Conceptual Consumption: Taste

When you taste a tasty drink, is it really the taste that matters?

It might sound like a stupid question. The answer seems obvious. Of course it is the taste that determines if a drink is tasty or not. But wait a second, is it really that easy? As a matter of fact, the expectations on the drink, matters a great deal on how you experience the taste of it. Expectations is one type of conceptual consumption.

In my last post, you could read about the foundations for conceptual consumption. We learned about physical consumption, for example to buy something to drink. We also learned that everything above the physical consumption can be called conceptual consumption. The expectations of a physical product, is one example of conceptual consumption. It matters very much to the total consumer experience. Let’s look at a fascinating example.

In one great experiment, the participants spent an evening at a bar, comparing different varieties of beer (a vivid dream for some of us). Everyone had to taste regular beer and compare it to beer with the “MIT Brew” that had a special ingredient, namely balsamic vinegar.

The participants were divided into three groups.

●      One group that never got to know about the secret ingredient.

●      One group that learned about the secret ingredient before they tasted the beer

●      One group that learned about the secret ingredient after they tasted the beer.

The results were very interesting for us, interested in consumer psychology. The timing for the reveal of the secret ingredient, had a crucial role in the experience of the taste. The participants that were informed about that the secret ingredient was balsamic vinegar before they took a sip on the glass of beer, rated it as worse that the regular beer. The participants that knew about the balsamic vinegar after they tasted it, rated it as more tasty than the regular beer. And, the participants that never got to know about the balsamic vinegar at all, also rated the “MIT Brew” better than the regular beer.

This is just one example of the importance of expectations and the role it plays for our preferences, experience and consumption. When you understand conceptual consumption, you will be able to create better products, services and concepts for your consumers.

In my next post, you’ll learn about another example of expectations in the important field of health care. Do not miss it!

Reference: Ariely, Dan., Frederick, Shane., Lee, Leonard. (2006) Try It, You’ll Like it. The Influence of Expectation, Consumption, and Revelation on Preferences for Beer. Psychological Science. Vol. 17