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Dr. Maureen Morrin
Dr. Maureen Morrin

Could a spicy cinnamon scent persuade you to buy a Lexus? A professor from the Fox School of Business thinks so.

Dr. Maureen Morrin, Professor of Marketing at the Fox School, and a collaborative research team found a definitive connection between warm scents, consumer preference for luxury (more expensive items), and an increase in overall spending.

“If there is a warm scent in the room, people perceive the room to be smaller, and more full of other people,” Morrin said, citing the research findings of she and her team. “As a result, they feel a little less socially powerful. In order to restore their feeling of power, they prefer premium or luxury brands.”

Morrin and her research colleagues (Dr. Adriana Madzharov of the Stevens Institute of Technology, and Dr. Lauren Block of Baruch College) published the findings of their scent-power correlation research in the Journal of Marketing in January 2015. Their research also received mention in Science Daily. The study is believed to be the first of its kind to examine how temperature-related associations with smell affect our spatial perceptions and sense of self-importance.

For her most-recent study, Morrin and her colleagues exposed test subjects to two identical retail environments, and then subtly manipulated the scent in each atmosphere to be either warm, like spicy cinnamon, or cool, like minty menthol. They found that consumers exposed to the warm scents felt less socially powerful, finding the room crowded and overwhelming. To assuage their insecurities, they not only purchased more goods, but showed a preference for luxury items assumed to increase one’s social status, Morrin said. Conversely, those participants in cool-scented environments showed no inclination toward or against the luxury items, and bought less overall.

“Cool scents tend to work in an opposite direction than warm scents in terms of their impact on how powerful you feel within a given environment,” Morrin said.

Morrin, whose research interests include sensory processing and consumer decision-making, has always been interested in pioneering studies regarding the correlation between scent and consumer behavior.

The idea of warm and cool scents emerges from learned associations between foods and scents that can influence our conscious perceptions. When one smells menthol, the association is immediately with mint, which to our taste buds is cool, Morrin said, while vanilla and cinnamon evoke opposite reactions.

Morrin’s study revealed that not only can scent prime our emotions, it actually alters our idea of ourselves in space. Morrin’s test subjects reported increased crowding in rooms with warmer scents when the population remained constant. Conversely, the shoppers in cool-scented rooms reported increased spatial perception and a reduced number of people in the room.

Should retailers take advantage of these findings, Morrin said the market for luxury goods can be targeted acutely.

“Retailers of luxury goods might consider how their store’s atmospherics impact shoppers’ spatial perceptions,” she said. “Aspects of the retail environment that elicit power-compensatory consumer responses might lead to a greater preference for and purchasing of luxury brands.”

Morrin said she hopes to continue her investigation, and is currently working with several doctoral students from the Fox School to investigate other ties between scent and consumer behavior. The next step, she said, could be determining how ambient scents, especially those outside of our conscious awareness, could influence our purchase choices.

Brian Holtz
Dr. Brian Holtz, Assistant Professor of Human Resource Management

Initial impressions based upon a person’s facial features can significantly impact how we evaluate that person’s behavior, according to research by a professor from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

Dr. Brian Holtz, Assistant Professor of Human Resource Management, conducted three studies, all of which suggested that people were more likely to accept the actions of an individual whom they initially perceived to be trustworthy.

New York Magazine and the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail recently featured Holtz’s research, which was initially published in the journal Personnel Psychology.

Holtz’s studies draw on prior psychological research demonstrating that certain facial features stimulate impressions of trustworthiness (high inner eyebrows and prominent cheekbones), while others (low inner eyebrows and shallow cheekbones) have the opposite effect.

In his first two studies, Holtz introduced participants to the biography of a fictitious CEO, which included a professional headshot, and then asked participants to gauge the CEO’s trustworthiness. Later, the participants read a description of a meeting in which the CEO announced a temporary pay reduction and were asked to evaluate how the CEO handled the situation. The subjects, Holtz said, were unaware that he had manipulated the CEO’s image to reflect either a trustworthy or untrustworthy face.

The image on the left reflects the characteristics of a face stimulate trustworthiness, while the image on the right has the opposite effect. (Source: Cogsdill et al. (2014). Psychological Science. Retrieved from https://osf.io/c5kme/)
The image on the left reflects the characteristics of a face stimulate trustworthiness, while the image on the right has the opposite effect. (Source: Cogsdill et al. (2014). Psychological Science. Retrieved from https://osf.io/c5kme/)

He found that participants who viewed the trustworthy face, tended to give the CEO the benefit of the doubt and judge the CEO’s actions to be fair. In contrast, participants who viewed an untrustworthy face evaluated the same actions to be significantly less fair.

“In essence, these results illustrate a confirmation bias, such that our initial expectations of others are often confirmed,” Holtz said. “If we expect a person to be trustworthy, for example, then we are more inclined to perceive their behavior in a favorable light.”

Participants of his third study – undergraduate students from Temple University – were asked to write a business-related memo that they were led to believe would be evaluated by a Fox School MBA student. Before writing the memo, participants viewed the LinkedIn profile of an MBA student purportedly assigned to evaluate their memo. In reality the LinkedIn profiles were fabricated to present either a trustworthy or untrustworthy face. In addition to earning research credit, participants were told they could earn a cash bonus of up to $6 depending on the quality of their memo.

Two days after the initial session, participants received a written evaluation of their memo, and were informed that they would receive a $3 cash bonus – “an ambiguous, down-the-middle ranking,” Holtz said. Then, the participants completed a questionnaire designed to assess their view of the MBA student’s evaluation of their work.

“Again, the results suggested that initial impressions of trustworthiness shaped how fairly the participants thought they were treated by the MBA student, even though all participants received the exact same outcomes,” Holtz said.

“Ultimately,” he continued, “the key takeaway point from this research is that we form initial impressions very quickly and, for better or worse, our initial impressions can have cascading effects on how we perceive subsequent interactions with others.”

Youngjin YooThe National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a research team from Temple University a three-year grant totaling nearly $900,000 to fund a social-science project into the tracking of human behaviors through big data.

This marks the fourth NSF-awarded grant in the last five years that an interdisciplinary team of Temple faculty members has received to study the evolution of digital artifacts using large-scale digital trace data. The collaboration joins researchers from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and College of Science and Technology (CST).

“When humans interact with digital systems, we leave a trace. Every call we make, every website we visit, it’s stamped with time and space information,” said Dr. Youngjin Yoo, the Harry A. Cochran Professor of Management Information Systems at the Fox School, and the research grant’s primary investigator. “What we do is constantly changing, and the trace data can act as DNA. What we focus on through this research is the repeat behaviors in humans that can be captured through digital trace data.

“Using those evolutionary patterns, we believe we can predict future behaviors of individuals and organizations. For example, by detecting the changes of commute patterns of individuals, we can predict overall public-transit systems’ performance in the future. Similarly, we want to be able to predict the changes in individual behaviors based on environmental changes.

Yoo said he and the grant’s co-principal investigators will study digitally enabled processes in complex digital systems, which “are like a living ecosystem, in that they constantly evolve,” he said. If patterns in the trace data represent what they call “behavioral genes,” Yoo said, alterations to those behavioral routines are “gene mutations.” Eventually, he said, the research team envisions developing software that will better predict the changes to those behavioral genes.

The benefits in doing so, according to Yoo, “are endless.” In a healthcare application, trace data could develop a pattern by which a patient sees a doctor or produce an average cost of care per patient. In an industry sense, such “gene mutations” could impact performance and cost.

“On the surface,” Yoo said, “all smart phones, for example, look the same. But everybody’s phone is different because of apps. It used to be that the product’s designer would make the product, and that was the end of the story. Now, it’s only the beginning. Millions of apps are downloaded. They’re changing constantly.

“Our argument is that, particularly in digital space, innovation never remains the same. It constantly changes and takes different forms.”

The research team includes: Yoo; Dr. Sunil Wattal, Associate Professor of Management Information Systems at the Fox School; Dr. Zoran Obradovic, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Data Analytics at CST; and Dr. Rob Kulathinal, Assistant Professor of Biology at the College of Science and Technology.

The NSF-awarded research grant runs through Jan. 31, 2018.

The 4th Annual Interdisciplinary Symposium on Decision Neuroscience (ISDN) was held at Stanford University in California June 6-7, marking the conference’s first West Coast appearance.  Temple University and the Fox School of Business, home to the first three ISDN conferences, was once again the key sponsor for the event.

The conference organizing committee included Drs. Angelika Dimoka and Vinod Venkatraman from Temple University, Dr. Uma Karmarkar from Harvard University, Dr. Baba Shiv from Stanford University, and Dr. Carolyn Yoon from University of Michigan.

A conference specifically catered to researchers and academics interested in decision neuroscience had not existed prior to 2009. That’s when Dr. Dimoka worked with contacts from similar research backgrounds to host the first Interdisciplinary Symposium on Decision Neuroscience.

With a well-attended and successful inaugural conference, organizers decided to host the event annually.  Attendees of the ISDN conference included practitioners, researchers and academics across the neuroscience spectrum. The conference offered an opportunity to discuss study results and the best practices in their research work, as well as how to apply their results to clients and practitioners.

The ISDN is unique and aimed at a niche audience. The conference differs from a typical academic conference, at which faculty members simply present their research and receive feedback from other members.

“We invite practitioners to attend, because they are the people who translate the academic findings into solutions for real-world problems and business clients,” said Dr. Venkatraman, assistant professor of Marketing at the Fox School of Business, and co-organizer of the ISDN conferences. “We want practitioners and academic researchers to interact and network at the event, opening up opportunities for fruitful collaborations.  The ISDN symposium is also a perfect opportunity for researchers and students interested in the decision neuroscience field to present their recent research findings and receive valuable feedback, as well as to network and form new research partnerships.”

Khoi Vo, a senior research associate at the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University, networked with practitioners during the ISDN conference, and discussed potential collaborative research work. Vo presented a paper during the conference on a research project that involved measuring the success of Super Bowl advertisements based on the activity of a consumer’s brain, using results found through fMRI studies.

“Part of my effort at the Center is to foster collaborative efforts with practitioners who are also interested in studying consumer decision making,” Vo said. “From our collaborations with industry, we have generated rich data sets that can provide valuable insights in this field. Though, it will be a challenge to integrate sensitive trade knowledge from industry with our data sets in peer-reviewed publications. Currently, we are in discussions to write up the results for the Super Bowl study.”

Vo also discussed the unique atmosphere of the conference.

“It was fascinating to see the potential research opportunities between academics and practitioners with respect to the research presented at the Symposium,” he said. “For the Super Bowl study that I co-presented with our industry collaborator, we received useful feedback from both academics and practitioners alike. More importantly, both groups were intrigued by our results and impressed that we did not make overstatements with these results. Overall, hearing positive feedback from leading academics and practitioners about our research was a great validation of not only our capabilities and efforts, but also of future collaborations.”

SangSuk Yoon, a Fox School of Business PhD student who works as a research assistant in the Center for Neural Decision Making, has attended the ISDN conference the past two years. Yoon presented a study he had completed with Dr. Venkatraman and Vo, in which they investigated the influences of aging on risky choices and its impact on decision-making.

“We received feedback from researchers in a variety of fields such as psychology, economics, business, and so on, which we’re taking into consideration to continue to develop our study further,” Yoon said.

Yoon, who recently attended an annual psychology conference of a larger scale, said the intimate size of the ISDN allowed for greater discussion.

“The psychology conference is relatively large, and although it allowed me to see studies from diverse fields, I barely had a chance to talk to any of the presenters,” he said. “At the ISDN conference I was able to discuss and share ideas with world-renowned presenters throughout the two days.”

–         Diana David

Human beings are constantly engaging the five senses. But how does this sensory experience impact a consumer’s choice behavior?

This question was explored at the Fox School of Business’ first-ever sensory marketing conference, Understanding the Customer’s Sensory Experience. The conference was held on June 5th and 6th, at Alter Hall, home of Temple University’s Fox School of Business and School of Tourism and Hospitality Management.

The conference focused on the nature of the five human senses, their role in affecting consumer behavior and emotion, and their application within a range of settings, including product and service design.

Fox School of Business marketing professor Maureen Morrin and School of Tourism and Hospitality Management professor Daniel Fesenmaier co-hosted the event.

Attendees included marketing and tourism research experts, doctoral students studying within these disciplines, executives of marketing firms, and industry professionals responsible for developing and improving the consumer experience.

“One of the main goals was to bring together both academics and practitioners who are interested in sensory marketing,” Morrin, Director of the Fox School of Business’ Consumer Sensory Innovation Lab, said. “Just getting industry professionals involved and having them see what we’re working on and researching, and to see what their problems are, I think, is helpful.”

At least one conference attendee plans to take advantage of the partnerships the conference established.

“It was extremely stimulating to bring together academics, people from [the] industry and specialists within each category,” Stephen Gould, a marketing professor at Baruch College, said. “As a professor, I plan to follow up with at least one of the industry presenters who I met at the conference.”

The conference was sponsored by the Fox School of Business, the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, and the National Laboratory for Tourism and eCommerce.

Events included a corporate panel led by executives from firms including Mane USA, Scents Marketing, ScentAir, and HCD Research. Another panel, composed of academic research laboratory directors, led discussions on how they established, operate, and fund their laboratories.  Numerous research presentations were given, with topics ranging from multisensory processing, to product and packaging development.

Conference attendees left with many new ideas, thanks to the different perspectives offered by the presenters. Adriana Madzharov, of the Stevens Institute of Technology, felt that the combination of research presentations, corporate panels, and research laboratory discussions offered a unique and fulfilling experience.

“The conference presented a perfect combination and balance between these three very different approaches to studying sensory customer experiences,” Madzharov said. “Personally, the amount of knowledge and valuable contacts that I acquired in such a short time during the conference makes it for me the best professional experience so far.”

Megan Whelan

Seeing is believing, but smellizing – a new term for prompting consumers to imagine the smell of a product – could be the next step toward more effective advertising.

Researchers came to this conclusion through four studies of products most of us would like to smellize: cookies and cake.

Professor of Marketing Maureen Morrin of Temple University’s Fox School of Business co-authored Smellizing Cookies and Salivating: A Focus on Olfactory Imagery to examine the impact imagining what a food smells like would have on consumer behavior.

“Before we started this project, we looked for print ads that asked consumers to imagine the smell of the product, and we found none,” Morrin said. “We think it’s because advertisers don’t think it’ll actually do anything.”

But researchers found that smellizing — imagining a smell —increased consumers’ desire to consume and purchase advertised food products.

Consumers’ response to advertised food products was measured over several studies that looked at the effect of smellizing on salivation, desire and actual food consumption. The researchers found that imagining what a tasty food smells like increases these types of responses only when the consumer also sees a picture of the advertised product.

Participants who looked at print advertisements were prompted by questions such as: Fancy a freshly baked cookie?; Feel like a chocolate cake?; and Feel like a freshly baked cookie? Look for these in a store near you.

Morrin found that these types of headlines had a positive impact on desire to consume the product, if they were accompanied by a call to also imagine the smell of the food. This positive impact was strongest when the image of the product could be seen at the same time study participants imagined the smell.

According to the study, olfactory imagery processing is different from that of the other senses, especially vision.

“It has been shown, for example, that although individuals can discriminate among thousands of different odors and are reasonably good at detecting odors they have smelled before, they are quite poor at identifying the odors they smell,” the study said. “That is, individuals often have difficulty stating just what it is they happen to be smelling at any particular moment, unless they can see the odor referent.”

This may be why a picture is so important in activating the effects of smellizing.

When asked (versus not being asked) to imagine a scent with a visual, participants’ salivation increased by .36 to .39 grams in two of the studies. In another study, when asked to imagine a scent with a visual, participants consumed 5.3 more grams of the advertised cookies. These effects depended on seeing the advertised food while imaging its smell.

The researchers also found that actually smelling the advertised products was even more effective on the various measures of consumer response than merely imagining the smells. But it’s not always feasible to present consumers with product odors in advertisements.

According to Morrin, advertisers are not adequately tapping into the power of the sense of smell when developing promotional messages to encourage consumers to buy their products.

Morrin’s study, co-authored with Aradhna Krishna of the University of Michigan and Eda Sayin of Koç University in Turkey, appears in the Journal of Consumer Research.

—Alexis Wright-Whitley 

The concept of dynamic capabilities refers to a firm’s ability to reconfigure internal and external competencies to adapt to changing environments.  Strategic intent looks into how much stress can be put in an organization between its resources and its goals.  With both concepts combined, a firm can discover the reaction its capabilities and intent have on competitors and the implications of such reaction on itself.

As consumers, we may not realize how much our senses influence the type of decisions we make every day.  But studying the relationship between sensory perception and consumer behavior has implications for marketers and businesses as they can implement strategies to make an experience enjoyable and memorable.  In the same way many establishments use ambient scenting to improve the mood of consumers, studying sensory perception may lead to better understand shop lifting propensity and leniency when evaluating others’ moral behavior.  Sensory input is also valuable to understand consumer response towards specific flavors that could strengthen the will power of those following strict diets.

Mobile technologies enable marketers to target consumers by time and location.  Temporal targeting and geographical targeting through a short message service (SMS) individually increase sales purchases; however the impact on sales when both strategies are employed simultaneously is not yet clear. Additionally, the study looks for differences on customer purchases when sending same-day promotions compared to two-day prior to the promoted event. The findings of these research suggest that understanding the when, where, and how of mobile targeting strategies is crucial and would benefit marketers reduce expenditures as they design their mobile targeting campaigns.

Making decisions is a central human activity that is fundamental to the life of individuals, organizations and society. What car you choose to purchase, what person you choose to marry, what politician you vote for, where you chose to invest—all of these are important decisions that affect your life. There are hundreds of books on the market offering advice on decision-making strategies. However, the more fundamental (and ultimately more essential) question is: what is your brain actually doing when you make a decision? And what more can we learn about decision-making by looking under the hood and into the brain? Answers to these questions have far-reaching implications for all aspects of our society.

Recently, we witness a growing trend of mothers dressing up and looking like their teenage daughters. Furthermore, these mothers and their daughters shop together and even exchange clothes, accessories and cosmetics.  What motivates this behavior? Under what circumstances mothers will tend to engage in this behavior?  What business opportunities this behavior opens up to marketers?

A core goal for marketers is effective segmentation: partitioning a brand’s or product’s consumer base into distinct and meaningful groups with differing needs. Traditional segmentation data include factors like geographic location, demographics, and shopping history. Yet, research into the cognitive and affective processes underlying consumption decisions shows that these variables can improve the matching of consumers with products beyond traditional demographic and benefit approaches. While many discussions involving marketing and neuroscience attempt to justify a general use of neural data for marketers, we prefer to provide market segmentation as a prime example of how neuroscience can aid marketing and consumer research. Neuroscience can provide a novel way to establish mappings between cognitive processes and traditional marketing data. An improved understanding of the neural mechanisms of decision making will enhance the ability of marketers to effectively market their products. Just as neuroscience can model potential influences on the decision process—including pricing, choice strategy, context, experience, and memory—it can also provide new insights into individual differences in consumption behavior and brand preferences. Neuroscience approaches will not replace the data and methods in current marketing practice, but can provide complementary information about choice processes and types of consumers. Doing so may lead to better approaches for market segmentation and more effective marketing practices.