People don’t want science even close to their delicious chocolate chip cookies. But they are happy that science has created a body cleanser that fights bacteria that cause unpleasant odors.
In a series of 10 studies, researchers found that people do not like science to be invited to market products that bring pleasure, such as cookies. Instead, consumers see science as more suitable for selling utilitarian goods for which scientific research has created a better product.
The question is how the lay public views science and scientists, they said Rebecca Reczekco-author of the study and prof Marketing at Ohio State University Fisher Business School.
“People see science as cold but competent. This does not go well with products designed to be warm and comfortable for consumers, ”said Reczek.
“But the cold competence of science is considered perfectly suited to the sale of practical products that serve a utilitarian purpose.”
Reczek conducted a study with Aviva Philipp-Muller, recently graduated from a doctoral program in social psychology in the state of Ohio. Their findings were published recently in Journal of Consumer Research.
In one study, researchers asked 511 students from two universities to enter a lab to taste chocolate chip cookies. Everyone is presented with a menu with three cookie choices – options A, B and C – which are described in different terms. They chose one of the options, which they then really tried.
Half of the participants had a menu in which option A was described as “sweet chocolate flavor”. The other half saw option A described as “Scientifically developed to have a juicy chocolate flavor”. Option B and C have always been the same and have never mentioned science.
The results showed that the use of scientific attraction reduced the likelihood that participants would choose option A by 30%.
But some consumer goods can have both a practical and a pleasant purpose. For these products, science can be a positive selling point – or not – depending on whether it is aligned with the utilitarian or pleasurable purpose of the product.
Take, for example, body wash.
In one study, researchers introduced participants to what they said was a new body cleanser and asked them how likely they were to buy it. When participants were told that foam would “immerse your senses in a unanimous experience,” they were less likely to say they would buy it to be sold as a science-based product.
But they are more likely to buy the same body wash based on scientific appeal if they are told the foam will “wash away the bacteria that cause the odor.”
“When practicality and science are combined, it makes sense for consumers,” Philipp-Muller said.
Researchers have taken a closer look at this disconnect between science and enjoyable products.
Participants in one study rated smoothie brand marketing slogans as “unrelated” if they mentioned the smoothie’s “rigorous scientific development process”. They were also more likely to say “something seemed weird about the slogan”.
“When pleasure and science are put together, it seems unrelated to consumers and they are not interested in those kinds of products,” Philipp-Muller said. “It seems strange that the coldness of science is trying to sell you something pleasant.”
But not everyone thinks scientists are cold and withdrawn. One study found that participants working in the STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and math) did not feel that scientists were cold and withdrawn and were also not bothered by the scientific call for enjoyable products.
Another group of people who are good at using science to sell enjoyable products were those who said they have a high degree of trust in scientists, Reczek said.
And that points to another way to make science a more acceptable way to market comfortable and compliant products.
“We could update people’s beliefs about science and scientists. We could let them know that scientists can be cordial and friendly, ”Reczek said.
And people can be reminded that science is not just used in utilitarian and technological products, Philipp-Muller said. “Science is in your yogurt and cookies, as well as in your shampoo,” she said. “People just don’t know it.”
Reczek said the findings have implications beyond marketing.
“The fact that consumers have stereotypes about science and scientists can be an obstacle to accepting science, whether it’s products or scientific discoveries,” she said.
“People need a more realistic view of what scientists really are and how science is a part of our daily lives, including the many products we use.”
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