Sept 2019 (Vol. 59, Issue 3): NEUROMARKETING
Cultivating Appreciation of Hedonic Products: A Synesthetic Approach to Marketing
The Speaker’s Box column identifies significant areas of research affecting advertising and marketing. Its goal: to bridge the gap between the length of time it takes to produce rigorous work and the acceleration of change within practice. In this edition, and with advertising and marketing of wine as her chief product focus, Kathryn A. LaTour (Cornell University) investigates how better to engage consumers in learning synesthetically (causing multiple sense to interact) through managerial communications. “With a hedonic product experience, harnessing visual imagery, and using cross-modal associations or metaphors, should be an effective way to engage learning. In marketing, however, little has been done in this area, nor has there been research about the process of learning synesthesia in a consumer context. This approach to experience can be important for creating long-term retention,” LaTour writes.
With results from a survey comparing synesthetic tendencies between wine experts and regular consumers, she demonstrates that learning can change the manner and way that consumers approach products. “Participants sampled two California pinot noirs side by side, one of which had some oak tannins added, which changed the flavor and mouthfeel,” LaTour explains. “One group described the wines verbally, with traditional tasting notes, whereas another group drew a picture of the wine’s taste. When the experts drew the wines’ taste, they more likely noticed the structural differences between them. The experts thought the verbal notes were easier, and that regular consumers would not be able to understand how to draw the taste. In later studies, however, intermediate consumers were able to retain more about their taste experience when they thought of the wine as a shape versus using written descriptors.”
LaTour then uses an experiment to explain how communications can help consumers learn to appreciate hedonic products. Among the implications of her findings:
- Consumers want to learn about hedonic products, and managers can aid that learning through their messaging.
- “Rather than thinking about what attributes or aspects they think their consumers prefer, managers could provide consumers a means to better understand and appreciate their experience. This can be done through communications that help consumers make cross-modal associations and help ‘tell a story’ that can be used to create a gist representation in memory (capturing the senses, patterns and meanings of experience) “such as knowing that champagne has a linear aspect associated with the chardonnay grape.”
- The benefit to such a synesthetic approach is that “managers can direct the consumer learning by setting the stage for the experience (how it should begin) as well as how it should be experienced.
- “Creating a visual metaphor to engage that learning can be helpful,” but so can other means of communication such as using figurative language to describe, for example, the differences between “wines from the New World as being open and supple (like the sounds from a cedar-top guitar) and wines coming from the Old World (Europe), as tasting taut and restrained, similar to sounds from a German spruce-top guitar.”