The Land O’ Lakes Professor and what constitutes marketing research

Kathleen Vohs, who has the delicious distinction of being the Land O’ Lakes professor (of Excellence in Marketing) at University of Minnesota (where else would the Land O’ Lakes professor be?), does work on productivity. She’s gotten some press lately on messy desks being correlated with creativity. The response to that work amongst colleagues is kinda interesting. The main response from those who, shall we say, lack a certain amount of logistic and physical tidiness is “I could have told her that”. Yet, the point of her work (irrespective of the quality of the design, etc) is that she was trying to test this, and design human psych experiments to show this. What fascinates me is that the same scientists who decry small sample sizes, spurious science based on case studies, etc, are perfectly willing when it comes to themselves make the same mistake that they despise in others. Some might argue that “oh this is hall-talk and not science, and I’m not about to publish it”. But the counter argument is: if you are a scientist, then you need to respect the attempts (I’m not saying she succeeded) to test hypotheses, and relegate personal experience to hypothesis generation.

I also found this to be intriguing: “Sexual Images Aren’t So Wrong If They Are Seen with an Expensive Product: Women’s Reactions to Sexual Stimuli Vary with Market Factors,” Vohs, Kathleen D., Jaideep Sengupta and Darren W. Dahl (in press), Psychological Science. From the abstract:

As predicted, women found sexual imagery used to promote a cheap product distasteful, a reaction that was mollified if the product promoted was expensive. This interaction pattern was not observed among men.

This work makes me a bit queasy as it seems to be directed towards how to sell towards women.

These data suggest several implications. One is that women can be swayed to tolerate sexual imagery, as long as it comports with their preferred associations of when and why sex is used. A second, more profound implication is that women’s reactions to sexual images reveal their preferences about how sex should be understood.

But, in the end,  I’d rather know how things work, so that we all can develop a resistance to such marketing techniques.

(Ps – the editor for WordPress thinks that “These data” is wrong).


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