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Painful Games Companies Play

Does your company play painful games with your customers? I’m not talking about physical pain, but brain pain. More specifically, what has been termed buying pain or the pain of paying. According to research conducted by […]

By |February 11th, 2010|

Five Ways to Sell in a Bad Economy

Some of my more popular posts over time have been those dealing with selling to two different customer groups: spendthrifts, who spend money freely, and tightwads, who don’t part with their money easily. (See Five Keys to Selling to Spendthrifts, Tightwads, Spendthrifts, and Everyone Else and Five Keys to Selling to Tightwads).

It’s safe to say that for the last few years, it was far more productive for marketers to target spendthrifts. In our overheated consumer economy, spendthrifts were a much more lucrative target than tightwads who had to be convinced to part with their cash. Now, though, we are all thinking like tightwads – even those who are still well-employed may harbor nagging doubts about their financial future. In this environment, it’s worth re-looking at some neuromarketing tips to succeed in selling to tightwads: […]

By |February 19th, 2009|

Will Driving Habits Really Change?

Just about every news pundit on TV has declared that THIS is finally the oil price change that shocks Americans out of their gas-guzzling ways. It’s hard to argue with that logic. Trucks and big SUVs are piling up on dealer lots. Consumers looking to trade in one of those thirsty vehicles find that its value has dropped by thousands of dollars in a few months. General Motors is shuttering truck plants and has put its HUMMER brand up for review and potential sale. This looks like the real thing. But is it? Maybe our tricky brains will surprise everyone… […]

By |July 21st, 2008|

Anchor Pricing Strategies

Here’s a scenario… You decide to venture into a cell phone store despite your reluctance to deal with a bewildering number of phones, options, plans, along with a confusing price structure. As usual, you find you’ll have to wait a bit for a salesperson. The greeter hands you a card with a big “97″ printed on it, and says, “It should only be a few minutes. We’ll call your number, 97, when a salesperson can help you.” You notice that a large digital display on the wall is showing “94.” You see it click to 95, then 96, and finally 97. The receptionist says, “Number 97, please,” and a salesperson appears to assist you. You thought nothing of the numeric ordering of customers, but it’s possible that the store had an ulterior motive: they could have been attempting to manipulate the price you would pay. Sound bizarre? Read on…

When a consumer is presented with an offer, a key element in the decision to accept or reject it is whether it appears to be a “fair deal” or not. We know that buying pain – the activation of our brain’s pain center when paying for a purchase – increases when the price seems too high. But how does that value equation work? The answer is anchoring – typically, we store an anchor price for different products that we then use to judge relative value. That sounds simple enough… but it’s actually not. Some anchor prices are stickier than others, and at times totally unrelated factors can affect these anchor points. The better marketers can understand how anchoring works, the more creative and effective pricing strategies they will be able to develop. […]

By |July 18th, 2008|

Princess Puts Pain into Cruising

Regular cruise ship passengers almost always say that cruising is the least painful way to travel. Once you are on the ship, there’s no packing or unpacking as you visit new destinations, and you are pampered 24/7. Your cabin is straightened and cleaned several times per day, and an endless cornucopia of food is available. Passengers can see live entertainment, attend lectures, play games, or do nothing at all if they so choose. For many, that’s a painless way to spend one’s travel time.

One of the kinds of pain we talk about here at Neuromarketing is the “pain of paying” or “buying pain” – brain scans show that shelling out cash can activate the pain centers in the brain. (See The Pain of Buying.) Cruising generally excels at minimizing this kind of pain, too; once the cruise has been paid for (often many months before the actual cruise), almost everything is included. Elegant dinners, sumptuous buffets, Broadway-style entertainment, and much more is “free” on board the ship. For customers who feel the pain of paying more acutely than others, cruising is about as pain-free as you can get. Want more lobster? It’s free. Care to watch a recently-released movie after the performance by a concert pianist, and then hang out at the disco until dawn? It’s all free. Cruise lines further minimize paying pain by ensuring that their passengers pay for nothing with cash – one’s “cruise card” is a combination room key and shipboard credit card that one can use to buy anything on the ship. (In almost every case, an automatic service charge obviates the need to calculate a tip or even look at the amount one signed for – a great way to further minimize buying pain.)

The nature of cruising is that you are often thrust into contact with other passengers as you share a dinner table, sit next to each other at a show, and so on. Introductions always involve first names and where one lives. By far the most frequent opening conversational gambits are how many cruises one has been on, which lines and itineraries are the best, and what one thinks of the current cruise in the context of past cruises. Aboard the Crown Princess on a cruise I just completed, a new topic cropped up in perhaps half of these random encounters: the small charges that seemed to be mushrooming all over the ship. […]

By |May 22nd, 2008|

Starbucks Trying to Cut Buyer Pain

As described many times here at Neuromarketing, paying for a product activates the brain’s pain center, particularly if the price seems too high to the person making the buying decision. Starbucks is the company that taught us that $5 for a cup of coffee (or at least for a skinny mocha peppermint latte with an extra shot ) isn’t too much too pay. A simple cup of brewed coffee costs less, but the high cost of Starbucks beverages has made the $5 Starbucks coffee a staple of stand-up comedy routines. Now, new competitors like McDonalds are creeping in and showing consumers that maybe Starbucks actually IS kind of expensive for what you get. The buyer pain that Starbucks had suppressed over the years is in danger of returning. […]

By |January 24th, 2008|

How To Increase Customer Pain

Big companies often find great ways to aggravate their customers, and cell phone giant Sprint proves the point. John Wall of the Ronin Marketing blog posted a rant about Sprint’s advertising for their Centro Palm smartphone, Screw Your Customers. Wall was understandably miffed when he found out that the $99 advertised price for the phone applied only to new customers, and that as an existing four-phone Sprint customer, he would have to pay $250 for the Centro. Beyond exacting what appears to be a penalty for customer loyalty, Sprint has committed a second sin of the neuromarketing variety. […]

By |November 28th, 2007|

Penalty Pain: How to Make Your Customers Hate You

Neuromarketing readers are by now familiar with the idea of “buying pain” or “pain of paying” – when we buy something, the pain center in our brain can be activated. Work by Carnegie Mellon’s George Loewenstein and others shows that this effect is greatest when the price is perceived to be high or unfair. Buying a pack of gum for $10 would be a lot more “painful” than spending 50 cents for the same item. One wonders how painful paying multiple $40 bounced check fees would be, particularly if you knew your bank processed the largest checks first to ensure the maximum number of bounces. […]

By |November 5th, 2007|

Five Keys to Selling to Tightwads

One out of four potential customers for your product may not buy it, even if the purchase makes economic sense or is otherwise a good decision. A couple of days ago, in Tightwads, Spendthrifts, and Everyone Else, I wrote about research that found people could be categorized by their spending behavior into three major groups. While the largest group, described as “unconflicted,” comprised 60% of the large sample of survey subjects, a quarter of the group were identified as “tightwads.” The latter group presents a unique marketing challenge because they will resist spending money even when the expense is reasonable and perhaps justified. How does a marketer not only make the case for her product, but get a tightwad to part with his money? Here are five tactics: […]

By |October 3rd, 2007|

Tightwads, Spendthrifts, and Everyone Else

Marketers love to segment their potential customers, and now there’s a new way to do it: spendthrifts, tightwads, and everyone else. Research at Carnegie Mellon University shows that 40% of consumers can be classified as either spendthrifts or tightwads, while 60% fall into a middle category without strong tendencies in either direction. Furthermore, this behavior is related to one of our favorite neuromarketing topics, buying pain. […]

By |October 1st, 2007|