Please do not cut and paste this article

Image source: Wikimedia

I was preparing a short article, and found a quote on the Financial Times that I really wanted to cite. So, I selected the paragraph in question, and copied it. Then, I pasted the excerpt into a word document. When I re-read it, I found the following sentences, at the end of the section that I had just copied into the word document:

High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email to buy additional rights.

It seems that the FT is trying to tap into our innate need to reciprocate good deeds: we did high quality work for you; in return, you use the link below to share this article. As I was after a particular quote, only, these instructions weren’t entirely relevant for me. Though, the request did make me stop on my tracks, and I checked my article twice, to ensure that I was acknowledging the source fully and properly.

I am making a note of this example, to use in my classes when we talk about influencing consumer behaviour. You can read more about the principle of reciprocation, and how it influences behaviour, here.

I wonder how many people actually went back and used that particular link to share the article, though. Would you?

Spotted elsewhere: interview with co-founder of Instagram


A short interview with Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, by BBC’s Steph McGovern.



Spotted on the BBC website.


So what?

It is a short interview, but Steph McGovern and Kevin Systrom cover quite a bit of ground such as longevity on social media, Instagram’s rivals, kids spending too much time on social media, and so on. For me, however, the key segment is at 1m44s when the interviewer mentions selfies. Kevin Systrom says:

In college and high school I studied Art History. What are like the main subjects? Basically, it’s food and portraits. So, I actually don’t think that we are seeing the emergence of the selfie. I think, actually, this has been a trend throughout history. Pictures of your self for posterity sake. Being able to remember and be nostalgic of a time when either you were younger or were at a place. This is just something that has continued throughout time and I think, now, it is leveraging the fact that you can share it with your friends.


It seems to me like an attempt to gentrify the selfie.


What caught your eye on the web, this week?

Presentation on the challenges of using Twitter for sentiment analysis

As usual, I am sharing you with you my latest presentation. This one was on the topic of using Twitter for sentiment analysis, building on the work done with Yuvraj Padmanabhan (open access paper  available here).


I really don’t want to put you off using Twitter for customer insight. On the contrary – it has lots of benefits (slide 6), and various advantages over other methods of studying the impact of emotions on behaviour (slides 4 and 5). My goal is only to emphasise the issues to watch out for when doing so, and to invest some time in going through your data corpus and tweaking your analysis tool to make sure you really tap into Twitter’s great potential.


Also, really question the suitability of the medium to study what you are interested in. For instance, Pratik Thakar, Head of creative content for Coca-Cola Asia-Pacific, describes social media as a ‘big focus group’, which offers ‘a good way to identify trends and what people are talking about—but not why they are talking’.


Enjoy the presentation, and share your ideas and suggestions with me.

September 2015 round up

A few days ago, my line manager asked me if the start of the semester had felt like a great shock, following the sabbatical. That got me thinking about how different things are now and six months ago, and how I feel about it.

Six months ago I was doing things (reading, writing, meeting, discussing…) in depth, and I was doing things purposefully and with a plan of action. But now, my reading is superficial, my writing is scattered, my meetings are rushed, and my discussions are fragmented. Now, I am jumping from one task to another, and reacting more than acting.

It feels like six months ago I was in this very quite pool, doing lengths back and forth, and now I am in different one with a waves machine. Wave pools are exciting and fun. But someone has turned on the power of the wave machine so high that all I can feel, right now, is waves going up and down, and back and forth. I know that I will enjoy the pool again when someone turns the wave machine down a bit. But, right now, it is not fun at all.

My collection of #5pm pictures is a bit sparse this month, because I was without a phone for several days: first, because my phone had to be repaired; later, because of a poorly timed upgrade. I borrowed an iPad and took some pictures, initially. But the iPad is big and heavy, and I did not carry it with me all the time. So, on some occasions I took a picture well past 5 pm, while on others I forgot to take a picture altogether. Hence the gaps in the slide. But, hey, those gaps are part of my story for this month, too. The absence of pictures on some days tells something.


And now for my usual monthly highlights.


I did some research for a project on the use of social media in the business to business context, and for another one on the sharenting phenomenon and the implications it has for children as consumers. On three occasions, when I talked about the sharenting work with other people, I was asked whether I thought that parents, schools, etc that post information about children on social media are the good guys or the bad guys. This question (and, specially, the fact that it was asked three times) really puzzled me. I don’t see parents, or indeed, sharenting as good or bad per se. Just like parents that drive above the speed limit are not good people or bad people. I am ‘only’ interested in the behaviour, because behaviours are never neutral. They have  consequences. And, so, it is important that we study them, so that we can anticipate (and prevent) big problems. Does that make sense?

09 10Anyway, I am working on a research bid for this sharenting work, which I am deeply excited about… but also deeply frustrated because I really struggle to find the time and, above all, the mind space to work on it, in this ‘pool with a very powerful wave machine’. Can someone turned it down, already? Please.

On a different note, my applications for two small grants were rejected because… the funder has since changed their priorities. Really frustrating.


Writing has been sparse and really fragmented. It isn’t just poor quantity, but also of poor quality, which, I suppose, is to be expected when there are big gaps between each writing session and when the thinking process between each section is so superficial and fragmented.

My priority for October is to go back to routine and purposeful writing (as opposed to binge writing), even when there is too much going on.


IMG_0017This month I developed materials for the modules that I am teaching this semester, including a few podcasts.

09 14

I also have a new PhD student, who is looking at the role of social media in developing relationships between B2B organisations. Though, I am not sure that it is right to put ‘PhD supervision’ in the ‘Teaching’ header because I feel like I learn at least as much as I ‘guide’ (definitely not teach!) the candidate… and this is certainly the case with this new, very bright PhD student.


I went to a meet-up and learned about various Internet of Things applications – for instance, open sensors and their role in flood monitoring and management.

IMG_0415Also, my enforced smartphone detox taught me that my phone is really important for my productivity. I can answer many e-mails and note down things while I am waiting for someone, or on the train. My phone helps me to get out of bed in the morning. I use it to take pictures of things that I want to remember or check later, and it is faster than if I had to write it down somewhere. The podcasts that I listen to on my phone make my grocery shopping more bearable, and I learn something new between the vegetables aisle and the dairy one. And having my calendar at hand makes things a lot more easy and less embarrassing (I avoid to double book myself!).

What were September’s highlights for you?

Coca-Cola: When it comes to customer feedback, negative is more valuable than positive

As I am putting together some notes on the role of Twitter to study sentiment, I come across an interview with Coca-Cola’s head of creative content for Asia-Pacific, Pratik Thakar, here.

Image source: Mr Pratik Thakar’s LinkedIn profile

At one point, Thakar says the following about social media as a source of consumer insight:

I believe that social media is a big focus group. It’s a good way to identify trends and what people are talking about—but not why they are talking.

However, he goes on to say that, in his view, negative statements are more valuable than positive ones:

When people say good things, you don’t just take it as it is. Someone might be asking them to say it; there might be some design mechanism working. But when people are unhappy, they go super-loud, and they are genuine at that time. If someone’s not happy with our packaging or communications, we immediately hear it, and that’s good because [the reaction] can’t be designed or manufactured. If someone says ‘I love Coke, it’s so nice’, I won’t take that as input. So we have to figure it out based on context. I think negativity is more genuine on social media than positivity.

I wrote before about the value of complaints and customer criticism (for instance, here). But I never considered this angle that customers might be more genuine when criticising a brand than when praising it. The value of sentiment analysis of Twitter conversations is quite limited, then. Not just for all the reasons that Yuvraj Padmanabhan and I discuss in this paper (open access), but also because some expressions of sentiment may be more genuine than others.

What do you think of Thakar’s comment?

Unpacking perceived risk in the purchase of services

I am preparing some notes for a Services Marketing module, and thought that I would share this extract with you.

Services are mostly composed of intangible elements, which makes it very difficult for a customer to assess the quality of the service before purchasing it (and, sometimes, even afterwards as in the case of credence goods), as illustrated in this figure from Rushton and Carson 1985 paper ‘The Marketing of Services: Managing the Intangibles’ published in the European Journal of Marketing.


Image source: Rushton and Carson 1985

The difficulty to assess quality before purchase means that the customer is uncertain about the outcome of the purchase and, so, it carries a certain degree of perceived risk. Perceived risk may be different from the actual risk. For instance, for climate change deniers, the perceived risk of climate change is lower than the actual risk. Conversely, the health scare linking the MMR vaccine with autism led to the perceived risk of the vaccination being much higher than the actual one. [UPDATE: after publishing this blog post, I came across this news article, saying that, so far in 2015, more people have died trying to take a selfie than from a shark attack. Hands up who thought that sharks were more lethal than selfies?!]

As these examples illustrate, it is perceived risk that determines the purchaser’s actions, not the actual risk. Hence, it is crucial for a services manager to consider what impacts on perceived risk, and how to manage it. For that end, it is useful to unpack perceived risk into its components. They are:

  • Perceived risk arising from the type of service, and which can be broken down into inherent and outcome risks;
  • Perceived risk that arises from the specific service provider, and which can be broken down into handled and consequent risk.

Risk associated with the service category

Some service categories are perceived as more risky than others. For instance, air travel is perceived as more risky than car travel, even though the former is safer per passenger / mile than the latter. We call this the inherent risk.

The inherent risk becomes more or less influential in the decision making depending on what the customer stands to loose by purchasing the service, i.e., the outcome risk. For instance, when choosing our holiday destination, we assess the risk of incurring not only financial losses, but also wasting our time, suffering frustration or embarrassment, or even putting our well-being or lives at risk.

Inherent and outcome risks tend to increase with lack of familiarity with the service category, and other factors discussed in this blog post by security expert, Bruce Schneier. Managers can reduce the perceived risks associated with the service category by allowing free trials (to increase familiarity), educating consumers about the actual risks, disclosing information about the operations supporting the service delivery, and by offering warranties that reduce the losses for the customer in the event of something going wrong.

Risk associated with the service provider

Within each service category, different brands will be perceived as offering different levels of risk. For instance, unbranded goods are deemed as more risky than branded ones; and new industry players are seen as more risky then well established, incumbent ones. We call this the handled risk.

The handled risk leads to the consequent risk, which is the probability that something will go wrong (and, hence, that the negative outcomes will materialise).

Managers can reduce the perceived handled and consequent risks by increasing familiarity with the brands, providing superior customer service (e.g., provision of relevant information, or 24/7 availability of customer support), using physical evidence to signal quality, partnering with trusted providers (e.g., the brand of shampoo used in an hair salon, or the brand of processor used in a computer), adopting industry standards, or using customer testimonials, among others. In recent years, online customer reviews and electronic word of mouth have become extremely influential in purchase decisions, by shaping the perceived handled and consequent risks.

So, this is my brief note about perceived risk. I am now going to record a podcast for the students. Anything else that I should add?

Day in the Life of an academic #3: welcoming new students

The sabbatical is well and truly over, and the days of focusing on research are just a distant (but cherished) memory. I am now deep into the new semester, busy welcoming the new students (in my role as programme leader for the MSc Marketing), class preparation for the new semester, and dissertation supervision (for students reaching the end of their programmes). For this ‘day in the life’ post, I thought I would focus on last Tuesday (September 15th). It was the day we welcomed a new cohort of MSc Marketing students.

So, here we go.

IMG_0441The alarm goes off at 6h30m, which is quite ‘painful’ as I had a bad night’s sleep. These past few days, as my mobile phone is off to be repaired, I haven’t checked my e-mail, the news, or social media accounts until after breakfast. On this day, however, as there is so much going on, and because I am expecting messages from a couple of colleagues in other time zones, I decide to quickly check my laptop. I answer a couple of urgent queries, quickly read what my colleagues sent me and, then, get ready for the day. Espresso. Always.


IMG_0445I leave the house with the youngest before 8 am. The traffic is not to bad and I arrive on campus just past 8h30m. I even manage to find a parking spot on campus. It is a good start.

I head over to my office, and have a quick chat with another colleague, before settling at my desk. I go through my notes for the morning, and then have a conference call with a colleague to organise the details of a module that I am developing for our MBA students and which we will deliver together.


At about 9h30m, I leave my office and go to another building to set up the room where I will be this morning. I fire up the computer and projector, check that the Internet is working so that I could show students this YouTube video, and prepare the flipcharts and marker pens.


Our new students start arriving at around 10 o’clock. Some are very decisive, entering the room with straight shoulders. Others seem a bit unsure and nervous. For most of them, this is the first time that they leave their country on their own, of course, which is quite a tall order.

At a few minutes past 10, I kick off our induction session. After a brief introduction, I explain the purpose of the session, and ask students what questions they hope to have answered by the end of the session. Then, we have an icebreaker exercise, before we start covering topics such as the structure of the programme, assessment, expectations (ours and theirs), and advice to succeed on the programme ranging from the very pragmatic (time management and resources available) to the heartfelt (like this letter that I wrote to my students a couple of years ago, or this list of common regrets of University graduates).

At 12, I am joined by my colleagues, who have come to meet the new students and introduce themselves. The Dean comes round, too, and chats with the students during lunchtime. Afterwards, there is a session on academic integrity, and a visit to the library.

IMG_0446Sometime between 2h30m and 3 (I can’t recall exactly), I am back in my office for some administrative matters such as reshuffling workload now that we lost a member of staff, or planning my office hours for the semester. Once these tasks are cleared, I spend around one hour searching our electronic journal databases for literature for a project that I am working on, on the use of social media in the business to business context. Finally, I spend some time organising my bookshelf, as I still have things in boxes from when I moved offices over the summer.

I leave my office at around 4h40m to pick up the youngest from school. I misread the e-mail with the instructions of when to collect him. So, when I arrive, he is already waiting for me, whereas I thought that I was arriving early. Not good. We then wait around 45 minutes for the eldest child. Ah well, at least the sun has come out and there is a rainbow.


IMG_0472We head home, stopping at the shop to buy some milk, eggs and bread. The usual family tasks follow, such as preparing dinner and making sure that homework is done. I put the youngest to bed, and then do a bit more work on that MBA module.

I also deal with e-mails. I don’t like dealing with e-mails in the evening, but not having my phone with me during the day does mean that I can not catch up during dead times like waiting for the kettle to boil, and I am seriously behind on sending things that I promised, or replying to urgent queries (of which there are many at this time of the year). Anyway, I am too tired and, so, at 22h25m I call it a day. I read a bit, and spend way too much time playing 1010 (this game is seriously addicting!).

Looking back, I think that this day was all about new starts: new academic year, new modules, new projects. This makes me wonder: Are you starting something new? What do you have planned?