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Wednesday, November 28 2012

What They Are Saying About Psychological Foundations of Marketing

PFM_final_cover.jpgSusan Fournier, Professor of Marketing, Boston University

The field of marketing has always drawn inspiration and character from psychology: from marketing’s inception in the science of persuasion; through the cognitive revolution that sought to unravel the complexities of decision-making, memory, and choice; to a non-conscious paradigm exposed through the hard science of neuropsychology; and into the intricate psycho-social terrain of contemporary lives enacted online. This book provides a solid foundation in the concepts, principles, and processes that determine the whys and hows of consumer behavior at its core. With Malcolm Gladwell-style reporting, Kimmel grounds us in classic and state-of-the-art psychological research that can inform and advance marketing academics and practice. If you understand that marketing success rests on a deep understanding of the customer, read this book.


Michael R. Solomon, Professor Marketing, Saint Joseph's University

If indeed we are what we buy, the field of consumer psychology plays an integral role in explaining who we are.  Allan Kimmel offers both scholars and laymen a highly readable overview of the psychological underpinnings of marketing theory and practice.  His synopsis looks backward to the fundamentals of consumer psychology, and forward to emerging areas such as neuromarketing and virtual identity.  It's a great 'one-stop shoppint' solution for readers who want to appreciate the fascinating synergies between psychology and consumption.

Mark Batey, President, Batey Consulting, Oxford UK and author of Brand Meaning

Allan Kimmel demonstrates why and how psychology and marketing are inseparable.  Amply illustrated with useful examples, this comprehensive book probes all the major themes and facets of the consumer mindset.


Now Available:



Are we influenced by ads even when we fast-forward them?

Do brands extend our personalities?

Why do we spend more when we pay with a credit card?

Psychological Foundations of Marketing considers the impact of psychology on marketing practice and research, and highlights the applied aspects of psychological research in the marketplace. This book presents an introduction to both areas, and provides a survey of the various contributions that psychology has made to the field of marketing.

Each chapter considers a key topic within psychology, outlines the main theories, and presents various practical applications of the research.

Topics covered include:

  • Motivation: The human needs at the root of many consumer behaviors and marketing decisions.
  • Perception: The nature of perceptual selection, attention and organization and how these perceptual processes relate to the evolving marketing landscape.
  • Decision making: How and under what circumstances it is possible to predict consumer choices, attitudes and persuasion?
  • Personality and lifestyle: How insight into consumer personality can be used to formulate marketing plans.
  • Social behavior: The powerful role of social influence on consumption.


Allan Kimmel, Professor of Marketing, ESCP Europe, Paris, France (email:
Author of the following additional books:
Connecting With Consumers: Marketing for New Marketplace Realities (Oxford)
Marketing Communication: New Approaches, Technologies, and Styles (Oxford)
Rumors and Rumor Control: A Manager's Guide to Understanding and Combatting Rumors (LEA/Routledge)
Ethical Issues in Behavioral Research: Basic and Applied Perspectives (Blackwell/Wiley)
Ethical Issues in Applied Social Research (Sage)
Ethics of Human Subject Research (Jossey-Bass)

Friday, August 24 2012

Psychological Foundations of Marketing: The Cover

Just before this site went down temporarily, I posted a teaser regarding the cover for my forthcoming book, Psychological Foundations of Marketing (November, 2012, Routledge/Taylor & Francis).  This was more a commentary on the sorry state of creative decision making among academic publishers than any backhanded attempt to sell books - regarding the latter, I'm not that delusional.  Without further adieu, the final choice brought us to the following cover, which both myself and my publisher are satisfied with.  The cover photo is one of my own, taken as I wandered around the famous department stores off Boulevard Haussmann following a night at the Paris opera.


I think this cover does a good job of 'reflecting' - in more ways than one - the heart of what the book is about, which is largely an effort at getting inside the heads of consumers, for better (I hope) or worse (I hope not) marketing efforts.  Here's the runner up, another one of my photos in my decades long 'windows series' - again, taken while window shopping in Paris.


Let me know what you think.

Thursday, June 7 2012

The Cover That Never Was

We've reached that stage in the production process of my forthcoming book, Psychological Foundations of Marketing, that I always enjoy - the choice of a cover.  Enjoy, yes, but not without a high level of trepidation.  Based on my past experience, I would have to say that the design teams of major publishers often leave their creativity, imagination, and flair at the door and prefer to go with the tired and true once they sit down at the drawing board.  I think I lucked out for the cover of Connecting With Consumers: Marketing for New Marketplace Realities, probably the only cover of my eight books that I actually like.  And I like it a lot.  Fortunately, my editors at Oxford University Press and I worked together to come up with a cover that we believed reflected the book's content, while maintaining a certain degree of originality in the category.

Originally, my new publishers, Routledge/Taylor & Francis came to me with a couple concepts that I quickly rejected - one theme featuring one or more shopping bags and the other showing someone sitting in front of a bank of TVs.  They struck me as unoriginal and uninformative.  One month later, despite my initial reservations, they came back to me with four cover mockups of the same two original ideas, with the intent to run with the TV banks cover you see below.

I can't quite explain why the production people at T&F fell in love with this cover.  Granted, it's not a bad looking or poorly designed cover, and I could picture it blending into - and getting lost in the process - the array of other academic and professional books on the shelf in greater bookstores throughout the land.  But I hated this cover for several reasons, perhaps mostly because it had little, if anything to do with the book's content, which, as the title suggests, delves into the psychology of consumer behavior and marketing efforts.  An anonymous figure sitting passively in front of a bank of TVs might indeed be the ideal cover for a book on mass media communications circa 1970/80s, but that is not what my book is or intends to be.  When I pointed this out, one member of the T&F team responded that the image shows someone being directly marketed to in a competitive global marketplace characterized by advertising saturation.  To which I pondered, what exactly is Fred Flintstone marketing? 

But what really irked me about this cover is that it belies one of the basic points of my previous book - and this corresponding website: that we no longer live in an age in which people are passively sitting in front of television screens, waiting to be marketed to. I was perplexed as to how anyone could believe that a cover with multiple TVs reflects anything about the contemporary world, psychology, or marketing.  So, true to the Connecting With Consumers philosophy, I suggested that I post a call for covers from enterprising designers in cyberspace and offer some sort of monetary prize for best cover idea. 

Well, given their rush to deadline, T&F nixed the crowdsourcing idea, but I nonetheless am happy to report that they did give me 24 hours to come up with a better idea - actually, three ideas - drawing from two stock photo sites that they already had agreements with.  I'm no designer, but it didn't take me long to come up with about 15 ideas, all of which I thought, if I say so myself, were more appropriate for the new book than the TV motif above.  (The last image below of the shopping mall, unfortunately, would have required a time-consuming permission request.)  Two made it to the final cut and have the professional typography (see the first two below).  I faked the title and author typography on some representative other candidates below. 

So, which cover is the winner?  Sorry, I don't want to ruin the surprise, there's time for that.

I can say that it is not any of the covers you see below.





Monday, February 27 2012

Starbucks Disconnects

It's one thing to write about all the wonderful things that some forward-thinking companies are doing in joining the consumer conversation, based on second-hand reports and fancy websites.  But when it comes down to interacting directly with those firms, a dramatically different picture often emerges.  What I have been learning these past few months as I finish the preparation of my next book, Psychological Foundations of Marketing, behind all the social media bells and whistles, many companies may talk the talk, but in the end, it's all bullshit.  Case in point:  Starbucks.

Despite all the praiseworthy pages I scribed in Connecting With Consumers about how Starbucks, after some growing pains, gets it when it comes to customer engagement, when I asked for a little something from them, all I got was a door in my face.  Now, I must admit, I am not a loyal Starbucks customer.  In fact, the only time I've ever been a Starbucks customer is when I was stuck in a Dulles airport terminal (prior to its recent renovation) in Washington and was desperate for a cup of java.  As I waited for my beverage to be prepared at the Starbucks stand, I found myself counting the cockroaches ducking in and out of the containers of straws, spoons, and napkins.  No big deal, I live in Paris, where there are 40,000+ alternatives to the handful of Starbucks stores dispersed around town.  Who needs Starbucks?

Well, actually, I do, or at least thought I did.  In chapter 3 of my new book, my discussion of perception includes some examples of how company logos often are subtly changed over time, to keep them looking up-to-date, to freshen up a brand image, whatever.  One example was to show Starbucks' recent logo change, and here is what I intended to include:

These images appear on untold websites, no doubt without any permission rights obtained from the company.  For my forthcoming book, however, I am understandably obliged by my publisher (Routledge/Taylor & Francis) to obtain the rights from the image owners.  When I attempted to do so from Starbucks, no matter how clearly I explained how the images were to be used, how I wrote glowingly about the company in my previous books, and so on, all I received was a series of, basically, impersonal emails.  Here is a sampling:

1st Email:

Hello Allan,


Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.

Per Starbucks company policy, we do not grant permission to download our proprietary images. This applies to trademarks, logos and other graphic images displayed on 


For more information, please review our Terms of Use at and read the information under "Copyright and Trademark" and "Personal Use."


Thanks again for your interest in Starbucks Coffee Company.  If you have any other questions or comments regarding our site, please email us at


 Warm regards,


Ryan H 

Customer Relations

Starbucks Coffee Company

800 STARBUC (782-7282)

Monday through Friday, 5 AM to 8PM (PST)

2nd Email:

Dear AJ,


Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.


I do apologize but unfortunately we are unable to provide any contact information for our CEO Howard Schultz.

 If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to address, please feel free to let me know. 


Warm Regards,


Emmanuel D

Customer Relations

Starbucks Coffee Company

800 STARBUC (782-7282)

Monday through Friday, 5AM to 8PM (PST)

3rd Email:

Dear @Starbucks,


Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.


 Unfortunately, due to the volume requests we receive, we’re unable to grant the information about the company beyond what we make publicly available.


For more information about Starbucks, including our most recent annual reports, visit our website at and also  There you will find the Global Responsibility reports, our latest press releases, SEC filings, and general company information.  For industry information such as market share, please visit the Specialty Coffee Association website at 


We also recommend that you check out This useful website contains media releases, a company profile, and links to stock quotes and our SEC filings.


Thanks again for your interest in Starbucks Coffee Company, and good luck with your project.





Customer Relations

Starbucks Coffee Company

800 STARBUC (782-7282)

Monday through Friday, 5AM to 8PM (PST)

4th Email:

Dear AJ,


Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.


I am truly sorry about your disappointment and frustration. However as stated by the previous agent we're unable to grant the information about the company beyond what we make publicly available.


I want you to know that we take feedback from our loyal customers seriously. Because you know better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks, I will share this with the  appropriate departments here in our corporate office.


We have made a promise to our customers to provide outstanding products and service.  I know that this is a primary reason why you visit Starbucks and I understand how disappointing it is when we let you down.


Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to improve what we do.


If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to address, please feel free to let me know. 


Thanks again,


Anjelika R

Customer Relations

Starbucks Coffee Company

800 STARBUC (782-7282)

Monday through Friday, 5AM to 8PM (PST)

Share your ideas at

5th Email:

Dear AJ,


Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.


I am sorry, sir, that we are unable to answer your question adequately enough, however we are unable to provide you with any other resources other than the ones made available to you on the website at and also While I admire your determination to find the resources to put in your book, the reports that are made public on the above two web links are the only resources that are available.


As previously stated, you will find the Global Responsibility reports, our latest press releases, SEC filings, and general company information on the Starbucks website. You can also find industry information such as market share, at 


If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to address, please feel free to let me know. I wish you luck with your book, and hope the information that we can provide will be enough.


Warm Regards,


Amber C

Customer Relations

Starbucks Coffee Company

800 STARBUC (782-7282)

Monday through Friday, 5AM to 8PM (PST)

As is pretty evident, these are all pretty much form responses which seemed to all ignore the essence of my basic request.  Hardly indicative of a company that is supposed to be so good at 'listening' to consumers.  Several attempts to discuss my request by telephone with someone other than a 'Customer Relations' worker resulted in my turning around in circles and racking up a hefty long-distance phone bill.  So, Starbucks can rest assured that the images that appear here will never appear in any publication written by me, including this website.  I have no idea how the images got onto this site. 

My summary reaction is that Starbucks is a joke.

I also requested permission to run the following in-store poster that appeared in Starbucks stores shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

This poster, as is now widely known, was viewed by some consumers as too close for comfort.  Here is the passage in my forthcoming book that explains how this incident provides a good illustration of the subjectivity of consumer perception:

Starbucks was forced to pull from 3000 North American outlets its “Collapse Into Cool” promotional poster for the popular coffee chain’s new TazoCitrus drinks when numerous consumers complained that the poster’s imagery (flying insects surrounding two tall iced beverages) was overly reminiscent of the September 11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center (see Exhibit 3.2).  Although the ad had nothing to do with the event, the combination of the term “collapse” and the unfortunate choice of illustration was perceived by some consumers as insensitive on the part of the company and a malicious attempt to capitalize on the misfortunes of others (Roeper, 2002).   This example reflects the fact that although people may receive information about the environment through the senses essentially in the same way, perception tends to be more individualistic.  Thus, what one consumer might perceive as a rather innocuous promotional poster from an internationally-known coffeehouse chain, another may interpret as an insensitive and offensive allusion to a national tragedy.

I can better understand Starbucks' reluctance to have this image appear again in the public eye (despite the fact that it too can be found on countless Internet sites, such as the site, which debunks the original charges that the association to the World Trade Center was intentional), yet when I asked for permission rights, all I got in return were more of those emails you see above.

Starbucks isn't the only culprit - in subsequent installments, I will detail how the responses I received from other supposedly engagement-friendly companies, such as The Gap, Colgate-Palmolive, Nespresso, were worse than those from Starbucks.  If this is how these companies treat authors who are offering an opportunity to discuss the marketing practices in an innocuous way, I can only imagine how they treat customers with complaints.  Well, as for Starbucks, there already is some indication of that - the website that I discussed in Connecting With Consumers is still up and running.  Perhaps those cockroaches were symbolic of the brand after all.

Thursday, January 12 2012

50 Brands That Connect With Consumers

What is the secret to creating more meaningful relationships with consumers and experiencing significantly higher growth as a result?  According to a recent Stengel Study of Business Growth, the answer is no more complicated than this: develop a strong brand promise.

Using Milward Brown's Optimor technique (explained in the box at the end of this discussion), the Stengel analysis was performed over a ten-year period spanning 31 countries and 28 categories. The top 50 brands--that is, those that outpaced their competition in brand value over the past decade and formed “unusually strong connections with consumers” are listed alphabetically in the following chart.  The so-called the ‘Stengel 50’ grew three times faster in financial terms during the period studied than their competitors and the overall universe of brands.

The Stengel 50 reveals quite a disparity in brand categories, ranging from luxury brands like Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Moët et Chandon, Hennessy and Mercedes-Benz to e-commerce brands like and Zappos to consumer goods brands like Coca-Cola, Sensodyne, and Red Bull.  Among these brands we see some of the usual suspects, ones that have been identified in other analyses, particularly engagementdb's social media engagement study of the top global brands (which compared Business Week's top 100 global brands according to number of channels and depth of engagement), as well as assessments of company's performance on Facebook and Twitter.  Albeit with differences.  For example, the top three brands that emerged from the engagementdb analysis were Starbucks, Dell, and eBay.  The top three Stengel brands were Apple, Google and Pampers, growing as much as 10 times faster than average company growth between 2001 to 2011.  Both studies found that connecting with consumers was associated with financial growth.

Looking a little more closely at the Stengel study, however, the basic question is what exactly does it mean to 'develop a strong brand promise' or identity?  Insight into this question is provided by the study's director, Jim Stengel, former CMO of P&G.  According to Stengel the high ranking brands were built around a central ideal that clarified their core purpose, such as IBM's goal to 'create a smarter planet' and Jack Daniel's 'maverick independence.'  In marketing jargon we call these central ideals  'brand essence' - the essential and intrinsic nature of the brand; its spirit and soul; a single thought that captures that soul.

The man behind the research – high profile US marketer and former CMO of Procter & Gamble, Jim Stengel – suggested all of the high ranking brands were built around a central ‘ideal’ that fostered a tight focus on their core purpose.  As described in his book Grow. How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies, Stengel elaborates on brand ideals:

 “A brand ideal is not social responsibility or altruism but a programme for profit and growth based on improving people’s lives.”

“Maximum growth and high ideals are not incompatible. They’re inseparable.”

As an example, Stengel points to Pampers, a brand that lost sight of its core ideal by focusing too narrowly on the dryness of diapers.  Market share continued to drop until Pampers successfully redefined its brand ideal as ‘helping mothers care for their babies’ and toddlers’ healthy, happy development’. Anybody can talk about dry diapers, but helping mothers care for their newborns is a message that helps distinguish a winning brand from the also-rans.  The best-performing businesses, according to Stengel, are driven by ideals that touch on one of five human values: eliciting joy, enabling connection, inspiring exploration, evoking pride or having an impact on society.


The Stengel study adds another notch to Starbucks' growing collection of successes in outperforming just about everybody else when it comes to connecting with consumers.  That I've admired Starbucks' strategy and tactics in the past is certainly evidenced by my extensive discussion of the company in my book, Connecting With Consumers, and in the many lectures I've given on the topic.  Nonetheless, based on some recent experiences associated with my forthcoming book, Psychological Foundations of Marketing (Routledge, June 2012), I'm beginning to reassess my image of Starbucks.  I'm now beginning to think their 'connecting' is nothing more than a lot of smoke and mirrors.  More on this in a subsequent installment.  Stay tuned.