Researchers love MASH (and it’s not made from potatoes)…

Traveller at Heart ∞

As I have mentioned in a previous post I am now working as a Market and Social Researcher, which is partly my excuse for not writing as much anymore – my life is just too darn busy! Not like the good ol’ days when I was a student, just chilling and relaxing all cool writing my blog posts daily and pretending to be incredibly insightful and interesting..!

downloadThis blog post is centered around my recent trip to Bristol for a talk given by the MRS (Market Research Society). My colleagues and I took the train from Cardiff (we are very environmentally aware…) to the Future Inn where we were greeted by the organiser of the event, John Bizzle. After a warm welcome we were invited to grab our name badge (I was WAY too excited about this – I don’t think I’ve ever felt so professional in all my…

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#nomakeupselfie – impact and insights

Social-mediaSocial media has had a massive impact on how we spend our time, how we make social connections, how we converse with others, and numerous other aspects of our daily life. Companies claim that they have lost a lot of money based on the amount of time workers are sneakily checking facebook instead of getting on with their job, and most individuals would admit they have spent too long on social media, scrolling through newsfeeds and pictures of people they don’t even know on instagram. Because of the huge amount of time individuals dedicate to these sites, companies have embraced social media as a way of reaching out to consumers, build relationships, converse, and even collect data (by measuring number of clicks, hashtags, mentions and retweets). This can be both hugely positive, and hugely negative.

On the positive side, companies can reach out to a large number of people, and project their brand characteristics and ‘voice’ to both current customers, and to new customers alike. The social media addict feels like they can ‘talk’ to the company, and can gain a sense of ‘who the company is’ based on their previous posts. It’s also a fabulous way to spread ideas, reaching and connecting a huge number of individuals. On the negative side, it can be difficult to control the content being shared, and needs to be managed 24/7 (one complaint from a customer could be seen by thousands in a matter of minutes, and therefore needs to be dealt with asap).

thanksWith this in mind, I thought I would venture into the use of social media using the example of the recent trend of the #nomakeupselfie – the idea being that females would take a picture of themselves without make-up and upload it onto a social media site, at the same time donating to a cancer charity. The aim was to raise money and awareness of the charity, and overall the trend raised over 8 million pounds. Whilst the charity in question did not start the trend, they soon got involved by posting their own ‘selfies’ along with thanks to everyone who had taken part.

But is the #nomakeupselfie and the social media platforms used a force for good, bad, or even a little bit of both?

beat_646x363All the discussions I have read following the #nomakeupselfie trend have been incredibly diverse – some people suggesting it’s a feminist issue, and that taking pictures of yourself without make-up and posting it like it’s something strange or unusual is ultimately a negative thing for women. This is not helped by the many comments following such pictures where women have been asked to stop because ‘their faces just aren’t pretty without make-up’. Despite this, many see the trend as a force for good – raising awareness and money with something as simple as a picture. How fab!

Personally, I think it all depends on your own personal opinions/experiences and if it’s an issue to some people than it is definitely a discussion worth having. I have a wonderful partner who thinks (and tells me) that I am beautiful without make-up, and more importantly, am JUST AS BEAUTIFUL regardless of whether I’m wearing make-up or not. Yet I, like many women, have insecurities about not wearing make-up. When I was 16/17, my boyfriend at the time told me that I shouldn’t wear my glasses, because I look better without them. He went on to say that I should wear make-up, because I look better with it. If a comment such as this was made to me now, the guy would be getting a swift kick out of the door! But back then as a young impressionable teen wanting to make it work with her high-school boyfriend, this unquestionably had some sort of an effect on my self esteem, and it certainly wasn’t positive. Would I have a different outlook on how I look naturally if I had never dated this boy? Would I be confident enough to leave the house without make-up if I had been dating someone who told me I looked lovely no matter what? The insecurity is so deep rooted now that it’ll probably take long time for me to feel as confident without make-up as I do when I’m wearing it.

The fact that I struggle with the idea of going to the corner shop without a touch of mascara and concealer is worrisome, and it concerns me to think of other girls who feel this way too.

Men don’t help matters when they comment that a girl would be prettier with make-up on, or that they look ugly without. If men were posting ‘selfies’ to raise money and awareness for a charity, I would think it disgraceful behaviour if women went around commenting on their pictures which ones were ugly or handsome, and which would look better if they covered their spots or dark circles with concealer. Yes, that example might sound absurd, but just because women wearing make-up is an accepted part of our world doesn’t make it acceptable to criticise our appearance without, and I don’t think that a lot of people realise (or care…) how much effect it has or how deeply it hurts our feelings when we are criticised.

urban-decayThe whole discussion about the no make-up matter makes me question how on earth men would react if all cosmetic production was halted and women everywhere stopped wearing make-up altogether. Would they go around pointing out the physical flaws of women and tell the girls to cover their faces? How would they like it if we approached men with acne and told them to wear something to cover it so that our eyes didn’t have to be offended by such a sight? Would they find it hurtful? How would they respond?

But I don’t believe even for a second that it is only men contributing to this absurdity that a woman can only be pretty when wearing make-up. Everytime a girl posts a picture of something derogatory in replacement of her own face and labels it #nomakeupselfie is adding to her own insecurities and in the wider context, is unassumingly supporting the notion that girls can’t be good looking without foundation and mascara.

I have found it really interesting reading both sides of the debate: that it should all be taken light-heartedly and the negative comments are just a bit of humour AND that it is a deeper issue than that and should be acknowledged as such.

I’m not particularly taking any ‘stance’ as such on this – but I have to say that if I posted a nomakeupselfie and someone commented asking me to take the picture down or to put make-up on because I look better with my face covered with chemicals – I would be hugely offended – not because I think I look good without make-up, but because it is incredibly rude, offensive, and tantamount to calling someone ugly, which is unnecessary, aggressive, and demonstrates a complete lack of respect for others and their feelings.

Social media plays a wonderful role in life, connecting people and ideas from across the globe, expanding businesses, and raising money and awareness for charities and causes. Yet it has a darker side too – one of which is hard to monitor and control. I fear that the spreading of negative ideas and bad behaviour could negate the positive aspects, and it is important to remember this when exposing yourself to all aspects of social media.

It would be really interesting to hear other people’s thoughts on this topic, as social media is a topic that really interests me. I’d love to be directed to more examples of when social media has had an positive/negative impact, and your opinions on the matter. I am neither a social media advocate or hater – but I am interested in the influence it has on people’s lives.

Thanks for reading!

Random Yet Recognisable

Many adverts relate their products to something that doesnʼt seem to hold much relevance to link to the product. And yet, over time these ʻsomethingsʼ become linked with the product in question more and more, until eventually it is associated very clearly with the product. A couple of examples of this effect would be:

–        Coca-Cola and Christmas

–        Lynx and sexy women

–        Snickers and Mr T

–        Plenty and “Juan Sheet”

Juan Sheet

This effect occurs when an unconditioned stimulus initiates a conditioned response. To use the example of Pavlov (I know, I know, weʼre all familiar with this one!) a dog produces saliva when food is presented (an unconditioned response to an unconditioned stimulus). When a bell is rung, the dog does not produce saliva. However, when the bell is rung each time food is presented, eventually the bell alone produces saliva, as the dog expects the receive food. The bell becomes the conditioned stimulus, initiating response despite the fact that a bell is pretty neutral and should have any bearing on how much saliva a dog produces.


Glimcher (2011) found that just seeing a conditioned stimulus (such as the red truck on the Cola Christmas adverts) produces a reward as the brain releases dopamine and this response is pleasurable. You don’t even have to see or taste to Cola to obtain this reward. This suggests that the conditioned stimulus has a strong effect, even though Christmas really has nothing to do with Cola at all. Amazing!


We prefer products with rewarding associations, and so this often exploited in advertisements. In the case of Lynx and sexy women, the Lynx alone would not necessarily produce any positive response, however the sexy women presented in the advertisement would. When coupled together, just seeing the Lynx bottle would elicit a positive conditioned response, encouraging purchase.

This effect was found to be of upmost importance when it comes to attracting customers and encouraging purchase (Reed, McCarthy, Latif, & DeJongh, 2002).

However, Pornpitakpan (2012) believes that the evidence isnʼt strong enough to suggest that such a link exists, criticising studiesʼ methodologies in testing this effect.

Despite this, there is much evidence to support this theory of conditioning a consumer to think/feel a certain way about a brand, and personally I feel that making links such as Cola to the nostalgia of Christmas works well and create success for the company. After the holiday ad being off air for a while, consumers rang in to the Cola customer information centre to request it to be reinstated, stating that the Coca-Cola ʻholidays are comingʼ ad marks the beginning of Christmas.


Pretty Little Diet Pills

diet pills


The use of diet pills to manage weight issues has become more and more popular over time, with many adverts on television now promoting products that claim to aid your weight-loss, making you happier in the process. A good example of this is the advert for the slimming aid Adios:

Personally, I think that diet pills should not be promoted as they are now. I believe it to be unhealthy to promote reliance on diet tablets rather then self-motivation and willpower. Not only are diet pills advertised as a simple solution to weight loss, but they also present diet pills as a way of increasing happiness. Research by Mendieta-Tan, Hulbert-Williams and Nicholls (2013) found that many women struggled with weight management due to daily challenges, and that drug use was seen as an easier and guaranteed way to loose weight. They also found that use of diet pills helped women to feel more in control of their lives, and that their emotions were highly affected by their weight. They happier the women were with their weight, the happier they were in general. I suppose it therefore makes sense for manufacturers of diet pills to play this to their advantage, suggesting that use of their product will increase the consumers happiness.

Taking a diet pill or two on a daily basis in replacement of changing your lifestyle suggests an easy answer to weight issues, and give consumers the impression of a ‘quick fix’ or miracle answer.

But would it not be better to promote a healthy lifestyle, a well balanced diet, regular exercise, and everything in moderation? A relationship between weight and emotions is fairly worrying, considering how many people in the UK currently suffer from some sort of eating disorder (in 2005-6 there were 643 diagnosed and admitted cases of anorexia and bulimia), and studies have shown that eating disorders are often also linked with depression (Smith, & Steiner, 1992). Surely suggesting that losing weight will increase your happiness is therefore not the best way to promote such products?

Additionally, many manufacturers struggle to back-up their claims with actual scientific evidence proving they work. In the case of Adios, it claims that the ingredients speed up the body’s metabolic rate, however it has been suggested that there is a lack of clinical research to back up this claim, and Adios even admit that “their effectiveness is supported by very many years of marketing experience, to the point where the medicines regulatory authorities are satisfied as to their effectiveness.” This does not prove the product works, it only proves that they have been so skilled with marketing their product, they have lead people to believe that it works. That’s not the same thing!

I feel that a better way to promote weight-control is through adverts like the ‘Change 4 Life’ campaign:

This campaign encourages healthy eating, exercise, and social activities with loved-ones.

I’m sorry, I don’t speak pineapple

The Natural Confectionery Company was founded by Julius Lighton and Walter Eger, and started out as ‘Sunrise Confectioners’, which produced a huge array of sweets.

In 1992 they found that there was a market for ‘healthy’ sweets, containing no artificial colours or flavours. They began a small range which they named ‘Binka’s”, which consisted of only 3 products aimed at a very niche market. However, in 1997 demand for confectionary without the added ‘bad’ stuff (sugars, additives etc) increased, and so ‘Binka’s” was transformed into The Natural Confectionary Company, which now produce around 18 different confectionary and beverage products.

Leatherhead Food Research has suggested that Cadbury, Haribo, and Nestlé have all been moving away from artificial additives, and towards more natural food products. They also found that ‘natural’ foods accounted for almost 10% of confectionary sales in 2009. 62% of this amount was made up by sweets, and 38% chocolate.

There are numerous reasons for why this shift has taken place, from artificial sweet flavorings to more natural options. Shulman (2012) made the suggestion that over the past 20 years, the consumption of sugar has increased with an annual consumption of 135lbs per person. Alongside this, there has also been a rise in childhood obesity (stats/citation) and research has found that white refined sugar can weaken the immune system along with causing other health risks such as dental decay. It is therefore understandable that parents may look for alternative treats for their child that avoids these types of health problems.

When marketing their products, The Natural Confectionary Company use a number of techniques. Not only do they emphasize that they use only natural colours and natural flavours, but they also use their own sweets as characters in the adverts. A number of these characters were also voiced by actor and comedian Matt Berry. The use of a celebrity voice works well, as Matt Berry is well-know in the UK and adds comedic value to these rather bizarre and random adverts – “It’s a Catdonkey!”. This makes them incredibly memorable as they stand out from other more conventional adverts with the unusual catchphrases they use. Fatt, (2002) suggests that humour use in advertising increases attention, comprehension, persuasion and like-ability of the advert. Pelsmacker and Geuens (2010) support this view, furthermore suggesting that combining warmth and humour is the most effective way for a brand to be remembered, which I think The Natural Confectionary Company pulls off with their use of cute characters alongside humorous catchphrases.

The website also appeals to children, as it contains numerous games (including the Guzzle Puzzle Jukebox shown in the video above), and nutritional information about each of the sweets available. Plus, each sweet has been given a name and personality profile, and children can vote for which ‘character’ is their favourite.

Overall, not only are these adverts informative, but hilarious, crazy, strange and silly, which to me make them stand out as easily memorable adverts.

And on a final note… I leave you with trumpets.

Catchphrase… say what you see!

Catchphrases and taglines are used by so many companies:

“Red bull gives you wings”

Nike are telling us to “just do it”

Frosties: “they’re grrreat!”

But why do companies use these phrases, and how do they work to persuade us as the consumer to invest in their product? The first step is developing an appropriate and effective tagline, a catchphrase or tagline should ideally not only capture a potential customers’ attention, but should also be easy to remember and successfully describe the company or product in some way. Freeman, (2005) suggested that taglines are an integral part of brand building, adding value to a brand over years and can be not only an inexpensive way of marketing your product or brand, but also (if done well) the most successful. However, they point out that taglines, company name, and logo should be congruent for this to work.

Taglines can take numerous different forms, dependent upon the message the brand wishes to communicate. Merriam Associates, Inc. (2012) put forward some brand strategies for creating the perfect tagline:

Taglines can take numerous different forms, dependent upon the message the brand wishes to communicate. Merriam Associates, Inc. (2012) put forward some brand strategies for creating the perfect tagline:

Descriptive: A tagline can add clarity to a product that is uncommon or particularly confusing. A good example of this would be BMW’s “The Ultimate Driving Machine”. Rice Krispies is also a good example – describing the experience of the product with “Snap, Crackle, and Pop”.

Benefit Based: This can help customers to visualize the key aspect of your brand, for example: FedEx delivers “The World On Time”.

Point of Difference: This is a tagline that defines your product as NOT the competitor, for example in 1968 J. Walter Thompson marketed 7up as the “Uncola”, clearly defining itself as a different alternative to it’s leading competitor.

Witty Catchphrase: Not sure if I would class this as ‘witty’, but an example of this would be Budweiser’s “Wassup” ad campaign:

Personality: The tagline can reflect the personality of the brand, and so may include a well-known person who reflects the values of the brand.

Visionary: Companies with a large amount of different products, or who sell world-wide can struggle with creating a tagline that encompasses everything they do/sell. For these cases, a tagline that tells consumers the vision of the company can be effective. Apple’s “Think Different” tagline works well in this context.

Provocative or Motivating: This refers to informing customers of something they must do, or why your brand is so important, for example Michelin has the tagline “Because so much is riding on your tires”.



Using these distinctive categories when developing taglines can aid companies to create a tagline that is memorable, and is an easy way to promote your brand.


Anthropomorphism, makes me say “awww”.

Anthropomorphism is when human emotions and behaviours are attributed to animals and non-living things such as household objects. A good example of this phenomena is illustrated in this video:

Who else felt bad for the pixar lamp when the ball deflated?!

Another of my favourite examples is the Creature Comforts Heat Electric adverts, in which a variety of endearing plasticine animals are ‘interviewed’ about their experience with the UK Electricity Board.

This also lead to a spin-off series based on the same format, featuring the voices of the British public “spoken” by the animals as if they were being interviewed.

I find this adorable!

This effect of anthropomorphism has a profound influence on marketing. If we use Disney as an example, in many of the Disney films the main characters are animals (Bambi, Oliver & Company, 101 Dalmatians, etc etc). Despite not being of the same species (and even though they are either hand drawn or nowadays animated, and not ‘real’ animals) we still seem to be able to relate to the characters, with Disney being an incredibly successful and influential company, even having two theme-parks to it’s name.

The “Kewpie” effect also has an influence on how we relate to Disney characters enhancing attribution of human emotion. The “Kewpie” effect is basically the ‘awww’ factor of a human or animal, and researcher Lorenz (1943) found that an enlarged forehead, rounded features, and large eyes enhances this effect making the character appear more endearing. This is a theory from developmental psychology which attempts to explain why humans find children endearing and feel a natural instinct to take care of them. Lorenz’s theory has been backed-up by numerous other researchers such as Alley (1981) whom found that head shape correlated with perception of cuteness. You can see these attributes in the majority of Disney characters, if we look at Bambi for example (above) we can see clearly that he has a disproportionately large forehead compared to his body, and really big eyes. And who can say that Bambi isn’t cute?! I can definitely attest to the fact that this has worked on me, as when I saw a Donald Duck soft toy in the Disney shop this summer I insisted to one of my friends that it had to be my 21st birthday present and he now lives on my desk. I’m definitely susceptible to this effect!

This may be a factor into how we can relate to Disney characters even when they are hand drawn/animated and when they are not even human characters.

Another aspect of this topic is anthropomorphic forms, for example objects that resemble human forms. This is used in marketing to develop an emotional connection with the audience.

A good example of this is Jean Paul Gaultier’s perfume bottles for women and for men:

DiSalvo et al. identified four types of anthropomorphic form which they suggested were as follows:

Structural Anthropomorphic Form –  Shapes, volumes and arrangements that mimic the appearance or functioning of the human body.

Gestural Anthropomorphic Form – The use of motions or poses that suggest human action to express meaning, intention, or instruction. For example Mac OS X’s login form, which shakes from side to side as if to suggest a head shaking “no” for an incorrect login.

Character Anthropomorphic Form – Display of qualities or habits that define and describe individuals. For example Jean-Paul Gaultier’s perfume bottles.

Aware Anthropomorphic Form – The suggestion that a form possesses knowledge of the self in relation to others, the ability to construct or manipulate abstract ideas, or the ability to actively participate with others. Examples of this last type are hard to find in consumer products as the best example of this would be the robots and artificial intelligence of science fiction stories.

So does this type of marketing work? And do using anthropomorphic forms make us more likely to purchase due to the ‘emotional connection’ is enables us to form? Either way, Donald Duck is very happy living in my room, and I’ll always have a soft spot for the pixar lamp!