One Snowman’s Epic Journey Fuelled By The Power Of Love!

All I want for Christmas is another heart-warming John Lewis Advert ^_^

So it’s that time of the year again, the ground is frosty, the air is crisp, the atmosphere is buzzing full of festive cheer, children are singing Christmas carols and people exchanging kisses under the mistletoe, all because SANTA CLAUSE IS COMING TO TOWN! SAN-TA-CLAUSE IS COMING TO TOWNNN! YAY!! But perhaps, one of the most prominent festive give a way’s are the numerous touching Christmas adverts that light up our cosy living room TV screens. Recently John Lewis have released their new 2012 Christmas ad titled ‘The Journey’, Words can’t express how lovely and touching this advert is, it’s a MUST watch! My partner has been going on about it for days now and I finally got round to watching the full version, and within five second of the ad there was a lump in my throat. The advert just melts the hearts of consumers, and it melted mine to a puddle of icky, gooey, lovely Christmas’s snowman love. It has become my favourite Christmas ad of all time and must have watched it at least 50 times now…..and I’m still not bored of it.

snowman carrots

This year John Lewis’s festive treat features a snowman (we’ll name him carrots) combating sheep, menacing mountains, snow storms, roaring rapids and of course traffic, to bring back the most amazing gift for his snowlady friend (who I’m going to call Sage). I don’t know what it is exactly about this advert that brings tears to my eyes, but I think it is a combination of many elements such as, the inspiration heartfelt song, the Snowman’s expressions, the message behind the advert ‘give a little more love at Christmas’, and of course the touching story line.

This particular John Lewis advert was received with such great praise and popularity that it instantly shot up to number 3 in the ‘7 day global ad charts’. The ad also received 19,857 share on Facebook and 2,583,797 views on Youtube. So it seems  the release of any new John Lewis Christmas advert has become such a highly anticipated and celebrated event, that Channel 4 began airing ‘teasers’ commercials early last week for the snowman advert. More than that, it was even premiered!  Channel 4 gave up over a whole commercial break to introduce the advert to the public, as if it was a feature film, crazy right!

images (1)The power of love and emotions is a strong force in advertising. As much as we might all hate to admit it, even you men out there, we all love a good ad which makes us shed a tear or two. I feel John Lewis achieves a fantastic balance of love and emotions in their advertising campaigns, from time-traveling love stories to cute nostalgic Christmas ads, they make even the toughest of us reach for the tissue box.

Psychological research has shown Emotions influence human behaviour in both strong and subtle ways. Strong emotions can cause you to take actions you might have not normally performed, or negative emotions can lead you to avoid certain situations.  It is important here to make a clear distinction between ‘emotions’ and ‘reason’, emotions lead to action while reason leads to conclusion. Emotion can be defined as a complex state of feeling that involves physiological arousal, expressive behaviours, and conscious experience (Myers, 2004). Many psychological theories of emotions have been proposed; perhaps the most well-known is the James-Lange Theory. This theory suggests that emotions occur as a result of physiological reactions to events. Your emotional reaction is dependent upon how you interpret those physical events.

220px-EmotionsThe use of emotions in advertising is referred to as ’emotional marketing’. The practice of emotional marketing is all about getting your target audience to connect with your product, service, or brand at a very basic and fundamental level – the level of emotions. In order for emotional marketing to work, a company needs to back up their product, services and brand the whole way. Brands that don’t make emotional connections with their prospective customers will eventually lose out to those that do. Emotional marketing can only take place once companies deliver a user experience that embodies their promise. Once they are able to deliver on their promise, they can then go ahead and market their experience.

There are many emotional triggers companies can use to evoke feelings among their target audience. Here are a few common ones (Ekman, 1992):

1. Trust

2. Belonging

3. Love

4. Value

5. Guilt

John Lewis evoke touching feelings of love, inspiration, Belonging and passion into their 2012 Christmas ad. These feelings have created a solid emotional connection with the consumer, meaning the consumer has now built a positive emotional brand association with the company. The ‘power of love’ consumers feel after watching the ad inspires them to go purchase products from John Lewis and this is how they pull consumers in.

So John Lewis haven’t succeed because they make great ad’s with cute snowmen, John Lewis, particularly their 2012 Christmas ad  succeeded because of their passion, love and promise. “its love and passion for high-quality services and products for each and every customer that walks through the doors of John Lewis. “When that love manifested in the brand, consumers manifest it in their own lives and hearts.”  This message results in, not only an emotional connection but an individual one. Having a one-to-one connection which brands in today’s marketplace is essential for brand dominance.

Well this is the last Consumer Psychology blog. I want to thank everyone who read and commented on my blogs, i really do appreciate all your thoughts and opinions. I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas full of lots of goodies and treats!


Myers, D. G. (2004). Theories of emotion. Psychology: Seventh Edition, New York, NY: Worth Publishers, 500.
Ekman, P. (1992). An argument for basic emotions. Cognition & Emotion 6, 169–200.
By undercoverconsumer

Never underestimate the power of a chocolate chip cookie

imagesHave you ever gone into Costa for the intention of getting a hot chocolate and marshmallows, and ended up walking out with a few bakery goods? Or perhaps you’ve been shopping in town and found yourself compelled to pick up a box of Millie’s cookies, even though you weren’t really that hungry? If this sounds familiar, you’re like millions of other shoppers around the globe, who face delicious-smelling temptation every day! Our environment is full of so much excitement and temptation, from lovely pink fluffy cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies, to expensive cars, designer clothing and Macbooks. How do us as consumer resist such temptations wafting us in the face….Well, the short answer is we don’t.

Over many years now, Impulse buying has become a regular and common behaviour among the general public. According to statistics published in the U.S, impulse buying accounts for 60% of supermarket transactions and 80% of all of product purchases (See poster below). Our culture of consumption enables us to succumb to temptation, and splurge out on something without really considering the consequences (Rook, 1987). I am pulled between whether this is a good thing or not? I suppose sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t  For example, I feel consumers deserve to treat themselves, so impulse buying chocolate or food items isn’t so bad, but when splurging out on a new ipad mini in HMV, maybe ones’ decision making processes need to be booted more vigorously into action, before making such an impulsive expensive purchase.


downloadSo, you’re all probably wondering what the title of this blog has to do with impulse buying. Well as I was scanning through numerous journal articles, examining what motivates consumer to impulse buy. I came across this really interesting piece of research titled: ‘Aroma of Chocolate Chip Cookies Prompts Splurging on Expensive Sweaters’ (Xiuping Li, 2008). I love cookies so I gave it a read! No but, seriously the reason i wanted to blog about this particular piece of research is because, its a very novel and new concept. The research questions examined in this study have never been tested before, and thus i feel it sheds new light on old research, giving a much fresher account of what motivates consumer to impulse buy.  The research examines whether ‘appetitive stimuli’ have an effect on consumer purchase behaviour. One of the first experiments entailed using a chocolate chip cookie scented candle, to gauge whether appetitive stimulus affects consumer behaviour, in terms of unplanned purchases. Subjects were randomly assigned to two groups: Group 1 – Test subjects (all female) and Group 2 – Control subjects (all female). All test subjects were placed into a room with a hidden chocolate-chip cookie scented candle, while the control subjects were exposed to an unscented candle in a different room. Results indicated that participants exposed to the scented cookie-candle were much more likely (67%) to make an unplanned (impulse) purchase of a new designer sweater, even when told they were on a tight budget. In comparison to the control subjects who were exposed to an unscented candle (17 %).

images (1)The second experiment looked at the same concept, but asked participants to act as ‘photo editors’ of a made up magazine. Participants were randomly split into three groups: Group 1 were shown appetite stimulating picture of food, Group 2 were shown non-appetite stimulating picture of nature, and Group 3 (control group) were shown shown no pictures at all. All participants were asked to take part in a lottery that would either pay them less money sooner or more money later. The results yielded very interesting findings about consumer behaviour and gratification. Group 1 who had been exposed to stimulating photos of food, were 20% more likely to choose the lottery option ‘less money sooner’, than group 2 who were exposed to the photos of nature (61% vs. 41.5%). Moreover, 61% of participants in both groups 1 and 2 were more likely to choose the short-term gain (less money sooner), than 50% of the control group who had not been exposed to any appetizing stimuli at all.

This research suggests that exposure to mouth-watering stimuli, such as smells or pictures can increase a consumers’ likelihood to impulse buy. Furthermore, this research indicates that participants are more likely to satisfy their current and spontaneous needs to gain instant gratification. Instant gratification is an inherent biological human desire that is in constant need of refueling and self-regulation (Verplanken and Sato, 2011). It refers to the idea that all humans are impatient, they like to have what they want right now; no later or else they won’t wait. According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, this biological desire is present ever since birth, in form of the Id. If it is instant gratification that drives consumers, retailers should not only aim to maintain a pleasant exciting shopping environment, but also incorporate temptation through the use of aromas (smells) and visual stimuli. This will encourage consumer to shop harder rather than stay longer. One particular retailer that uses ‘smell’ to its advantage is Subway. The smell of baked break and health salad fillings is an irresistible lunchtime dream!

impulse buying clipartSo you may ask is there a way to curb one’s appetite for scent-driven impulse buying? Well from first-hand experience I can say it’s not always that easy to resist the powerful teasing and temptations retailers create. It takes some discipline to avoid impulse buying that lovely strawberry cheesecake you had last week“Ooow but one bite wouldn’t hurt”. I guess the main rule consumers need to bear in mind here is, just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to buy it, but I suppose that’s easier said than done for most. Consumer researchers have collaborated a set of tips and hints aimed at reducing impulsive unplanned purchase.These tips ad hints are as follows:

1. Never go shopping on a empty (hungry) stomach! – Everyone knows how much more appealing food becomes when you’re super hungry, especially sweet foods! As we have already established, the aroma of foods can increase our impassivity, but so can the visual appearance of food.  Research has shown that when participants were asked to fast for a day, they were on average more likely to choose sugary fatty foods in much larger quantities the following day after, in comparison to the control group who had not fasted and had eaten regular meals throughout the previous day.

2.Apply a favorite perfume before you go shopping – The smell of perfume has been shown to increase the production of Dopamine within the brain, which is associated with feelings of satisfaction. These increased feeling of satisfaction mean other scents are less likely to trigger impulse buys.

3. Make a list and stick to it – Wandering aimlessly around ASDA without an agenda will inevitably lead to unplanned purchases. It is key to make a list and specifically know what you came shopping for.  If you find yourself straying from the beaten path, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”

4. Set an “impulse buy” budget – If you really can’t resist buying that strawberry cheesecake or spotty dress in Top Shop, then it is suggested to set a limit (budget) and bring cash in hand only. Shoppers are often more conscious of their purchases when they’re using cash as opposed to credit/ debit cards. This is because you can’t see the exact amount of money your actually spending on a debit card.

By undercoverconsumer

The Colour marketing Merry-Go Round

Recently many blogs have been talking about the impact, touch, smell and music have on consumer buying behaviour, but I feel there is one particular element missing, a much more subtle element that has been slightly forgotten and overlooked in the consumer psychology world, and this is the use of colour. The power and potential ‘COLOUR’ has to influence consumer emotions, feelings, decision making, and purchase behaviour has been largely underestimated and misunderstood (Grossman and Wisenblit, 1999).  In this blog i want to address he psychology behind colour and how it can be related to the consumer world.   

Colour is critical in every phase of marketing and advertising, both in store and online. Although the use of colour may seem unimportant in comparison to other factors in the marketing world, such as a products unique selling point, labelling, logo and design. Research conducted by the Colour Marketing Group  has shown that colour has a significantly large impact on a consumer’s decision-making process. Shoppers are more likely to choose a particular product based on its visual appearance and colour, in fact, it can account for up to 80% of the reason why customers chose to buy one product over another. Furthermore, other research has found consumers make up their mind whether to buy a particular product or not within 90 seconds, and about 62-90% of their decision is based on colour alone. This is because humans place extremely high importance on visual cues within the environment, over and above other senses like smell, texture and sound. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, for example when buying a candle, smell would be the primary sensory system to determine whether to buy the candle or not. But the rule of thumb states; that the visual system is the primary sensory system and consumers rely heavily upon this system to initially attract them to products, shops and services.

Our brains are hot wired to respond to colour. Humans instinctively associate different colours with different emotions and feelings (June Campbell). For example when we are little we associate RED with danger/stop and GREEN with safe/go. Modern retailers have tapped into the concept of colour psychology  and have altered the surrounds and design of their shops, in order to to influence consumer mood and get individuals to feel a certain way, so they’re more likely to make a purchase.  The table below illustrates the different feelings we all associate with various colours.  There may be some cultural differences, but most British and American individuals will have the same kind of colour associations listed in this table.

So some good examples of how popular high street businesses have used colour psychology to influence consumer mood and behaviour  are as follows:

For many years now Barclays Bank have used a blue theme, which emits feelings of security and trustworthiness  The blue colour makes consumers feel it is a safe and reliable place to store their money.  LLoyds TSB has also adopted a similar blue and green theme.

Apple are known for their simplicity yet elegance. The brand is renowned for producing the highest quality software on the market, which enables users to express their creative side. Apple’s beauty and elegance is shown through its branding colours, white and black. These colours emphasize  power, sleek, clean, fresh. It is these feelings of power, beauty and simplicity that keep customers coming back.

The primary colour of T.K. Max is red. This red colour induces feelings of excitement, excitement to scan though the millions of rails of endless clothes to find a cheap deal… ;). Red is a pop out colour, it grab our attention and stimulates approach behaviour.

Lastly, many clothing and lingerie chains are branded shades of pink and purple. These colours scream out luxury and indulgence. They make customers feel feminine, sexy, romantic and  loved. These loving feelings emitted from the shop surrounding sand friendly staff, make customers want to stay in store and purchase the luxurious products to make them feel good.  My favorite colour is purple and i find i am s attracted to shops that are branded in this colour, as i find they send out very warm welcoming signals.

So organisations and retailers must be extremely wary to chose the appropriate colour when branding their products and services, as past colour associations/ preferences clearly influence consumer mood and attitudes, and thus may interfere with marketers intents (Bellizzi and Hite, 1992).

Some recent research (Lam, 2001)has revealed that certain colour can attract certain types of shoppers. For example the colours red and black tend to attract ‘impulse buyers’. So as i said above, T.K. Max is branded red and their shop is usually filled full of clearance/ sale rails. So consumers associate red with ‘sale’ and sale with T.K.Max and so are more likely to impulse buy here than they are in the apple store.

Furthermore, it has been shown that different colours are associated with different levels of consumer trust (see graph).

The use of colour to influence consumer mood and purchase behaviour is not just restricted to the high street, but also branches out into the online world of shopping. Colour is believed to be one of the most powerful tools of design for a website. Websites harness our colour associations to get us to react in a desired way.

This example of the Amazon website shows how the clever use of colours can talk us in to buying numerous products. As you can seen from the above image, the use of red and orange colours grabs your attention and encourage  action, i.e. to prompt you to buy something. the Greens and blues used for the base colour of the website, are essentially  supporting colors that make you feel secure and safe thus entrust the seller with your money.

By undercoverconsumer


Next time you sit back after indulging yourself in a tub of Ben n Jerry’s chocolate fudge Brownie ice cream and say, “man I’m so fat.. I can’t believe I ate that much!”, don’t take it to heart too much, because I can promise you, you haven’t even touched the sides, in comparison to some of these super-duper epically supersized portions, American restaurants are serving up to their beloved customers. You name it, Americas got it! From a 28 inch pizza, 72oz steak, 2.5 pound Dagwood sandwich, to a 7 pound burrito, or even 15 dozen raw oysters! Don’t mind if I do. I’m not sure whether these American restaurants are just pure greedy or brave? But whatever they are, these crazy supersize eating challenges seem to pull in people from all round the world. All for the love of free food, their name on a wall of ‘fame’, and the bragging rights that they are one of the few who can eat their weekly calorie intake in one GIANT sitting.

These ‘supersize’ restaurants are scattered all across America, stretching from California to New York. It’s clear why these restaurants create such gigantic supersized meals, to give themselves a unique selling point (USP). It’s important for all businesses to have a USP, it allows them to stand out in a competitive marketing world, making the m look more attractive and exciting, in comparison to the bog standard burger bar down the road. However, it’s all well a good stuffing your face silly with the ‘Absolutely ridiculous Burger’, but some medical professions and health organisations, believe these supersize eating challenges are promoting obesity and unhealthy eating habits among the public. America is deep in an obesity epidemic; the centre of ‘Disease and control presentation’ released a report in 2010 detailing obesity rates across the 50 states in America. The report revealed Mississippi was the fattest state 5 years running, with 34.9% of the population measuring overweight. The report further noted, overall 35.7% of all American adults are obese and 17% of American children.

England is never trailing far behind American though… first with obesity and now with eating challenges. More and more English restaurants are jumping on the eating challenge bandwagon, Jesters Diner in Great Yarmouth have come up with the ‘Kidz breakfast’ consisting of 12 rashers of bacon, 12 sausages and six eggs! Although our eating challenges aren’t quite a mammoth as America’s, is it still right to promote such unhealthy eating habits?  The ‘Word Health Organisation’ state; “it’s not so much of what American’s eat that makes them fat, it’s the quantities they eat it in”. A film made in 2004 titled: ‘Supersize me’ really showed the public the effect eating supersized McDonalds meals had on the human body. It was a fantastic film definitely worth a watch!

So in order to help combat obesity and promote healthy eating, shouldn’t these restaurants cut down on their gigantic meals? But by eliminating these supersize meals, American restaurants would lose their novelty and uniqueness. So its a difficult dilemma between consumer health and consumer satisfaction these restaurants have to deal with.

Man Vs Food is a TV program in which the presenter ‘Adam Richman’  travels around America trying to devour these mammoth meals!

The long island the world challenge:

The Absolutely Ridiculous Burger:

The Italian Challenge

By undercoverconsumer

Jump on the Brain training expressway! Toot toot!

Can you really train your brain to be bigger, brighter, faster and younger?

This is what some companies like Lumosity and Nintendo believe. They claim their brain training programs can help improve our overall intelligence, brain function and health, through regularly exercising the brain with tests and puzzles, like these ones shown below: (Will post answers at the end of the blog, no cheating!!)

1. Fill in the blank Box?

2. Which is the odd flower out?

Lumosity have made some pretty bold claims that their brain training software “‘will give you the power to improve your brain and achieve your goals for a much better life!” They further state, “users are to see a 92% improvement rate within 3 months and those users who train daily improve the most, which means quicker thinking, better memory, increased confidence and a more fulfilling life for those dedicated few!”. These claims are pretty out there… i personally don’t believe them. I have played such games like Brain academy and Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training and i can say from experience, the daily tasks they gave me  i obviously got better at  through practice, but it didn’t give me a more ‘fulfilling life’ and i didn’t see any beneficial effects in my working memory capacity or attention levels during my daily activities, but that could just be my own personal experience. However, many scientists and psychologists in brain research also believe these statements to be ’empty promises’, they feel the theories backing up these claims are seriously flawed and there is yet to be any concrete evidence that suggests these brain training games actually work.

Psychologists have been interested in the idea of improving human intelligence for over a century now, but it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that the phenomena of brain training came about. A study conducted by Jaeggi, Buschkuehi, Jonides & Perrig (2008) suggested that intelligence, more specifically reasoning ability could be dramatically improved through a type of brain training called ‘dual-n-back’.  The dual-n-back task involves presenting a series of visual and/or auditory cues to a subject and asking them to respond if that cue has occurred. Subjects were split into five groups after being given a reasoning test. The first group received 8 sessions of training, the second received 12 sessions,  the third 17 sessions, the fourth 19 sessions, and the final group was a control group, meaning they didn’t receive any training after taking the reasoning test. They found that the subjects in the training groups showed a much greater increase in reasoning test scores than the control subjects. They also found that the training groups that received more hours of training showed a bigger gain in reasoning test scores.Thus Jaeggi and colleges concluded that this was an increase in intelligence, more specifically an increase in fluid intelligence.

However, more recent research in the field has revealed there to be significant flaws within the design and methodology of Jaeggi’s dual-n-back study. Shipstead, Redick, and Engle (2012) pointed out that fluid intelligence can not be measured by one single test, it must be measured with multiple tests.  If you find that people get better in one test of reasoning it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re smarter in general, it just means that they’re better at that one particular reasoning test, anyone can get better at a task if they practice enough. Another striking downfall of the study was the differences in received treatment between the control group and the training groups. The control group who received no training, went home and did whatever. But the training groups came in regularly for training, which raises possibility of motivation being an explanation as to why the training groups improved so much more than the control group.

Redick, Shipstead, Harrison, Hicks, Fried, Hambrick, Kane, & Engle (2012) improved and replicated Jaeggi’s study, to see whether intelligence could be improved after working memory training. The results revealed little significance in terms of improvements in intelligence. Subjects did improve in the given dual-n-back tasks administered, but this was purely down to practice. The improvements seen did not give any positive transfer to other cognitive abilities, so it did not improve fluid intelligence, crystalline intelligence, ability to multitask, perceptual speed and working memory capacity. Therefore suggesting brain training (working memory training) does not increase intelligence.

In order for Lumosity to back up their claim that their training program really does make you smarter, they  have conducted and published their own clinical trials in the ‘lumos lab’ (see images). It all looks very professional, well cited and referenced in empirical psychological journals, BUT if you dig a little deeper some of Lumosity studies have been found to be seriously lacking in reliability, validity and statistical significance. In one of Lumosity’s early studies they took 23 subjects and split them into 2 two groups; The first group (control group – 9 people) performed simple visual and memory tests without playing Lumosity games. The second group (training group – 14 people) performed the same visual and memory tests but whilst playing Lumosity games. It was found that memory span was significantly increased in the training group after playing Lumosity games in comparison to the control group (see graph below).

So whats so wrong with this study??.. Well one major concern is the lack of participants. Lumosity only tested 23 people, this is a tiny number to make up a scientific study. All psychologist know in order to get a significant result for any empirical study you need a huge number of participants. Furthermore, the lack of participants means that the results can not be generalized to the whole public.  Another looming concern is the lack of control between the two groups, which affected the interpretation of the final results. The control group were told to go off and do nothing in between the pre and post memory span test. So how could the researchers really be sure that it is the Lumosity games themselves giving benefit. It would have been best for the researches to give the control group a separate task like a crossword or tetrus to do, so they could then really determine which games have a beneficial effect on memory span.

In another more recent Lumosity study conducted by Kesler, Sheau, Koovakattu, and Reiss (2011) they claim their number/ math games can help improve math performance and problem-solving abilities. To further stress their claim they show FMRI scans of participants brain function pre and post training.  However, Lumosity didn’t mention on their website this improvement was only observed in individuals with ‘Turners syndrome’. Turners is a chromosome abnormality characterized by physical abnormalities and neurodevelopmental difficulties, such as maths, language, and social skills. Their research primarily focused on individuals with Turners syndrome, these individuals did show an increased in maths performance after completing number sense training. But the problem is Turners is a rate condition and just because these individuals improve with this type of training, it doesn’t mean the rest of the public who are healthy will improve in the same way.

Recently the BBC Bang goes the theory conducted one of the biggest ever brain training studies.

They tested 11,430 people over a six week period to see what effect, if any playing brain training games would have on our intelligence and brain power. All participants were asked to do brain training “workouts” for at least 10 minutes a day, three times a week for a minimum of six weeks. Participants were then assigned to one of three possible brain training groups:

1) Group 1 – sessions were designed to train their reasoning powers, planning and problem-solving skills.

2) Group 2 – games designed to train short-term memory, attention, mathematical abilities and visuospatial skills

3) Group 3 – given web-browsing tasks that didn’t target any specific cognitive skills.

The results showed none of the interventions (training sessions/ games) boosted people’s ability to do everyday thinking tasks, although subjects did get progressively better at playing the individual games and the specific cognitive tasks they were given, the gains were not transferable to real world situations. Statistically there are no significant differences between the improvements seen in participants who played our brain training games, and those in the third group who just went on the internet for the same length of time. Essentially players gained little, if anything in terms of general reasoning, memory, planning or visuospatial skills, thus indicating brain training programs are not effective in boosting our brain power and intelligence.

If anything, there is more evidence out there  to suggest exercising daily significantly enhances brain function (Cotman and Engesser, 2002; Cotman, Berchtold, and Christie, 2007).

Answers to questions:

1. fill in the blank square – Answer = A

2. Which is the odd flower out? Answer = square  

By undercoverconsumer

Women and chocolate a match made in heaven!

Here’s a cool catchy song about chocolate, i thought you guys might like to listen to.

Chocolate “the glorious food of the gods”! It is said that life without chocolate is like a beach without water” (Christou, 2009).  The UK Chocolate market is huge, it is the largest within the European Union, making up approximately 30%  of the EU market. Barnett (2006) found that people in the UK, in particular women, consume more chocolate than in any other EU nation. With UK adults as the primary consumers eating around £3.5 billion a year, compared to children who consume £390 million a year. More interestingly, 21% of the total chocolate sold in Britain is consumed by people over the age of 55, who spend on average £700 yearly on the sugary stuff! (Datamonitor, 2005).

So why are we as a nation such chocoholics?! Well one huge factor is   obviously down to the taste of chocolate. Manufactures use a specific ingredient called ‘cocoa butter’ also known as theobroma oil, this butter has a melting point of just below body temperature (37 degrees), which is what gives chocolate that classic delicious melt in the mouth feeling that we all love. Not to mention the vast quantities of sugar and caffeine these bars contain, which give us that much need kick and surge of energy during those long 3 hour lectures..

Putting the lovely taste of chocolate aside, research has found there to be over 300 chemicals in chocolate! These chemicals can affect the brain in various ways by causing the release of certain neurotransmitters (molecules that transmit signals from one neuron to another), which in turn promotes feeling of happiness. One very common chemical found within chocolate called ‘tryptophan‘ helps to trigger the release of serotonin, known as the ‘feel good hormone’. Serotonin acts as an antidepressant, which helps heighten mood and decrease stress . Another common chemicals found within chocolate, ‘Phenylethylamine’ also titled “love drug”, has been found to be responsible for some of the pleasurable feelings we get during/ after eating chocolate. This is because Phenylethylamine causes rapid changes in our blood sugar levels leading to feelings of excitement and alertness. It essentially acts like amphetamines, releasing natural feel-good chemicals called endorphines into our brains, which in turn enhances mood and decreases depression. Furthermore, Phenylethylamine is also released by the brain when people are falling in love, hence the alternative name ‘love drug’. Perhaps this explains why chocolate and Valentines Day are so closely linked? But anyway… it can be seen that it is obviously the feelings of elation, blissfulness and heightened mood, coined with the irresistible  creamy, smooth, sweet taste we get from our favorite brands of chocolate that keep the British public coming back for more and more!!

Women are typically known to be the “love monsters of chocolate”, they crave it, they indulge in it, and 99% of women just love it! They essentially hold the “secret” key to chocolate advertising, with many well known chocolate brands embarrassed this womanly desire for luxurious indulgence. There appears to be gender-targeting specifically towards women in the chocolate industry, over 90% of all the chocolate adverts broadcaster on TV are aimed at women for women. There are very few chocolate brands aimed solely at the male market. This is because men and women buy and consumer chocolate for very different reasons. McCall (2010) claimed there is a clear distinction between chocolate brought for self-indulgence and chocolate brought for hunger. The more indulgent and attractive the product is the more feminine-focused it becomes, women are more likely to buy chocolate as a reward rather than because their feeling hungry. Unlike men who generally only purchase chocolate because it fills a hole in their stomach. Chocolate bars like Mars, Yorkie, lion bar and Double Decker, with their big chunky design, clearly satisfy hunger and thus appeal more to the male market.

Here are a few examples to show this concept:

Perhaps one of the most iconic ‘indulgent’ advert aimed towards women is the classic Cadbury’s Flake advert. This is the ultimate example of taking time out for yourself! Although it’s probably not the most practical thing to do to eat a flake in the bath, the use of the elegant music, soft luxurious colours and tranquil setting screams out to women you have earned the right to self-indulge, to run that beautiful bubble bath and kick back and relax after a hard day of looking after the kids. The beautiful blissfulness atmosphere Candbury’s portrays in this advert, makes women desire and crave the chocolate, so they too can receive that wonderful relaxed feeling ‘Flake’ gives you.

Here is another more recent advert released by Galaxy aimed towards women:

Just like in the Cadbury’s advert, Galaxy have chosen to use very elegant relaxing music to represent femininity. They build upon this ‘hiding’ concept. The concept that women should have a ‘secret stash’ of chocolate just for themselves and its not to be shared. Galaxy sends out the message that their smooth, rich creamy chocolate should only ever be indulged and enjoyed by women, its just so irresistibly luxurious you have to have it! Both Galaxy and Cadbury’s send out the message to women that it is actually okay to self-indulge and eat chocolate, despite women being so obsessed and concerned about their weight, chocolate companies have manged to persuade women that chocolate is actually good for you in terms of destressing, relaxing and having a bit of me time.

In comparison the chocolate bars that are aimed towards men, build upon a very different concept of hunger and energy.

Yorkie for example is a very classic chocolate bar that was originally ‘exclusively’ for men  The bold statement Nestle made on their old Yorkie bars was “its not for girls!” and “don’t feed the birds!”  These messages and  packaging alone wasn’t just designed to appeal to men,  it actually went as far to discourage women from buying it. Unfortunately the chocolate bar received numerous complaints for gender stereotyping and was therefore taken off the market and re-released without the “not for girls” statement.

Despite the struggles Nestle had with their original Yorkie bar, they still strongly advertise towards men. The Yorkie bar is intended to satisfy a mans hunger and to give him the strength he needs to keep going! Their new slogan states “Man fuel for Man stuff!”

Another brand of chocolate that plays heavily towards the same concept is Mars

As a woman i personally do love this advert, but it wouldn’t make me go out and buy a Mars bar. The presence of the monks and loud funky music predominantly aims it towards the male market. The packaging of the chocolate bar appeals more to a mans taste, it uses dark colours and bold writing, whereas woman are drawn to more elegant light colours such as  pinks, purples, gold and baby blue. Just like in the Yorkie advert, the monks eat the mars bars which suddenly gives them this huge burst of energy to carry on ringing the bells! Mars claims that the energy their chocolate bras supply, will give a man enough power to do even the toughest tasks.

So it can be concluded that the chocolate industry is very gender-orientated. The majority of chocolate companies aim their products solely towards woman, because they know woman are the dominate consumer in the chocolate market. Men on average just don’t enjoy chocolate like women do, some very interesting brain research has revealed that chocolate actually affects women differently to men. Auger (2007), examined sex differences in the brain when both men and woman consumed chocolate. It was found women crave chocolate more than men. Women displayed decreased activity in both the hypothalamus and amygdala, which is responsible for regulating hunger and emotional state. This could potentially explain the heightened cravings and the want for self-indulgence woman experience.

I went to see Lee Evans live last September and he did this fantastic joke about the galaxy advert i posted above, i thought it would be a good giggle for you guys to watch, enjoy 🙂


By undercoverconsumer

Oh i do love a man in Uniform <3

Online dating said to be the future of relationships, now that we’re all far too busy to meet people in real life (Barraket and Henry-waring, 2008). Due to the growth of social media it was natural and inevitable that online dating services would evolve. It enables us to establish connections with people we know and love and people we would like to get to know and love. Many popular dating websites such as, eHarmony, okcupid and promise to use science (mathematical algorithms) to match us up with the love of our life. Most of these websites also go above and beyond the matching process, for example eHarmony provides its consumers with dating tips and hints, relationship management and diagnostic quizzes, but do these mathematical algorithms, that make up the essence of dating websites actually work? Can a website using some sort of ‘love formula’ really guide you to your soul mate and predict the long-term success of your relationship?

But first, i want to quickly address the stigma associated with online dating users. Recent research has discovered there to be a particular ‘psychological’ profile of users of internet dating sites. Kim, Kwon, & Lee (2009) found 47.5% were men and 52.5% were women ages between 19 – 89 years with a mean age of 48. More interestingly they found individuals who were MORE sociable are MORE likely to use dating services than those who are LESS sociable. This finding challenges the stereotypical view of internet users, who are seen as being lonely, unsociable, anxious individuals who are too fearful to create relationship in real world settings. Kim et al, (2009) also found that if you have low self-esteem and feel strongly about romantic relationships, you are less likely to use dating sites. This is because low self-esteem individuals will experience higher levels of stress from just thinking about the prospect of having to promote and disclose information about themselves online, and thus adopt avoidance stratifies. Whereas high self-esteem individuals will have no problem presenting themselves online to millions of strangers (Valkenburg, 2007). So now that we’re all fully informed that its not just complete weirdos and old pervy men sitting in basements who use internet dating sites (bar the odd few…)  we can all rest easy when searching for our dream guy or gal.

But anyway back to the main point in hand. For a small fee many popular dating websites will collect information about you, such as personality trains, crunch the numbers and match you up with someone, as eHarmony puts it, “has been pre-screened for high compatibility with you across 29 dimensions”.  But can a mathematical algorithm used by a dating website really identify your long-term dream lover?? Its hard to be certain, as no dating websites reveals the formulas it uses during the matching process, but a lot of  literature and empirical research examining what makes people romantically compatible, suggests that such algorithms are inaccurate and unlikely to predict whether a relationship will succeed before two people have even met.

Finkle, Eastwick, Karney, Reis, and Sprecher (2012) conducted research examining these ‘matching algorithms’ and found there to be numerous problems. One of the biggest flaws is the type of data dating websites collect and use during the matching process. Finkle and colleagues believe that the online personality tests administered by dating websites  don’t necessarily tap into the key factors that will predict who we will fall in love with and stay in love with. Some of the personality tests are so subjective that they lead to the ‘Barnum effect’, which means they provide such a generic assessment that they could apply to anyone. Furthermore, it is not know which personality traits best match with those of another, do opposites attract? Many dating websites emphasize the fact that ‘similarity in personality’ is key to a successful relationship, matching extroverts to extroverts and introverts to introverts, however the problem with this approach is that similarity in personality between to individuals is not a reliable predictor that a relationship will blossom and last forever. Research has shown through a meta-analysis of 313 studies, similarity of personality traits between individuals had no effect on establishing a relationship. Moreover another meta-analysis conducted in 2010 examining 23,000 married couples, revealed that similarity on different dimensions of personality, such as neuroticism, impulsivity and extroversion accounted for a tiny 0.5% of how satisfied spouses were with their marriage, meaning the other 99.5% of people place greater importance on other factors.  Thus showing individual personality characteristics account for only a tiny slice of what makes two people suited for a long-term relationship together.

Another looming weakness of these mathematical algorithms is they fail to take into account environmental factors. Factors such as job loss, financial strain, infertility and illness, all factors that aren’t accounted for on dating websites, but have been shown to be significant factors in determining the long-term success of a relationship. Neff (2004) found that when couples encounter stresses or unexpected demands, such as financial strain and illness, their satisfaction with their relationship declines and their risk of breaking up increases. Furthermore Neff reported, wives who experienced high levels of stress outside of their marriage tended to evaluate their marriage increasingly negatively. All this research indicates dating websites like eHarmony aren’t putting enough emphasis on the right kind of factors for predicting a long-term relationship. Essentially they are encouraging a counterproductive mindset that emphases initial comparability of individual characteristics, over other factors that have been shown to be more important to the long -term success of a relationship, such as a couples interaction style and ability to navigate stressful situations. I feel dating websites are slightly coning us, they are promising much more than they can actually deliver, giving people false hope and undermining the very thing all humans want, love.

Another weaknesses of online dating is the over emphasis and reliance people put on dating profiles (Finkle et al, 2012). All dating websites now have an inbuilt feature where you can upload photos and information about yourself, ranging from personality traits, favorite TV shows, cultural values to likes and dislikes. However Finkle and colleges claim this information isn’t useful in identifying a long-term partner. This is because people don’t always know what they want in partner, even though they think they do, literature suggests that people often lack ‘insight’ into what really attracts them to others, and therefore the characteristics the seek out online through profiles may be very different from those that will actually want in real life. So no matter how many profiles you scan, 3, 600, 1300 to a million, will you really be any closer to knowing whether there will be a romantic spark between you, just from a profile picture and a little bit of information on what their favorite food is?

Lastly, building upon the point mentioned above, due to the huge abundance of profiles online, dating are creating a ‘relationship-shopping’  mentality Heino, Ellison and Gibbs (2010). Due to the ease of daters being able to shift from viewing one profile to the next, and the next, and the next, it is leading them to become very picky and judgmental of others. Daters are essentially objectifying potential partners by weighting up their various features, as if they were shoes displayed in a catalogue, making sure to pick the best one at the best price. It seems as though human relationships have been reduced to a list of check-boxes, which is probably not a good way to chose a mate.

But don’t be too disheartened, dating websites aren’t all that bad… They are Convenient services that give people the opportunity to find happiness in a partner and relationship, in ways that modern society doesn’t permit through real-world interactions. Although there are many flaws within the matching procedures dating websites use, its not to say you can’t give it a go, you never know you might find your inner crazy! Just remember don’t get sucked into the endless scanning of profiles, you want to look beyond the superficial profile and say to yourself, can you laugh with this person? Can you sympathies with this person? Can you love and care for this person? Those are the important things.

P.S i’ve never used a dating website, if any of you guys have i would love to hear you experiences and opinons.

By undercoverconsumer

Seedy Vs Sexy

Queens of the sex age! The days of burning bras are over, time to pick up your Rabbits and get Ramping! The era of fluffy cuffs, naughty nurses and vibrators is here! We know it, we love it and we consume it!

Sex shops in the UK have traditionally been seen as dirty, dangerous, back street shops, hidden away out of sight and visited only by seedy men under the cover of darkness. But in recent years more and more sex shops are appearing on our high street. There is now an Ann Summers on practically every high street in England. But there is nothing seedy or dangerous about these shops, with their novelty lingerie, message oils and fun accessories, they have become welcoming, fun, acceptable, safe places packed full of women.

According to surveys published in 2012 half of all Britain’s use sex toys. Sales of these toys rocketed to 5.5 billion a year and are estimated to rise to 40 billion by 2020. Just to give you a rough idea of just how much this really is, our sex toy consumption matches that of smartphones… now that’s a lot of sex toys!

 Over the past 40 years the uprising of such sex shops like Ann summers has significantly changed the public’s perception and attitudes toward sex. The old smutty view that ‘women aren’t interested or can’t enjoy sex’ has long since been lost. Men are no longer the dominate gender in purchasing sex products, women have taken the thrown, they have become liberated. In fact Ann Summers has largely encouraged the right for women to enjoy sex. In contrast any sex shop catering exclusively for men pretty much still carries a reputation of being sordid and dirty. So it seems only female sexuality has been embarrassed by today’s society to be something playful, something dare I say it, to be encouraged. Opposed to male sexuality, which is usually deemed as puerile or perverted, and just not that sexy.

Ann Summers is essentially a British multi-international company lead by women for women. It specializes in sex toys and lingerie. In 2004 the chain already had 117 high street shops across the UK, Ireland and channel islands. In 2007 – 2008 the company had an annual turnover of £117.3 million. Ann Summers reported that 80% of their customers during this period were ABC 1 (middle class) women and the other 20% men shopping for their partners. However this was not always the case, originally Ann Summers was a brand that typically targeted an almost entirely male demographic, as most sex shops did back then. Jacqueline Gold the CEO of the company has had to fight tooth and nail over the past 40 years to get her male colleagues and most importantly the public to take notice of the right for women to enjoy sex. She has single-handedly transformed a brand that was originally hostile and dismissive toward female sexuality, a brand who’s customers were 90% male, to one that is now entirely for women, where female sexuality is embraced and celebrated, opposed to protested against.

Jacqueline Gold achieved this remarkable transformation in attitudes through a variety of clever advertising strategies:

1. Gold ‘feminized’ the traditional male sex shop – She significantly reduced the quantities of porn and sex toys sold and increased the amount of lingerie.

2. This feminiztion lead to the re-branding of the sex shop – she realigned the shop with a more designed led and fashion orientated style as apposed to seedy, dark and dangerous. Thus re-naming it from a ‘sex’ shop to a ‘lingerie’ shop. There is significantly less stigma associated with a lingerie shop, thus allowing the public to become more accepting of its presence.

3. Gold then redesigned the shop – Ann Summers is associated with its bright pink and purple theme, which runs right throughout the shop. The shop is plastered in girly pink, purple, red, black and gold colours, this gives the shop a lustrous sexy feel. Its open door policy and tantalizing music makes the shop feel approachable, warm and welcoming. The layout of the shop is carefully thought out as to not scare the customer away. Only novelty knickers and lingerie are displayed at the front of the shop, with sex toys and accessories towards the back, if you dare to explore!

4. As another marketing tactic to get the public on her side, Gold introduced a new ‘party plan’ concept in 1981. Ever since the concept first took off it has significantly grown in popularity. There are now around 4,000 Ann Summers parties every week in the UK. These parties are exclusively for women and involve the presentation of sex toys and lingerie in an informal setting. These parties have allowed women to become more open-minded and accepting about the use of toys in order to stimulate a happy, fun, healthy love life.


5. Finally, Gold created a unique selling point for Ann Summers, she created the ‘Rampant Rabbit’. This is a type of vibrator exclusive to Ann Summers and has become the number 1 sex toy. Essentially Gold introduced the world to sex toys, she encouraged their use and made them more mainstream and acceptable.

However, Ann summers must tread the line carefully when it comes to promoting and encouraging sexual fantasies and extreme sexual practices. The shop must offer nothing more than ‘light’ bondage accessories, toys and outfits. There are mixed reviews on the arrival of Ann Summers stores to our high streets, for example some people feel/ condemn the brand as totally inappropriate and degrading to marriages and women. I personally don’t agree with this statement. I do not at all feel the shop is degrading or offensive to women, but i do believe the company puts too much emphasis on the ‘aesthetic’ woman, this idea that skinny is sexy. Furthermore these are not the only difficulties Ann Summers has encountered. Due to the adult nature of the company Ann Summers has frequently faced opposition both legal and social. Social objections toward the company has lead to the closing of several branches across the UK, after parents complained about window displays and the embarrassment they caused when walking past with curious children.

So Ann Summers is dabbling in a difficult and controversial market, it is inevitable that they are likely to meet opposition, but as a whole the brand has been breaking new territory on the high street ever since the first store opened in London in 1972. In the face of much controversy and heated debate the company, a leading retailer of sexy lingerie, toys and accessories has grown from humble backgrounds into a national chain proudly champing female sexuality, bring fun, playfulness and better sex to the masses and hopefully soon to wales!!

By undercoverconsumer

Apple Domination!

What do you prefer.. Mac or PC? iphone or Android? Like millions of other people around the globe you probably have a preferred smartphone brand or computer system you use. For me i am a bit of an Apple obsessive, part of the Apple ‘cult’ i suppose you could say. It all started when i brought my first ipod as you do, then it quickly cascaded into an ipod classic, itouch, macbook, iphone 4, macbook pro and finally an ipad ….well i say finally but i will probably end up buying an iphone 5 any time soon…  But anyway the point is i didn’t need to buy all these products, my iphone does everything the itouch, ipod and ipad does combined, so why do i keep buying them? Why do i and the other 84% of the public who use apple products keep going back for more!?!

This type of buying behaviour is called ‘Brand Loyalty’, this is when consumers continuously/ repeatedly keep purchasing a preferred brand, not because its easier but because of other psychological and social reasons, and this is what i want to focus on this week. I particularly want to focus in on the company ‘Apple’ as i feel they have achieved the near impossible. They have achieved what most other smartphone and computer brands haven’t, such a strong loyalty between the company and their consumers. Research shows that apple consumers are the most loyal smartphone users. 84% of present iphone users say they would chose another iphone for their next mobile device in comparison to 60% of Android users. So how did apple build such a strong loyalty? What is it about the branding strategies that apple use to draw in their customers so deeply in comparison to Google and their Android phones.

Smartphone Wars!

Brand loyalty can be defined as Brand Equality, implying that consumers bind themselves to products as a result of deep-seated commitment (Busch and Houston, 1983). Brand loyalty must not be confused with repeat purchasing (inertia), which is the act of simply re-buying a brand. Actual brand loyalty includes antecedents, reasons/ facts occurring before the behaviour (Bloemer and Kasper, 1995). To further this definition brand loyalty can be split into two types ‘spurious’ and ‘true’. When a customer is loyal to a brand they will exhibit the following attributes:

  • Biased opinions
  • behavioral response expressed over time
  • Decision-making process with respect to one or more alternative brands
  • psychological processes

So why do some customers become brand loyal? Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question, there could be many reasons as to why a customers decides to keep buying a particular brand. Here are just a few influences i have thought of:

  1. The brand satisfies the customers needs –  These needs are not always practical as one would first presume, but could be psychological in nature such as the need for fulfillment.
  2. The need for Belongingness – This is a very strong human need, everyone wants to belong to a group/ culture and this feeling of togetherness can be achieved through joining a brand community.
  3. Incentive influences – The use of incentives such as rewards points, loyalty cards, promises and various other offers all have a major influence on whether a consumer decides to become committed to a brand.

These influences/ needs make up the building blocks of what many brands use when constructing a model to create loyalty with their customers. Building loyalty is a difficult and lengthy process and many brands will never achieve it, but those who do tend to use the following rules of thumb:

So now to reveal the secrets behind apples huge success. Apple brand loyalty has run high since the company released iphone in 2007, this consistently topped other smartphone companies leaving Android trailing behind wondering why. As mentioned earlier iphone users are the most loyal customers when it comes to smartphones, even despite problems occurring with the device. For example when the iphone 4S was released there were significant problems with the battery being drained. Now most consumers when they spot a problem will usually complain and go elsewhere, but not apple fans, Ohhh no no! Apples loyal customers are very forgiving and patient, they understand that problems do occur and they’ll continue to buy apple products in the future despite the mistakes, now that is the kind of loyalty that other smartphone companies crave so much!


There is such a strong loyalty towards apple for several reasons. First and most importantly the huge association the public have built up between the company and Steve Jobs. Unfortunately as most of you probably know Steve Jobs died October 5th 2011. Ever since his death the public have empathized with apple, they have come to associate the immense dedication and passion Steve had for producing the highest quality cutting-edge products, thus inspiring consumers to come over to apple. This emotional connection apple has built has played a huge part in the companies worldwide success.  Another huge contributor to apples loyal following is down to the message they send out to the public. Their mission statement is inspiring, it offers its loyal fans and the public the hope of being more creative and creating a beautiful world. But most importantly it resonates throughout each and every part of its operations.

Their mission statement reads as:

“Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings.”

Lastly apple is continuously adding new services and perks to its repertoire, for example new apps, games, icloud, siri voice recognition and just released itunes match service. All these new extensions add to apples appeal, it keeps their consumers wanting to purchase more of their new services as they feel it will complement them and their other apple products well. The more services apple offer it consumers the greater the odds of new consumers being drawn in, and the more apple intergrates these services the more devoted the users will become. Hook line and sinker!

…..Oh and not to mention apple has the ‘Cool factor’ especially among the younger student population due to its splashy marketing.

Here i have outlined the ‘mass movement’ process apple went through in order to gain the strong loyalty they have today:

Apples Mass Movement Process:

1. Figure out which human needs your brand naturally plays towards?

Apple plays to its need of beauty and self actualization, These needs can be see on Maslow’s    Hierarchy of needs (1954)

2. Discover how the brand fulfills these needs for your consumer in a way no other brand does?

Apples creative tools e.g. iLife allows people to express their artistic spirits. Apples sleek design complements the users own beautiful expressions and innovations.

3. Design a message to promote fulfillment of the companies unique need?

Apples message is to have a more intelligent and creative choice, to think differently. “It is those people who think different that create great things”. This message inspires all age groups, giving people inspiration, motivation and courage to go do something, become someone they have always wanted to be. And most importantly this unique need is right at the users fingertips!

4. Provide people with the tools to form their own groups and inspire others?

There are hundreds of apple forums and support groups online where people can communicate and talk about what they love. These communities are formed worldwide and usually meet on a monthly basis to keep up-to-date on the latest news.

5. Create programs that bring your company philosophy alive!?

Apple have created something no other smartphone brand has, the ‘genius bar’. This is a shop where people can come and chat to apple specialists about any technical problems they may have. This just shows how devoted apple are to making their loyal customers happy.

 These unique and innovative ideas and concepts apple keep creating are what keeps apple fans hooked, especially me. I feel no other smartphone brand such as android or blackberry offer half as much luxury  freedom, creativity and inspiration like apple does. Brand loyalty is never easy to gain, as all humans have different personal preference, but through hard work, devotion, knowing what their customers love, apple has managed to pull a huge community of people together that all love the same thing, and this doesn’t happen very often.

By undercoverconsumer