Good Taste

Kevin Lewis

April 11, 2021

How (and When) the Presence of Food Decreases Enjoyment of Customer Experiences
Emily Garbinsky & Anne-Kathin Klesse
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming


Consumers frequently engage in experiences (e.g., listening to music) in the presence of delicious food. Ten studies show that the presence (vs. absence) of such food decreases the enjoyment of a concurrent (target) experience across a wide array of consumption activities, such as listening to music, evaluating pictures, and coloring. The presence (vs. absence) of food prompts mental imagery of consuming that food, which decreases engagement with the target experience, resulting in lower enjoyment. Consistent with prior work on mental imagery, the effect only occurs for food that is considered tasty; when a food’s functional benefits are highlighted, the effect disappears. In addition, the effect can be triggered in the absence of food when participants are explicitly instructed to engage in mental imagery. The role of engagement is demonstrated by showing that the valence of the target experience moderates this effect, such that the presence of food decreases enjoyment of positive experiences, but increases enjoyment of negative experiences. The work contributes to past research on mental imagery and delayed consumption by highlighting the need to focus on how the presence of food affects concurrent experiences, and provides important managerial insights given the proliferation of tasty food to enhance customer experience.

Political Ideology Moderates Consumer Response to Brand Crisis Apologies for Data Breaches
Eugene Chan & Mauricio Palmeira
Computers in Human Behavior, forthcoming


Many firms unfortunately experience data breaches in which personal records information are accessed by external agents without firms’ and consumers’ consent. To improve customer relationships and re-build equity, it is important for brands to apologize, and many do. In the current inquiry, we study how consumers’ political ideology moderates their brand trust and purchase intentions after brands apologize for a data breach. In two experimental studies, we report that an apology for a data breach has little sway in conservatives’ (vs. liberals’) brand trust (Study 1) and purchase intentions (Study 2). The explanation is that conservatives (liberals) have entity (incremental) beliefs, so they see firms as unlikely to change even after an apology or statement of how they intend to mitigate future data breaches. Although our context is on data breaches and how consumers with different political ideologies consider privacy breaches of personal data, we are also the first to examine how consumers respond to a brand crisis apology based on their political ideology. Consequently, understanding who a firm’s consumers are in terms of their ideological makeup is crucial in predicting the effectiveness of an apology for data breaches in order to restore brand equity.

“Just not knowing” can make life sweeter (and saltier): Reward uncertainty alters the sensory experience and consumption of palatable food and drinks
Paul Rauwolf et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming


Reward uncertainty can prompt exploration and learning, strengthening approach and consummatory behaviors. For humans, these phenomena are exploited in marketing promotions and gambling products, sometimes spurring hedonic consumption. Here, in four experiments, we sought to identify whether reward uncertainty — as a state of “not knowing” that exists between an action and a positively valanced outcome — enhances the in-the-moment consumption and experience of other palatable food and drink rewards. In Experiment 1, we demonstrate that reward uncertainty can increase consumption of commercial alcoholic drinks and energy-dense savory snacks. In Experiment 2, we show that reward uncertainty is unlikely to promote consumption through gross increases in impulsivity (expressed as higher discounting rates) or risk tolerance (expressed as lower probability discounting rates). In Experiment 3, we find that reward uncertainty intensifies the taste of, and hedonic responses to, sucrose solutions in a concentration-dependent manner among individuals with heightened preferences for sweet tastes. Finally, in Experiment 4, we replicate and extend these findings by showing that reward uncertainty intensifies the taste of palatable foods and drinks in ways that are independent of individuals’ discounting rates, motor control, reflection impulsivity, and momentary happiness but are strongly moderated by recent depressive symptoms. These data suggest a working hypothesis that (incidental) reward uncertainty, as a state of not knowing, operates as a mood-dependent “taste intensifier” of palatable food and drink rewards, possibly sustaining reward seeking and consumption.

Millennials and the Take-Off of Craft Brands: Preference Formation in the U.S. Beer Industry
Bart Bronnenberg, Jean-Pierre Dubé & Joonhwi Joo
NBER Working Paper, March 2021


We conduct an empirical case study of the U.S. beer industry to analyze the disruptive effects of locally-manufactured, craft brands on market structure, an increasingly common phenomenon in CPG industries typically attributed to the emerging generation of adult Millennial consumers. We document a generational share gap: Millennials buy more craft beer than earlier generations. We test between two competing mechanisms: (i) persistent generational differences in tastes and (ii) differences in past experiences, or, consumption capital. Our test exploits a novel database tracking the geographic differences in the diffusion of craft breweries across the U.S.. Using a structural model of demand with endogenous consumption capital stock formation, we find that heterogeneous consumption capital accounts for 85% of the generational share gap between Millennials and Baby Boomers, with the remainder explained by intrinsic generational differences in preferences. We predict the beer market structure will continue to fragment over the next decade, over-turning a nearly century-old structure dominated by a small number of national brands. The attribution of the share gap to consumption capital shaped through availability on the supply side of the market highlights how barriers to entry, such as regulation and high traditional marketing costs, sustained a concentrated market structure.

Incentives Increase Relative Positivity of Review Content and Enjoyment of Review Writing
Kaitlin Woolley & Marissa Sharif
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming


A series of controlled experiments examine how the strategy of incentivizing reviews influences consumers’ expressions of positivity. Incentivized (vs. unincentivized) reviews contained a greater proportion of positive relative to negative emotion across a variety of product and service experiences (e.g., videos, service providers, CPG companies). This effect occurred for both financial and non-financial incentives, and when assessing review content across multiple natural language processing tools and human judgments. We propose that incentives influence review content by modifying the experience of writing reviews. That is, when incentives are associated with review writing, they cause the positive affect of receiving an incentive to transfer to the review writing experience, making review writing more enjoyable. In line with this process, the effect of an incentive on review positivity attenuates when incentives are weakly (vs. strongly) associated with review writing (i.e., incentive for “participating in an experiment” vs. “writing a review”) and when the incentive does not transfer positive affect (i.e., when an incentive is provided by a disliked company). By examining when incentives do (vs. do not) adjust the relative positivity of written reviews, this research offers theoretical insight into the literature on incentives, motivation, and word-of-mouth, with practical implications for managers.

How Does Firm Scope Depend on Customer Switching Costs? Evidence from Mobile Telecommunications Markets
Niloofar Abolfathi, Simone Santamaria & Charles Williams
Management Science, forthcoming


This paper examines the relative advantages of single-product and multiproduct firms following changes in customer switching costs. Whereas a single-product firm can closely tailor offerings to customers’ needs, a multiproduct firm can create value for customers in the form of flexibility, allowing them to change between product varieties as preferences evolve without needing to switch providers. We argue that this value-creation mechanism is more effective when customers face high switching costs and explore this prediction in the mobile telecommunications sector, using an exogenous policy change (mobile number portability) that suddenly decreases customer switching costs. Our results reveal that when customer switching costs fall, multiproduct firms see lower growth than single-product firms, and entry with a multiproduct offering becomes less frequent than before. The study highlights how customer switching costs can enable or inhibit choices of firm scope.

Explaining the popularity bias in online consumer choice
Brett Hayes, Ashton Wisken & Nicole Cruz
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming


When people choose products based on online reviews, they show a “popularity bias,” overweighting review sample size relative to rated quality. We propose a novel account of this effect based on a causal attribution process, whereby people often interpret larger samples as a proxy for product quality. To test the account, participants in two experiments were asked to rate their product preference based on online reviews showing mean quality scores and review sample sizes for pairs of products. When no explanation for different sample sizes was supplied, we replicated the popularity bias; the product with the larger sample was chosen, even when quality scores modestly favored the alternative. However, as predicted, when sample size differences were explained by a factor unrelated to quality (e.g., time on the market), the popularity bias was substantially reduced. We discuss the implications for models of choice based on social information.


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