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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.

The way a brain functions has been a source of human curiosity throughout time. Over the past few decades, researchers have used a number of neuroscience methods including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as a means to achieve a more-thorough understanding of how a human brain works.

The Center for Neural Decision Making (CNDM) at Temple University’s Fox School of Business has been at the forefront of this area, with research focused on integrating information from different methodologies to better understand human decision making.

Prior to the Academy of Management annual meeting, held in Philadelphia, the CNDM co-hosted a workshop with the Technology and Innovation Management group at MTEC, ETH Zurich on July 31 at Temple University. The workshop, titled, “Defining a Role for Neuroscience in Strategic Management,” provided a forum for leading researchers in the field of management to explore the use of methods in cognitive neuroscience in their research., by including both practical demonstration of some methods and presentations about designing and analyzing fMRI studies.

“There’s a lot of potential to improve our fMRI training methods and expand on our current practices. I want to help improve our teaching methodology and explain why it is that we use fMRI,” said Dr. Daniella Laureiro-Martinez, of ETH Zurich. Laureiro-Martinez made the conference’s first presentation, which included discussions about how to design an fMRI study and work within the limitations of the scanning environment.

“People often underestimate the nuances of designing an fMRI experiment,” said Dr. Vinod Venkatraman, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Fox School of Business and Associate Director of the CNDM. “When dealing with neurophysiological signals, it becomes increasingly difficult to block out the noise and focus on the desired signals. A good experimental design is one that eliminates most prejudices unrelated to the task of primary interest. Because conducting an experiment using fMRI technology is expensive and timely, having a good experiment design could prevent wasting time or money on ineffective studies.”

Despite the fact that fMRI technology has come a long way since its first use in the 1990s, there are improvements that can be made. Crucially, discussions in the conference focused on how these developments can be used to inform research in other areas like strategic management. Discussions also centered on ethical considerations and consequences of neuroscience experiments for managers.

The CNDM team and the Fox School of Business aim to be at the forefront of the area of applied neuroscience, extending findings from basic neuroscience to more applied areas in Business. They are continuing to find new ways to improve how to make study results more palatable and how more can be learned about the human brain and consumer behavior. The ultimate goal is to expand their work in the industry, helping companies understand how and why you would do a study on the human brain.

“Hopefully our future holds more fruitful collaborations with corporations and industry partners, taking our academic knowledge and studies and applying it to their practical use,” said Khoi Vo, Senior Research Associate at the Center for Neural Decision Making. “We hope to provide them with the necessary data, as well as the education and tools to understand and apply it to real-world decisions.”

 

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