R[E]D – Research : Emotion : Design

A Brand Research and Development Strategy Firm


Leave a comment

Understanding, the Bridge Builder Between a Company and Its Audience

Pulling from logo warehouses or crowdsourcing design may sound tremendously appealing for filling in the blank spot on the top of your letterhead.

You want something trendy and cool, even if it’s just to check off a task on your to-do list.

checklist-2

It doesn’t make sense for a company to use a logo that has an immense lack of understanding. A logo alone isn’t the solution to developing a strong brand. Strength comes from understanding company culture, which is a giant part of a larger brand strategy. Understanding provides an opportunity to develop cohesive and consistent messaging. This requires customization, knowledge and skill. RED has acquired all the skills needed to build you a solid foundation that is not hollow and inauthentic.

conceptidea

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Brand “Concept Testing” try Pretotyping in a Pop-up

Fruit-of-the-loom-pretotyping

Fruit of the Loom is ‘Pretotyping in a Pop-up’ to Concept Test Premium Brand

Shoreditch, London – home of hip.  That’s where t-shirt brand Fruit of the Loom is concept testing (or ‘pretotyping*’ to use the jargon) a new premium brand – ‘Seek No Further‘.

Pretotyping: Testing the initial appeal and actual usage of a potential new product by simulating its core experience with the smallest possible investment of time and money.

Pretotyping In a Pop-up = Awesome Concept Testing

Renting an unused retail space just for four months, Fruit of the Loom is testing for consumer appeal with a very limited run of garments. There’s one in Shoreditch, and one in Berlin – and a pop-up website.

This is concept testing done right – there’s a world of difference between seeing words on a page and experiencing the product – so could pop-up + pretotyping be the future of concept testing?

pretotyping

Author / Paul Marsden
Source / brandgenetics.com


Leave a comment

Major Digital Marketing Changes From The Last 12 Months, Are You Keeping Up?

Last year I wrote a Year in Review article that mainly focused on Facebook: 20 Changes Facebook Made In 2012 That Impacted Marketers. I mentioned, “Facebook was all about refinement in 2012.” If “refinement” was the word of 2012, “streamlined” was the word of 2013.

And this year I want to focus on the broader options that social marketers have at their disposable now.

An influx of new top tier social networks spread user attention thin in 2012 and required a renewed emphasis on key features and functionality.

In 2012, Facebook was on top of the mountain.

It was still the 800-pound gorilla in 2013, but a variety of other networks took their shots at prominence and deserve our attention as well.

Here are the top social media changes and trends introduced in 2013 and the last 12 months.

The Growth of Short Video

instagram-vine

Twitter started the year off with the launch of Vine, a mobile service that lets you capture and share short looping videos. Twitter noted on its blog that, “the brevity of videos on Vine (6 seconds or less) inspired creativity. Now that you can easily capture motion and sound.”

Vine saw 403% growth between the first and third quarters of 2013, making it the fastest-growing app of the year. And then Instagram launched video…

Instagram added fifteen-second video functionality on June 20. The number of Vine video links shared to Twitter dropped nearly 40 percent that day. Vine sharing on Twitter continued to drop over the following week, resulting in a roughly 70 percent drop from the nearly three million links shared on June 15. Instagram jumped on the video hype by announcing sponsored ads on October 3.

Facebook learned from the success of Instagram’s video ad integration by rolling out auto-play video ads on December 17, 2013. According to Facebook, the social network began testing auto-play video ads in September and the changes resulted in a more than 10 percent increase in video views, likes, shares and comments.

 

Twitter Jumpstarts Monetization

Twitter-IPO

In 2012, Facebook’s IPO helped fuel an increased focus on revenue generation. Following a similar course in 2013 Twitter launched their IPO and subsequently increased advertising options.

On May 22, Twitter introduced Lead Generation Cards to help B2B brands drive highly qualified leads. According to Twitter, “These cards makes it easy for users to express interest in what your brand offers. Users can easily and securely share their email address with a business without leaving Twitter or having to fill out a cumbersome form. When someone expands your Tweet, they see a description of the offer and a call to action. Their name, @username, and email address are already pre-filled within the Card. The user simply clicks a button to send this information directly (and securely) to you.”

Twitter also integrated previews of photos and Vine videos directly into users’ streams on October 29. Users see more of the photo or play the video by tapping the preview.

As a result of Twitter’s focus on advertising, the platform saw a 22 percent increase in small business usage.

Pinterest Gets “Rich”

Rich-Pins

Pinterest helped marketers answer the question, “What are people pinning from my websites?” by launching Web Analytics for verified business accounts on March 12. The free Web Analytics platform helped marketers see Pinterest metrics in categories including Site Metrics, Most Recent, Most Pinned and Most Clicked.

Pinterest introduced Rich Pins on May 20. Instead of linking back to the pin’s origin, each new Rich Pin provides users additional information about that item aimed to better put them in a position to make a purchase. There are three different types of Rich Pins, each with its own unique set of characteristics and opportunities for brands: Product, Recipes, and Movies.

For items like clothes and furniture, the new Product pins offer real time pricing, availability, and where to buy the item. Recipe pins allow brands to provide information like cook time, ingredients, and servings to help foodies and food bloggers create new creations using branded pins. Movie pins contain content ratings, cast members, and more designed to provide a new layer of information about these movies.

On September 19, Pinterest announced it would roll out Promoted Pins as its first advertising product with select partners. Promoted Pins allow businesses to insert pins into search results and category feeds similar to sponsored advertising options offered by social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Promoted Pins started to appear in users’ feeds in early October.

LinkedIn Grows as a Content Portal

linkedin-content-hub

LinkedIn expanded its business offerings through the launch of Showcase Pages on November 18. Showcase Pages are dedicated content hubs enabling businesses to extend their Company Page presence, effectively segmenting audiences and enabling businesses to deliver the best message to the right audiences. Somewhat similar to LinkedIn s existing company pages, Showcase Pages are designed to give individual brands and business units within corporations the ability to create their own segmented marketing channels on LinkedIn.

In order to amplify the reach of its marketers messaging, LinkedIn continued 2013 2s sponsored advertising trend by rolling out Sponsored Updates on July 22. Sponsored Updates appear in a native format as a natural part of a target audience s feed and can be used to promote thought leadership content, to generate leads, or even as a PR tool.

Facebook Redesigns its News Feed

new-facebook-newsfeed

On March 7, Facebook revealed a News Feed redesign that featured larger visuals, a mobile-first user interface and more opportunities to filter by specific types of content.

The changes made good photos look even better in the News Feed, but also made lousy photos look even worse — reemphasizing a need for marketers to invest in quality imagery.

Facebook Focuses On Quality Images, Not Marketing Images

Facebook’s 20% Rule required text to appear on less than 20% of Cover Photos (and Promoted Posts), another attempt by Facebook at ensuring a quality visual experience for its users.

Not all features made it to December though. Facebook quickly backed away from automatically placing image captions and descriptions on top of photo page posts, preferring to keep text and image separate in the News Feed.

Facebook Page Tweaks

Facebook continued its redesign the following month with a new layout for Pages. The new Pages layout changes included a simplified look, easier ways to connect with businesses and streamlined page management.

Facebook Loosened Contest Rules

With a greater push for mobile and more real-time content, Facebook simplified its contest promotion guidelines. Its new set of rules allowed pages to run contests in the news feed without a third party application, ask people to submit answers in exchange for chances to win a prize, and to use Likes as a method of entrance into a contest.

 

Facebook Became A Mobile Social Network

In 2012, Sheryl Sandberg predicted a future of more ads in Facebook’s mobile News feed… and she was right. Facebook’s mobile-first emphasis in 2013 resulted in more users embracing the social network on the go. 54% more users logged into Facebook on a daily basis in Q3 2013 as did in Q3 2012, an increase from 329 million to 507 million in one year.

Mobile-only users doubled during that same time span, from 126 million in 2012 to 254 million in 2013. Significantly more user activity results in significantly more mobile advertising inventory available for marketers.

 

Confidence In The Newsfeed Wained

While mobile users swarmed to Facebook in droves, not all marketers were thrilled with the social network’s changes. A set of late 2013 News Feed algorithm changes resulted in an extreme drop in organic reach for many Pages, as much as 44 percent in many cases. The algorithm changes were intended to place more relevant news stories into the News Feed, especially from sites that Facebook deemed as “high quality” sources.

Facebook did little to quell marketer concerns when it put out an announcement recommending that they could make up the difference in reach with advertising.

Facebook Ads Got Simpler (Kind Of) And Better

To further emphasize this, Facebook rolled out a series of ad changes in 2013, eliminating at least 13 ad units and increasing ad-targeting opportunities.

Marketers told Facebook that its ad products were too complicated and redundant, which led to Sponsored Stories shifting from a stand-alone product to integration into most ads, which would “automatically add social context to boost performance.”

Facebook added Partner Categories to connect together online and offline user data. Partner categories use data from select third parties, including Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon, to target ads to more categories of people.

For example, a local car dealership could show ads to people likely in the market for a new car who live near their dealership. Facebook also simplified Interest Targeting by combining Precise Interest and Broad Categories into a single step, making it easier to select the audience most relevant to what’s being advertised.

Advertisers looking to target customers who considered a purchase on their site but didn’t complete the transaction gained a new Facebook alternative to FBX in October. The new retargeting tool, “website and mobile app custom audiences,” works when marketers affix tracking software to their websites and create corresponding custom audiences based on user activity data.

Search Got Easier on Facebook

Facebook started 2013 with a bang by announcing its long-awaited advanced search product, Graph Search.

Graph Search provided users the opportunity to easily search and examine trillions of relationships that live within Facebook’s ecosystem. Facebook also added support for searchable hashtags in June, thereby acting as a new connective thread for users to share their thoughts to a larger audience on social networks.

Graph Search has a lot of potential and is just the beginning of opening up the massive amount of social connection data that Facebook controls, and charges for. We can’t wait for LinkedIn to do the same.

Author / Ryan Cohn
Source / socialfresh.com


Leave a comment

How to improve your current advertising strategy

Advertising is a complex process; the idea is to build a creative that connects with potential buyers. It must be creative while staying grounded in the real world. It is expensive, so it has to produce measurable results. It must be conventional, yet imaginative. Companies are increasingly under financial strain and the result is the advertising business is in trouble worldwide. Agencies are becoming heavily dependent on their campaigns being led by metric this is zapping the creativity from today’s campaigns and fewer ads produce the desired result. Thus, new ideas are needed.

simple

photo credit: josemanuelerre via photopin cc

Be simple

Your Ads must work in an increasingly noisy world. Too much new information is being exchanged. The key to standing out is being simple – this is not easy nor as instantly admired as being complex. Yet, a good ad must be simple, though not stupid – and it must be subjective enough to be credible.

Be Consistent

Consistency builds brand equity or loyalty among all audiences. Nurture customers by keeping them interested in your brand’s activities and development. To maintain your message consistency, the same team that helps build the brand should approve the ads.

Be ‘Salesy’

Advertising has many functions, including selling. But what exactly should be sold? Often ads place too much emphasis on building products, not brands. The result is that too many products have similar brand values. This produces confusion. To break this cycle, ask: What does the advertising want to achieve? Who should be targeted? How can the goal be achieved?

emotional

photo credit: COMΛS via photopin cc

Be Emotional

Research shows that people make decisions based on emotions, political beliefs, spiritual leanings and, least of all, rational factors. However, most ads mistakenly are very rational and only stress product benefits, not the emotional aspects of buying. To build the idea of the brand, sell the emotions around it. This makes for stronger campaigns. The challenge is to find the right emotion.

Be Experienced

The most powerful advertising creativity stems from actual experience and culture. Sometimes one culture’s perspective resonates with a client and a product, and that eventually creates ripple effects worldwide.

Be Relevant

To get noticed, ads must be more interesting than their surroundings. Great ads must make an impact, but they also must be accountable for the emotions they create. Strong ads should be likeable, meaningful and relevant.  The dominant theme in developing good relevant ads is to focus on the human truths associated with using the product or service.

Be Humorous

Humor is powerful; it can help make people actually like a product. Most ads are rational and present a product’s benefits. But logic is not as powerful as laughter. Humor, which should be based on truth, comes from actually observing ordinary people. Being contradictory is one way to create humorous situations.

humorous-disruptive

photo credit: Arturo de Albornoz via photopin cc

Be Disruptive

Big idea stems from a dramatic change in conditions, a vision, a revolution in approach or thought that creates something new. To produce a creative disruption, follow a three-step process. First, identify the company’s conventional thinking and the basic assumptions behind its operations. Next examine the components of the brand. Then comes the challenge: find the right disruption, the one that can actually benefit the company’s position. This disruption can serve as the platform for a new vision or challenge a brand category or market.

Be Nice

The culture of a creative organization provides the framework for its output. A sick organization will not produce great work. Confident agencies generate good work, since they nurture creativity even in a viciously competitive and subjective industry. Those characteristics do not normally foster support and co-operation, so avoid them. Seek inspiration from talented people and support their efforts. Be a team player.

Original post by: Patrick Murphy
source: siliconcloud.com


1 Comment

Why Winning Brands Balance Long-Term Value with Short-Term Business Gain

weight_machines

Body builders and gym rats are fond of a mantra-like motivational phrase – “no pain, no gain” – that can be equally applied to the approach smart marketers take in keeping their brands fit. Successful marketers are well aware that consistent investments in their brand equities (the pain, as it were) can deliver future business gains. The tension comes from the need to deliver consistent profitability in every financial quarter and not merely to boost awareness and attribute ratings over the long haul. To do both, it takes a truly healthy brand and a wise marketer who understands the levers to pull in balancing this dynamic effectively.

When a healthy brand and a wise marketer come together, consistent investments in long-term brand value can be made efficiently, thus creating the virtuous cycle that pays bottom-line benefits, as well. What once seemed like an impossible ambition has now become a widespread and expected business imperative. I’ll elaborate.

The increased focus on short-term profitability has come into new light as the US economy emerges from recession into recovery. Cautious investors, especially the fund managers and bankers driving the stock market, have become both more discriminating and less patient with their investments. As a result, public companies are under greater scrutiny to deliver sustained, profitable revenue growth each quarter and, therefore, from the C-suite down to the cube farm, corporate targets have become imperatives. There is a justifiable lack of patience, or call it tolerance, for focusing solely on the long-range plan.

And unfortunately for brand managers, creating long-term brand equity can be at odds with generating immediate cash flow. It is tempting for a young marketer, especially one who knows he will be rotated to a different brand in a few months, to focus on the bottom line in order to secure a bigger bonus, rather than to invest in winning the hearts and minds of consumers two years out. In fact, the pendulum has swung so far from the “head-in-the-clouds” marketers of old, so motivated by creating beautiful films and winning awards, that it’s worth appreciating those marketers making bold choices to keep their equity in good stead for the future fitness of their brand.

One of the most extreme examples of bold decision-making in the interest of long-term brand health is the recent decision of a wine brand to sit out an entire vintage (and a year worth of sales) because it felt that that season’s grapes were not of sufficient quality to produce a product worthy of their brand name. Chateau d’Yquem is one of the most valuable, sought-after Bordeaux wines, and likely the most famous brand of sweet wine in the world. Their reputation has garnered a cultish following among well-heeled wine enthusiasts around the globe. Unfortunately, the 2012 growing season was so poor that Chateau d’Yquem’s grapes did not fully ripen. As a result, the company took a tough stance in favor of the brand: If it could not make a great product from those grapes, then it would make no product that year. While Chateau d’Yquem might release stocks of prior vintages to ensure cash flow, the overall decision was for huge short-term “pain” to protect and promote long-term equity gain.

Few brands have the financial freedom to sit out a year, but as an extreme case we can learn and be inspired by the position taken at Chateau d’Yquem. To be clear, their decision was a marketing investment. Within the world of CPG, we should be reminded that even the most famous brands – from Coca-Cola to Tide to Dove – continue to invest heavily in the value of their brands, when it might be tempting to drop more dollars to the bottom line. The winning formula is to generate awareness, affinity and preference via inspiring brand mixes delivered consistently and efficiently.

brand_touchpoints

A brand that stands for something meaningful and can deliver that message through every touch-point, every pack, even every business decision, is positioned well for long-term health. Delivering this message consistently over time reduces churn, consumer confusion and, more importantly, the cost of marketing investments, which benefits the bottom line. It’s a virtuous cycle – perhaps in the same way that consistent trips to the gym make each workout a bit easier and the cumulative effort all the more effective.

Author Bruce Levinson
source: brandingmagazine.com/2014/01/18/winning-brands-balance-long-term-value-short-term-business-gain


Leave a comment

Brand Marketing – SodaStream And Scarlett Johansson Make A Splash

How can a small company compete against industry giants?  The best way is to make a lot of noise. This year, one of the smallest advertisers on the Super Bowl is attracting lots of attention as it strives to break through against Coke and Pepsi.

SodaStream (NASDAQ: SODA) has had a bumpy ride over the past year.  The $562mm (FY2013 preliminary revenues) Israeli company makes in-home carbonators that allow consumers to transform tap water into sparkling water or soft drinks.   Sodastream has already made significant inroads in Europe (the company estimates that it has 19% household penetration in Finland, 9% in the Czech Republic and 6% in France), and has a small-but-dedicated following in the U.S.

Last year’s Super Bowl helped SodaStream achieve a threshold level of awareness, particularly when its aggressive Super Bowl spot was rejected by CBS (an edited version ultimately aired during the big game).

This year’s spot is tamer, but it has attracted even more attention.  Not only was it again banned from the big game, but the choice of Scarlett Johansson has attracted both positive and negative attention.  For the moment, though, it’s helping tiny SodaStream gain enough attention to make a big investment pay off.

And it can’t come a moment too soon …

Challenging 2013 Results

SodaStream’s revenue growth for 2013 was around 30%, which sounds great until you consider the 50% growth the company experienced in 2012.  The preliminary 2013 earnings report undercut analyst estimates by $5mm and sent shares tumbling by 20% in mid-January.

“We failed to deliver our profit targets and are disappointed in our fourth quarter performance,” CEO Daniel Birnbaum wrote in the earnings release. “These preliminary results reflect a challenging holiday selling season in the U.S. and several factors, mostly from the second half of the quarter that negatively impacted our gross margin.”

Translating this into marketing language, Birnbaum is suggesting that the company many have discounted heavily to increase market penetration and that the results were not what the company had hoped.

scarlett-johansson

Using Rejection To Gain Acceptance

And yet, from a brand standpoint, SodaStream has made some smart moves in the past few years.

Around four years ago, the company created an art installation that dramatized the empty soda bottle waste created by a single family.  Thirty of these installations travelled around the world until 2012, when a South African installation attracted the attention of the local Coca-Cola bottler, which issued a cease-and-desist letter to SodaStream.  Instead of desisting, SodaStream fought back, and got lots of mainstream media attention with an environmental version of the David & Goliath story.

brand marketing

Also in 2012, the brand forged a partnership with legendary adman Alex Bogusky, who had collaborated with the Center for Science in the Public Interest to launch a spot attacking soft drinks called “Real Bears”.

Bogusky created a hard-hitting, environmentally themed spot for SodaStream which was banned in the UK and then rejected from the Super Bowl last year.

That rejection helped the SodaStream get noticed during the Super Bowl last year.

An Unexpected Sponsorship

SodaStream planned to pursue a more conventional path for its second Super Bowl appearance this year.  A chance encounter changed the strategy.  SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum described it to me this way:

I’m sitting in my office in Tel Aviv and we get a phone call that there’s an American in Paris looking to find a gas replacement for her soda maker.  I contacted my Paris office and I asked them to get the replacement to this consumer.  A week later I get a handwritten thank-you note from S.J.  It turns out S.J. was Scarlett Johannsen.  She drinks only sparkling water from SodaStream and travels with it wherever she goes, etc. She just loves the brand.  We were on a path to do a different commercial for the Super Bowl, but when this happened we changed directions.

Birnbaum previously worked on celebrity sponsorships for Nike, so he had a very clear idea of the potential risks and rewards of engaging a celebrity for SodaStream.  Unlike the typical paid endorser, however, Johansson was already a brand enthusiast.  She travels with a SodaStream and has bought them for her friends and relatives. The Johansson partnership quickly propelled SodaStream into the limelight of the SuperBowl, getting breathless coverage from celebrity media outlets.

SodaStream also managed to engineer another mini-scandal that helped goose the coverage: rejection of its proposed Super Bowl ad from Fox.  Here’s the spot they submitted, which has just been released online today:

Three words caused the rejection: “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi.”  So the SodaStream spot that actually runs on the Super Bowl won’t call out the competition.  But the rejection has created news.

Unexpected Problems

The Johansson partnership also created an unexpected controversy, because of Johansson’s status as an Oxfam ambassador since 2005.  Oxfam supports the BDS movement, which boycotts businesses in the Israeli settlements/occupied territories.  SodaStream has a manufacturing facility in the settlement of Maale Adumim with 1300 employees.  The boycott supporters used Johansson’s partnership with SodaStream to push Oxfam to drop her – and to make headlines.

BDS calls SodaStream “part and parcel of this system of oppression“.  Birnbaum counters: “we are part of the Palestinian economy and we’re employing 500 Palestinians who support families and we pay them Israeli wages and give them health insurance.  There can be no peace without jobs.”

Oxfam for its part says this:

Oxfam believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.We have been engaged in dialogue with Scarlett Johansson and she has now expressed her position in a statement, including stressing her pride in her past work with Oxfam. Oxfam is now considering the implications of her new statement and what it means for Ms. Johansson’s role as an Oxfam global ambassador.

Meanwhile, Ms. Johansson issued a statement over the weekend, affirming her commitment to SodaStream:

I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine … SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.

The question of what will actually create peace in the Mideast is thankfully beyond the scope of this column, but it’s clear that this controversy holds some danger for SodaStream.  Until the Johansson partnership raised the profile of this issue, it was not headline news for SodaStream. Now it has generated headlines in mainstream news and disapproving commentary from some of the New York media.

SodaStream has most often been cast as the spunky upstart in media stories of the past few years, so this is the first time the company has found itself on the wrong end of a media narrative. It’s too early to tell whether this story will fizzle away or take hold and cause real problems for the Israeli soda maker.  But it is already a concern in the U.S. because the very small community where this story is gaining traction overlaps with the strongest supporters of the brand.

If the story fades, SodaStream can move on unhindered.  If it gains momentum however, SodaStream may need to decide whether it feels more passionately about its environmental mission or its approach to the Israeli/Palestinian question.

Can SodaStream Break Through?

Looking past the controversy, can the Johansson partnership and a second Super Bowl spot can help SodaStream break through?  On one hand, the company has gotten lucky again: they’ve kept themselves in the news throughout the coverage of Super Bowl advertising building up to the game itself.  They’ve already generated millions of impressions that will lead to new users. It’s still a short spot during a long game, and the creative itself probably won’t break through.  So we’ll have to wait until Sunday to see whether the viral effect propels SodaStream through the uprights.

The brand needs to ensure that the issues being raised by Oxfam and BDI don’t take hold in the US. SodaStream has one clear mission as a brand: to present an environmentally friendly, less expensive alternative to Coca-Cola and Pepsi.  Its single-minded goal should be to force Coke and Pepsi to make their branded drinks available on its machines.  Anything that distracts from this mission dilutes SodaStream’s strength.

Author: David Vinjamuri
source: forbes.com/sites/davidvinjamuri/2014/01/27/sodastream-and-scarlett-johansson-make-a-splash


Leave a comment

An Evolutionary Theory For Why You Love Glossy Things

chicago-bean

People’s taste for shiny stuff might be rooted in a very basic instinct.

The evidence that people are drawn to shiny things is all around us: from the pages of lifestyle magazines to the page stock of lifestyle magazines. One logical explanation for this cultural affection is that we’ve come to associate gloss with wealth and luxury. If the story ended there, though, we wouldn’t expect very young infants to enjoy shiny things as much as they do, nor would we expect remote tribes like the Yolngu of Australia to celebrate shimmering aesthetics as much as they do. There’s clearly a bit more to glitter than gold.

Reach deep into the core emotion of the customer, propel more action than ever before.

R[E]D – Research : Emotion : Design

Recently a group of marketing scholars considered the question from an evolutionary angle. They were intrigued with some earlier research showing that “children who were presented with glossy objects licked them,” one of the scholars, Vanessa M. Patrick of the University of Houston, tells Co.Design. In that work, published several years ago, infants seven to 12 months old put their mouths to glossy plates much more than to dull ones. Children had also been seen lapping shiny toys on the ground, the way an animal might drink from a puddle.

Patrick and her fellow collaborators, from Ghent University in Belgium, wondered if there might be something more to these reports than kids just being kids. Maybe the connection between drinking and shiny design was an evolutionary artifact–a sign that our crush on glossy is rooted in a primitive desire for water as a vital resource.

So they designed a series of six experiments to test that idea. First they had to demonstrate that preference for glossy is a natural reaction rather than a learned association with the good life. That wasn’t too tough. In two simple surveys, they established that both adults (via leaflets) and four- to five-year old children (via pictures of Santa) preferred glossy to matte finishes. The kids were too young to appreciate marketing efforts connecting bling with wealth; to some degree, their preference had to be innate.

Bugatti_Veyron

The appeal of glossy might not be entirely linked to wealth, but it might still reflect a basic enjoyment of pretty things. To study that possibility, the researchers blindfolded 46 test participants and handed them a piece of paper. Half received a glossy sheet, half a matte sheet. Participants who held the glossy sheet rated it as higher quality and more attractive than those in the matte group–even without getting a look at it.

The tests suggested there’s more to glossy than cultural connection or visual appeal. Those findings alone didn’t mean a biological urge for water played a role, but the researchers did collect some clues to that effect. In the blindfold test, for instance, participants envisioned more water when asked to imagine a landscape depicted on the page–showing a perceived link between shiny and wet. In another test, this one without blindfolds, participants rated aquatic images as glossier than desert ones, although in truth there’d been no difference.

As a final experiment, the researchers divided 126 test participants into three groups. One group ate a bunch of crackers without any water. Another ate the crackers but also drank some water. A third did neither. Afterward, each group looked at eight photographs, half on glossy paper and half on matte. All three groups preferred the glossy pictures, but the groups that had eaten crackers rated them as much more attractive. And the thirstier participants got–in other words, the greater their desire for water–the more they preferred glossy.

orange

Taking all their findings together, the researchers argue in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology that an instinct for water may indeed play a role in fondness for glossy. “First and foremost, this paper shows that our preference for glossy might be deep-rooted and very human,” says Patrick. “It is humbling to acknowledge that despite our sophistication and progress as a species, we are still drawn to things that serve our innate needs–in this case, the need for water.”

There’s a great deal to like about this study. The researchers crafted their experiments carefully, tried to eliminate alternative explanations, and presented a theory for others scientists to explore further. At the same time, there’s a lot to question. People may associate shiny stuff with wealth, for instance, but they associate water with wealth, too. Parsing out how much of the glossy-water connection is socialized and how much might be instinctual is a great challenge that no study can hope to conquer on its own.

Beyond that, any explanation for why we prefer glossy to matte must also account for the fact that we don’t always prefer glossy to matte. Sometimes glossy interferes with readability (say, a sign that reflects bright light). Sometimes it conveys the wrong message (say, a glossy food ad that conjures up thoughts of grease). And sometimes it’s just enough already and we want something different. Evolution might drive some preferences, but preferences evolve, too.

source: fastcodesign.com
writer: Eric Jaffe