Category: The Science of Marketing

Musings on interdisciplinary scientific research, trends and findings that affect (and, in some cases, effect) the way we market goods, services and opportunities.

02 Feb 2011

How Kindle will change the way we shop

Grocery stores have spent a lot of money getting us to scan and bag our own groceries.  Inevitably, I end up behind someone who can’t figure out the technology, so any gain in time from DIY is lost.  Luddites aside, the other problem with self-checkout is produce.  It can take forever trying to pick the right version of, for example, an apple.  It would be much easier if the machine could identify them for you.  According to Yuriko Nagano, Toshiba is working on just that.


28 Jan 2011

¿Dónde está la carne?

This may very well become the greatest advertising battle ever.  EVER!

As you have probably heard by now, Taco Bell is steaming mad over a lawsuit alleging that its beef isn’t beef, and has responded to the lawsuit by taking out an ad slamming the claim as “absolutely false.”  In a full-page ad appearing in prominent newspapers on Friday, Taco Bell proclaimed, “Thank you for suing us.”

“Our reputation’s been falsely tarnished,” said Greg Creed, Taco Bell’s president. He told CNNMoney that he’s meeting with outside counsel to possibly take legal action on these “egregious” accusations against his beef.  “We clearly take this very seriously,” he said, noting that a decision on legal action will be made in the next week. “We’re reacting to this onslaught against our food and reputation.”


24 Jan 2011

RIP Phyllis Robinson

I didn’t go to school for advertising – never even took a class.  Some people would say that’s obvious.

1921 – 2010

When the world of advertising / marketing was thrust upon me – or vice versa – I studied.  I tackled advertising and marketing the way I tackle all scientific issues – I read everything I could – learned everything I could – and bought book after book about the evolution of advertising.

It was, therefore, with some sadness that I read about the passing of Phyllis Robinson whose conversational tone in her copy and her ability to tell a story made an impression on me.  In fact, I have a copy of one of her ads on my office wall.  So, even though I never met her, I felt it important to acknowledge her impact on me by posting her obituary from Phil Davison of the Financial Times.

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22 Jan 2011

How to build the ultimate optical illusion

I’ve talked about how digital signage is a great way to capture attention – and I’m even starting to think that glasses-free 3D could be a great way to go even further.  However, both of those pale in comparison to creating an optical illusion that appears out of nowhere!

Optical illusions are a great way to capture attention.  Do you remember the “Magic Eye” posters?  I can’t tell you how many people I saw standing and staring at those things.  Research has shown that people linger over optical illusions because our brains hate being tricked.  We have expectations of how something should look – and if it doesn’t look “right,” then we stare at it until our brain can determine what (and why) it is out of order.  It’s the same primal part of our brain that loves magic tricks.  We know the elephant didn’t disappear, but we are delighted when it does.

So, a really cool display would be an optical illusion in which something seems to appear out of thin air – but is there, tangible, so people can touch it and interact.  I have seen really good holographic displays, but while they may draw me in, I can’t grab the product.  A good display uses the hologram to draw attention to the physical product, but the technology just isn’t quite there yet.

However, it could be soon, thanks to metamaterials.


21 Jan 2011

How Not To Waste Money on Direct Mail

What do you want to accomplish with your direct mail campaign? I doubt anybody answered, “For it to get thrown in the trash as soon as it’s picked out of the mailbox.” Or, “To spend a lot of money on a really nice mailer and send it out, only to guess a few months later its impact with our customers.” Worst of all, “To create one piece and mail it to a set of ZIP codes that we chose after looking at a map for five minutes.”


19 Jan 2011

Yes, another 3D post.

Tridelity might be getting 3D right.

Well, when half of CES is about 3D, what do you expect?  Say what I will, it’s still the hottest thing in media right now, so it is perfectly understandable why companies are trying so hard to get it right.  I saw a lot of companies promoting glasses-free 3D and I think one of them may have gotten it right.

Tridelity Display Solutions was showing off tehir autostereoscopic displays at CES.  I can’t see glasses-free 3D due to an eye injury, but a friend who was attending the show with me was pretty impressed.  He’s not easily impressed, so I was impressed that he was impressed, or something like that.  Autostereoscopic displays aim spearate images at the viewer’s right and left eye, with no need for special glasses.  Tridelity’s screens have multiple parallax barriers (an array of slits in front of the screen to ensure that each eye sees only the strips it is meant to) and so can send light from pairs of images in five directions at once, considerably widening the viewing area so that at least five people can enjoy the 3D experience simultaneously.  FYI – I don’t know anybody at Tridelity – they aren’t a client – I don’t own their stock, I just thought they did a good job at CES (even if it was second-hand, so to speak).

I don’t care for 3D TV for the home, but I do think there is a place for 3D displays – especially in-store displays.  I am a firm believer in things that capture attention and have implemented or specified LED, lenticular or digital signage networks over the years, and believe that 3D is a logical next-step.


14 Jan 2011

How I spent my CES Vacation (part 2)

OK, so last time I talked about some of the cool stuff I saw in booths at CES.  This time I thought I would share my impressions of the marketing of products at CES.

First off, let me say that I claim some expertise in this area.  I have designed booths, run, hosted, exhibited and attended many, many trade shows, so I like to think (IMHO) that I have a pretty good feel of what works.  I think marketing at trade shows breaks out into three areas (I think there are many other areas that are vital – such as booth location / pre-show promotion, etc., but I’m going to focus on marketing on the floor): awareness; attitude; and usage.

In terms of on-floor marketing, Awareness is getting people from the floor to come into your booth.  Attitude is getting people to think a certain way about your product or service, and Usage is getting people to follow your call-to-action (next step).  The call-to-action could be having people buy something right then and there, or it could be just getting them to give you contact information for follow-up later.

Every booth at CES was dedicated to awareness and attitude, but in all fairness, many booths weren’t trying to drive usage.  In some cases, building awareness and/or attitude was enough (especially with emerging prototype / proof-of-concept technologies).  So, with that said, here are my personal impressions:


12 Jan 2011

How I spent my CES vacation (part 1)

I thought I would break my CES trip into 2 parts.  Part one will be about technology (stuff I saw) and part two will be about marketing (how the stuff I saw was presented).  In all fairness, I didn’t see everything on the floor, but I did hit all 3 halls + the Hilton.  For a really good overview of CES, visit the team over at engadget – I think they did a really good job of covering CES.

OK, with that explanation (which probably isn’t necessary anyway) out of the way, let me dive right in by saying that CES was all about 3D or tablets.  I’m exaggerating of course, but it really did seem like every booth was either selling 3D [something] (monitors, software, glasses, chipsets designed to run 3D) or tablet [something] (tablets of all different sizes, or stands for tablets, cases, cables, accessories, etc.).  In fact, I feel like I didn’t see anything really innovative – just a lot of improvements on existing technology.


08 Jan 2011

Yet another 3D post . . .

I’m not going to keep bashing 3D TVs – I think I’ve explained my position on them pretty well.

Instead, I’m going to answer a question from someone else who also likes to bash 3D TVs.  Actually, it wasn’t bashing so much as it was just a general question.  After reading a previous post about 3D, a person wrote to ask why they get “seasick” watching 3D effects.  I don’t get nauseous from 3D – I just don’t perceive it correctly, but I was intrigued by the question and decided to look into the matter a bit more.

In order to understand the “seasickness” effect, it is important to have a basic understanding of what makes 3D, um, 3D.  I’ll skip the details (visit Gizmodo for a more detailed overview), but basically, a pair of glasses feeds each eye with the same image from a slightly different viewpoint, which tricks us into gauging depth.  The trouble with tricking our brains is that it can cause an affliction called cybersickness.


03 Jan 2011

Want peace and quiet? Make some noise.

I had recently written about how carefully managed audio enhancements can improve retail sales.  Well, it was pointed out to me that carefully managed audio enhancements can do a whole lot more as well.

Per previous discussion, there is ample evidence that to suggest that manipulating people’s acoustic environment influences their behavior.  In addition to previous examples, a classic study in 1982 showed that supermarket shoppers stayed longer and spent 38% more money when slow background music was on than when faster tunes were played.  Studies since then have confirmed similar effects in restaurants and bars.  Even the number of bites per minute taken by diners in a university cafeteria.  All in all, the evidence seems to indicate that background music has merit from a retailer’s perspective.  In 2006, Francine Garlin and Katherine Owen of the University of Technology in Sydney , Australia, conducted a meta-analysis of 32 studies investigating its effects on consumer behavior.  The concluded that background music had “small-to-moderate, yet quite robust effects . . . [on] value returns, behavior duration and affective response” (Journal of Business Research, vol 59, p 755).