Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information (2014)

I enjoy reading books, when time permits, from the Toronto Public Library.

Among recent books I’ve enjoyed is: Absolute Value (2014).

You can read a February 11, 2014 Forbes review of the book here.

“Absolute value” refers, in this context, to the experienced quality of a product. The authors argue that consumers are becoming “less susceptible to context or framing manipulations” (p. x) when choosing which products or experiences they wish to buy. Instead of listening to marketers, they have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other consumers, and from experts.

They also discuss the form of scamming known as review fraud. According to the above-noted Forbes review, how the matter of review fraud plays out over the next few years “will determine whether Simonson and Rosen’s work has lasting value.”

Frame, context, and situation

I can think of situations where frames and framing are – and remain – key elements in the shaping of perception. As well, when online users or experts share information about the experience that a person can except to have with a given product, that in itself entails framing.

But these may be matters of semantics. What Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen outline in the book is of value and of interest. What the authors communicate is that how we go about making purchasing decisions is changing, as are the roles of brands, branding, and marketing.

That said, another book that I’ve recently much enjoyed encountering is Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Changes Your World (2011).

Interaction between performer and audience

The Forbes book review referred to above notes that brand marketing “involves a dialectic between the brand and consumers. Marketers define, consumers evaluate, marketers retool and consumers judge.”

To put it another way, a third variable, aside from (a) absolute (experiential) value and (b) framing, is (c) the interaction between the performer and the audience – however we care to define who’s a performer and who is an audience. Among the best overviews that I’ve encountered, concerning the latter interaction, especially with regard to concepts such as charisma, is: Two Cheers for Anarchism (2012). Charisma is strongly influenced by context. In the latter study, a speech in which Martin Luther King connects with characteristic intensity with an audience, at a key presentation in the history of the American Civil Rights Movement, is analyzed from the perspective of what the speaker learned, moment by moment, from the audience as a highly charged and powerful speaking event unfolded.


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