People want products to represent what they stand for: Consumer psychologist Dr. Cathrine Jansson-Boyd



Dr Cathrine Jansson-Boyd, a consumer psychologist at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. Her research focuses predominantly on touch, multisensory perception, sustainable consumption and decision making. She has written two books about consumer psychology and has previously worked with organizations such as Unilever, Cambridgeshire county council, and Pepsi.

The synopsis of her talk: In a world where political correctness is a must it is essential to get creative to ensure that marketing messages are effective. It may be tempting to create something that seems ‘edgy’ as it can capture consumers’ attention. However, if a marketing message is perceived negatively, then that is what the consumer will remember and associate with a brand.

Why did you decide to say yes to this conference?
It seemed like a nice opportunity to give people in the industry a chance to see how Consumer Psychology based research can be useful and give insights when trying to be creative.

In what way does the theme [Will responsibility kill creativity?] resonate in your field of expertise?
As we are living in a world where political correctness is becoming increasingly important it is essential to ensure that you don’t upset and alienate potential audiences. Thus, it is good for marketers to look at different ways in which they can ‘grab’ consumers attention and communicate effectively with them without resorting to ‘cheap’ tricks that may cause upset. One of my own areas of specialism is how touch can be used to change consumers perception of goods and services. Often different senses other than vision (touch, smell, hearing and taste) can be used in an effective way. This is something that is still relatively unused by marketers.

Why do you do, what you do?
Because it is so much fun. I found out about Consumer Psychology whilst studying for my undergraduate and have never looked back. It is truly fascinating to find out why consumers do what they do and how you can be creative to encourage them to pick certain products or alter their behaviors.

What ’s your opinion about brands and their social responsibility?
This is becoming increasingly important as people are turning to big companies and brands to stand for something they believe in. Many people want products to be an extension of who they are, to represent what they stand for. In a world where social and political correctness is important brands therefore need to show that they have taken a stand.

What’s your opinion about a brand like Red Bull then?
Currently there are many brands that want to show consumers that they care. The key to success in this area is to be viewed as being authentic by consumers. If there is uncertainty about authenticity it may discourage people from purchasing the associated products. Again, it comes back to the fact that there are many serious issues that people care about such as sustainability and women rights. Thus, they want to be able to show support for them through their consumption (or lack of as the case may be) patterns.

So, you feel brands and agencies can and should change the world?
‘I believe that it is nice when individuals as well as companies show that they care about what matters to people. In other words: yes, absolutely. “Every little helps” as a well-known British supermarket puts it.’