“You are what you eat”

Suppose a consumer who is allergic to dairy products is shopping for a non-dairy yogurt.  After browsing through a variety of brands, she sees the product “O’Soy," with a product label claim identifying the product as “organic soy yogurt.” Is it safe for the food allergic consumer to rely on this information, purchase and then consume this product?

            This is a serious question faced by many food allergic consumers today and the answer is not as simple as one would presume.  The “O’Soy” brand name appears to indicate this is a soy based yogurt.  In addition to the brand name itself, a prominent product label claim in large bold font on the front label, identifies the product as "Organic Soy Yogurt." A recent research study has suggested that food consumers are influenced by and base their purchase decisions  on the name of the food product (Irmak, Vallen, & Rosen Robinson, 2011).  Additionally, prior research has substantiated the notion that food allergic consumers utilize package information and product claims to evaluate if a product contains an allergenic substance (Voordouw et al., 2012). 

            If the above food allergic consumer assesses allergen risk in a similar fashion, this is but one example of how a food allergic consumer may unknowingly consume an allergenic substance, since an inspection of the back label of the “O’Soy” yogurt states that the product does in fact "contains milk."  This potential mistake, relying on the package information found on the front of the yogurt container's label, could be life threatening to a food allergic consumer allergic to dairy products.   Further investigation revealed an online disclosure, found on the "O'Soy" website that states  "O’Soy is lactose free and that those who are only lactose intolerant, and not allergic to milk, can safely enjoy O’Soy" (Stony Field Farm, 2011).   In 2014, Stonyfield Farms modified the ingredients and cultures used in O'Soy yogurt in order to eliminate dairy in the yogurt.

            As the previous example illustrates, more understanding and research is needed on this issue, since confusing and often conflicting product ingredient information appears on food product labeling. Domestically and internationally, food allergies have become exceedingly prevalent in children, adolescents and adults (American Academy of Allergy, 2011). Both the United States and various European governments recognize the importance of clear and complete ingredient communications of known allergens to allergic consumers and have instituted various labeling and allergen disclosure laws such as the United States’ Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) and legislation improvements like those found in the EU's Food Information for Consumers Regulation (Agency, 2014; Services, 2006). 

            Regardless of legislative mandates, manufacturers should institute clear labeling if the product(s) place consumers at risk for harm. Yet, despite the ethical benefits and legislative mandates designed to assist the food allergic consumer, food allergy labeling still remains unclear and there is no clear consensus on the best manner to convey allergen information to the food allergic stakeholder, and as noted in the prior example, there have been examples of conflicting (incongruent) allergen information communicated to the allergic consumer via the product information and packaging material. 

            This domain of food allergic consumers, current labeling issues and their decision making processes is an under-researched and newly emerging issue that needs to be addressed so as to provide a safer and more consumer friendly food shopping experience for allergic consumers and stakeholders of food allergic individuals.
Do you agree?  Have you had any experiences similar to the example shared above?  What are your thoughts to improve the labeling on food?

*This blog is based on a doctoral dissertation by Roger Wortman entitled ‘Impact of Product Label Claims.' His committee consists of Dr. Suri Weisfeld-Spolter (chair), Dr. John Stanton (reader), Dr. Cindy Ruppel (methodologist) and Dr. Herb Brotspies (4th member).

Image Source: Speech Buddies, Inc., 2017

Sara Weisfeld-Spolter, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Marketing, H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Weisfeld-Spolter can be reached at sw887@nova.edu

Study Shows 10 Ways Humor Lifts Social Content

As social content explodes beyond the attention capacity of us all, it’s no surprise that entertaining content has taken center stage. Humor, in particular, accounts for a vast majority of social videos reaching over 50,000 views. But many brands are still cautious about using comic devices to attract their target audiences.

Fearing a tarnished image to serious business, offended audiences, or simply a joke gone flat, many opt for inspirational content as an alternative to rousing emotions. But a large scale study (http://bit.ly/1dg5yex) of commercials parked on YouTube found a pattern of tasteful comic devices that works well in generating views and engagement.

The following is a countdown of ten types of humor that align well with three theories of humor. In general, we tend to laugh when we:

  1. See something out of sorts (incongruence)
  2. Enjoy others’ misfortunes (disparagement)
  3. Release ourselves from inhibitions or childlike innocence (arousal-safety)

 #10 Awkwardness

Why we laugh at awkward moments has much to do with the pleasure derived from seeing others fail or suffer misfortune. Rooted in the Theory of Superiority, this disparaging form of humor leads to a feeling of sudden glory when we displace our own histories of embarrassing moments onto others. Among the types of humor that capitalize on awkwardness are remorseful regrets, uncomfortable settings, exercising humility and revealed secrets.

One way to enjoy others’ misfortunes is through the depiction of embarrassing situations where victims are left speechless. By displacing own recollection of these embarrassments onto others, we are in effect saying: “I am glad this did not happen to me.” Arguably, this laughter increases the more a victim is caught off guard or left with an unsolvable quandary.

 #9 Sentimental Humor

Sentimental Humor taps into our emotions through an arousal-safety mechanism. For example, in the first stage or arousal-safety, emotions are aroused with sentimentality, empathy or some form of negative anxiety. As the story-line develops, we then see this heightened arousal state as safe, cute or inconsequential. This shift from high arousal to relief is what creates laughter.

A way to imagine this type of humor is to consider how we laugh. Comic wit, for example, is normally expressed as “Ah Hah.” Laughter from disparaging humor (e.g., putdowns) is normally expressed as “Ha, Ha.” Sentimental humor would be expressed as “Ahhh.” This could happen when we witness someone escaping danger as well as when we experience a child doing something cute.

Among the types of humor that capitalize on this arousal-safety mechanism are those involving false alarms, melodrama or child innocence. Another successful way to get laughter from sentimental humor is through the relief of fear and anxiety.

 #8 Malicious Joy

Malicious joy, or schadenfreude, refers to the pleasure we derive from seeing others fail or suffer misfortune. Also rooted in the Theory of Superiority, this feeling of sudden glory can occur when we witness bungled behaviors, unanticipated spoilers, unfortunate happenstances, deserved repercussions or the acts of cretins.

Many videos of this type are based on characters that are prone to accidents or saying the wrong thing. Another successful way to get laughter from malicious joy is through the portrayal of spoilers. This cause of laughter taps more into our emotional senses where a feeling of superiority is felt over those whose peace or excitement is snatched away.

 #7 Social Order Deviancy

The most engaging form of humor in viral videos involves social order deviance or those behaviors that challenge society rules and expectations.  Many of us love watching others unleash their innate desire to break the law, enter forbidden territory or simply act out our inhibitions. Most of the viral videos featuring this form of humor involve society irreverence, taboos, offensive behaviors or unleashed mania.

Several viral YouTube videos are based on high society satires, rule breaking and undermining authority. Common to all is the release of tension we experience by unloading on someone’s statutes. Witness how this works when we outwit the censorship imposed by honorable judges, pious clergymen or smug professors.

 #6 Unruliness

Unruliness refers to outrageous behavior. Consider how Snicker’s Mr. T, Nike’s Clay Matthews, and Reebock’s “Terry Tate Office Linebacker” videos reached millions of views as these icons disrupt peaceful settings.

The Relief Theory contends that laughter is created when we release tension or nervous energy such as when we unleash our suppressed desires. Consequently, we love watching others act out uncontrollably or violate some social order. In effect, we are likely enjoying the observation of others acting out our own inhibitions through hysteria, impulsive outbursts, displaced irritation or exercising improprieties.

A popular technique for entertaining audiences with humor is to show people unleashing their anxiety through uncontrollable screaming and yelling. Another common way to release suppressed desires is to display scenes of wishful naughtiness.

 #5 Irony

Irony much like that of any perceptual discord, is characterized by a contrast, between expectations and reality. It makes us laugh by showing the opposite or undesired intentions of someone’s actions. Mentally, we are saying to ourselves: “…I did not see that coming…”

An unusual pairing of well-known characters or scenes, for example, make us laugh at the imagined conflict. Other examples of visual irony include the casting of humans as animals or cyborgs as humans. We often laugh over situational irony in which actions have an effect that is contrary to what was expected. This often happens in the case of a coincidental backlash, where the odds of such an unexpected scene spoiler are infinitely low.

 #4 Surprise Twist 

Surprise twist causes us to laugh as we witness or experience a change in course. Stemming from the Theory of Incongruity, this concept entertains us through a distracting segue. Mentally, we are asking ourselves: “…Where did this come from?”

This surprise twist can be realized in the form of visual anomalies (e.g., sudden appearances, changes or revelations) or conceptual incongruities (e.g., storyline twists or unexpected responses). In each case, we detect a mismatch with what we expect to occur next. Research suggests that we laugh when our minds anticipate a certain outcome, only to be tricked at the end with a wrong or uneventful answer.

 #3 Perceptual Discords

Perceptual Discords come in at number three on the list.  Like exaggeration, discords represent a form of comic wit. But instead of showing extremes, they show us something out of touch. Stemming from the Theory of Incongruity, this concept entertains us by contrasting what we see with what is routinely expected.  Mentally, we are asking ourselves: “Did I see that correctly?”

This perceptual discord can be realized in the form of visual anomalies like impersonations, eccentric behaviors or bizarre substitutions. In each case, we detect a mismatch with common perceptions. Some of the top viral videos show unconventional routines or unusual settings surrounding the highlighted activity. In other cases, the viral videos make us laugh when we imagine a human depiction of abstract concepts or literal interpretation of idioms.

 #2 Putdown Mockery 

Mockery comes in at number 2 on our list. This technique capitalizes on our emotional reaction to watching others experience a well-deserved putdown. Stemming from the Theory of Superiority, we often experience sudden glory when dethroning others or elevating ourselves at the expense of others’ peculiarities. Of the viral videos featuring putdowns, most include mocked peculiarities, lofty conquests, society satires or stereotyping.

One technique used in putdowns taps into our desire to dethrone the self-righteous, the popular, the pretentious and the hyper-masculine.  Some of the top viral videos show scenes of humbled haughtiness featuring those we despise or compete against.

 #1: Exaggeration

Hyperbole, is the number one attention getter among all humor techniques used in viral YouTube videos. Dating back centuries as a comic device, it suggests that laughter results from seeing things out of sorts.

Many brands and small companies have capitalized on the visual side of exaggeration. Seeing the visual anomaly, our brains often ask: “can that really be true?” Some of the most popular comic devices used in this form of wit include the display of supernatural performances, motion distortion, exaggerated body reactions and incredible allure.

So have we left anything out? What type of humor do you feel most comfortable using for your audience?

James Barry, D.B.A., is an Associate Professor of Marketing in the Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He develops, teaches and consults on a variety of social media marketing subjects. He can be reached at jimbarry@huizenga.nova.edu

Types of Electronic Word-of-Mouth (eWOM)

 

Electronic Word-of-Mouth (eWOM) is a rapidly growing, quickly evolving and increasingly important extension of traditional face-to-face word-of-mouth (WOM) in the marketing and consumer environment, and most recently, a very important outcome of activity on social media. Indeed, social media have greatly changed the way in which firms and their constituents are able to communicate electronically, extending the possibilities of eWOM from the traditional one-to-many and one-to-one marketing communications, to the new many-to-many and many-to-one communications.

Social network sites in their essence are built on eWOM in various forms and guises.  While much literature has addressed some of the different types of eWOM and their differences, there has not been a consolidated conceptualization of such differences. We suggest a concise typology of eWOM communications based on the level of user interactivity and participation, and thus locate these forms in a 2 (communication: collective, individual) x 2 (C2C interactivity: low, high) framework below. Four distinct categories of eWOM emerge from our framework: many-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many, and one-to-one.

Many-to-one eWOM (e.g., the number of votes) represents the trend or explicit preference of a crowd. One-to-many text-based eWOM (e.g., product reviews) is descriptive and requires the audience to use more cognitive effort to read the reviews.  Many-to-many eWOM (e.g., online discussion groups) is a high involvement activity in which consumers continuously participate in the communication process. Finally, dyad-based one-to-one eWOM (e.g., instant messaging) is mostly private and non-transparent communications. The typology of eWOM presented in our figure not only depicts how different eWOM types are generated but also reflects how these different types are processed by users.

What are your thoughts on our suggested framework of eWOM types?

Do you think they are equal in their degrees of persuasiveness on the users of these eWOM?

Which eWOM category do you use most?            

Suri Weisfeld-Spolter, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Marketing and Chair of Doctoral Programs in the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at sw887@nova.edu

Image Positioning - Differentiate to Communicate Value

American society is intrigued by image. Consider this related word - imagine. Disney is all about the customer experience and emotionally and magically transports guests to another time or place. Image is often associated with entertainment, fashion, and technology markets. Corporate image is the reputation of an organization viewed by its various stakeholders – investors, employees, customers, business partners, communities, etc. All companies have a singular corporate personality that differentiates them from their rivals. The communication challenge is to manage and enhance the firm's identity over time.

A perceived image is based on two components: 1) what the company does and says, and 2) what the customers/market say about the organization - this is more important. Companies must manage a strong IMC (integrated marketing communications) program consisting of advertising, selling, sales promotion, online, social media, and public relations activities. Customer-generated content such as Facebook posts, tweets, blogs, and online communities can dramatically impact organizational performance.

Perhaps your company is not a global giant – does image research make sense for you? Consider these queries as you revisit your marketing communications strategy. How important is image in your value proposition? Should it be even more important? Does your image clearly resonate with your target market? How can you get your customers and the market to share more positive messages about your company? What is your main point of differentiation from your competitors? Should coolness be a major or minor part of your IMC strategy? How can you best tell your business story to communicate value?

Art Weinstein, Ph.D., is Chair and Professor of Marketing at Nova Southeastern University and author of Superior Customer Value – Strategies for Winning and Retaining Customers. He may be reached at art@nova.edu or 954-262-5097; visit his website www.artweinstein.com Read More