The Power of Expectations: How marketers can influence customer expectations and increase satisfaction
Imagine yourself on a long drive home for the holidays. After 6 grueling hours on the road, you are hungry, tired, and badly in need of a bathroom break. You finally spot an old, run-down establishment that has obviously seen better days. Since you’re not in a position to be picky, you decide to park your car in its almost empty parking lot. You enter the establishment and see that it looks just as bad inside. The furniture is old and tattered, the air smells of cigarette smoke, and the table cloths are covered with coffee stains.
After relieving yourself in the backroom toilet, you pick up the menu to see what they have. To your surprise, instead of hamburgers, fries, and sandwiches, items such as quiche Lorraine, croque tartine parisienne and the classic clafoutis are displayed.
You wouldn’t be surprised to find these food items in an upscale French restaurant along Bonifacio Highstreet. In fact, you’d probably start salivating as soon as you stepped in and experienced its full ambience. But do you think you would enjoy the SAME food served at that old and run down diner just as much as you would in a fancy restaurant? Behavioral research has proven that you definitely would not.
Research done on the power of human expectations shows how powerful this force shapes our reality. If you think about it, that’s what marketing is really all about- providing information that will heighten ones expected, and consequently, real pleasure of a product. In behavioral psychology, this is called associative priming. This involves using subtle cues that shape the customer’s expectation on how the product will perform. Usually without them realizing it!
For instance, an experiment done in an Illinois restaurant had a group of diners served a free glass of cheap cabernet sauvignon with their fixed price French dinner. Half of the diners were told the wine came from California and the other half that it originated from North Dakota. The group that thought they were drinking Californian wine not only rated the wine higher. They rated the food more highly as well (Keep in mind they were drinking the EXACT SAME wine). They also ate 11 percent more food and were more likely to make a return reservation. The apparent origin of the wine affected diner’s perceptions of the restaurant’s food and even the probability that they would return. This is a type of associative priming called the spill-over effect. Because you associate California with sunny weather and great wine you enjoy the wine more. And because you enjoy the wine more you are in a positive mood, you expect a good dining experience and, when the food arrives, you enjoy the food more.
The moral of the story is that people’s experience of a product is highly influenced by how marketers create cues that trigger associations in their subconscious. The better you are at triggering these associations, the more successful you will be in creating great experiences for your customers.
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MacInnes, C. and Steidl, P. (2016). Shopper Marketing: Neuromarketing Strategies to Win the Battle at the Shelf (NMSBA Book 1). Retrieved from: www.amazon.com