Conservatives Lured By 'New,' Rather Than 'Improved' Product Messaging

Every year, the CLIK conference presents some of the best examples of consumer research from a range of subjects and sources. In partnership between the University of Louisville and Doe-Anderson, this year’s conference offered attendees insights into a range of subjects with an expanded outlook. John Birnsteel, CEO of Doe-Anderson and Professor Michael Barone, chair of the marketing department at the University of Louisville, College of Business offered their views on some of the top studies at the conference.

Charlene Weisler: What set this year’s conference apart from previous years?

Birnsteel: This year we saw a lot of multicultural themes coming through in the research. In terms of multicultural, we oftentimes think about that as gender or race, but this was about the diversity of political ideology. It's the second year in a row that a paper has been presented looking at political ideology, and that was a highlight -- the implications that politics can have on consumer decision-making.



Weisler: You have several very interesting studies. Tell me about the surprising conclusion to the “Status vs Uncertainty” study.

Birnsteel: This study looked at political leanings and the propensity [for consumers] to adopt a really new product, an “RNP.” What the research showed is that [politics] is a reliable predictor of uptake. But what was surprising was that I think most of us would think, if asked, “Who's more likely to pick up a new product, a progressive or a conservative?” you'd probably say a progressive. But the research showed that messages and a focus on the status of having something new first was really compelling to the conservative audience.

So with really new products, conservative ideologically leaning people were more likely to pick that up, as opposed to progressive people who were more compelled by messages of the high performance of the product, not the fact that it was new.

Barone: If you can, through readily available data, identify consumers (by political) ideology, you can position the same product in two different ways, depending on which segment you're trying to reach, based on whether it has to be more about status or performance.

It could be the same innovation that's out there. You'll just be more effective marking it one way for people who identify more conservatively and marketing it in a different way for people who are more liberal in their mindsets.

Weisler: Looking at some of the major studies at the conference, what was the one biggest surprising conclusion of each study?

Birnsteel: Looking at cultural differences was important for the “Top Rated or Best Seller” study. Interdependent cultures were more compelled by the top rated, so much so they’d even pay more for those products.

Birnsteel: The "Just Keep It: Returnless Product Replacements Signal Trust and Increase Brand Support" study revealed that return-less replacement policies [where consumers don’t have to send back a product they have problems with], signal trust and increased brand support. It’s an overlooked benefit in the idea that the more trusting you are of people, the more they'll trust you. From a business perspective, I was thinking about the cost implications, you know, how much the price of how much is it worth to give away products that you're not going to get returned back or might not get returned back.

Birnsteel: With the "Periodic Donations are a Diagnostic Cue of Donor Charitable Commitment" study, I was surprised that what was perceived to be greater by consumers was for a company to perhaps give a million dollars over 10 years and show that sustained commitment rather than if a company gives 10 million dollars to a cause as a one-time donation.

Barone: There's literature out there on competitive altruism that kind of speaks to the status-signaling effect of really large donations that would provide sort of a different pull towards the one time big splash donations. Rather, within the range studied here, relatively smaller amounts and  more frequent giving is a better signal of credibility and corporate social responsibility efforts.

Birnsteel: With the "No Comments" study on understanding the interpersonal and professional consequences of disabling social media comments, you can see why a company would turn off comments when things get heated, right? You'd think that heated comments would actually turn people off. But the absence of dialogue turned people away.

I think this is actually something that people in public relations have known for a long time. Like, you don't say “no comment,” because while it shuts down the conversation, it can leave a negative impression.

Birnsteel: The" Entitative Effects of the And-Brand Name" was a fun one. This paper looked at having brand names with the word “and” in it and the implications it has on consumer mindsets. I think the presenter actually reproduced Doe-Anderson’s logo into Doe & Anderson. It substantiated the belief that that a group with “and” in their brand name can connote more credibility than an individual because consumers think there's more accountability there and more trust.

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