Altering Taste Judgments with Shapes: How and When Shape–Taste Crossmodal Correspondences Can Be Applied in Marketing Designs

94 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2020 Last revised: 24 Nov 2020

See all articles by Fei Gao

Fei Gao

Bentley University - Department of Marketing

Tina M. Lowrey

HEC Paris - Marketing

L. J. Shrum

HEC Paris

Date Written: 2020

Abstract

Crossmodal sensory correspondences between shape and taste are well-established (e.g., angular–bitter, rounded–sweet). However, the extent to which these correspondences reliably influence consumer taste judgments is less clear, as are the processes underlying the effects. This research addresses both issues. Across seven experiments, we show that whether shape–taste correspondences influence taste judgments depends on their associative strength in memory, and that a significant shape–taste correspondence spontaneously affects taste judgments only when its associative strength reaches a sufficient threshold. We further demonstrate the effects in a child development context, in which children’s age, as a naturally occurring proxy of associative strength, moderates shape–taste crossmodal effects on taste judgments. We also demonstrate that the generation of shape–taste crossmodal effects is driven by a simple spreading activation model that is moderated by associative strength, is highly automatic, and occurs even when cognitive and visual resources are constrained. The findings suggest that 1) managers must go beyond establishing simple crossmodal correspondences to determine whether sufficient thresholds are met, 2) the shape–taste associations can apply to products marketed to older children, and 3) the effects are likely to occur even in cognitively noisy retail environments.

Keywords: crossmodal correspondence, sensory marketing, product designs, food marketing, shape symbolism

Suggested Citation

Gao, Fei and Lowrey, Tina and Shrum, L. J., Altering Taste Judgments with Shapes: How and When Shape–Taste Crossmodal Correspondences Can Be Applied in Marketing Designs (2020). HEC Paris Research Paper No. MKG-2020-1398, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3699430 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3699430

Fei Gao (Contact Author)

Bentley University - Department of Marketing ( email )

175 Forest Street
Waltham, MA 02145
United States

Tina Lowrey

HEC Paris - Marketing ( email )

Paris
France

L. J. Shrum

HEC Paris ( email )

1 rue de la Liberation
Jouy-en-Josas Cedex, 78351
France

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