The Price is…Wrong?

When it comes to shopping, prices are everything.  No-one wants to look like a cheap skate, but equally no-one wants to spend a fortune.  But just how far do our hostilities towards expensive products reach?

Robert Cialdini author of Influence: The psychology of Persuasion cites an example of a friend of his who owned a jewelry shop.  In this shop were Turquoise necklaces worth $250 but on offer at $150.  The stock was not shifting and so one day the owner instructed the floor manager to reduce them by $40.  When she turned up to work she found that all neckleces had been sold, and not only that but they had been sold for a very large profit at a price of $400 per unit.  The key to this was in the fact that the floor manager had misheard the owner on the phone and had marked them up to $400 rather than reduce them by $40.  People that came in assumed that the higher priced item was because it was good quality and they didn’t know much about Turquoise and therefore associated ‘expensive’ with ‘good’.  This of course was blind luck on the owners behalf, but highlights a significant hole in our psychology when it comes to buying goods.  When the price is high, people automatically expect a level of quality and will be prepared to pay the higher price in place of a solid understanding of what they are buying.

This was something that I experienced first hand whilst working for a letting agency.  Often people would come to our company complaining that another company in town could not let their house and that they want to come to us to get a different perspective and were generally willing to accept that a reduction in rent would help their case.  What we found was contrary to the landlords expectations and indeed our own.  When we arrived at the house for an appraisal, we found that the house was very reasonably priced and even suggested to the landlord that we would offer it at a higher price.  Desperate, the landlord gave in and said something to the effect of ‘you’re the experts’ and we would market the house in a similar way the other agency did, on the same websites but at a higher price.  The results confirmed Robert Cialdini’s understanding of marketing.  In a few days we had several viewing lined up and within the week the house was let at a higher price than the landlord had thought possible.  When the price was lower, people would not give the house a moments thought, assuming it to be cheap because it was rubbish.  Again this response of expensive=good brought people flocking to our agency.

This is something that all who purchase a product or service should think about.  People are all too keen to assume that money can be used to replace knowledge.  If they spent just 5 minutes researching their market, they could get the deal of the year.


Here’s looking at you

The online world is ever developing and naturally, public relations continuously adapts to various new communication tools. Therefore the need to analyse an audience’s receptivity to stimulus is increasing and as a result tools used to conduct said analyses are progressing. Web Analytics such as ‘Hitbox’ and ‘buzz’ monitors are widely used as reliable and effective measurement tools, however they have flaws and lack certain abilities. Eye tracking meanwhile provides insight into the human psyche, allowing those using the technology to understand whether their attempts at gaining an individual’s attention and interest are successful. The tool can measure an eye’s movement and focus as well as the length of time and order it gazes at objects. This essay will discuss the introduction of eye tracking to the online analysis market and will assess its usefulness to the PR industry and the online community.

Bvba, N (2001) notes ‘eye tracking helps software designers to evaluate the usability of their screen layouts’, however it was originally developed to in order to gain insight in to how people read. Edmund Huey is considered the first to build an eye tracking apparatus, he found ‘the eyes do not move continuously from left to right’ when reading, but instead ‘proceed by a succession of quick, short movements to the end, then return in one quick, usually unbroken movement to the left’ (Huey, 1908). Huey’s findings were the beginning of much investigation into the human eye and focus of attention.

Alfred Yarbus was the first to form a link between the movement of the eye and fixations or interest. Yarbus (1967) discovered that the eye both voluntarily and involuntarily fixates on elements of an object. Naturally, the more information that an element contains, the longer the fixation is. He concluded that ‘the order and duration of the fixations on elements of an object are determined by the thought process’ accompanying the analysis of the information obtained. Hence people who think differently also, to some extent, see differently’. Most importantly, Yarbus stated ‘eye movement reflects the human thought processes’.

This research analyzed reading behaviour, however tracking one’s eye movements whilst online is principal today. Online, the tool is used for the assessment of a variety of concepts, examples of these consist of advertising, search engines and homepage marketing. Existing research highlights behaviours of viewing search engine result pages; ‘several sources have likened the path of a user’s eye on a search results page to an F shape, with the majority of attention being given to the top few results’ (Granka et al. 2008).

Consequently a commonly used F layout has been developed for optimization, and vast amounts of money are spent on for example Search Engine Optimization or ‘Google AdWords’ every year.

Etre Limited (2006) conducted a study into five organisation’s webpage using eye tracking, one of which was Marks and Spencer, whose webpage was deemed effective and well laid out. When analyzing eye tracking results however, very little attention was paid to the main body of the page. Only one in forty participants actually clicked an item in the main area and instead most visual attention centered on the page header showing a focus around reaching a desired page.

Researchers also found when pages featured models users were distracted away from the clothes by model’s faces. This is a common phenomenon -as stated previously- however here it proves an ineffective tool for advertising clothing.

Eye tracking online has only been used since 2003 though there are already a variety of eye tracker devices available for diverse uses. The most non-invasive yet least accurate technology is a video eye tracker where the movement of the eye is recorded. A second type is an electro-oculography recording deemed invasive, it works by reading muscular movements surrounding the eye. Finally is a magnetic coil system, whereby coils are placed directly on the eye and are generally used for medical research.

Although the concept of eye tracking has been continuously developed and investigated since the 1950’s, unfortunately there are still flaws. Hoffman (1998) believes that visual attention is always slightly ahead of the eye (Unknown, 2011). Further to this, fixation on a particular element cannot be insinuated as having one particular emotional meaning. For example, a fixation on a model may mean attraction, distaste, recognition or even that the individuals mind is elsewhere. In terms of accessibility, the more sensitive the machinery, the greater the cost, however technology developments mean some are very low cost and relatively easy to operate. Expertise and quality apparatus are vital in producing accurate and effective data. Dbrendant (2010) believes eye tracking is merely ‘an expensive gadget that doesn’t tell a usability analyst more than they already know’.

Eye tracking technology may not have reached perfection, but it has certainly allowed the market to progress considerably. Ross, J (2009) believes it provides data a facilitator cannot otherwise observe and participants cannot report accurately. Take for example the finding that individuals are naturally drawn to faces.

If a webpage contains an image of a face, its audience is more likely to spend more time on the page. Further to this, eye tracking has uncovered that we follow the direction of the featured model’s eyes (Fadeyev,D. 2009).

This means industry professionals can attract visitor’s attention and can partially control where its audience looks.

Eye tracking can ultimately be seen as an advantageous tool for integrated marketing communications as it enhances value for money by utilizing research to alter web content for a more effective outcome. Such insight can be used by public relations practitioners to draw an audience’s attention to key points of interest or important information. As a result of eye tracking, practitioners can understand how an individual subconsciously behaves whilst online; something individuals cannot report on. Although not perfect, eye tracking is an innovative concept which has provided organizations with the ability to view their website critically and consequently, enhance it into an effective public relations tool.


Bvba,N. (2001). Using eye tracking for usability testing. Available: Last accessed 23rd April 2011.

Dbrendant. (2010). Eye Tracking: The Good and The Bad. Available: Last accessed 26th April 2011.

Etre Limited. (2006). Five days / five heatmaps. Available: Last accessed 25th April 2011.

Fadeyev, D. (2009). 10 Useful Usability Findings and Guidelines. Available: Last accessed 25th April 2011.

Granka, L. Feusner, M. Lorigo, L. (2008). Eyetracking in Online Search. Available: Last accessed 23rd April 2011.

Hoffman, S. (1998). Exploration of Field Work. Available: Last accessed 23rd April 2011.

Huey, E (1908). The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading. Mass, USA: Norward Press. p15-17.

Ross, J. (2009). Eyetracking: Is It Worth It? Available: Last accessed 26th April 2011.

Unknown. (2011). Eye Tracking. Available: Last accessed 23rd April 2011.

Yarbus, A (1967). Eye Movements and Vision. New York: Plenum Press. 211-212.

Back to the future

Everyone knows that TV shows and films are rife with product placement and opportunities for big names to make the most of the advertising platform.  From James Bond to American Idol, the use of product placement has been no secret and as you stare at the TV, the product stares right back at you.

This has been an ongoing process but where exactly can this go?  Will one day simon Cowell be wearing a Coke t-shirt? Somehow I think not.  Instead, product placement has evolved into something that nobody was expecting.  Now companies are seeking advertising space in old TV shows.  How I Met Your Mother has been at the forefront of this, recently advertising the new film The Zookeeper in old re-runs of the show.

Perhaps the genius of this is that because they are so out of place, our attention is dragged to the promotion.  For example, If you were watching That 70’s Show and saw a poster in the background for the latest X-Men film, you would be thinking about that advert far more than if you had seen under the same circumstances but in a more current TV show.  The lack of belonging gets attention in a highly effective way without having to be too in your face.  Even better is the absolute subtlety of it all. For example the picture above isn’t bright orange or enlarged and in your face, but you wouldnt miss it.  Then you begin thinking about how it’s out of place, then you may even start looking for more like this…and yes they do this trick more than once.

Before you know it you are actively looking for the adverts which means the advertising company is getting far more of your attention on their product that other forms of product placement and even most forms of direct advertising.  Will this set a precedent for other TVshows to follow? Who knows but this clever ploy will have you queuing up for the zoo keeper in no time.

Market the unmarketable

Marketing often has to succesfully promote terrible products.  But is there a product out there that no amount of marketing can help?  Enter Japanese scientist Mitsuyuki Ikeda.  He has created a burger that is made exclusively from human feces.  The ‘burger’ is made from soya, steak sauce essence, and protein extracted from human feces.

This extract is Ikeda’s attempt at justifying his creation:

‘The meatpacking industry causes 18 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions, mostly due to the release of methane from animals. The livestock industry also consumes huge amounts of feed and water in relation to the amount of meat that it yields, and many find the industry to be inhumane and cruel to animals.’

These factors alone are reason enough for vegetarians to replace their meat intake with vegetable proteins and legumes. But Ikeda, a scientist at the Environmental Assessment Center in Okayama, sought to further the field of alternative proteins by recycling a form of protein-rich waste.

Sometimes marketing needs a challenge.  So i challenge anyone who reads this to A) come up with a suitable name (preferably not the one that Ikeda has chosen in the picture and B) come up with a marketing campaign that will convince people to eat this.

Leave your ideas and comments in the section below.

Steve Jobs

In light of the recent death Steve Jobs, I found myself wondering what the future of Apple will be.  Over the past ten years Apple rose from a struggling company to one of the most successful companies of all time with an estimated market value worth $351 billion.  So what made apple so successful and what will be the future for the brainchild of Steve Jobs?  Well an article i read in marketing magazine highlights the various aspects of marketing that Jobs brought to the table and that Apple will no doubt continue to employ.

Marketing Magazine states that Steve Jobs revolutionised marketing in 5 ways:

The customer isn’t right, I am

The secret launch

Creating new categories

Marrying design with technology

No detail is too small

I would like to look at these categories and give my own opinions on how Jobs used them for Apple and their effects.

Starting at number 1; ‘the customer isn’t right, I am.’   He didn’t say these exact words, his statement was actually “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” but seems to communicate similar sentiments.  Jobs was not dismissing the input of the general public in my opinion but rather saying that the chances of acquiring a multi-billion dollar empire idea from a focus group is not likely to happen. I think that perhaps the problem that Steve Jobs came up against was that people were not expecting his products.  I remember roughly 11 years ago I was watching a TV interview with Bill Gates whereby he was saying that in the future there would be a device that could translate sign posts and text from any language into english.  At the time i thought it was like when people say that in the future we will live on the moon and eat tablets that are entire meals etc but only a few months ago this technology was released on the Iphone.  The problem that Steve probably had was that the public’s imagination wasn’t in the same world as his ambitions.  What we perceived to be stuff of science fiction, he perceived to be a realistic goal.  This of course makes using focus groups hard and so Steve really had no option but to go it alone.

The second Point that the article stated is ‘the secret launch.’

This is not a new idea but because the technology was so revolutionary it meant that people would become excited at the very mention of a new unveiling.  In his demonstrations he played the games, used the apps and showed that the product he was offering was something truly amazing that anyone could use.  Why wouldn’t people get excited at this possibility?  The amazing technology that was released each time there was an unveiling meant that people were ready to buy a product they hadn’t even seen.  They just seemed to think Apple = good =i must have one.  Of course this has seen backfire such as the release of the Iphone 4S instead of the anticipated Iphone 5 this year.  Whilst this was seen as a large disappointment, already the pre-orders are piling up and people are keen to buy a new version of their already incredibly expensive phone after just one years use.  But this is the beauty of the hype that Steve Jobs created.  He was able to hype up a product to the point where you want it before you even know what it is.

‘Creating new categories’ is the next section identified by Marketing Magazine.  Here Jobs came up with completely new products.  Case in point, the Ipad.  As the first success of a tablet based computer Jobs made a big leap in announcing that apple were to release this.  Even upon his first demonstration the critics were harsh saying that it wouldn’t catch on and to be quite honest, I wasn’t convinced.  Now Apple owns 63% of the market share of tablet based computers and has knocked HP and Sharp out of the market as theirs failed to sell.  This leads neatly onto the fourth point of the article.

‘Marrying Design with Technology’

From the colorful old U2 adverts to the white and sterile looking adverts we now see on TV, Apple has increasingly progressed it product in terms of design and style.  Whilst other products looked plastic and cheap, apple always went for a more expensive but far better designed product, which has now reached a point whereby people buy the latest apple product simply because it is stylish to have it.  Yes the products do look great but why is it that you buy the Ipad 2 over HP and Sharp products (all of which look very similar)? Its because who wants an HP when you could have the latest Apple product?  Whilst initially Apples success came from its superior technology, now it is all about the brand.  For example HTC actually make a superior smartphone with Dual core processors and one that even has 3D capability.  But no-one wants to hear about the latest tech info.  All people want to hear is that you have Angry Birds and that you have the latest Iphone or Ipad.

The final aspect that Jobs brought to marketing is said to be that ‘no detail was too small’.  Well I cant say that I blame him for being thorough when the product costs more than most people’s laptops and the public buy a new one every year.  From shaking the handset to shuffle songs to voice commands that actually work, Jobs made sure that everything about the handset was as close to perfect as possible.

So where now for Apple?  Well who knows…and thats the point.

Original article