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Research Roundup: Spring 2020

Research Roundup: Spring 2020

Marilyn Stone

illustration of nose with eyelashes and briefcase

Highlights from the AMA journals—and what the findings mean for practitioners

In-“Scent”-ivize Your Customers with Ads

By Ruta Ruzeviciute, Bernadette Kamleitner and Dipayan Biswas

Designed to S(m)ell: When Scented Advertising Induces Proximity and Enhances Appeal,” Journal of Marketing Research, 57 (April 2020)

nose with eyelashes, arms and briefcase walking against green background

In a nutshell: Although scented ads have been around for decades, few people understand why and when they are effective. This research uncovers a psychological reason: When consumers sense a soap’s scent, for example, they essentially inhale tiny pieces of the soap itself. This makes consumers feel that the product itself is physically close, which makes it more appealing.

Practitioner takeaways: Scented ads are most effective for advertising products that are expected to have scents, such as liquid soaps or candles—even when the scent of the product is not particularly pleasant (e.g., Clorox). Scented ads do not increase product appeal if the scent, even if pleasant, does not correspond to how consumers expect the promoted product to smell.


How Cookie Notices Can Help You Sell

By Erik Maier, Rico Bornschein and Lennard Schmidt

The Effect of Consumers’ Perceived Power and Risk in Digital Information Privacy—The Example of Cookie Notices,” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 39 (April 2020).

illustration of cookies and money

In a nutshell: Cookie notices (enforced through the General Data Protection Regulation) vary in how visible they are and how much governance they offer consumers over their collected data. Data privacy regulations may have unintended effects: Providing only a visible notice without choice will increase consumers’ risk perceptions (and reduce mood and purchase intent), while providing a choice with the notice will heighten perceived power, reduce perceived risk and improve purchase intent.

Practitioner takeaways: By providing users the required cookie notices with the option to approve, firms can improve consumers’ affects and purchase intent by heightening their feelings of power.

Even Phony Flattery Helps Close Deals


By Elaine Chan and Jaideep Sengupta

Insincere Flattery Actually Works: A Dual Attitudes Perspective,” Journal of Marketing Research, 47 (February 2010).

In a nutshell: The researchers find that when people receive insincere compliments, they nevertheless feel better about themselves and have more positive associations with the products, stores and conversations. This positive association with the related compliments suggests that even when the recipient of the compliment is aware of its insincerity or ulterior motive, the positive effect remains.

Practitioner takeaways: Marketers and salespeople should use compliments during in-person discussions and in promotional materials. While attempts should be made to personalize all communications, managers should incorporate flattery even for those customers or prospects with whom they are less familiar or have weaker relationships.

Mom Was Wrong: Apologizing Doesn’t Always Make Things Better

By Yanfen You, Xiaojing Yang, Lili Wang and Xiaoyan Deng

When and Why Saying ‘Thank You’ Is Better Than Saying ‘Sorry’ in Redressing Service Failures: The Role of Self-Esteem,” Journal of Marketing, 84 (March 2020).

illustration of outstretched arm holding bouquet of flowers

In a nutshell: Right after a service failure, most customer service providers intuitively apologize as they attempt to restore satisfaction. However, new research shows that a more effective approach is to thank customers (e.g., “Thanks for your patience as we correct this error.”). Gratitude puts the focus on the customer’s magnanimity rather than the company’s shortcomings, which boosts customers’ self-esteem.

Practitioner takeaways: Consider implementing “thank you” phrasing into customer service scripts and aim to highlight customers’ forbearance rather than your company’s failure.

International Marketing in the Social Media Era

By Jagdish N. Sheth 

Borderless Media: Rethinking International Marketing,” Journal of International Marketing, 28 (March 2020).

illustration of Africa, Asia and Australia made up of speech bubbles

In a nutshell: Jagdish Sheth describes the evolution of social media in the international context as we move beyond “glocalization” to the next frontier. In this new world, the largest nations in population are no longer China and India; they are Facebook and YouTube. He describes five dimensions of value creation: access, affordability, acceptance, awareness and activation.

Practitioner takeaways: Marketers will need to shift their thinking in this new era of borderless media. The importance of national markets may diminish, but marketers can use the rich data available from social media to determine the new segmentation.

Illustrations by Bill Murphy.

Marilyn Stone is Director, Academic Communities and Journals, American Marketing Association.