Wouldyoulikelieswiththat is jumping ship…All aboard “Enterprise by Design”!

Yes, the rumours are true. I’ve left my former partner for a better, younger model. Alas, there are plenty more fish in the sea. The sleek, sexy, innovative, awe – inspiring Enterprise by Design was simply too alluring, and so my love affair with PCP4004 has ceased. Fear not minions, as this next stop promises to offer an abundance of thought-provoking, empirically – based innovative ideas about the multidisciplinary arena that EbD evokes.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be churning out a blog designed to anchor all of the aforementioned ideas into a succinct, bite- size piece, for your digestive pleasure. These nibbles will have one very important common denominator; leadership. This is indeed an important aspect of any programme, and the triumphs, failures and oddities that go hand – in – hand with all of this will be outlined in these very blogs. How convenient. So sit back, quaff a pimms or two and enjoy the next journey wouldyoulikelieswiththat is about to embark on.

Enterprise by Design, Ahoy!

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In(cr)edible?

 

The inspiration for this week’s blog came from my boyfriend telling me he’d eaten an out of date pre – packaged sandwich from Waitrose. I immediately got a shiver down my spine, but I managed to ask him how old it was. He said; “A day”. I nearly keeled over.

Out – of – date food is my Everest. I just can’t cope with it. That off – colour mince – meat, bursting out of its cheap packaging, being ravaged by a gang of horny bacteria. Ugh. Even food going off on the day of purchase makes me sweat, and I won’t buy it unless it looks the same as the normal in -date lads left on the shelf. I’m very discriminatory really. The upshot for those of you who aren’t freaks like me, is that you can get a santa’s sack full of goodies for half the price, if you are savvy enough with your shopping. Great! I on the other hand, am left with a lengthy receipt and a lighter wallet. Not so great. However, I am left with what I think is a greater reward – the overwhelming calmness associated with not having to tuck into rancid, sticky, stinky, unrecognisable, the –artist –formerly – known –as chicken. A price simply can’t be put on that.

 

 

Why am I so abhorred by the sweaty meat shelf? The red stickers? The smug looking use – by date? And more importantly, why are others not? Hop in my trolley as I take you on a journey around the aisles of rotting food. Mmm….

 

Firstly, some distinction between the types of food product dating would be beneficial. Then we can get into the nitty –gritty. There are 3 main types of food – product dating:

  • “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavour or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

At face value, it seems that companies use these dates as a way of protecting their consumers from the aforementioned horny bacteria. We get the best quality of product by purchasing before the sell – by, best – before and use – by date. In this way they have warned us that the quality of the food either diminishes or goes off after these dates. That’s so nice of them to keep us abreast of our eating needs isn’t it? My scepticism is in overdrive already. See I have a niggling feeling that companies couldn’t actually give a hoot about these shelf – life dates. Instead they are ultimately protecting themselves from any harm from consumers who try to make a claim after having an intimate evening with the toilet bowl. They are actually more useful for the businesses rather than the consumer for this very reason; they are looking after their business’ safety, not ours. The repercussions of not keeping on top of the out – of – date food pyramid leaves a significant chunk out of the company’s (real leather) wallet.

 

On this basis, ultimately I think food – product dates serve as fodder for creating anxiety among consumers. And as we all know, by manipulating consumers into feeling vulnerable, advertisers and the business world at large can hook a large audience very convincingly. This video gives instructions as to how to tell when food has gone off. By this token, I should be riddled with food poisoning. My favourite is the potato one. “Throw away potatoes that are wrinkled, growing sprouts blah blah blah.” It’s a potato. What are you going to get from eating a wrinkled potato? (Disclaimer: I am aware that I’m Irish and that the Great Famine was caused by blight; but people did not die from wrinkly potato syndrome.)

And this is where the juxtaposition between my irrationality (don’t eat potentially harmful out of date stuff) and people telling me not to eat wrinkly potatoes (the other extreme), for example, comes in – and why anxiety is created for consumers. Going further than that, I think this is analogous to a discrepancy between bottom – up and top – down processing. The a priori, sensory input is telling us that the food is grand, via sight, smell, taste (a quick lick maybe) and touch. So you’re happy enough to stick the chicken in the oven for a decent “mammy dinner”. But just as you’re bending down to slip the chick in the oven, the marketing devil pops a squat on your shoulder and tells you that you are essentially spoon – feeding your child salmonella and that you are a shite mother. And there’s the top – down, a posteriori processing interrupting the sensory reception. That prior knowledge you have from the media about food poisoning and the dangers and…. and.…suddenly you’re making some vegetarian dish in a radiation suit using colour coded chopping boards – JUST IN CASE.

There’s the CDU (Chicken Disposal Unit)

You also have prior knowledge and experience telling you that you’ve cooked dodgy chicken before and it has been fine, but that niggling seed of doubt has been planted and it’s now in full bloom. The threat of poisoning your children or family for the sake of a 5 pound chicken is enough to override any rationality you may have. This is similar to a confirmation bias; “Oh I remember when Sally next door cooked a dodgy chicken and she ended up in hospital. And chicken can give you the worst kind of food poisoning. I better not”. Thus, confirming their fears, which may not be true, but neglecting other hypotheses that are valid and counterclaim their fears. It’s worth noting though that confirmation bias increases when the data in question is ambiguous or unclear – then people will sway one way over another very easily, based on the lack of evidence/ambiguity. But it is a fact that if you eat gone off food or going off food, you have a high chance of becoming ill, so this doesn’t tally with Busemeyer, Hastie & Medin’s (1995) findings that the more ambiguity, the more a confirmation bias will be used.

 

This was once soup.

 

Within this anxiety – provoking, toying with emotions, rational – irrational , top down – bottom – up medley, there lies the other key issue I have with product dating; it subtly makes consumers spend a hell of a lot more due to massive amount of waste of what is 9 times out of 10, perfectly edible food. If we keep being told that eating out of date food is going to make us sick, we are going to believe it. Being verbally reprimanded (conceptually) by the marketing devil, every time the cooking behaviour begins; this then leads to a cessation of the behaviour – which can be linked to a subtle spin on negative reinforcement. (Skinner, 1960) Those clever clogs. Companies can then pocket the cash when the new trolley of food is bought after the bins are overflowing with wasted good food. A study from the University of Arizona in 2004 showed that the United States throw out between 40 – 50% of in – date, healthy food, that could otherwise been eaten. That’s a whole lot of money just being thrown away for nothing! The average family in the UK wastes £50 a month on food that is thrown out and never eaten. Let’s be honest, it’s not all because of scary dates telling us to bin food, but that in tandem with other food going off is a recipe for a smelly disaster. I would love £50 extra month, wouldn’t you? Planning ahead would certainly be one way we could tackle the waste problem head on –and then there’s the other extreme…

 

 

Freeganism is a lifestyle that involves eating, that requires no money. Can you believe it? As a consumer, I am overly pleased with that deal. The down side is that you have to forage in bins for the food. Freegans are anti – consumerist and by jumping into bins are essentially giving the big Daddio companies the finger through their actions. They are acutely aware that companies are extremely talented at the psychological manipulation of those who are watching their advertisements or going to their stores. Freegans remove that threat by escaping through the back door. Literally.  Now, I’m sure some freegans are just poor and simply can’t afford to pay for overpriced goods in fancy packaging. But it seems to be more of a philosophy than a chancing – of – the – arm. The issue of group conflict comes to the fore again, as the freegans, by acting together against consumerism and the business world, are separating themselves very strictly from the rest of us who probably buy something branded from a store every day. It becomes another case of “us” and “them”. (Tajfel, 1987) I personally have absolutely no issue with it, and encourage it.  There is a website here dedicated to freegans, whereby they explain their position quite well, and I found myself agreeing a lot of the time.

 

Though conversely, I don’t agree that such an extreme view is needed. Indeed, such an extreme view could lead to the very illnesses that food poisoning elicits. By risking eating gone off food, that is enough in and of itself to make me nervous – taking it out of a bin takes it to a whole new level. Where there is warm, rotten food there are surely rats as well as freegans? And if, as their websites states, most don’t have jobs or homes as they don’t “believe” in them, where are they going to go when their insides are turned inside out from bacteria? And who’s going to pay for it? Yes, there’s too much waste, but get a job, get accommodation and just be more careful! In fact, work, live in a warm place and take some stuff out of bins if you want to as well – then you have the best of both worlds! A warm house, some pocket money, and a mouldy sandwich. Perfect. From a social psychology point of view though, they are doing no favours for themselves as they become stereotyped as free loaders and bums. They have created a “language” and discourses available and understood only to themselves, something discursive psychologists would commend them for. They have gone so far as to be compared to raccoons, just as an aside. Not quite sure what to make of that. Nonetheless, their unique discursive stamp could very well be the reason the freegan community is a very tight one; they have created a culture within an established, opposing culture of consumerism.

In sum, it is clear how the implications of impending going – off dates on food can have knock – on effects both psychologically and in terms of the business world. Expiration dates and the associative advertising lead to anxiety arousal and a sense of doubt when the behaviour itself of cooking, is called into question. We have been conditioned by the baddies to halt certain behaviours and employ others – bin and buy, respectively. The amount of food waste is a damning reminder of this psychological manipulation companies employ, but is something which is hopefully starting to improve, given the economic condition the country is in. Though admittedly, we ought not need such a reminder as money to realise that throwing out a bag of fruit and vegetables is never good. Well, except for the freegans among us who have chosen to buck the trend and evade the ever – elusive business world. Fairplay to them and all, but maybe such a culture is not conducive to living a truly fulfilling life, given the rest of the public backlash for starters.

What should we take from all this then? Is dodgy food incredible or inedible? Personally, I’m going to go with the latter BUT with these tips in mind: Plan ahead, use those bottom – up processes like evolution has told us to, use your common – sense, give the marketing devil a punch when he’s being totally irrational, and if your food ever looks anything like these beauties:

    

 

 

Leave them in your annoying neighbours’ whellie bin.

 

 

 

If you’re ugly, don’t read this.

So you’re reading this then. Ouch.

You must be rotten looking so, are ya?

 How’s that going?

Not too well, according to a plethora of research in the area. It seems the attractive among us are open to all sorts of opportunities; whether they are relationship, job or financially related. That’s a fairly solid deal for something that is wholly arbitrary. But what makes this the case?

How can attractive consumers gain value from an uncontrollable constant, such as being good – looking or not? And why is it that the runts of the pack are suffering on their behalf, under the same conditions? The following experiments and experiences shed light on the phenomenon of attractive people. Theoretical frameworks like the halo effect will also help to investigate the psychological impact consumers’ level of attractiveness has upon the business world. 

Check this woman out. She got stuck into a clever social experiment which involved wearing a sexy outfit consisting of; a short dress, full make –up and a head of bouncy, magazine hair. The same actress then dressed in a completely opposing outfit which included a floor length skirt, bum – bag and unflattering blouse – oh, and not a scrap of make – up. The results are clear. She receives free taxi rides, food and drink in the sexy condition, and a measly single pint to the value of £3.20 in the “plain” condition. It’s fairly obvious; the attractive consumer can chance their arm in a business market and come out on top. The plain Jane is left for dust. A sad reality I think, but one which extends beyond the transactional realm of business.

Let’s consider a post – purchase example. You’ve just saved up and managed to get your hands on the coveted iPod. You decide to head to the beach to pump out some tunes on your new device.  You leave momentarily to go get an ice cream, what happens? This next video explores this scenario as a sort of spin off of the bystander effect, except the added variable is attractiveness. The actress leaves her possessions momentarily and a stooge robs her radio obviously in front of onlookers. Long story short (the video is much more succinct!), there is a correlation between attractiveness of the actress and the desire of bystanders to intervene. The more attractive the actress, the quicker and more likely the bystanders are to act. If you’re not so attractive, there is much more chance of people pretending not to have seen anything. Again, I think this is a fairly disturbing result. As a consumer, purchasing an expensive iPod, how would you feel if your possession was not protected on the basis of your physical attractiveness? So not only do you lose your purchase, but a sense of self – esteem as well? (Not that the bystanders are going to tell you that they didn’t intervene because you weren’t attractive enough!) The premise of the experiment revolves around the idea that attractive people are noticed more. Whatever salient features the person possesses that we attend to, mean that we naturally ignore others and throw an attentional spotlight onto them. (Posner, 1980). This has the knock – on effect of people tripping over themselves trying to help out the now elite,attractive looking person – because they are just “better”, right? (Sinagatullin, 2009) More on that later…

Finally, what if consumers’ clothing choice affects the way they are treated with regard to medical attention? Seems an extreme example? Have a look for yourself. A plain, non – expensively dresses actor asked for help whilst curled up in a ball on a busy London street, clearly distressed and unwell. The same actor did the same procedure later that day wearing a suit. What happened folks? I’m sure it’s glaringly obvious. It took 6 seconds to help the man in the suit. It took in excess of 25 minutes before the experiment was called off for the plain clothed man – no one came to his aid. I think that this is a pretty distressing reality. I would like to think that I wouldn’t discriminate against someone on the basis of their attire if they’re visibly unwell and are in need of medical assistance, but isn’t that the beauty of the bystander intervention? Very few actually do what they pre-emptively and hypothetically think they would do, because there is competition between doing what you think is right and staying out of other people’s business. So, in this case, the competition seems to be too much to intervene for the less attractively dressed male (men in suits are preferred). Pretty shocking stuff.

It must be noted that there is a myriad of theoretical frameworks and concepts that can help to explain behaviour of people in business settings, and how these are integrated and extrapolated to the psychological microcosmic level of the individual. It’s worth digging deeper and delving past the surface explanation of these occurrences.

In the case of the same actress dressing up in either a sexy or plain way, it is clear from the video that there is more than simply physical attractiveness at stake here. When the woman is sexily clad her whole demeanour and body language changes, revealing a more confident, “pop – out” woman. Apply this to a consumer setting, and it’s no wonder she was getting plied with free stuff. Let’s also note that the people working in the businesses she was a consumer of were male, so that may have also been a confounding variable to consider, assuming they are straight. I think in terms of future research it would be interesting to consider male attractiveness and get over the whole sexy women example. Throw a few sexy lads into the mix and see what happens. I’ve no doubt the results would be interesting. I suppose it’s nice to know in a way, that if you were going in to get a big purchase for yourself, like a car or to get a loan, that a bit of cleavage or the ole’ puppy dog eyes might work. The converse is that it is unfair that attractive people get the upper hand – and in this case, merely based on make – up and revealing clothing. I’m no feminist, but can the men in question not pick their jaws up off of the floor in between gawking at her and realise they’ve just lost money for their respective businesses? Silly billies.

 

In the beach scenario, the fact that the plain woman’s theft was ignored and the sexy woman’s was not  seems at face value, fairly straight forward. I think however that it’s clear that there is an element of macho –man – ness involved for the man who chases and threatens the thief in front of the two female acquaintances. I also believe that the fact that the thief was running in some of the trials made the threat more obvious. I think people would be more likely to protect the goods of the stranger when the thief is legging it– the question of attractiveness then becomes void and any doubt the bystander has is removed. Having spent good money on an iPod and speakers, I think that any consumer would be fairly riled to find it being taken – but even more galling to realise that it had not been easily protected by our own kind. I believe that this says more about a lack of humanity than the relevance of attractiveness.

 

Finally, that people would not help the actor in the cheaper looking outfit who was unwell is a sickening portrayal of modern life. Stereotypes were rampant I would think; perhaps they thought the man was homeless so were immediately afraid of the “unknown”. Again, because he chose to wear and buy a certain brand (or lack thereof) or type of clothing, this impacted upon the decision of others in whether aid ought to be administered or not. However, the man who bought and wore a suit was immediately looked after, was addressed as “Sir” instantaneously! I was actually embarrassed watching the woman helping him say that.

 

Here, it is clear again that stereotypes are in full swing; “Man in a suit, must be of high class – must therefore unconsciously be biased and call him Sir.” This article describes stereotypes as a “mental shortcut”, which I think is a nice, neat way of explaining them. No doubt she could have seen the previous same actor wearing different attire, and ignored him. This chimes with the idea of the halo effect. This fallacy assures that people hypothesise about individuals based on one presumption, and then qualify it with another. There is no justification or evidence for the presumptions though – they are merely that. For example in this case, “The man is wearing a suit, he must be intelligent, so why is he lying outside in the rain?”. I would suggest that this lateral thinking is what elicited such a swift response from the member of the public – and what meant no one saw to the plain clothed man. It ought to be noted though that the results would presumably be different if the bystander was alone at the time of the experiment. This is because the premise of the effect is that if there are other people around. Individuals assume someone else is taking control – tacitly passing the buck, and harming the victim by omission.

Oh and let’s not forget the real clinger here; that  the idea of attractiveness is incredibly subjective, so it’s pretty impressive that the same type of behavioural responses were automatically executed by the vast majority of naïve members of the public. Perhaps the people in question had symmetrical faces? All of them though, really? Or maybe the attractive people were saved by equally attractive people, meaning there is a bias over your own “kind”? Again, all of them, really? How could this even be measured! I think a large part of the helpfulness seen in the three examples (to the consumer, consumer’s product or consumer’s health) was based on impressing or trying to win over the attractive actor, as they are seen as being on a higher echelon than their lesser attractive counterparts. And that’s not me being unjustifiably provocative – there are many incidents which point to attractive people having higher salaries, better treatment in businesses, better deals as consumers, seen as more intelligent, as having better personality traits and can even receive lesser sentencing for committed crimes! That seems absurd, but is unfortunately the workings of the world nowadays, which hangs too much emphasis on appearance and not enough on the other stuff – the inside, gushy, wholesome stuff.

So as attractive consumers, we can use our looks to our advantage to get free stuff, to have people help us when our iPod is being robbed, and to help others like us on lunch break in the middle of a busy London street. That seems pretty handy, right? I’m not convinced. I think  that maintaining some level of justice and hope that the consumers’ physicality is overseen by the businessmen or other consumers is far more important and necessary. Let’s help each other out, regardless of whether I’m wearing a fancy suit or a bin bag – I’m still a bloody human for crying out loud. 

More importantly, however; ugly people want free cake too.

 

Saying “NO!” to saying “yes”.

In different market settings it seems that saying no can often be problematic. We are faced with an unwanted product or service and yet end up forking out unaffordable cash, just to get out of there! It doesn’t stop there though – we then complain about whatever we have bought and say that we were “forced” into it! Who forced you? Why did you buy it if you did not want/need it or could not afford it? And why not bring it back when hindsight rears its rational head? I am going to outline three scenarios whereby “no” is not used, and see what the implications from a consumer and a psychological world are. Here’s the story:

 

Scenario A:

Dinner is booked at a new restaurant in town for 7pm. You arrive as glamorous as Katie Price on crack for a first date, with your handsome beau strapped on your arm. Perfect. But the food leaves a lot to be desired. Bland soup, cold steak and stale meringue leave you with a tongue crying out for some taste bud action. Instead of complaining, politely, that the food was far under par and lacking in almost every aspect, you smile and say that it was fine and pay the full whack – even a tip! This is something I have witnessed many times before and has been something I have regrettably fallen folly to myself in the past. But what drives this obviously contradictory behaviour? Why do we put on a face for the stranger – cum – waitress who has served up the equivalent of prison food to us?

 

 

Stephens & Gwinner (1998) propose a cognitive appraisal model to consumer silence or non – complaint. They posit that when dissatisfying services/products in the market environment interrupt a goal – directed consumer – related purchase, then the situation is cognitively appraised as stressful. The goal in this case is setting a good example for the hot date. Because this has been scuppered by the miserable food, and the stressful appraisal is firing, not complaining means that any further stress is alleviated. This is intuitive, I believe, in that if I was to impress a new fella’, or went out for dinner with close family I had not seen in a while, I am not sure I would like to kick – start the evening’s catch – up by chastising the waitress for serving me undercooked chicken. Thus the reasoning here seems to be based on emotional (stress) appraisal and the interruption of the goal of the consumer. The combination of the two leads to a hypothetical barrier which leads the consumer to smile through their teeth and not simply say “No, we didn’t have a nice meal”. Citations from interviewed participants also lend support to the idea that social norms and prejudice from other groups may brandish people who complain as annoying;

 

“I don’t want people to think I’m such a crab…”

“…but then maybe I didn’t make myself clear about what I wanted or something…I don’t like to confront people.”

and

“The maître – d passed by and said, “How is everything?” And everybody sort of nodded and thanked him. I don’t know what came over me.”

 

 

 

So emotion, goal directed behaviour, social norms, intergroup/intragroup prejudice and self – perception all play a role in refraining from saying no. That’s quite a mouthful, right? (no pun intended….well…)

 

Scenario B:

 You decide to quell your sorrows from the date the night before by treating yourself to some light retail therapy. You head for the department store in town where you might pick up a new item for your wardrobe. Whilst slinking through the aisles you catch something out of the corner of your eye.

It’s her.*                               She’s armed.                     It’s too late to run.

(*Or him, I just  made a decision to pick one, gender equality and all that carry on.)

It’s the PERFUME LADY. She is probably in my top three pet peeves. I have never liked being assaulted with perfume or make up by strangers, and I am sure I am not the only one. Do I look and smell that horrific? And even if I do, I would make the effort of coming to you if I cared to avail of your products, instead of you following me around like a fragrant terrier. The salespeople involved generally work on commission and so are even pushier than normal. Before you know it you have a new eyeliner, lipstick and perfume set that cost an arm and a leg. What is it about the pushy – salesperson that we can’t seem to push away? We agree to a makeover in the middle of a crowded department store despite initially only coming in for an innocent browse! Yet; “Customers are sick and tired of the self – focused product pusher with commission breath.”

 

I think most of the problem lies in the personal proximity and relationship, albeit short, that develops between the consumer and salesperson. It is very easy to throw away junk mail including offers about products, but that same tact would be difficult to replicate when the offer-er is facing the offer-ee. I think this is embedded in an innateness of the human condition to be perceived positively by the social realm they find themselves in. Leary (1983) alludes to this idea where they cite Watson & Friend’s (1969) Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale. This measures the level to which you feel apprehensive at the thought of being perceived in a negative light. “I don’t want to look cheap in front of him/her, He/She might think I’ve no money, I’ll be doing him/her a favour so they’ll like me…”; All of these thoughts, I think, add to the feeling of not being able to run away. Once the rapport is built it’s often the case that there’s no going back – and salespeople are trained to come across as similar to us, the consumer. By doing this they create a hook and suddenly everyone’s the best of friends. We like similarity and not deviating from the norm (Ariely, 2010) so this is the perfect way to get our attention and reel us in – and help us to not say “no”.

 

Scenario C:

After racing home to recover from perfume-gate 2011, you decide to stay in for the night, away from any potential threat. Curled up on the sofa you revel in the fact that technology is on the consumer’s side and you can shop freely from the comforts of your own home. Top notch. However, as you click onto the next website you are drawn to a new inbox message. It’s from a poor father who is trying to raise funds for his daughters life – saving surgery. He only needs a couple of grand and you will benefit by being repaid even more from his insurance payout next month. What a deal – you get to be altruistic, but reap financial benefits too? It sounds too good to be true! And once the details are transferred and time ticks away, you realise that it indeed was just that. You have lost money and also faith in humanity. Although this scenario is less reported, it still begs the question why we can’t say no to strangers we have never seen or met (and never will) in our lifetime. There have been many well documented cases of these, with some shows in America setting up traps to expose the culprits. What’s also interesting here is that the consumer doesn’t necessarily consume anything – the money becomes the object of consumption, but the agreement is merely tacit, resulting in the victim being syphoned out of a lot of money. Why don’t we just say “No, I don’t know you, leave me alone you creep.” ?We haven’t met the person so the worry of what other people think (like in scenario B) is made redundant. Why are we so trusting of people who are telling quite blatant and often quoted lies?

 

It seems as though there are a set series of steps that con artists undergo to suspend the victim’s belief enough to get the cash they want, as Pak & Shadel (2007) outline here:

 

•  Victim makes the initial contact with the offender, like mailing in a free coupon or a

chance to win a trip.

•  Victim provides information about him or herself.

•  Victim allows the offender to convert what should be a business relationship into a

personal relationship to create trust.

•  Victim allows the offender to create a scenario or version of events that when

believed sets the stage for fraud.

•  Victim provides access to funds by writing checks or giving out credit card numbers

 

The key element here is creating trust. By quashing any fears the victim has, the con artist embeds the trickery in a bubble of trust, making the consumer feel pity or sorrow for the con artist’s plight. Shoniregun (2005) alludes to the problem of internet security by suggesting that people are generally or inherently trusting. Couple this with the con artists tricks and this makes saying no very difficult for some consumers. Also, by engaging in (albeit) reciprocal altruism, the altruist feels like they are doing something good, which make them feel good, in turn. This strokes their ego too (Pojman, 2004), offering a double whammy. But obviously ultimately, by not saying “NO”, the consumer becomes the victim of a scam that rids of them of their money and also their trust in human kind. Oh dear.

 

In sum, the art of saying no seems to be one which needs to fine tuned. The fact that we are in the throes of passion with an unforgiving recession is bound to have put a dampner on pushy sales people, but I do believe that the “no” etiquette needs to be instated with more fervour, so to save some cash and gain some assertiveness. That’s surely a win – win?…….. Speaking of winning, you’re my lucky 1,000,000th blog viewer. To receive your prize, send me all of your bank details and..

Ryanair: The marmite of air travel?

“We will double our emissions in the next five years because we are doubling our traffic. But if preserving the environment means stopping poor people flying so only the rich can fly, then screw it.”

I mean the charm is just dripping off of Michael O’ Leary, CEO of Ryanair, isn’t it? Yet I have flown many times within Europe with Ryanair. And this is all through the anxious wait of whether my perfectly measured bag is .0001g overweight, whether the flight will actually leave on time, and arguably most importantly, the wait to see if you will actually end up in the same country as you had planned. I’m a walking hypocrite; in fact I was looking up flights to Cork from Liverpool this week! This is where the topic for my blog this week emerged from; my perusal of the ever – garish Ryanair website.

                                                                                           

I mean it’s great that the flights are so cheap and regular but there seems to be a sort of confused “I love to hate” Ryanair buzz in me. I give out about the fact that they can be unreliable, inflexible, unfriendly, yet I click, click, click away until my weekend trip to London is all wrapped up. There is a sincere dislike, generally speaking, of Michael O’ Leary, CEO of Ryanair – but I actually think that that (him) is where my respect lies. He is a businessman first and foremost, and a very good one at that. His way of advertising and keeping the Ryanair name alight is equal parts hilarious and embarrassing. Here are a few ways that he has controversially kept Ryanair on top:

Reducing the amount of toilets available on board to ONE, so to make more room for seats (up to 6, to be exact). This is a crazy move by the big guy, and has all sorts of implications for its 200 passengers – some of which will be pregnant women, older people with dodgy “plumbing”, young children and just people with regular bladder function actually, now that I think of it. He is trying to reduce the opportunity to exercise a very basic and very necessary need! (There’s our friend Maslow again) and let’s not forget the removal of all sick bags on all flights too. But that doesn’t matter. That made the headlines.

He also toyed with the idea of replacing some seats at the back of the plane into standing “seats” which would, allow for flights between 4 – 8 pounds for passengers that were up for the challenge. Some have criticised Mr. O’ Leary for merely trying to gain publicity for such outlandish and unviable ideas, which he later wholeheartedly dismissed. That made the headlines.

                                                                                                        

And who could forget the “toilet gate” scandal, whereby Ryanair were positing that in order to use facilities during a flight, there would be a charge of 1 pound, leaving them with a hefty 15 million pound bonus in the back pocket. Joke or not; That made the headlines.

Also, at Dublin airport a new terminal was opened last year– T2.Ryanair weren’t too pleased about this as they claimed it was both wasteful and would kill Irish tourism. Instead of being interviewed about the controversy or maybe even placing a statement online, Michael O’ Leary decided to turn up to the opening of T2 like this;

Needless to say, that made the headlines.

You could argue that these are controversial, attention – seeking, money – spinning, self – aggrandising, purposeful, cheating, consumer grabbing and indulgent ways of staying in the market, and that it’s just wrong. And you’d be right. And usually I’d have a problem with that, in any other sort of consumer-y setting. Yet I seem to feel differently about wee Michael.

Having pondered this, I’ve narrowed it down to why this might be;

 

Despite Ryanair’s wicked ways, I think because they are so explicit, I don’t actually feel like I’m being taken advantage of – because I know exactly what they are doing. This is something I mentioned briefly last week – it’s like I own a “Theory of Mind” (Baron – Cohen, 1985) and in this way, I can predict or anticipate Ryanair’s behaviour, leaving the controls back in my hands. This idea is embedded in an evolutionary paradigm, where Ryanair’s the Lion and I’m the eagle (!) – in order to beat the bigger predator at their own game, I have to be able to anticipate their next move – to ultimately make it “checkmate”. And that is something I certainly do when I’m searching for flights on the website. I’ll try and work out any possible way I can dodge extra costs, or inconveniences. In this way Ryanair have managed to keep their consumers on their toes when buying from them. Importantly however, this has not been done to the extent of harming sales, as these smug looking figures suggest. The competition better watch out.

Also, I think the fact that Ryanair acknowledge that they are being cheeky and most importantly can laugh about it, makes it all one big joke to me too. Here’s a few samples of Mr. O ‘Leary’s…what will I call it…linguistic prowess!:

“At the moment the ice is free, but if we could find a way of targeting a price on it, we would.”

“The European consumer would crawl naked over broken glass to get low fares.”

“I don’t give a shite if nobody likes me. I am not a cloud bunny, I am not an aerosexual. I don’t like aeroplanes. I never wanted to be a pilot like those other platoons of goons who populate the air industry.”

“We don’t fall all over ourselves if they… say my granny fell ill. What part of no refund don’t you understand? You are not getting a refund so fuck off.”

“There is too much: “we really admire our competitors”. All bollocks. Everyone wants to kick the shit out of everyone else. We want to beat the crap out of BA. They mean to kick the crap out of us.”

“In economy no frills; in business class it’ll all be free – including the blowjobs.”
“Nuclear war in Europe, a major accident, or believing our own bullshit.”

Need I say any more? Ryanair explicitly state their position, there are no frills and most importantly, they can laugh about it! So they can easily argue that all of the information is there – either like it or lump it! All of this is woven together nicely through self – deprecating humour, which is known to be attractive in males, particularly. This is perhaps the psychological root of my strange attraction (possibly too strong a word) to Mr. O’ Leary’s blatant cheekiness.

Indeed the humour they enlist generally, whether it’s through making themselves look stupid in publicity stunts, or by saying hilariously true statements,  all work in their favour. Humour is something at the root of the human condition, and something which babies and even chimpanzees react to by smiling from a very early stage in their lives. (Waller and Dunbar, 2005) What a great tactic for Ryanair to employ. Kudos are well and truly due.

To conclude, it’s clear that I am more than happy to use Ryanair because I know what game they are playing, they are taking a light hearted approach to it, they can go as far as to acknowledge that they themselves are taking the Mick, whilst using clever publicity and marketing stunts to keep the brand name lighting brightly. On the other hand, their charges are extortionate, the yellow colour inside the aircrafts is vertigo – inducing, the comfort is minimum, but the price – ah yes the price, is where it catches people out. Being able to fly from Cork to London for 30 euro is not bad going, to be fair. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the smug, crass leprechaun that is Michael O’ Leary, the CEO of Ryanair is worth approximately 345 million pounds. Not bad going, eh?

Welcome to Farcebook

Facebook is kind of like a fridge. No matter how empty it is, you keep checking it when you’re hungry to see if anything new has magically appeared.

It’s a funny old thing. Facebook facilitates the now incessant need to be connected, “in the know” and constantly abreast of the latest news. I joined facebook out of peer pressure, and I am quite happy admitting that; one of my friends said to me “Will you just join facebook; it’s annoying having to text you separately about going out and stuff.” And then my profile was born. The thing that gets me though is that it’s one of the rare times where I cannot really make up my mind about the thing. Well no, I think the disadvantages outweigh the advantages, but I still have this niggling feeling that it’s surely not all bad?

                                                                                          

The only way to tackle this is to set out the pros and cons and see how they are tapping into our psychological selves. Is facebook detrimental or beneficial to our needs? Is it even really a want? And is it becoming a perceived new “need”? (Maslow’s spinning in his pyramidal – shaped grave at the thought.)

Firstly, there has been plenty of research that shows that there is a positive correlation between the amount of facebook friends you have and your sense of self – esteem. So the more friends you have, the happier you are. Also, Scruton (2010) posits that facebook is beneficial for those who are shy, bringing out confidence in them. These are people who Eysenck (1978) would say fall on the introverted side of his introversion – extraversion orthogonal dimension. These are intuitive findings and straightforward equations, and something which Marcia may say occurs during the moratorium phase of identity development in youths. (Phoenix, 2007)

                                                                                                          

Not only that though, facebook also helps you to expand upon the current friendships you have, making them stronger than before. That is a good deal, no? Also, research has shown that by getting the number of facebook friends you have right (100 – 300) (Tong et al, 2008), you yourself become more attractive to whoever is creeping on your page; moreover, couple this with attractive looking friends, and the points keep racking up for you. Facebook has also become a place of retreat for those grieving the loss of a loved one whose page is still intact. Friends and loved ones state that they seek comfort from the deceased profile information and pictures. Although being able to “communicate” with them by posting on their wall is emotionally trying, it is their own little microcosmic sanctuary by which to continue the legacy of their loved one.

So those are pretty good reasons to use facebook, besides of course the less researched ones like facebook gently reminding you of someone’s birthday, or creeping on people you fancy, or perhaps more pertinently, checking peoples’ relationship status’ or cruelly hoping your ex is now overweight, less intelligent, less attractive and just generally sort of unwell.

                                                                                                

And let’s not forget the business – consumer relationship that facebook has easily harnessed, with new customer acquisition arguably being the most beneficial one. To synopsise, these are all essentially needs on Maslow’s hierarchical prototype; the need for self – esteem largely, via belongingness. That is a pretty good score card for facebook, in fairness, which spans inter – personal, intra – personal,  emotional, relational and business avenues. Not bad, Mark, not bad at all.

                                                                                                           

But this motivation to use facebook can lead to a blurring of the lines between safe, successful social networking to intimidating, negative and personally harmful interaction. Although these lines instinctively seem too far apart to become blur – able, some of the research into the disadvantages are disturbing.

Although having the right recipe, in terms of amount and attractiveness of friends, on facebook is beneficial, evidence has shown that spending too much time browsing on facebook is detrimental to a person’s self – esteem. Perhaps this is because, for people in relationships for example, anything “suspicious” on their partner’s facebook page can ignite a cyclical Sherlock Holmes type investigation, until the supposed source is found. Unfortunately, jealousy, suspicions and heartbreak can sometimes stretch too far. On a similar vein, in a business setting there have been many instances of facebook leading to less than desirable results. This is where facebook crosses the line between being a communicative tool and being a public diary. And it is this intertwining of the public – personal continuum that lends itself to dangerous outcomes. Children are entirely vulnerable online, and don’t seem to have the capacity to think that they would ever be susceptible to anything sinister. Despite having a minimum age limit for memberships, facebook does not control for this, meaning there is a very easy loophole available for kids; lying.

By joining they then render themselves available to a whole host of danger, including cyberbullying, older, sexually explicit adults and scamming. Perhaps this is an extreme example but considering it was made in the first place…:

                                                                                  

Maybe children become exposed to such threats because Elkind (1967), in line with Piaget’s theory, believes that adolescents are ultimately egocentric because of the physical and mental changes that occur around puberty. This then causes the adolescents to centre their focus round themselves, and neglect the perspective of another; something which is reminiscent of a “Theory of Mind” (Baron – Cohen, 1985) – in this case, a lack of perspectivism.

And to the extreme end of things, facebook is being debated for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a clinically recognised addiction. That is surely a sign that technology has taken us too far? In one case, a woman lost her job as a waitress due to leaving her job repeatedly during the day to get to an internet café for her “fix” of facebook. Such is the persuasion of facebook, it apparently was worth more to her than her job.

                                                                                                      

Let’s make a little table here of the pros and cons and see where we stand so:

                                                                                                  

                                           PROS                                                                                                CONS

  • Increase in self esteem if certain variables are controlled for, namely: optimal number of friends and highly attractive friends
  • Addictive
  • A medium via which one can grieve
  • Job loss
  • And emmmmm…………………………………………………………
  • Jealousy
  • …………………………………………………………………………….
  • Harmful to children
  • ……………………………………………………………………………
  • …………………………………………………………………………….
  • …………………………………………………………………………….
  • …………………………………………………………………………….
  • …………………………………………………………………………….
  • Bullying
  • Scams/Spamming
  • Adults who are dangerous to kids, paedophiles especially scoping out facebook for children’s details.
  • Too long on facebook is harmful to self esteem…..and so on….

Now I was never good at maths, but that table looks a tad one – sided.

What’s driving us so? What is making us want and in some cases “NEED” facebook to the point of addiction – an addiction to facebook which has a support group on facebook! I think Piaget/Elkind have a point when they refer to ego centrism. Maybe we all, myself included lest we forget, our egos being rubbed when someone says that our picture is cool or our comment is clever. Is it as simple as that? Is facebook just a platform to portray ourselves in some airbrushed light?

                                                                                         

I think yes, ultimately, that is what is at facebook’s core. There are of course some practical elements involved, and it is great to see how all of your friends are doing, scattered across the world. There has to be more to it though, and surely what is being advertised as a social networking site is essentially a social – acceptance site? Whatever it is, let’s hope it fades out like MySpace and Bebo.

 Until then, I think facebook will continue to weave itself into our lives as a want, for most of us, yet a want we simply will not give up.

I wonder what poor Maslow would have to say about that?

Unnecessary and insufficient (Aristotle, 2011)

I ran out of mayonnaise there last week, and headed for a top up in Morrisons. After wedging myself in the door that must be pretending to be automatic (that thing is always widely birthed), I then shoehorned myself into the condiment aisle surrounded by disgruntled non – students. This battle inevitably leads to some unintentional – inappropriate brushing off of people too, which I haven’t seen advertised in there. (It’s not dissimilar to going through airport security, let’s put it that way.) Anyway, on my approach to try to find ketchup that isn’t red, I finally landed safely at the mayonnaise selection. And indeed there was quite the selection. However, I just wanted bog standard Hellman’s mayonnaise. I did not want low fat, or garlic, or any other bells and whistles. Just manky, processed eggy – oily mayonnaise, thanks. And that is when I saw something that actually annoyed me:

                                                                                                                          

There is the culprit; look at him, in all his squeezy glory. I mean honestly, were the jars that troublesome? And so, mayonnaise believe it or not, was my inspiration this week.

Several products have chosen to rebrand themselves in a bid to keep up with the latest trends or to “jazz” up a long – standing product type. This is risky as too far a deviation could make the brand recognisably ambiguous, whereas too little just looks pointless. Taking Dairy Milk as an example;

                                                                                                               

Not a massive divergence from the norm, but enough to notice. I think that this strikes a good balance. This plays with the consumers’ visual field and allows enough of a “pop out” effect (its newness and distinctive “Cadbury’s” colour) for it to render the other mere flankers void. (Shaffer & LaBerge, 1979) I think this is effective and necessary when an old product starts getting a bit, well, wrinkly.

It is when the product’s feature of functionality has alterations made to it that I start raising my sceptical eyebrows. The next section is going to be dedicated to a few products that I am questioning in terms of advertising and the added features. I will then look at why I think these are relevant in psychological terms. Here we go:

                 

                     vs                   

Why have the manufacturers gone to the bother of fashioning a tiny ring pull, that often snaps off? It just seems pointless adding another element to the can when it was, and still is, perfectly sufficient to use a can opener. An article by Reuve & Wood (2004) has shown that;

“Food cans with ring-pulls that need no opener are popular. But people with weaker hands find them irritating, as the lid does not come off easily.”

And so the ever reliable can opener has to be used anyway! 

Similarly, screw off bottle tops as opposed to getting a bottle opener. Again, I cannot understand why. I think the whole beauty of getting a drink from the fridge is the ritual of getting the bottle opener, peeling off the foil cover, and flicking the lid off of the bottle:

                                                                                       

This chimes with the German market for pry top bottles over twist top, given their ritualistic method of opening beer. However, the consumer interest in America for twist tops is huge, among some of the top competitors; Miller, Ice house and Milwaukee’s best.

Also, instructions or diagrams of how to open yoghurts makes me laugh:

                                                                                   

Ohhhhhh you mean pull ————>“here”? That’s great now, because I had been planning on stabbing it with a fork and sucking the rest through a make shift straw. Again, why?

And onto my personal favourite, JML products. These make me go weak at the knees. I am sure  they have a product to help me overcome that, like a chair that fits into my pocket or something. It was tough choosing my favourite, but it has to be this:

                                                                                                        JML products Appreciation Society

I am going to sum this up succinctly. Firstly, I do not think any mother wishes to look like she is preparing for a cameo role in the film “Alien”. Secondly, I am not sure that any child wants a jumper that makes them feel like they are re-living being born. However, given that the 2009 UK sales for JML were in excess of 150,000,000 dollars, may mean that maybe that jumper ought not to be sniffed at.

So there is a market for these convenience products, things that are supposed to make our lives all that bit easier. But it is worth wondering what are these manufacturers doing? Why is there demand for them? Are we just getting even lazier in this technologically driven world?

                                                                           

By advertising “easier” mayonnaise, tuna, beer and clothing, it plays with the vulnerable consumers who can be persuaded easily. Cialdina (1984) talks about the power people can exert over others simply by being attractive, driving a certain car, or engaging with those who are similar to us/our situation. Thus, it is no wonder that advertisers of revamped products try to tap into the psychological microcosm of the target audience.Using attractive people, seeing the food as a social, loving event – it is trying to persuade people, arguably mothers, to pick up their product because of the associated positive connotations it has embedded in it. This applies across all of the aforementioned examples.

Emotion also plays a role in advertising;

                                 cordaid print ad campaign3 Cordaid Ad Campaign: Trying to Make Big Spenders Guilty to Gain Aid?

;by trying to imbue some element of guilt, sadness, or feeling inferior, for example. By advertising tuna that is apparently low fat and suggesting that it makes even the most attractive woman struggle to “hold it together”, I think it creates a sense of guilt and possibly inferiority for the vulnerable or target audience. This would intuitively, and factually, be woman – based. Tuna is perfectly healthy to eat, with or without a stupid ring – pull, just not on a bed of lard.

                                                                                               

Scare tactics are, psychologically speaking, triggers for audiences to buy a certain product as it is a “better” one. Here the use of mothers’ children and healthy living is used to persuade mothers to join weight watchers. If scare tactics are successful, this can elicit physiological stress reactions within the body, causing an intention to change behaviour. Physiological reactions include;

1. Rapid mobilization of energy from storage.  Glucose, simple proteins and fats pour out of fat cells, liver, and muscles.

2. Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing to speed up the transport of nutrients and oxygen.  

3. Inhibited growth and decreased sex drive.  Females are less likely to ovulate or to carry pregnancies to term; males secrete less testosterone and have trouble with erections.

4. Halted digestion. The large intestine is stimulated to release previously digested food to reduce body weight.

5. Inhibited immunity to save the body’s energy for the crisis at hand.

6. Diminished perception of pain.

7. Improved cognitive and sensory skills.  Memory improves, except in the case of prolonged or extreme stress.

With several million members of weightwatchers worldwide, and with members attending one of nearly 50,000 meetings per week in 30 countries; these tactics are working just fine.

                                                                               

Finally, JML. The advertising they undertake is important, psychologically in terms of a multi – modality attempt to get consumers to perceive and attend to their products. They do this by enlisting visual, aural and oral advertising and demonstrations in the associated JML supermarkets. So there could be a video displaying a demonstration of a mop that proposes to hold as much water as a 10 litre bucket, say. This separates (“pop out”) the product from all the others which are now boringly sitting uncomfortably on the shelves. this is attractive to consumers. Why?Kahneman (1973) states that we have a limited capacity central processor that acts as a filter for the most relevant or salient parts of the visual stream we are taking in. This is needed because of the bombardment of the senses, and the brain can simply not process everything at once. This is akin to the idea that Broadbent (1952) proposes, which suggests that we process items in parallel early on in the visual system, and our choice is then activated serially. So, the advantages in a consumer market is making a product unique on as many different dimensions as possible. For example, on both colour and orientation – something like this;

                                                                                                    

It is obviously easier to spot the white vertical line in A, than it is in B. So in a consumer environment, this is incredibly important. This kind of design is not ideal from an attentional point of view:

                                                                                             

So JML stand out from the crowd for their, let us call them “unique” products, multi – modal advertising techniques and playing with customers’ perceived needs, by persuading them that they surely need a new slanket?

                                                                                                      

All in all, the power of these gadgets, altered product features and the associated advertising has meant that convenience takes the reigns again in the consumer market. Psychologically are brains have been re trained to think a certain way about products – to the point where certain colours even elicit representations of schematic associations. (Bartlett, 1934) For example;                                                                                  

                                                                                                                             Is it still coke?             

There ought to be a clash in our brains whereby it fits the schema of coke, besides the colour – alas, it does not fit the Aristotelian view of conditions of a category, which must be both necessary and sufficient.

We categorise items on many different levels – colour, packaging, type of product, size…the list is endless, but do so under the thumb of clever tactics by big – fat – dollar -eyed advertising companies. And this is all of course in comparison with the rival company. So whether you choose ring pull or the can opener, the twist off or the pry top, the squeezy or the jar – remember whose spell you are under when you are doing so, and ask yourself – is this really convenient, do I really need this or have I succumb to the subtleties of those evil robot overlords again?

  …Every little helps, right?

P.S For the stupidest inventions ever made, click here for a laugh and a half.