Orientation on Master Thesis topics

Research themes dr. Anna Fenko

1. Multisensory marketing and product experience
People perceive the world around them with their five senses: vision, audition, touch, smell, and taste. Information from different modalities is integrated in the brain to create a stable and meaningful experience of objects and events. Various sensory properties of products (i.e. colour, shape, texture, smell, taste, and sound) evoke certain product experiences (such as luxury, novelty, grace, and so on). In marketing, it important to know how sensory aspects of products affect our emotions, memories, preferences, choices, and consumption of these products. Within the scope of this topic, the students can investigate the roles of the various senses and their interplay when consumers interact with different products.

The senses do not work in isolation, but usually operate as an integrated whole. One of the challenging research problems is to investigate the links between different sensory modalities and the ways in which sensory information from the different modalities is integrated into a holistic product experience.

Sensory experience can affect the marketing of products in many ways. Consumers react immediately and often unconsciously to certain sensory inputs (such as smell, music or colour). Sensory stimuli can be used to create more pleasurable product experience, to enhance consumer’s memory, to direct their imagery, and to evoke positive emotions and attitudes toward a product or a service. The students will investigate how senses work together to deliver rich and varied multisensory experiences. The findings can be applied to create sensory brand signature, to develop efficient marketing communication strategy, and to design innovative products that will lead to more pleasurable and memorable multisensory product interactions.

2. How to improve online shopping experience
Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular. However, it is not possible to provide a fully realistic product experience in online stores. One of the main limitations is the lack of tactile information, which is very important for certain product groups (i.e., clothing and hand tools). Various strategies can be used to enhance product experience in online stores and to compensate for the lack of tactile experience, such as auditory cues (Spence & Zampini, 2006), video demonstration (Elder & Krishna, 2012), and written scent references (Magnini & Karande, 2010).

  • The aim of this project is to investigate the efficiency of various strategies that can be used to improve online shopping experience.
  • The following research questions can be addressed in your study:
  • What determines the positive product experience in online stores?
  • How can auditory cues influence online product experience?
  • How can written scent cues influence online product experience?
  • How can video of product usage influence online product experience?
  • What product groups may benefit from different multisensory cues used in online stores?

3. Communicating food properties through packaging
Packaging affects perception of food in many ways. During buying, packaging design helps consumers to identify a product category and a brand. The shape and colour of packaging play an important role on retail shelves, because consumers first see products from a distance and notice the larger visual elements before they can process finer details or read text. Packaging can make the product stand out from its competitors on the shelves.

Consumers may transfer packaging experience aspects directly to its content . For instance, visual characteristics of a container affect the experience of a food product (Becke et al., 2011; Mizutani et al., 2010). The shape and size of the container can affect the amount of product consumed (Wansink & Van Ittersum, 2003). Touching a flimsy cup decrease the perceived quality of the water served in the cup (Krishna & Morrin, 2007). Experience of drinking a beverage is affected by the experience of holding an empty cup (Schifferstein, 2009). Yoghurt samples are perceived as more dense (and satiating) when consumed from a heavy bowl than from a lighter bowl (Piqueras-Fiszman & Spence, 2011).

Therefore, changes in product’s packaging might have important effects on a consumer’s appraisal of the quality of the product. Within the scope of this research topic, the students will investigate how various product properties (such as taste or quality) can be communicated through different elements of packaging (such as colour, shape, texture, weight, or sound). The main research question is:
How the packaging properties affect perception and evaluation of a food product?

4. How to promote healthy food choice
Food choices and eating behaviour are important for our health (WHO, 2011). Health claims in products try to respond to consumers’ interest in health by conveying messages about product-specific benefits that potentially add value to products. However, emphasising health as a product characteristic may imply a negative impact on taste, naturalness and convenience of the product (Lähteenmäki, 2012; Rozin et al., 2004).

Recent studies have shown that some consumers perceive unhealthy food as more tasty (Raghunathan et al., 2006); that health claims have a negative impact on the perception of other product attributes (Lähteenmäki et al., 2010); and that consumers are not willing to compromise on taste for health (Verbeke, 2005). For example, health labels such as “reduced in salt” or the “healthy choices” may have an adverse effect on consumers’ expectation and potentially on the actual perceived taste of products (Liem et al., 2012). Since taste is a top priority in consumers’ food choices (Lappalainen et al., 1998; Steptoe et al., 1995), the challenge in promoting healthy food products is to overcome this negative expectation barrier.

How can a dietician, restaurateur, marketer, or parent change the perceived taste of a food? One option is simply to change its name. In a cafeteria experiment, those who ate “Succulent Italian Seafood Filet” rated it as more tasty than those eating regular “Seafood Filet” (Wansink et al. 2004). Food perception may be affected by other contextual factors, such as the shape and colour of a package (Becker et al., 2011); the size and colour of a plate (Van Ittersum & Wansink, 2012); or the colour of a cup (Genschow et al., 2012).

Various intrinsic factors (such as consumer attitudes, beliefs and cultural values) and extrinsic factors (such as food description, name, brand, label, health-related information, shape and colour of package, etc.) influence taste perception. Within the scope of this topic, the students will investigate how consumers’ taste perceptions and willingness to buy certain food products can be modified to promote healthy eating patterns.

The main research question is:
How can consumers’ attitudes and perceptions of food products be modified to promote healthy eating patterns?

5. External research in collaboration with Cartils branding & packaging design consultants
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