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Faculty Insights

Research Roundup: WSB's Department of Marketing

By Clare Becker

June 29, 2018

Faculty from the Department of Marketing at the Wisconsin School of Business share key ideas from their research as featured on the Forward Thinking blog.
Professor Noah Lim: Motivation By Design: Team Composition and Sales Contests

Noah Lim
Noah Lim

Although team contests are frequently used by sales managers, there are still some important questions on the design of team contests that have not been thoroughly studied. First, since salespeople on a team often have different abilities, experience, desire to succeed, or territorial endowments, how does team composition affect the effort put forth by individuals on the team? Second, knowing that managers usually rank teams based on the average (or total) team output regardless of the team composition, what other metrics could be adopted by managers?
Using a game-theoretic model and lab experiment, we investigated the contests in which two identical teams, each with two team members who varied in ability, squared off against each other. The findings revealed that when team members have equal ability, all three metrics produced the same level of effectiveness within the team—that all team members exerted the same amount of effort regardless of the metric used to determine the winner. However, when team members are different in ability, the average metric yielded the best outcome.
Associate Professor Qing Liu: Small Samples, Big Results: 6 Takeaways on
In-Store Sampling

Qing Liu
Qing Liu

In-store food sampling is both entertaining and informative for consumers, a chance to try before you buy. And for manufacturers and retailers, sampling is an effective tool that can be leveraged to boost sales and customer loyalty.
Multiple in-store sampling events can have multiplicative long-term effects. Single sampling events for a store can increase sales. But multiple events held for the same product can increase sales for that product for a much longer period of time.
Sampling of one brand could help the other brands within the same category. Let’s say that a customer samples a brand of potato chip that the store has positioned as its “focal” brand, meaning it’s highlighted in a sampling display. If the customer tries this product and loves it, our research suggests an uptick in interest and sales for the other potato chip brands the retailer currently carries, even if they are not showcased as a sample on that day. We call this the spillover effect, because it spills over to positively impact an entire category of goods.
Associate Professor Joann Peck: Emoji Nation
Joann Peck
Joann Peck

Emojis are examples of textual paralanguage (TPL), which is nonverbal communication in text. The small, colorful signs and images convey a meaning and emotion that go beyond what the recipient would get from just reading the words alone. TPL is most commonly found in our non-professional communication—informal texts, emails, and social media interactions with family and friends.
In our study, we started by looking at publicly available data from brand accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. From there, we built a typology that incorporated what we were seeing on brand accounts with the predominant senses used in the literature for human interaction—sound, touch, and sight (visuals). Using our typology to examine our study sample, we found that brand accounts used TPL frequently in their social media communications: 20.6 percent of brand tweets, 19.1 percent of Facebook posts, and 31.3 percent of Instagram posts contained some type of TPL.
Our study suggests that the use of TPL has both benefits and consequences for brands.  For example, TPL can increase brand engagement for companies. Consumers are more likely to interact with brand tweets and to share them with others. We also found that consumers look for warmth and competence in a brand’s personality. Warmth can increase or decrease depending upon how TPL was used, but (perceived) competence only decreases. This decrease in the perceived competence effect is neutralized if a brand’s spokescreature (e.g., Smokey the Bear, Energizer Bunny, Tony the Tiger) uses TPL. This could be due to the fact that since spokescreatures are already informal, using TPL doesn’t affect the perceived competency level.
Assistant Professor Evan Polman: Want to Give the Perfect Gift? Buy One for Yourself, Too
Evan Polman
Evan Polman

Gift giving can be a challenging, often high-pressure experience. Whether the gift is for a close family member or an acquaintance, the stakes are high to get the right thing. Companionizing—when a gift is liked more because the giver bought the same item for herself—may be a solution.
To test our theory, we conducted six lab experiments with a wide range of different gifts. For each experiment, we used two groups. The first group was instructed to imagine someone giving them a gift with an enclosed message expressing the giver’s hope that the gift would be liked. The second group was given the same instructions, only the enclosed message was a dual one: expressing hope that the recipient liked the gift, but also that the giver bought one for herself.
The “companionizing effect” held throughout all six experiments. Participants in the companionized groups liked their gift more than those in the non-companionized group. They also felt more similar to the gift givers and felt closer to them than those in the non-companionized group.
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