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The mindset of shoppers can be divided into two groups, say researchers: those focused on avoiding risk and opportunity-seekers who respond to messages about maximising pleasure.

Christmas decorations in Funchal Alexander Baxevanis
Christmas decorations in Funchal

The risk avoiders are described as responding well to messages about 'prevention' while opportunity seekers are 'promotion' oriented consumers.  Matching marketing initiatives and messages to the prevailing mindset of customers is what shops try to do in their advertising campaigns.

A new research paper co-authored by the Saïd Business School at Oxford University offers new insights into the decision-making process of shoppers and examines the importance of the fit. 'Fit has a significant impact on each stage of consumer decision-making, from the evaluation of a message to the consumer's actual choice,' said Professor Nancy Puccinelli, Associate Professor in Marketing and one of the authors of the paper. 'We often see brands communicating in ineffective or even counter-productive ways, whereas sometimes small inexpensive changes to campaigns which take into account the importance of fit have very positive results.'

'Some seasonal campaigns have almost instinctively understood this connection. So "Back to School" campaigns often have undertones of "avoiding the risk" of your children not being fully equipped for their school activities.  As the new school year approaches, certain consumers are particularly susceptible to this type of messaging and want the security of having bought everything necessary.  For this group, messages that focus on the uses of a product resonate most.

'At Christmas, when messages are about promoting indulgence, consumers who want to maximise pleasure are more open to the idea of switching to premium brands and to spending more to get the most out of their purchases.'

Read the full story on the University's website