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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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The candidate article for this research paper is “Products as Pals: Engaging with Anthropomorphic Products Mitigates the Effects of Social Exclusion.” It analyzes and shows experimental on the hypotheses that interaction with anthropomorphic products (i.e., products featuring characteristics of being alive through design, interaction, intelligence, responsiveness, and personality) also satisfy a consumer's social needs, and mitigate the effects of social exclusion.

A total of four experiments were conducted in this study: the first estimates current social connections based on facebook friends, the second estimates level of future social interaction with strangers to seek affiliation, the third observed participants approach on prosocial behavior through answering a questionnaire about social assurance, and the fourth experiment asked a new group what they thought of the vacuum accessory with anthropomorphic characteristics.

This article is both interesting and practical in terms of identifying what key features and characteristics marketers could apply to new products to bring them to life with anthropomorphism in order to appeal to not only the segment of the consumer market facing social exclusion, but to everyone who is likely to be more attracted to a product with such features.

Below is an analysis of journal articles gathered from the JCR (Journal of Consumer Research, that are all directly or indirectly related to our topic of anthropomorphic products.

The first article to be discussed, “Conspicuous Consumption versus Charitable Behavior in Response to Social Exclusion: A Differential Needs Explanation” examines the proposition that social exclusion may produce either self-focused or prosocial responses, depending on which needs are threatened. (Shrum, L.J, Lee, J. 2012) The study hypothesizes that social exclusion increases conspicuous consumption, and rejection increases helping and donating behavior. 4 experiments were conducted to support the hypotheses as per below:

80 undergraduate business students were randomly assigned to ignored, rejected, or control condition. A recall and writing task was used to manipulate these conditions. Participants were asked to write about a time they were ignored or rejected, a time they felt intensely ignored, or a time they drove or walked to a grocery store. Then, participants were given two scenarios to assess their preference of conspicuous consumption and helping, then provided demographic information and asked to provide their thoughts on the study's purpose.

The results were that people asked to write about being ignored felt more ignored than rejected, people asked to describe rejection reported feeling more rejected than ignored, and those asked to describe grocery shopping did not show differences in rejection vs. being ignored. These results supported the original hypothesis that different forms of social exclusion drive a person to behave differently.

The next article, “Social Exclusion Causes People to Spend and Consume Strategically in the Service of Affiliation” explores the direct link between social exclusion and consumer behavior. In four experiments, this paper hypothesized and tested how social exclusion can cause people to spend and consume strategically in the service of affiliation. (Vohs, K. Rawm, C.D. Stillman, T.F. Baumeister, R.F. Mead, N.L, 2010)  

The first experiment was conducted on 30 undergraduate students were paired and asked to exchange video messages before face-to-face interaction, and then asked to meet another person in the group of 30. Behavior was then observed to notice changes in attitude. Later, participants were brought to a store with 10 products, given a set amount of money, and asked to purchase what they want. The results were that people are more likely to purchase a symbolic group membership product (like university wristbands) to identify with people and not be excluded. The second experiment tested whether or not socially excluded people try to foster affiliation by spending to enhance similarity or differentiation. 20 students were gathered and asked to view and rate 15 products: 5 were neutral, lavish, and frugal products. The results were that participants who rated 12/15 items as “good” were rated as high self-monitors, and those who rated less than 11/15 as “good” were considered lowself-monitors. Then, the high self-monitors would give feedback on their favorite item in the store and explain. Observations showed that high self-monitors who influence purchasing decisions are not the ones suffering from social exclusion, and that they identify less with anthropomorphic products.

Social media and relationship development: The effect of valence and intimacy of posts

This research paper states that social Media is turning into an undeniably common part of our regular day to day life. The way we evolve relationships has changed since the social media and other platforms have been introduced. Social media can take the form of digital marketing, or platforms such as Facebook, and LinkedIn. A study has been made to measure the difference in interaction from social media and face to face communication (Orben and Dunbar 2017).

As for the research question, this paper focused on investigating how reading online posts contribute negatively or positively the relationship development. The study used a longitudinal design with 243 participants as samples. It focuses on the posts' Valence, emotional force, as well as intimacy. This long term design imitates passive consumption. According to Orben and Dunbar (2017), they have found that the reason behind the lack of engagement and self-disclosure are the high intimacy posts as well as negative posts. This type of research paper is considered to be exploratory research. The basis of this paper is applied to support the hypothesis that individuals that interact with other individuals that are of the same kind increment attraction towards people. Exploratory research is very common when it comes to surveys. It provides an efficient amount of information that supports solving problems (Team 2014).

The research method in this paper was using surveys. At the beginning, there were 209 participants then there were other 57 participants right after the first batch. The survey method was used to conduct the study variety of questions about the individual's demographics. Data collection and the experimental design that were analyzed by Orben and Dunbar (2017) using a three-stage preliminary. To ensure that the survey questions were efficient, exploratory factors analyses were used. The independent variable in this report was social attractiveness; however, the dependent variable is the consumption of social media.

The design of the research paper includes all the data collection and the hypothesis to ensure the internal validity

“Descriptive statistics of the relational measures measured at the beginning of the experiment and the end of the experiment” (Orben and Dunbar 2017).

Judging a Book by Its Cover? The Effect of Anthropomorphism on Product Attribute Processing and Consumer Preference

This research suggests that anthropomorphism ascribe human-like qualities to nonhuman things increments the consumers' desire for physically better products. This process happens in the light of the fact that consumers see anthropomorphized products as to individual observation which regularly depends on physical signs. From the point of view of consumers, each brand has its own personality and that itself is a good establishment.

As for the key research question for this paper is that anthropomorphizing a product would expand the position of the physical characteristic in consumers' product choice. The basis of this paper is applied to support the hypothesis regarding consuming anthropomorphism products specifically. The attitude of the consumer toward anthropomorphism products studied as well as the effects of these attitudes on the purchase intend are also studied. The type of this research paper is causal research. The paper attempts to describe the cause and effects in a structured design and manner (Team 2014). People see the anthropomorphized products same as they see other individuals. Consumers pay attention to the physical appearance as the first information source by applying the “what's beautiful is good” in order to reach to a conclusion (Freeman and Ambady 2001; Langlois et al. 2000) (Wan, Chen and Jin, 2016). The methodology for this paper is experiments. The paper carried out 7 Experiments as hypothesis to test all the possible variables that can affect the consumers' behavior when they see anthropomorphized products. The results of these experiments turned out that the consumers are more likely to purchase a product with a better design or an attractive packaging. The independent variables are the anthropomorphized products while the DVS are the consumers' choices.

They designed the experiment to ensure the internal validity as it is in sync with the independent variable. However, the external validity shows that the current research paper says that anthropomorphism triggers the “beautiful is good” thought from the point of view of people. This was supported by the prior research that says that anthropomorphism activates the interaction with products (Aggarwal and McGill 2012) (Wan, Chen and Jin, 2016).

For the statistical analysis, the measurements have been extracted by the authors and the data that was collected was analyzed equally by all three authors.

Article: Social media ostracism: the effects of being excluded online

The purpose of this journal article is to examine the effects of ostracism in a social media environment by using a new experimental tool to manipulate ostracism in the environment- the Ostracism Online tool as opposed to previous studies that applied ‘Cyberball'. The key research question posed by Frank M. Schneider et al in this paper revolves around the effects of social media ostracism on the human fundamental needs and the emotional and psychological well-being. The research objectives were split between two studies and they comprised of exploring the effects of ostracism on human needs and moods, adding emotional and psychological well-being as dependent constructs, studying if and how exclusions by in-groups vs outgroups affect people and lastly, the viability of using Facebook as a coping strategy following social exclusion.

The research design used is causal, with the use of experiments over two studies, with an important emphasis on the Ostracism Online tool to manipulate ostracism.

As Study 2 covers more of the research objectives, five hypothesis were used over both studies, which importantly included H1b, as it assumes that excluded individuals experience lower levels of emotional and psychological well-being. The samples were selected through a process of random sampling and the sample size totaled 85 university students where the average age was 25 years old and a majority of the participants were female (67.6%) and possessed a general qualification to a university (71.4%) or had completed university (14.3%).  The dependent variables were ‘well-being' and ‘need

satisfaction', while the independent variables were ‘exclusion by ingroups' and ‘usage of Facebook as a coping strategy' respectively.

In this experiment, students were invited to partake in an online questionnaire, which began with a screening question on the frequency of their Facebook usage, followed by manipulations regarding exclusions by ingroups and the use of control and experimental groups to test the effects of using Facebook as a coping strategy.

All items were measured using a 7-point Likert scale where the human fundamental needs were measured using the need threat scale (van Beest & Williams, 2006), emotional well being by Diener et al's Scale of Positive and Negative Experience (SPANE) and lastly psychological well-being by the Flourishing scale (Diener et all., 2010). The experimental effects were statistically analyzed using the multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) and revealed that the manipulation of feelings of exclusion by ingroups was not successful. Furthermore, Facebook use as a coping strategy following social exclusion proved not to have made a differing impact.

This result has important implications as the candidate article supports the notion that ‘engaging with anthropomorphic products mitigates the effects of social exclusion', while we've identified that social media can be seen as an anthropomorphic product in terms of how the product characteristics mimics being alive through it's interaction and responsiveness with the consumer, this article proves that the use of Facebook after being excluded has no significant impact on thwarted-need restoration. The external validity of the result does come into question however as the researchers themselves state in the paper that forcing participants to choose Facebook as their only coping strategy following social exclusion may have played an important factor in not realizing their actual results of the study.

Article: Relationship norms and media gratification in relational brand communication

The purpose of this journal article is to explore how different types of media gratification effect consumers' brand relationship norms and how brand commitment is affected by the media-related brand attitude and gratitude. The key research question posed by Françoise Simon in this paper investigates the key factors that direct the influence of contextual brand relationship norms as reflected by the corresponding media gratification on brand commitment.

The research objectives look into what kind of brand relationships will be mediated as a result of either exchange or communal gratification at the time of brand interaction, and how brand commitment, attitude and gratitude is affected by these gratification types. In total four hypotheses were designed to study the effects of exchange media gratification and communal media gratification on attitude towards media and media-related brand gratitude.

The research design employed is causal in nature where the independent variables are communal and exchange media gratification and the dependent variables are the attitudes towards the media and brand gratitude. The samples were selected through a convenience sampling approach where the sample size was 440, comprising of 268 women and 172 men. The respondents were asked to choose direct mailings that they received from a brand and to think about these during the survey. All scales were measured using a seven-point Likert scale, where the attitude towards the media were measured using attitude toward the ad scale (Ha, 1996) and media-related brand gratitude by the feelings of gratitude scale from Xia and Kukar –Kinney (2014).

The data was statistically analyzed using Cronbach's Alpha and the Average Variance Extracted (AVE). The results revealed that both exchange and communal media gratification had positive effects on attitude towards media and media-related brand gratitude, where communal media gratifications has a higher effect than exchange media gratifications on gratitude and as a result brand commitment.

Even if the external validity of the study can be slightly questioned as only a specific channel i.e direct mail was used to conclude the findings, the result has important implications in regards with the candidate article as ‘communal media gratification' by definition is grounded on feelings of appreciation and gratitude between the brand and the consumer. This moves away from a parasocial relationship to a perceived strong brand-relationship with the consumer. This relationship can be initiated either by the company via personalizing their communication messages to make the consumer feel distinguished, or the consumer, if they are seeking attention and intimacy from the brand in the relationship. Therefore, if companies employ such strategies that mimic anthropomorphic traits in terms of how the brand interacts or responds to the consumer, there just maybe reasonable evidence that such actions may mitigate feelings of social exclusion in the consumer.

Even though Frank M. Schneider et al's findings suggest that the use of Facebook as a coping strategy following social exclusion doesn't mitigate social exclusion by a significant amount…

As we see Françoise Simon's findings provide evidence on the subject that the usage of communal media gratification in a brands communication strategy can cause customers to feel distinguished and perceive the relationship between the brand and them to feel less parasocial, combined with the fact that products are beginning to mimic anthropomorphic design characteristics and the increased popularity of these products following self-threat or social exclusion in Maeng and Aggarwal's study…we see a causal link between anthropomorphism and mitigation of social exclusion…

Fill Up Your Senses: A Theory of Self-Worth Restoration through High-Intensity Sensory Consumption

Batra and Ghoshal (2017) focus on studying the effect that feelings of self-threat of self-discrepancy among individuals has on their consumption patterns specifically in terms of high-intensity sensory consumption (HISC). This study is different but yet related to the study conducted by Mourey, Olson and Yoon (2017). This is because Mourey et al. (2017) focus on understanding whether “interaction with an anthropomorphic consumer product can fulfill belongingness needs of consumers who are experiencing social exclusion thereby reducing the need to engage in compensatory behaviors” (p. 415). The study conducted by Batra and Ghoshal (2017) is different from that conducted by Mourey et al. (2017) because the former is a comprehensive study as it focuses on feelings of self-threat which can be due to various reasons such as physical issues, social issues, financial issues, etc. whereas the latter focuses only on social threats.

In terms of the research question, Batra and Ghoshal (2017) aim at studying whether consumers experiencing self-threat have a propensity for high-intensity sensory consumption (HISC) and if this kind of consumption results in self-worth restoration whereby they also study the possibility self-affirmation tasks negating the need for HISC. The sensory domains used for this study are mainly visual and auditory. Moreover, there are seven hypothesis designed to study the relationships between self-threat, HISC, self-worth restoration and self-affirmation tasks. In each of these hypotheses, the independent and dependent variables change whereby HISC defined by the sensory domains of colors or audio clips and self-worth are the dependent variables and self-threat and self-affirmation as the independent variables.

In terms of research design, this study is a casual research whereby the relationship between the independent and dependent variables is tested through laboratory experiments. There were four different studies conducted to test the seven hypotheses. Moreover, the information for this study is derived from both primary and secondary sources. Furthermore, the data for this study was collected through both emails and computer assistance in a behavioral laboratory at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India.

The samples were selected through a process of random sampling. The sample size varied in each of the four studies whereby Study 1 had ninety-two graduate students (78 men and 14 women); Study 2 had ninety-nine graduate students (62 men and 37 women); Study 3 had one hundred twenty-seven college students (68 men and 59 women); and Study 4 had 73 female graduate students. Additionally, the data collected was analyzed using different methods like two-way ANOVA tests, one-way ANCOVA tests, two-way ANCOVA tests and chi-square analysis. In conclusion, the results of the four studies conducted highlight that consumers experiencing self-threat have a propensity for high-intensity sensory consumption (HISC) as this kind of consumption restores their self-worth (Batra and Ghoshal, 2017). However, this preference for HISC is negated if individuals are involved in self-affirmation tasks (Batra and Ghoshal, 2017).

Facing Dominance: Anthropomorphism and the Effect of Product Face Ratio on Consumer Preference

Maeng and Aggarwal (2017) study how product face ratio affects the preference of consumers especially in case of anthropomorphized products. This study is somewhat related to the study conducted by Mourey, Olson and Yoon (2017). This is because both these studies focus on studying the perception of consumers towards anthropomorphized products. However, both these studies view consumer perceptions in different contexts. On one hand, Mourey et al. (2017) focus on understanding whether “interaction with an anthropomorphic consumer product can fulfill belongingness needs of consumers who are experiencing social exclusion thereby reducing the need to engage in compensatory behaviors” (p. 415). On the other hand, Maeng and Aggarwal (2017) focus on studying how consumers perceive people and anthropomorphized products in terms of their width-to-height ratio (fWHR).

In terms of the research question, Maeng and Aggarwal (2017) aim at studying how the width-to-height ratio (fWHR) in both products and humans influences the perception of dominance and in turn affects the preference of consumers for that product. This research contributes to existing literature on product anthropomorphism by studying how processing product faces like human faces would have an impact on the overall evaluation of the product. Moreover, there are five hypothesis designed to study the relationship between (fWHR) of products, perceived dominance of the product and its overall evaluation. In each hypotheses, the independent and dependent variables change whereby perceived dominance of the product and its overall evaluation are the dependent variables and (fWHR) of products is the independent variable.

In terms of research design, this study is a casual research whereby the relationship between the independent and dependent variables is tested through laboratory experiments. There were five different studies conducted to test five hypotheses whereby each study tested one hypothesis. Furthermore, the information for this study is derived from both primary and secondary sources. Moreover, the data for this study was collected through online panels. Besides, the participants involved in this study were selected through a process of random sampling. The sample size varied in each of the five studies whereby Study 1 had two hundred forty-eight individuals (143 males and 105 females); Study 2 had two hundred ten participants (128 males and 82 females); Study 3 had one hundred eighty two participants (110 males and 72 females); Study 4 had one hundred eighty-three participants (121 males and 62 females); and Study 5 had one hundred sixty-seven participants (108 males and 59 females). The participants in Study 4 participated for extra credit and in all the other studies participants were paid in return for their participation.

Additionally, the data collected was analyzed using linear mixed-effects analysis using lme4 and lmerTest; 2 x 2 ANOVA and scenario descriptions. In conclusion, the results of the four studies conducted highlight that high width-to-height ratio (fWHR) in both products and humans shows dominance whereby human faces ranking on this ratio are less liked whereas products ranking high on this ratio are liked. Consumers have high preference and willingness to pay for products that have high (fWHR). This is because acquiring such products impacts the dominant status of consumers whereby goal and usage context have a moderating effect on this relationship.

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