The market and technology are constantly evolving and every day we have new products to sell that offer us things never seen before. And yet more and more we see new things defined with names that remind us of other things more than familiar. Have you ever wondered, for example, "why do they call it an oil-free fryer when it's not really a fryer"? And, once you get to know them, you see that they are rather small ovens that function like a grill circulating hot air at high speed.
And this is not the only example we can think of. In recent years, for example, hamburgers with vegetable meat have become fashionable, which, of course, is not meat. Or vegan cheeses that are not cheeses. This also happens with plant milks – although legally they must be called “plant drinks” – among other products. Why is this happening? Why not give it a new name and make us think it's something we already know?
What has long been known is that for us, as users, we are interested in a product or service, we must be motivated to use or consume. And this motivation is not only based on the material, but also on the fact that this product meets a need. That’s why the goal is to motivate potential customers and therefore the use of familiar names in new products has a logic behind it that psychology can explain to us.
The new is exciting; the known is sure
Logic would tell us that we should be immediately drawn to new things. And, in part, it is. In general, we tend to pay more attention to stimuli than new things than familiars. Research from the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London has found that new objects activate our brain's reward system.
Other research points to the influence the placebo effect has on us. This is the case with a survey conducted by New York University in 2015. What they found, deep down, is that we love new things by the anticipation that we make of it. If we haven't tried them and assume that we will like them, we are more likely to enjoy them when we do. We mainly influenced our experimentation with this new object thanks to a placebo effect. The problem is, the thrill of novelty doesn't last long, according to a study from University College London.
The familiar and familiar makes us feel comfortable and secure
The point is, most research shows that while the new is appealing, what we really like is what we already know. And it happens in all aspects of our life. For example, we like people whose features are familiar or similar to ours. It also happens with music: the more you listen to a type of music, the more you love it, according to research such as Mungan in 2019 or Madison and her team in 2017.
As the well-known psychologist Frank W. Schneider explains in his book Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Solving Social and Practical Problems In 2012, knowing things and people is positive and reassuring for most of us. Not only that, but it promotes attraction.
Maybe we've heard of it before endowment effect or “endowment effect”. It basically refers to the fact that we like more objects that we already know before, that are our own, or that we may feel like our own or relate to something that we own. Basically, it's because we have a connection with them and therefore the extreme defenses that can be made of certain products and brands. Of course, this is not all new and marketing departments know it.
The simple effect of exposure and how it influences us
And this is where the importance of bringing new things into consumers' lives that are attractive, but without taking them too far away from what they already know and enjoy, comes in. How do you do that? The simple exposure effect, which also influences us when we play video games, has something to say about this and explains many of the marketing strategies that are implemented.
This effect confirms the above: we like what is familiar to us. But it's more than that, it's that simple repeated exposure to something or someone increases the possibility that it attracts us before we even know it well. That is to say, the more we see it (and recognize it)the more we love it. Why is this important and what does it have to do with products that have a familiar name even if they are totally new?
Well, they are the representation of the effect of a simple exposure. And it's the perfect way to combine the excitement of the new, with the security and attractiveness of what we already know. The nuance of the simple effect of exposure is that we are drawn to things that we are heavily exposed to – the familiar and recognizable name – but which we still haven't really learned – the completely new object -.
A Norton study points out that what we would really like would be the ambiguity generated by the mere effect of exposure. This middle ground between not really knowing the product or the person, but ascribing to it positive or pleasant qualities because it is familiar to us or reminds us of something that we like and know.
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