Nomophobia (Smartphone Dependency) Diagnostic Test – Marketing Opportunities and more...

Nomophobia (Smartphone Dependency) Diagnostic Test – Marketing Opportunities


Would you feel lost or uncomfortable without your smartphone? Then you may be suffering from nomophobia – fear of being without your mobile phone (no mobile phobia).

You can self-diagnose yourself for the psychological condition of nomohobia using the new NMP-Q nomophobia test below, developed by Caglar Yildirim at Iowa State University that is to be published this year in Computers in Human Behavior (full thesis).

A recent study suggests that nearly 2/3 of us (66%) suffer from nomophobia – dependency on our smartphone for our psychological wellbeing.  Some call it addiction, others call it evolution. Digital marketers call it an opportunity.

For marketers, the NMP-Q scale items reveal an interesting insight – the root psychology of this situational phobia known as nomophobia appears to be FOMOfear of missing out. Without our smartphones, we feel we may miss out on fun, love, life and fulfilment.  The smartphone is not a gadget, it is a digital umbilical chord connecting us to a fulfilled life.

The marketing implication is clear.  In a mobile-first world, mobile marketing will work best when it plays to this nomophopic fear of missing out – by deploying sites, campaigns and strategies built around ensuring people do not miss out on opportunities.

So whilst we’re all busy adapting our digital properties for Google’s new algorithm to be released next month (with its mobile dictate - be mobile-friendly or be invisible) think beyond responsive design.  Marketing success in  a mobile world means marketing to the nomophobic mobile-mindset.

Nomophobia (Smartphone Dependency) Diagnostic Test

Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with each statement in relation to your smartphone use. (1 = Strongly Disagree, 7 = Strongly Agree)

[Score a majority of 5 and above is an indication of nomophobia (smartphone dependency) – see full report for additional weightings/caveats]

  1. I would feel uncomfortable without constant access to information through my smartphone.
  2. I would be annoyed if I could not look information up on my smartphone when I wanted to do so.
  3. Being unable to get the news (e.g., happenings, weather, etc.) on my smartphone would make me nervous.
  4. I would be annoyed if I could not use my smartphone and/or its capabilities when I wanted to do so.
  5. Running out of battery in my smartphone would scare me.
  6. If I were to run out of credits or hit my monthly data limit, I would panic.
  7. If I did not have a data signal or could not connect to Wi-Fi, then I would constantly check to see if I had a signal or could find a Wi-Fi network.
  8. If I could not use my smartphone, I would be afraid of getting stranded somewhere.
  9. If I could not check my smartphone for a while, I would feel a desire to check it.

If I did not have my smartphone with me,

  1. I would feel anxious because I could not instantly communicate with my family and/or friends.
  2. I would be worried because my family and/or friends could not reach me.
  3. I would feel nervous because I would not be able to receive text messages and calls.
  4. I would be anxious because I could not keep in touch with my family and/or friends.
  5. I would be nervous because I could not know if someone had tried to get a hold of me.
  6. I would feel anxious because my constant connection to my family and friends would be broken.
  7. I would be nervous because I would be disconnected from my online identity.
  8. I would be uncomfortable because I could not stay up-to-date with social media and online networks.
  9. I would feel awkward because I could not check my notifications for updates from my connections and online networks.
  10. I would feel anxious because I could not check my email messages.
  11. I would feel weird because I would not know what to do.


‘Brand Authenticity’ Definition and Measurement Scale [Study]


Does ‘brand authenticity’ matter to you? Is your brand – either the one you buy or work for – an authentic brand? And what the heck is ‘brand authenticity’ anyway?

Answers are revealed in an eminently useful new 15 point scale – the Perceived Brand Authenticity Scale (PBA Scale – below) – to be published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology by an international team of researchers from the Universities of Lausanne and Bern in Switzerland, and Concordia and l’Université du Québec in Canada.

So what precisely is ‘brand authenticity’? The developers of the Perceived Brand Authenticity scale reviewed research to date to cut through loose thinking and ambiguity and crystallise the idea in a clear and simple definition

Definition of Perceived Brand Authenticity

“The extent to which consumers perceive a brand to be faithful toward itself, true to its consumers, motivated by caring and responsibility, and able to support consumers in being true to themselves”

In other words perceived brand authenticity has four key components

  • Continuity (brand being faithful to itself),
  • Credibility (true to its consumers),
  • Integrity (motivated by caring and responsibility)
  • Symbolism (support consumers in being true to themselves)

These four dimensions capture the key idea that authenticity is far more than a simple ‘objective’ attribute; authenticity has psychological, subjective and symbolic value too – authentic brands are true to us personally, stand for what we stand for, and help us be true to ourselves.

So, does your brand have brand authenticity?

To answer this question as simply as possible, ask consumers to rate your brand (and competitor brands) on the 15 question Perceived Brand Authenticity (PBA) scale (anchored 1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree).

[Whilst the researchers propose weighting responses, as a practical first pass, simply add the scores to compare relative performance out of a possible total of 105].

Perceived Brand Authenticity Scale

On a seven point scale, (7 = Strongly Agree, 1 = Strongly Disagree*), to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following

[Brand X] is

1. A brand with a history
2. A timeless brand
3. A brand that survives time
4. A brand that survives trends

5. A brand that will not betray you
6. A brand that accomplishes its value promise
7. An honest brand

8. A brand that gives back to its consumers
9. A brand with moral principles
10. A brand true to a set of moral values
11. A brand that cares about its consumers

12. A brand that adds meaning to people’s lives
13. A brand that reflects important values people care about
14. A brand that connects people with their real selves
15. A brand that connects people with what is really important

* 7 = Strongly Agree, 6 = Agree, 5 = Somewhat agree, 4 = Neither agree nor disagree, 3 = Somewhat disagree, 2 = Disagree, 1 = Strongly Disagree

Finally, does brand authenticity matter?

In initial research with consumers, the developers of the PBA Scale have used the scale to successfully validate the belief among marketers that brand authenticity is a driver of brand choice. Brand authenticity does matter because brand authenticity drives sales.

From a psychological perspective, this makes sense. In a world where we use brands not only to reduce risk when buying, but also to express ourselves, validate ourselves and manage our image, brand authenticity matters because personal authenticity matters. By buying brands with brand authenticity, we are saying something about our personal authenticity.



Titles, Taglines and Captions – When Questions Sell [Study]

watch for you

‘Apple Watch – the watch for you?’ vs. ‘Apple Watch – the watch for you’.

Which makes for more persuasive marketing copy – whether as a title selling an article, or a tagline selling a product?

It all depends on your mood.

If you’re feeling calm, and see a title, tagline or marketing copy and in question format, then you are more likely to find it more persuasive.  If however, you’re feeling excited, then an imperative statement will be more persuasive.

That’s the central finding of a new study to be published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology by Henrik Hagtvedt of Boston College.  260 shoppers participated in a field experiment where their mood was manipulated with music to put them in an excited (high arousal) state or a calm (low arousal) state, and who were then exposed to promotional phrases.

It would seem that when we’re excited about something (in a state of high emotional arousal), questions are an unwelcome distraction and lose their effectiveness.

The implication for marketers is that we should consider question formats when we believe our audience is likely to be in a relaxed, calm or even bored state, and stick to statements when the audience is likely to be in an excited state.

  • Use Questions when audience mood is likely to be: content, serene, calm, relaxed, sleepy, tired, bored, depressed or miserable
  • Use Statements when audience mood is likely to be: pleased, happy, delighted, astonished, excited, alarmed, afraid, angry, annoyed or frustrated

For example, we should consider the where our ad appears – if it’s alongside exciting content, we should craft copy in the imperative, rather than use questions. Same for point of sale copy at a nightclub, event or venue where emotional arousal level of the audience is likely to be elevated. On the other hand, in a ‘chill’ environment or even when boredom is likely to be high (and arousal low) i.e. in wait ‘marketing’ situations such as standing in line, a question is likely to be more effective. Of course usual caveats apply, this is one study, and the implications are preliminary – but interesting nonetheless.

Hagtvedt, H. (2015). Promotional Phrases as Questions versus Statements: An Influence of Phrase Style on Product Evaluation. Journal of Consumer Psychology.






Promotional Phrases as Questions versus Statements: An Influence of Phrase Style on Product Evaluation


This research investigates consumer responses to simple promotional phrases styled (i.e., framed) as questions versus statements and the moderating role of arousal. Study results indicate that under low arousal, questions have a more favorable influence on product evaluation than statements do; this influence is mediated by the perceived interestingness of the phrase. Under high arousal, the influence is reversed, and it is mediated by perceived clarity. The differential influence of phrase style (framing as question vs. statement) also extends to purchase behavior among consumers in a supermarket.







How to use #thedress to increase marketing effectiveness [Study]


Whether you are white and gold or blue and black, a new psychological study in Cognition, the International Journal of Cognitive Science,  shows that showing you perceptual illusions similar to #thedress increases your openness to attitude-change.

In the experiment people who were shown visual tricks – not dissimilar to #thedress – showed reduced confidence in their own opinions and indicated a greater willingness to change those opinions.  Although the study, conducted by psychologists at the University of Alabama, focused on social opinions (attitudes to people not brands), the psychological mechanism should hold for brands too; when we are confronted with experiences that show perception is not reality, we become less closed-minded, less sure of our opinions and more open to change.

Given one of marketing’s key mandates is to change people’s opinions about brands, could using a visual illusion in an ad or marketing collateral increase marketing effectiveness?

Hart, W., Tullett, A. M., Shreves, W. B., & Fetterman, Z. (2015). Fueling doubt and openness: Experiencing the unconscious, constructed nature of perception induces uncertainty and openness to changeCognition137, 1-8.






Because people lack access to the many unconscious thought processes that influence perception, they often have the experience of seeing things “as they are”. Psychologists have long presumed that this “naïve realism” plays a role in driving human confidence and closed-mindedness. Yet, surprisingly, these intuitive links have not been empirically demonstrated. Presumably, if naïve realism drives confidence and closed-mindedness, then disabusing people of naïve realism should reduce confidence in one’s judgments and instill openness to change. In the present experiment, we found that participants who read about naïve realism and also experienced various perceptual illusions showed reduced confidence in their social judgments and indicated a greater willingness to change their judgments relative to participants who merely read about naïve realism and perceptual illusions, participants who received failure feedback on an earlier task, or participants left in a baseline state. Broadly, the present research provides evidence for an untested origin of human confidence and closed-mindedness and may have broad implications for decision making.



The Magical Psychology of the ‘Uber for X’ Economy


Mashable calls ‘Magic‘ the logical extreme of the ‘Uber for X’ economy.  Magic is an on-demand mobile service where you simply text whatever you want – yes whatever you want – to Magic’s number, and they’ll get you it for a pre-agreed fee, paid on mobile via Stripe.  Started last week, Magic has received 18,000 requests in the first 72 hours.

Has the Uber-for-X economy jumped the shark?  Not if you believe the Economist, weighing in with the suggestion that an on-demand mobile workforce is the future (and the French business paper Les Echos joined in yesterday).  Bad news for people who value stability more than flexibility, but good news for the agile.  And from a business perspective, Magic is a brilliant blueprint for other budding Uber-for-X startups because it’s stripped right down to the bares essentials of what an on-demand mobile service needs to be.  No fancy tech – just text.

But it’s from a psychological perspective that Magic, Handy, Uber and the burgeoning category of on-demand mobile services are particularly interesting.  Of course, from a rational choice perspective, these services make sense because they cost us less – not in money, but in time and effort.  They offer convenience value, and their front-end apps are examples of ‘convenience tech’.  Beyond this though, there is some interesting magical psychology behind Magic – and other Uber-for-X businesses.

In a meta-analysis of magical beliefs – from alien abductions to cults, to supernatural happenings and pseudoscience – Michael Shermer has identified the three common components that made us susceptible to these ‘magical’ ideas.

  • Instant Gratification – magical ideas offer immediate rewards. For example, when you join a cult, the first thing that happens is that you get ‘love-bombed’ – other cult members will fawn over you, giving you a ego-boosting ‘I matter’ feeling.
    • Uber-for-X businesses and convenience tech do precisely the same, they offer instant gratification – playing to our impatience, and our desire for immediate satisfaction
  • Simplification – magical ideas simplifypeoples lives and beliefs.  For example, cults often have simple ‘black-and-white’ beliefs, and simple instructions for how to live the good life.  They simplify a complicated world for us
    • By saving us effort, convenience tech and Uber-for-X businesses play to our drive and desire to simplify our lives and strip out the hassle-factor
  • Credo-Consolans (I believe because it is comforting) – magical ideas give us comforting hope and purpose in the face of mortality and futility. Cults and supernatural beliefsprovide an ego-boosting dose of immortality and higher-purpose, whilst shielding us from the realisation that we are ultimately all just worm-food
    • Uber-for-X businesses and convenience tech create the comforting illusion that the world revolves around you – a self-aggrandising trick that the world is on-demand for you, and yes, it really is ‘all about me’.  As Uber’s tagline goes – ‘everyone’s private driver’.

So whilst the Uber economy has economic and rational appeal, it also has psychological and emotional appeal, playing to our predisposition for ‘magical’ ideas that offer instant gratification, simplicity and comfort.








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