‘Tis the holiday season, and we all know what that means: the mecca of consumerism that is America will ring out with the song of overworked cash registers throughout the land. Anyone who has been anywhere near a mall in America in the month of December knows how incredibly unpleasant it is to be swarming all over shopping mall wares while other people are all up in your business. In honor of this time of cheer, materialism and accidental stranger touching, we present the 10 days of Christmas…Consumerism (What? You wanted 12? I had finals!).*
Product contagion is a well-studied topic in consumer behavior. Essentially, much like the way humans can catch a disease, products can “catch” qualities via associations with other products or people. The proximity of the products operates as the basic idea behind product contagion, i.e. a product that is located close to another product may take on some characteristics of that other product, and affect consumer perceptions. For instance, products that have an equal chance of gain, like a free sample, tend to be seen as higher value when they are clustered together, while products with an equal chance of loss, like defected products, are seen as less desirable when located close to other defective products.1
There has also been work on product contagion when the proximity is to a disgusting product. Researchers have found evidence that a product location next to a disgusting product can cause the non-disgusting product to “catch” disgusting qualities, especially when packaging is clear and regardless of whether or not the two products are physically touching.2 This association has proven to be long-lasting, with impressions of disgust permanently attaching themselves to the non-disgusting product.2 So, basically, the next time you really want the last of something at the grocery store but you can’t buy it right now, put it next to the adult diapers and you’re probably home free.
Keep shopping and come and see us tomorrow for consumer contamination. Talk about a bad touch.
*The Christmas reference in this title is being made by a born and bred atheist and purely for Google/seasonal reasons. No offense meant to anyone, and certainly no religious preferences here at SocialPsyQ!
- Mishra, A. (2009). Influence of contagious versus noncontagious product groupings on consumer preferences. Journal of Consumer Research, 36(1), 73-82.
- Morales, A. C., & Fitzsimons, G. J. (2007). Product contagion: Changing consumer evaluations through physical contact with “disgusting” products. Journal of Marketing Research, 44(2), 272-283.