The art of caution and why invoking science in the marketing of chocolate chip cookies could backfire

While consumers view the scientific process as competent, they also perceive it as cold, so confirmed the researchers who – over a series of 10 experimental studies – analyzed consumers’ reaction to marketers touting the science behind their brand.​

This could ultimately backfire when touting products that are associated with invoking pleasure, like chocolate chip cookies.

Specifically, said the scientists, the stark sanitariness of science is completely at odds with the anticipated warmth of hedonic products and attributes – and if associated, could reduce the value of a product in consumers’ eyes.

Hedonistic (or hedonic) consumption focuses on consumer behavior that seeks sensory pleasures or hedonistic benefits provided by interaction with goods or services.

“People see science as cold, but competent … [but] that doesn’t pair well with products designed to be warm and pleasurable to consumers,”​ said Prof Rebecca Reczek, co-author and professor of marketing at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

In contrast, she added “the cold competence of science is seen as perfectly appropriate to sell practical products that serve a utilitarian purpose,”​ such as body wash and other personal care products. For these products, science can be a positive selling point.

The issue has to do with how the public views science and scientists, said Prof Reczek, who conducted the multi-study research with Aviva Philipp-Muller, a recent graduate from Ohio State’s doctoral program in social psychology, along with John P Costello, assistant professor in Marketing at the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame.

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