotions vary by gender, as well. A 2005 Cornell University survey of 277 men and women found that females tend to seek comfort in sweet and sugary foods like ice cream, while males prefer savory comfort foods like steak.

So know the food that leads to happiness and know the likes of whom you are serving to.  Foods’ the reason for Laughing Buddha’s happiness and could well be the reason for your happiness too.

Illustration by Mayur Tekchandaney

Trust advertising to mislead

Trust advertising to mislead

 

Chances are you apply paste on your toothbrush the same way it is shown in the ads (as shown in the illustration above). Then you place it under the tap to add a bit of water to make it moist. I hear you saying ‘How else?’ right?

Well, here’s what the dentists recommend. Dentists say we should squeeze the paste at a 90 degrees angle into the brush from the top, so that the space in between the bristles gets filled with the paste + that we don’t add any water.

This works in two ways. First, the paste keeps getting released from the toothbrush at a consistent pace, ensuring that the paste comes into use, even after the initial burst of foam in the mouth. Second, dentists recommend we don’t add water because it leads to breaking and slipping of the paste out of the mouth. (You might have noticed those chunks of paste falling into the basin or on your clothes, if you are clumsy like me.) Dentists say that in anticipation of brushing our teeth, our mouths generate enough saliva, to ensure that the experience of brushing is not too dry for our liking. Together, this ensures that the quantity of paste used is just right and there is minimum wastage.

Don’t trust me? I have started doing it since few weeks. The paste lasts longer and is therefore more effective. Nothing gets wasted, I don’t act clumsy (atleast not in this circumstance) and the mouth doesn’t feel dry at all without the water. However small this may sound, I’m glad I learned the right way to brush, never mind that it’s happened at the age of 34.

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.

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