Saturday, 15 January 2011

Gender differences: how sex influences advertising?

One of the essential components of a customer's self concept is sexual identity.
According to Salomon (2010) sex differences strongly influence many consumption decisions.

Brain differences between sexes are at the base of males and females different behaviours and attitudes towards brand and products.

Are these differences innate or the product of nurture and culture?

Lise Eliot, professor of Neuroscience at The Chicago Medical School,  claims that sex differences in the brain are small.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Experience itself changes brain structure and function.
Most sex differences start out small but are amplified as children’s brains meet our gender-infused culture.

Hormones, genes and evolution shaped our brains generating gender differences.
On the other hand sex differences are shaped by social learning and different lifestyles and cultures that boys and girl experience.
Therefore Nature and Nurture are strictly correlated and difficoult to split.

Researchers of the University of Iowa found that Straight Gyrus, one subdivision of the prefrontal cortex of the brain involved in social cognition and interpersonal judgment, is proportionally larger in Women.
As a result Women are generally good empathisers, sensitive to other people's emotions.

Instead of simply dividing their subjects by biological sex, researchers also gave each subject a test of psychological “gender": a questionnaire that assesses each person’s degree of masculinity vs. femininity based on their interests, abilities and personality type.

Therefore i took the BBC Sex ID test.

My score indicates that my brain has an average "level of masculinity". Indeed i got great scores in the Angles and 3D shapes tasks which require spacial ability.

On average, men are better than women at mentally rotating pictures of three dimensional objects or judging the slope of a line because of a more systemizing brain due to higher levels of testosterone (Simon Baron-Cohen).

On the other hand my score was really poor in the "spot the difference task" and as a matter of fact women are more likely to spot which of a group of objects has been moved to a new position, probably as a consequence of their ancestors way of life.

Unexpectedly i found out to be a good emphatizer as i scored 9 out of 10 in the task testing the  ability to judge people's emotions through eyes.
As a result mi brain can be calssified as a balanced brain (Simon Baron-Cohen)
which is equally good at both empathising and systemising even if i think i'm really bad at interpreting people's facial expressions

Research suggests that in women, the two spheres of their brains communicate better than men's and pull in information from both halves. This allows Women to give a more sophisticated emotional response.

Genders in Advertising

Advertising is far more straighforward than scientific research and rely more on common gender stereotypes which have a kernel of truth aniway:
Women are difficult and complicated while Men are simple and sometimes insensitive and dumb.

Targeting Men
Goldstar Beer - Thank God you're a Man

Goldstar ads enforce gender paradigms in order to target Men.

Woman's complexity contrasts with man's simplicity which is reason of relief: Thanks God you're a man.

“Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.”

Billy Cristal, comedian.

Men are likely to pick up on one or two very salient and obvious kinds of cues, they think in a more macro way, and need to be shown the big picture without complex metaphors.
Therefore Goldstar marketers used an extremely simple and clear image flowchart which conveys a unique message: Men drink our beer.

"It's funny cause it's true!"
Homer Simpson, middle-class male stereotype.

Okay, not the plain truth, it's slightly exaggerated and maybe a bit sexist but is very humorous and humor is a fundamental element in male-targeted ads (Gulas and Weinberger, 2006)

Targeting Women
Muller Light - The Party

This ad, created by TBVA London, encourages Women to forget fad diets and eat happily ever after with Müller Light.

The main difference between Müller Light and Goldstar ads is complexity of the message.
In the Müller ad the message is multilayred and conveyed with images, colours, music, words and metaphors.
Thanks to Muller light those young women can give up diets (trampling on the books in the mud) and participate in the social life (the party) successfully thanks to their perfect shape.

But the benefits of Muller Light are bigger.

Muller makes them stand out of the crowd as their beautiful classic car arrives in a parking full of grey and boring utility cars.

Muller gives them independence: the song "Got my Life" from the musical Hair is a Hymn to freedom, in this case from fat.

Muller gives them seduction power as the blond girl "hypnotize" the handsome waiter with just a nod.
In addition, natural colours and green landscapes underline the natural carachteristics of the product.

See you soon my dear hitchhikers
keep following the Guide and...don't leave the Earth without it!


> Lise Eliot (2010) Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps And What We Can Do About It. Mariner Books
>Gulas, C., Weinberger, M. (2006) Humor in advertising: a comprehensive analysis. Portland: M.E. Shape
Solomon, M., Bamossy, G., Askegaard, S. and Hogg, M. (2010) Consumer Behaviour: a european perspective. 4th ed. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education. 

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Nostalgia marketing: Fiat 500 and Vespa

What's nostalgia?

"An emotional state in which an individual yearns for an idealized or sanitized version of an earlier time period"
[Stern, 1992]

"A sentimental or bittersweet yearning for an experience, product or service from the past"
[Baker and Kennedy, 1994]

From a marketing point of view:

“A preference (general liking, positive attitude or favorable affect) towards objects (people, places or things) that were more common (popular, fashionable or widely circulated) when one was younger (in early adulthood, in adolescence, in childhood or even before birth)".
[Holbrook and Schindler 1991]

As a theme in promotions, nostalgia can be distinguished between two separate but related forms: historical and personal.

The personal theme depicts a time in one's own past, the time frame is one's own lifetime and familiarity is the rule in treating time and space, as opposed to the exoticism of historical nostalgia.

In Historical nostalgia the past is defined as a time before the audience was born;
Exotic settings, idealized carachters and mythic-status heroes.

As fashion is getting more and more inspired by the 60s and the 70s, the Italian automotive companies FIAT and Piaggio revitalized their brands launching new versions of the historic utility car 500 and legendary scooter Vespa.

They rely on historical nostalgia to appeal 18-30 customers and secondly on personal nostalgia in order to attract baby boomers.

FIAT 500

The Fiat 500 is a car produced between 1957 and 1975. Launched in July 1957 it was marketed as a cheap and practical town car.
Despite its diminutive size, the 500 proved to be an enormously popular vehicle throughout Europe due to the exceptional economic growth during the 60s.

In 2007 Fiat launched a similar styled, longer and heavier front wheel drive car, the Fiat Nuova 500.
This car features a distinctive retro-look just like the Volkswagen New Beetle and BMW MINI.

Marketers took up an kind of "celebrity endorsement" based on mythical fictional characters of the old 500 period.

Arsène Lupin III is the fictional World's number 1 thief  created by Monkey Punch in 1967. He often drives a 1957 yellow 500.

Lupin III - The Castle of Cagliostro, animated film, Japan 1977
 The 2007 Japanese anime film "Lupin III - Green vs Red" celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Lupin III series of movies, which began in 1979. In this new movie, Lupin drives a brand new 2007 Nuova 500.

Fiat marketers also placed the New 500 in the worldwide famous comic series "Diabolik".

Diabolik, created in 1962 by the Giussani sisters, is an extremely smart and skilled master thief. The series was greatly succesful during the 60s and the 70s and the main character gained a legendary-status in Italian popular culture.

In 2008 FIAT celebrated this collaboration with the limited edition 500 Diabolika.

With this marketing strategy FIAT wants to create a bond with symbols of an idealized past and at the same time convey a message of freshness, deftness and smartness related to these dynamic characters.
Presentation of Fiat 500 in Piazza dei Signori in Vicenza.
On this occasion the new Fiat 500s were covered with a cloth resembling the old Fiat 500.
 Click on the image sto start the frames sequence


Sting as "Ace Face" on a Vespa GS
in the 1973 cult motion picture "Quadrophenia"

Launched in 1946 Vespa has become a design icon and a symbol for sub-cultures such as the English Mods.

After a sales slump during the 90s, Piaggio launched the new Vespa LX in 2006.
Like the FIAT 500, the new Vespa maintains the style of the historic Vespas combined to modern technology.

Piaggio Marketers decided to create a bond with the past and trigger a nostalgia effect capitalizing on the classy image of Audrey Hepburn.

In the most famous scene of the 1953 cult movie "Roman Holiday" the style icon actress and his fictional lover Gregory Peck ride a Vespa v31t on the streets of central Rome.
The film, directed by Eddie Albert, made Vespa a worlwide known icon.

 Piaggio used the images of the movie in its dealers showrooms...

...Along with pictures of young and good looking young people of today.

The comparison and the connection between old times romance and today youth give Vespa a fresh but sophisticated image: the modern technology succesfully meets a classy dream past.

What's the result?
Both FIAT and Piaggio increased their sales in the second half of first decade of the new century.
FIAT sold more than 500.000 new 500s since 2008 in 83 countries in the world, 58.000 just in the UK.

See you soon space travellers
and remember:
The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate. ;-)


> Stern, B.B. (1992) Nostalgia in Advertising Text: Romancing the Past. Advances in Consumer Research. 19, pp.388-89.
> Baker, S. M., and Kennedy, P. F. (1994) Death by Nostalgia: A Diagnosis of Context-specific Cases.  Advances in Consumer Research. 21, pp. 169-174.
> Holbrook, M.B. and R.M. Schindler (1991) Echoes of the Dear Departed Past: Some Work in Progress on Nostalgia. Journal of Consumer Research. 18, pp. 330-333.
>The Telegraph: The Eternal Vespa
> Fiat 500 Breaks Into UK Top 10 Sales Figures

Monday, 3 January 2011

Packaging perception: Twinings Blossom Earl Grey

In a brand-saturated marketplace packaging can be a distinguishing factor.
Customers can find thousands of packaged items on the supermarket shelves therefore packaging becomes an essential marketing tool that can work as a silent salesman.

Human Perception

The Customers are constantly overwhelmed by physical stimuli but the brain capacity to elaborate them is narrow.
Therefore Sensorial stimuli are filtered in order to avoid information overload.
According to the neuro-linguistic programming theory (NLP) the conscious mind takes only 134 bits of information per second out of about 2 millions of raw data picked up by senses in the same period.

NLP process.

The relatively small amount of information selected by attention filters undergo the process of interpretation which is the meaning that human mind gives to perceptual stimuli.
In order to get through the ambiguity of external stimuli the perceiver relies on a pattern of internal biases, needs and beliefs.

Human senses are not insulated but work together generating multisensory interaction, a condition in which senses create a multisensory image. This images are the basis for Hedonic Consumption which is the fantasy and emotive aspect of customer’s experience with products and packaging.

Blossom Earl Grey

Having solved the problem of survival, people need products which increase the pleasure of living. In some cases the hedonic attributes of the product are highlighted through the packaging design as in the case of Twinings Blossom Earl Grey tea.

The 14 cm tall cardboard box presents a refined artistic design.
A watercolour elegantly dressed young woman reminds the atmospheres of sumptuous receptions held by the aristocracy of the 19th century. 
Her pale skin and preciuous jewels are symbols of nobility and wealthy lifestile.
Her red lips stand out transmitting passion, femininity and pride.
The orange hair gives her a dreamlike appearance and, as well as the skirt, recalls the orange flower petals.
The woman carries a little green bag half hidden behind the back; it looks like a tea bag and she holds it like it's precious.

The figure in its entirety remembers the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt, one of the main members of Art Nouveau. This movement is strongly characterized by the use of floral decorations which are clearly connected to the name “Blossom”.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I; Gustav Klimt; Oil, silver and gold on canvas; 1907

Therefore, the message that Twinings wants to convey is that the Blossom Earl Grey is not common tea but a kind of artistic experience. The traditional Earl Grey is now enhanced with floral nuances which give the tea connoisseurs the pleasure of a new sophisticated tea but at the same time maintains the heritage of tradition.

How does this packaging grab the attention of the customer?

Firstly the colour contrast between the orange of the woman dress and the totally black background catches the eye of the purchaser.

Secondly the Twinings box design is different from the competitors’ ones. The other four main tea brands, which are PG Tips, Tetley, Typhoo and Yorkshire, rely on usual tea box colours such as green, white and red; as a result the Blossom Earl Gray box stands out.

In addition colours can assume meanings and be interpreted as relevant messages by the customer.
Orange radiates warmth and energy and can stimulate appetite and encourage socialization and is connected to the tea flavor generating olfactory sensations.
Black evokes sense of mistery and connotes elegance.
The gold of the Twinings logo connotes prosperity and wisdom.

Brand Name

The Twinings fonts are similar to the Times New Roman type created for the Times newspaper in 1931.

The sealing of the Royal Warrant Holders Association Is prestigious and guarntees high standards of service.

The words “Limited Edition” are synonym of exclusivity and short time avalaibility.

Twinings is a reliable historic brand. This new orange flavoured tea maintains the features of delicacy and freshness of the classic Earl Grey. Twinings wants to respect tradition and maintain high quality standards even when a new product is introduced.

In conclusion...

In its entirety, the box appears elegant and sophisticated and can heavily influence the purchase decision.

In order to catch this sophisticated message, the customer must be well educate and share a pattern of good attitudes towards art, little pleasures and special products.

Therefore the target for this premium special tea are the A, B and C1 women between 25 and 54 years old. According to MINTEL(2009) this group of costumers is the core of special an herbal tea drinkers.
Speciality teas such as Earl Grey have benefited from a increase interest by discerning tea drinkers who look for high quality but also want to sample a variety of products.


I Hope You're having a nice space jurney hitchhikers.
See you soon and thumbs always up!


>Mather, G. (2006). Foundations of Perception. Hove, East Sussex: Psychology Press
>Microdot. (2008). NLP communication model. Available from
>MINTEL. (2009). Tea and herbal tea: market intelligence. London: Mintel International.
>Smith, K. (2001). Colorexpert. Available from Squiido: