Marketing Winter Camp

On December 11th, I attended the Marketing Winter Camp, a marketing conference organized by the Marketing group at the Catholic University in Leuven (KUL). The program consisted of an entire day of presentations, with a good mix of Belgian and international speakers.
Some of the work presented had a very academic bent, but one talk stood out in particular as being interesting from both an academic and applied perspective.
Professor Michel Pham, of the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University, gave a very interesting presentation about his research into the psychological state of relaxation and how this relates to consumption behavior.
Professor Pham’s work consists of experiments comparing consumption behaviors after a relaxation manipulation, in which participants are put into a relaxed state of mind, with those same behaviors following a control condition. Using several different relaxation manipulations, Dr. Pham’s research shows that participants are willing to pay more for items, and feel that these same items are worth more, when they are in a relaxed state of mind. These effects appear to be independent of any sense of positive feelings that relaxation might arouse.
Dr. Pham’s research suggests that this effect is at least in part due to the fact that relaxation is associated with a broader, more abstract thinking style. And that this abstract thinking style in turn triggers a more abstract representation of a product’s value.
As Dr. Pham pointed out during his talk, marketers seem to have an intuitive understanding of these basic processes. Luxury goods, which are by nature quite expensive, are often promoted in ways that emphasize their relaxing benefits, and/or paired with images associated with relaxation.
There are a number of possible real-world applications for these research findings. For example, if retail shops can stimulate a feeling of relaxation in consumers, particularly at the point of sale, they could conceivably be able to charge a higher price for the products they sell. Dr. Pham also speculated that it could be easier to convince individuals that a particular product is luxurious in the setting of a calm and relaxing environment (e.g. if car dealerships are able to create a feeling of relaxation in their customers, they might be able to obtain a higher price for the cars they sell).
On the whole, I greatly enjoyed the conference. Some talks were more geared purely towards academics, but on the whole there was a great deal that even the most applied and business-oriented market researcher could appreciate.

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