Does being cute pay?

Does being cute pay?

Have you ever seen a cute little kitty and felt the urge to pick it up and squeeze it? What about a 2-year-old niece or nephew who has cute chubby cheeks that you had to pinch?

Now ask yourself, would you pinch a 22-year-old niece’s face? What about the hairless cat breed? Would you want to squeeze it?

My guess is that you said yes to the first two questions and not so much to the second set. My guess is also that while you might want to squeeze the kitty, you probably wouldn’t. For the record, I think you probably did go ahead and pinch the toddler’s cheeks.

My questions illustrate a reaction that many people get when they see something cute. If you answered yes to the first two questions, you are not alone. According to research, most people react in an over-the-top way to things they find extremely cute. Sometimes they exclaim, “Oh! It’s just so precious I can’t stand it!” or the ever-popular “I could just eat you up!”

A study done by Rebecca Dyer, a graduate student at Yale, showed that people actually are more aggressive when they are confronted with cuteness. In the study, 90 men and women were invited to watch a slide show. Some were shown a funny slide show, others a neutral slide show, and a third group watched a cute slide show. They were instructed to pop bubbles on the bubble wrap, as many or as little as they wanted just as long as they were engaging in some form of motion. The results showed that the group that watch the cute video popped 120 bubbles while those that viewed the funny and neutral slide show only popped 80 and 100 respectively.

Dyer explains this “aggressive” behavior as normal. She believes that the cute images make us want to care for the creature (cute puppy, wide-eyed baby). Then, because we can’t we react in a negative way with aggression. She compares it to when Ms. America wins the crown and starts bawling her false eyelashes off – too many positive emotions overwhelm her world-peace loving brain.

Now Dyer is not suggesting that if we see a cute baby we are going to sock it in the face because we can’t take it home. Nor is she suggesting that we are going to hurt the puppy in the barn like Steinbeck’s ill-fated character Lenny. But she is describing a phenomenon that explains what makes us pop more bubbles on the wrap and appear to endorse cannibalism (“I am gonna eat you up!”) when we see a particularly cute cat video on YouTube.

Another study, in Psychology Today examines a similar affect of cute on the brain. The study concludes that cute babies’ photos elicit a response in our brain that is different than when shown a picture of an adult, whether we are male or female. Cute is cute and it all make us want to take care of the cute thing. Women, the study says, respond more intensely to pictures of their own babies and children. So there is a reason that your mom tells you that she is your #1 fan. Scientifically speaking, she is.

But even though men and women both react to cute in our brains the same way, women are far more likely to express it. I can’t remember the last time I was out with my guys having a pint and talking about the events of the world, and one of them said, “Did you see that picture of the Royal Baby? Man, that baby was cute. So anyone know who won the match today?” An unlikely scenario, to say the very least.

Branding with Cute

Branding gurus know about the importance of cute. Branding is essentially getting people to like your brand. Being cute is often linked with being liked. So branders are always creating different ways to get cute things associated with their particular brand.

Anthropomorphization is a very long word that means assigning inhuman things human traits. Branders love to do this. That’s why there is a large pitcher with legs and a face that sells us Kool Aid or a Tiger that thinks that Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes are “GRRRREAT!” and tells us so.

But it isn’t just branders in the food industry that do this. Major sports teams do the same thing to make their mascots cute. Take major league baseball as an example. There is a chicken that can dance at San Diego Padres games, a baseball that can put its arm around your kids and take pictures with Mr. Met, and a Phillie that…well, honestly, I don’t even really know what to tell you the Phillie can do.

The humanization of inhuman things is very common in children’s products, particularly as it pertains to entertainment. Here are just a few examples of branders using

Hello Kitty: Cats that wear hair bows and are very committed to greeting you.
Thomas the Train: Trains that can talk to each other and use a lot of facial expression to communicate.
Cars: Vehicles of all kinds that not only talk but have personal relationships with each other and live in towns together.

So why do all of these companies do this? The answer is simple: because it works.

Can cute work for your customer experience?

Cute creates positive emotions. Cute makes you like something more and want to take care of it. Cute is the secret branders have been using for years to get us to buy their drink mixes and cereals, root for their teams, and buy their toys for holidays. But can cute work for your customer experience?

Emotion is a big part of a consumer’s decision making process, making up to 50% of the decision. Designing an emotional experience that capitalizes on this percentage is critical to successfully designing an overall customer experience. Creating a cute mascot is one way to initiate the emotional experience and get some cute in your brand. Then, you design that emotion into your customer experience.

Now please don’t confuse the customer’s process with the customer’s experience. These are two very different things. But they do play off of each other and having them both in mind is critical when you are looking at the process from the outside.
Be sure to ask the five questions that I cover in my post, “Why Journey Mapping Sucks.” These five questions will help you design an emotional experience with our Moment Mapping tool that looks at the emotion, subconscious, and experience psychology.

So now the question is, how are you going to get cute with your customer experience?

Colin Shaw

Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin is an international author of four best-selling books & recognized Business Influencer by LinkedIn. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from our Global Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA.

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