Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) is not a particularly important historical holiday. However, it is an important holiday for both beer drinkers and beer companies, given that more than $600 million worth of beer is consumed on Cinco de Mayo, more than on The Super Bowl or St. Patrick’s Day. This is one case where the market research supports my anecdotal experience: some people (and I fall into this group) just want an excuse to have a party.
Decades of social science research on values suggest that valuing pleasure (Hedonism) is indeed a stable personality trait that drives behavior. While many wouldn’t elevate the pursuit of pleasure to the realm of higher order pursuits, there is no denying the fact that many individuals do indeed act as if the pursuit of pleasure is indeed a central life goal. And many of those people will be drinking beer on Cinco de Mayo. I’ve been working with Zenzi Communications to understand how to market to people for whom pleasure seeking is a central goal and below are 5 tips from ValueBase, our database of findings related to specific value types, for marketing the the hedonistic pleasure seeker:
- Portray your product as an experience rather than a material item. Encourage them to savor your product.
- Emphasize the uniqueness of an experience. Pleasure seekers enjoy being unique.
- Leave out the “Green” messaging. Pure pleasure seekers aren’t necessarily concerned with how environmental their consumption is.
- Associate your product with the rich and famous. Pleasure seekers appreciate the idea that what they consume is socially prestigious.
- Aim for excitement! Pleasure seekers are always up for an exciting new adventure.
Note that pleasure itself is not a single thing. Recent research from Zenzi has found that people who seek moral pleasure or intellectual pleasure are actually quite different than those who seek sensual pleasure in many ways. Contact Zenzi for more information.
- Ravi Iyer
ps. looking for beer recommendation for Cinco de Mayo, look at Ranker’s beer graph.
While newspaper circulation continues to decline, many magazines have held their own in the digital age. Magazines differ from newspapers in that they have a more defined “identity”, such that Chip Conley (who now helps run a similar effort at AirBNB) developed successful boutique hotels around the concept of a magazine.
“We determine which magazines will best define the hotel, and then we come up with the five adjectives that best describe that magazine,” explained Conley in a recent Forbes interview. ”We’ve found that the people who fall in love with a hotel are people who use those five adjectives to aspirationally describe themselves. The Hotel Rex, in San Francisco, is based on The New Yorker, and the adjectives are “clever, literate, artistic, worldly and sophisticated.” When you check out of the Rex you feel like we’ve refreshed your identity. We’ve created an ideal habitat for you.”
There is a lot of research detailing how, as societal wealth increases, consumers’ needs are moving out of the realm of utility and into the realm of lifestyle and aspiration. Newspapers can’t compete by being simply informational, in a world where information is cheap and ubiquitous. What aspirational values can a newspaper help a reader fulfill?
A lot of my research has been about showing that different people have very different aspirational goals (values), not just goals that people in California deem readily aspirational like feeding the poor or achieving world peace, but also goals like being loyal to their group, keeping faith with family traditions, providing for one’s family, achieving success, etc. These later aspirational goals (among others) may prove more fruitful in a more conservative environment. The Army has a good case study in the use of such values toward achieving organizational goals. I would definitely recommend that forward thinking newspapers attempt to fill a specific aspirational niche, as a result.
Once a niche is decided, a news organization can consciously leverage the fact that these goals have specific storytelling and emotional triggers. For example, in work that I’ve been doing with Zenzi‘s Social Values project, our research indicates that newspapers that wants to serve more traditional aspirations may want to have more stories with happy endings, while a newspaper that wants to serve more hedonistic aspirations might want to instead consider featuring stories about people from far away places. Emotions such as disgust, empathy, and anger vary widely and predictably amongst people with different aspirational goals and stories could be framed accordingly. Editors likely have an intuitive sense of these relationships, but making them more explicit can bring cohesion to marketing, editorial, and journalistic practices toward a singular newspaper voice that better speaks to the higher-order needs of consumers in the modern age.
- Ravi Iyer
Recently, the topic came up of whether values profiles (and Moral Foundation Scores more specifically) predict behavior. On the one hand, social and contextual factors often loom larger than individual factors in determining moral behavior. On the other hand, it seemed rather unlikely that something as central as a persons values would not predict their behavior. While the effects may be small and indirect in many cases, I would expect a person’s value profile to predict almost everything they do in life. As a test case, I decided to examine whether moral foundation scores, which measure how much a person cares about harming others, fairness, obeying authority, being loyal, and being pure, in the context of moral judgments, predict whether a visitor to YourMorals.org visited using a Mac vs. a PC. Below is the graph.
The Values Profile of Mac vs. PC Users
While all visitors to YourMorals.org are generally liberal, it looks as if Windows users are more conservative than Mac users, within this group. Note that while this isn’t a representative sample, in some ways it is better for answering this question as the users in this sample have such similar characteristics that many variables are naturally controlled for. Windows users appear to value harm less and purity more.
The take home message for me is that while context certainly matters, so to does a person’s values, even for relatively unrelated decisions, such as which computer to use in daily life.
- Ravi Iyer
Recently, I received news that Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, has decided to indirectly support some of the work I do with Jonathan Haidt, because he is a fan of Jon’s work. The news got me thinking a bit about the confluence of moral psychology and what LinkedIn does. As Ranker’s Principal Data Scientist, I will often find myself at data conferences with members of LinkedIn’s data team, which is one of the most visible and productive, given the wealth of data they have to mine. It may seem that what they do and what moral psychologists do are separate worlds, but as I argued in my 2012 SXSW talk, there is likely to be a convergence. Big data is merely a tool that inevitably will be used to answer the questions we care about, and for those of us with first world problems where crime is going down, war is less of an issue, and obesity is a bigger problem than hunger, the questions we increasingly ask tend to be more existential. It is only natural that we use the tools of the age (data) to answer the questions of the age, like how we can live a meaningful life.
Unlike some who are more dogmatic in their belief, I don’t believe that data can tell you what a meaningful life is or how you should live. In short, moral psychology cannot tell you what ought to be…but it can tell you what is. For example, in a partnership with Zenzi Communications, we have been working on describing the narratives that people of different value types tend to resonate with. I can’t tell you whether action or comedy movies are better, but I can provide a probabilistic fit between a person’s value orientation and the kinds of stories that they are likely to enjoy.
Similarly, companies and prospective employees are looking for such fits as well. Zappos wants people whose values tend toward the unconventional. LinkedIn wants people who will put their members’ first. In moral psychology terms, Zappos is looking for individuals who are high on traits like openness to experience and stimulation, while LinkedIn might be looking for individuals who are more self-transcendent in terms of putting others (their members) first.
These values are measurable both with self-characterizations and endorsements, just like LinkedIn skills, but also through more subtle means such as music tastes or use of certain words. Further, following on work by Shalom Schwartz, values can be organized as oppositional (see above graph using Zenzi’s value typology which is based on Schwartz’s work), so that self-presentation effects (e.g. “I’m high on all values!”) can be mitigated. In this way, companies and employees may potentially be able to find employment matches that are not just a job, or even a career, but are closer to a calling, leading to happier and more productive employees.
We get a lot of resumes at Ranker. They honestly all start to blend together at some point. The employment market needs more nuance, more subtlety, and more data to help create better matches. I don’t know if LinkedIn or some other organization will lead the charge, but I’m confident that this type of values based matching will indeed be part of the future of human resources recruiting, and it already is part of many forward thinking organizations’ processes. Just as the internet and information technology has made matching in other domains (e.g. classified ads or home buying) more efficient, values based matching in the labor market is bound to be a problem tackled by data science teams at online companies in the near future.
- Ravi Iyer
Part of my job at Ranker is to talk to other companies about our data. While people often talk about how “big data” is revolutionizing everything, the reality of the data marketplace is that it still largely revolves around sales, marketing, and advertising. Huge infrastructures exist to make sure that the most optimal ad for the right product gets to the right person, leveraging as much data as possible. For example, I recently presented at a data conference at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, which meant that I spent some time on their website. For the past few weeks, long after the conference, I’ve been getting ads specifically for the Westin St. Francis on various websites. At some level, this is an impressive use of data, but at another level, it’s a failure, as I’m no longer in the market for a hotel room. The data to solve this problem is out there as someone could have tracked my visitation of the conference website, understood the date of the conference, and better understood my intent in visiting the Westin. However, this level of analysis doesn’t scale well for an ad that costs pennies, and so nobody does this level of behavioral targeting.
I bring up this story because I believe this illustrates a difference between how people who think of themselves as businesspeople and people who think of themselves as technologists often think. When talking about Ranker data, I often see this dichotomy. People who are more traditionally business minded want a clear business reason to use data, while people who think of themselves as technologists seem more open to trying to envision a world where data does all sorts of neat things that data should be used for. For example, I recently graphed opinions about beer, illustrating that Miller Lite drinkers were closer to Guinness drinkers than to Chimay drinkers. As a technologist, I’m certain that a world will soon exist where bartenders can use data about me and others like me (e.g. the beer graph), to recommend a beer. I don’t worry as much about the immediate path from the conception of such data to monetization. I know that the beer graph should exist and I’m happy to help contribute to it, confident of my vision of the future www.paroxetinehcl.net.
This division between people who think like businesspeople and people who think like technologists is important for anyone who does business development or business to business sales, especially for those of us in the technology world where the lines are often blurry. Mark Zuckerberg is a CEO, but clearly he thinks like a technologist. My guess is that a lot of the CTOs of big companies actually think more like businesspeople than technologists. If I were trying to sell Mark Zuckerberg on something, I would try to sell him on how whatever I was offering could make a huge difference to something he cared about. I would sell the dream. But if I were selling a more traditional businessperson, I would try to sell the benefits versus the costs. I would have a detailed plan and sell the details.
I actually have a bit of data from YourMorals.org to support this assertion. We have started collecting data on visitors’ professions and below I compare businesspeople to technologists on two of the Big Five personality dimensions that are said to underlie much of personality: Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience. As you can see, businesspeople are more conscientious (detail oriented, fastidious, responsible), while technologists score higher on openness which is indicative of enjoying exploring new ideas and thinking of new possibilities.
The reality is that every business needs a balance between those who are detail oriented and precise (Conscientious) and those who think about a vision for the future (Openness to Experience). Often, technologists who start a company will eventually hire professional businesspeople who provide this balance (e.g. Sheryl Sandberg or Eric Schmidt). Clearly, the best sales pitch will be both detailed and forward thinking. However, if you’re talking to someone and have limited time and attention, considering whether you are speaking to someone who is more of a businessperson or more of a technologist may give you better insight into how to frame your pitch.
- Ravi Iyer
ps. Crossposted on Zenzi Communications‘ blog here, which is using a data driven approach to improving communications strategies.
Human beings are storytelling animals. There is no other species that spends large amounts of time watching the lives of others – fictitious or real – through the stories we read or watch. Stories do not just relate to the entertainment we consume, but are also central to the news we read or the companies that we resonate with. One of my favorite personality psychology theories concerns how our entire lives can be thought of as a set of narratives that bring coherence to our goals, desires, values, dispositions, and experiences.
I’ve recently been working with Zenzi, a communications company based in San Diego, that is attempting to leverage research on values to, among other things, better inform how companies can better engage with consumers. A good marketing campaign is one which doesn’t feel like someone is trying to sell something to you, but rather where there are shared goals between the company and consumer that are highlighted. Whereas these goals can be mundane (e.g. trading money for food), they are increasingly becoming more value driven. As such, kamagra oral jelly ajanta pharma, a key communications strategy for the post-modern world is learning to tell a company story that resonates with one’s clients deeper motivations. How can research on values help you do that?
One of the central tenets of the research we do is that values are not monolithic. Different people value different things and these values predict the kinds of stories that one enjoys. I recently conducted some research on yourmorals.org, where I examined the kinds of stories that different value types prefer. The below graph shows the correlations between dimensions of the Schwartz Values scale and questions concerning story type preferences, specifically relating to whether a person likes stories that provide an escape (e.g. I like stories that provide an escape from my real life) or stories that people can identify with (e.g. I like stories about situations that I can relate to). Note that it is entirely possible to enjoy both kinds of stories and most people do. Still, there is an inherent tension between giving people an escape and giving people stories they can relate to, and the below graph suggests how one might resolve that tension differently, depending on the values of one’s target audience.
Correlations between Schwartz Values and Story Preferences
People who value Power, Achievement, Spirituality, Tradition, Conformity, and Security seem to prefer stories that are closer to them, which they can relate to. In contrast, individuals who value Universalism, Self-Direction, Stiumulation, and Hedonism report a greater preference for stories that provide more of an escape from their everyday existence.
Whether you are a journalist considering how to frame a story, a screenwriter considering a plot twist, a marketer considering how to position a brand, or a novelist considering one’s next book, it helps to know your target audience‘s values when considering the kind of story you want to tell.
- Ravi Iyer
On Thanksgiving evening, I started reading Greg Smith’s book, Why I left Goldman Sachs late in the afternoon. I finished it around midnight. It’s a relatively easy read with a relatively straightforward message: That Wall Street, as exemplified by Goldman Sachs’ evolution, has increasingly become a place where we send many of our brightest students to outwit the people who manage our pensions and retirement accounts.
Greg Smith is famous for resigning from Goldman Sachs via an op-ed published in the New York Times, accusing Goldman of evolving from a firm that serves its customers to one that often profits by taking advantage of them. Nothing illegal is documented in the book, but it does show how employees are encouraged to sell ever more complex products to customers in the hope of generating more fees, without consideration of whether these products make their customers’ lives better. Who are these customers? They are the people who manage the money in our retirement accounts, pension funds, and the wealth of philanthropic organizations. Like many Americans, they look to investment bankers like Goldman Sachs for advice on how to help their money grow.
There is little dispute about this, but not everyone believes it is morally wrong. The CEO of Goldman Sachs asserts that they have no obligation to tell customers when they sell them something that they believe will lose money. The Wall St. Journal’s review of the book essentially says that he should have known that Goldman Sachs was not built on selflessness, but rather on “tawdry commerce” and the “sometimes morally ambiguous business of sales”. Bloomberg News seems more interested in tearing him down personally than examining the morality of what he says in the book, asking “Hasn’t it always been about making money and isn’t it okay to be a bank that makes money?”
At the heart of this, is the question that recent financial reforms were designed to change. Specifically, should investment professionals have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients? More simply, should they be required to put their clients’ interests over their own, when making recommendations? I can’t say objectively whether it is morally wrong to take advantage of clients lack of knowledge, but I can examine our data from YourMorals.org to see which individuals believe that it is ok to conduct a “negotiation where not everyone completely understands the process” involved (e.g. opaque fees hidden in the fine print of investment products). The below table shows correlations of Schwartz Values Scale scores and demographics with belief that negotiations with information assymetries are wrong, with positive correlations first.
Correlations of information assymetry "wrongness" with values/demographics
Clearly, people disagree about how wrong it is to conduct a negotiation without complete understanding by all parties. People who hold self-transcendent values such as benevolence and universalism are the most likely to believe that such conduct is wrong. People who hold traditional values are also likely to believe that this is wrong. In contrast, younger, educated, more conservative males who tend to value power, of the type that populate most investment banks, are less likely to feel that such information asymmetry is wrong. As such, it is perhaps not surprising that the reaction of many in the business world to Smith’s book is a collective “so what?”
Those of us who are mere consumers of financial services, via our 401ks, pensions, and college funds, would do well to understand what is behind this collective yawn. What some in the finance world are telling us is that the primary goal of these financial companies is to make themselves money, not serve clients, and given that the average money manager fails to beat the market, we would all probably be better off simply buying broad, transparent index funds, rather than taking their sales calls. We should urge our city officials, counties, and pension managers to stop trying to beat the market with the advice of ostensibly wise finance professionals, who don’t really have their clients interests at heart, lest they suffer the fate of the city of Oakland or Jefferson County, Alabama who both ended up on the wrong side of deals with Goldman Sachs. And if there ends up being less demand for their products, perhaps we can move some of the genius that creates arcane financial products into creating things that people actually need.
- Ravi Iyer
I feel as if sometime in the early 2000s, society collectively decided that it was better to own a home than rent. Property values went up and it seemed like people were willing to go to great personal difficulty simply for the sake of being an owner. It probably didn’t hurt that property values kept going up. Still, I never felt a strong urge to own and the prospect seemed more like a burden (fixing your own things, having trouble being able to move) than a blessing. Of course, that may say more about my personality than about owning or renting.
I thought I’d examine the Big 5 personality traits of people who think owning is “better” (e.g believing that home ownership is important to happiness) vs. those who prefer renting (e.g. believing that renting provides significant advantages compared to owning a home) using ~800 people who answered these questions at yourmorals.org. I had 7 questions about owning vs. renting (alpha = .87). The Big 5 personality traits are 5 personality dimensions that are deemed most parsimoniously able to characterize people. The dimensions are Agreeableness (e.g. how well do you want to get along with others), Conscientiousness (e.g. how detail oriented and tidy are you), Extraversion (e.g. how outgoing are you), Neuroticism (e.g. how tense are you), and Openness to Experience (e.g. how much do you seek out new experiences).
Predictably, people who prefer owning a home vs. renting are more conscientious (r = .08, p=.016) and less open to new experiences (r = -.08, p=.03), but the differences are quite small.
People who want to be owners also also tend to be more conservative (r=.18, p<.001), older (r=.13, p<.001), and tend to prefer buying material things rather than experiences (r=.13, p<.001). Interestingly, there was no relationship to self described social status or gender. Obviously many of these relationships are small, but they certainly are as I would predict, with perhaps the exception of the lack of relationship with wealth and gender (my guess would have been that women and wealthier people would prefer home ownership).
Got any interesting hypotheses relating to the personalities of those who prefer renting vs. owning? I’d happily try them. I’m eager to examing values with regard to owning/renting next.
- Ravi Iyer
I recently wrote/created (though the graphic design is not mine) the below infographic for Good Magazine in an issue dedicated to societal trends. The idea here is that the material economy (which produces physical goods like cars and electronics) is being replaced by the experiential economy (which produces experiences like food and vacations). The psychological data is based on a paper we recently had accepted by the Journal of Positive Psychology (along with Ryan Howell and Paulina Pchelin at San Francisco State University) and my dissertation research, all of which focused on the longer term characteristics of people who tend to buy experiences (e.g. dinner at a restaurant) rather than material goods (e.g. clothing).
The take home message is that, convergent with lab research using experimental manipulations, people who report having a preference for experiential purchasing report being happier relative to people who report having a preference for material goods.
The reasons for this have been detailed by other researchers who report that people adapt to experiences less quickly, meaning that good experiences last longer. As well, people who buy experiences are less apt to compare their purchases to others, with the inevitable disappointment that exists when someone out there gets a better deal. For example, I recently bought a Prius and still find myself visiting priuschat.com to see if I got the best deal, an exercise which has no utility whatsoever. On the other hand, my recent hike to Machu Picchu remains an unequivocally positive memory.
I’d like to thank the editor at Good Magazine for asking me to frame things in terms of the direction of the economy as that led me to this Forbes Magazine article, which has data on how Americans spend their discretionary income. Spending generally has gone down due to the recession, but from the perspective of experiential vs. material purchasing, it’s clear that experiential purchases (e.g. dining out) are becoming a greater percentage of discretionary spending compared to material purchases (e.g. jewelry). Anecdotally, I’ve noticed startups that seem to be trying to capitalize on the preference for experiences and my credit card won’t just reward me with stuff, but with experiences.
Perhaps if economists want to consider ways to jump start the American economy, they should consider the trend toward experiences, which are intrinsically difficult to outsource. The world doesn’t need increasingly more stuff, but there is an experiential deficit out there. Just think of all the elderly who lack humane care, the homeless for whom personal attention is needed, or the way that Zappos has thrived by making customer service a positive experience. In economic terms, if experiences really do create more value for consumers, then the economy should necessarily shift in that direction and I’m hopeful that thinking of “the experiential economy” explicitly will be generative for business leaders, policy makers, economists, and perhaps most importantly, for consumers.
- Ravi Iyer
Awhile ago, I read about a survey given to Harvard Medical school students about whether they would prefer to live in a world where they had a higher absolute amount of some beneficial good or a higher relative amount. For example, participants had a choice of living in a world where they make $100,000 and everyone else makes $200,000 (absolutely better) or one where they make $50,000 and everyone else makes $25,000 (relatively better), explicitly assuming buying power remains the same. The same types of choices were made for IQ, education, vacation time, attractiveness, and other goods, with the choice being between having more of something (absolute) or having more than other people (relative). The survey results often generate a lot of discussion, in my experience, as people are intrigued by the idea that lots of people would give up money, just to be better than others. In truth, other studies have shown that almost everyone cares about relative concerns, just perhaps in different circumstances.
I ran the same survey at yourmorals.org, and the results are similar to the original study, with some important differences (see graph below). Importantly, the % of people who chose a world of relative income was smaller than in the original study, where 50% of participants chose relative position. Perhaps people at Harvard are simply more competitive? Mean scores are quite variable in different non-representative samples, so I wouldn’t put much stock in them, but perhaps more interesting is that the relationship between variables replicates. Our results converge with the idea that some goods are more positional than others. Specifically, the same things that people thought were more appropriate to think of in relative terms in the original study (praise and attractiveness) were thought to be relative in our sample, with vacation time being the least relative good. The graph below shows questions in rough decreasing order of concern about relative position.
Our data suggests that some people think of things as more relative than others. Cronbach’s alpha for the items in the graph was .80, meaning that answers positively correlate and it is reasonable to think of answers to these diverse questions as all representing some general underlying preference for relative or absolute position.
Interestingly, it appears that conservatives care more about relative position compared to both liberals and libertarians. Perhaps this converges with the idea that conservatives have a more competitive orientation, leading to positive beliefs about competitive markets and competitive sports, both of which are found in our data as well.
The current data is based on 5,795 participants (3,559 liberals, 632 conservatives, 569 libertarians, and 1,035 others) who took this survey. This means that aside from political orientation, we could look at other factors that are associated with preference for relative or absolute goods. For example, concern for positional goods is negatively correlated with Big 5-Agreeableness (r=-.13, p<.001), Openness to Experience (r=-.09, p<.001), and positively correlated with Neuroticism (r=.07, p<.001). These are very modest correlations made significant by the sample size that took both measures (3,844). If other people have ideas for personality variables that may explain why some people prefer relative vs. absolute goods, please leave a comment with your ideas.
- Ravi Iyer