Lindsay McShane understands marketing, in fact, she eats, sleeps, and breathes marketing, and has for the last 15 years. With three degrees in the discipline and years of research, it is inspiring that she has also weaved in growing a family with three little ones to call her own. But, as a highly accomplished scholar, it really comes as no surprise.
McShane grew up in Ottawa. She earned her BA in Marketing from Bishop’s University for which she received a highly acclaimed full scholarship for all four years and graduated as the top marketing graduate! After working in industry as a marketing researcher for a few years, she wanted to deepen her knowledge of marketing research, so pursued an MSc and PhD in Marketing. It was here that she found her passion for both academia and for marketing, specifically, in consumer behaviour and psychology, and has never looked back. McShane is working on projects that are at the leading-edge of marketing research and one might even say she has an uncanny ability to see through the generality of what is happening in her field and find the pearl in the oyster—the hidden gem!
McShane’s research includes a variety of projects under two main operating streams—consumer psychology looking at social-emotional influences on consumer behaviour and ethical decision-making, and digital brand engagement. The overarching mix of projects is quite eclectic—a reflection of McShane’s passion for academia and research, and how she fosters ideas from one project to create new projects, allowing her research program to flourish organically.
McShane understands that consumer behaviour is an essential part of any business. It is all about understanding how and why consumers feel, think, and act the way that they do. In this fascinating area where marketing and the complexities of the human psyche overlap, McShane has many active projects that aim to demonstrate how consumers use social, emotional, and product-level cues to inform their judgements and perceptions.
McShane sees a hidden gem in understanding the phenomenon where consumers interpret a brand’s relatively innocuous actions as akin to a “slap in the face.” That is, when a consumer feels personally slighted by a brand or business that they feel has done them wrong, namely with respect to pricing. McShane, along with a colleague, first recognized this phenomenon when thousands of Netflix customers described their disdain on Netflix’s blog page following a seemingly harmless price increase. McShane was immediately perplexed and intrigued by this prevalent and powerful response—a response that she describes as a “taking-it-personally” bias. Working under a SSHRC grant, McShane and her co-author target their research to better understand why consumers react in such a strong and negative way towards seemingly banal firm actions. McShane is interested in the relational point of view—how can the simple act of pricing make a consumer feel devalued? When and why do consumers take it personally? She explores how this powerful force can be mitigated so that consumers understand that pricing decisions by businesses are an essential business strategy rather than a personal attack.
“With more dynamic pricing because of variation in exposure via the internet, we will see consumers being charged differently. How this will impact consumers and how they respond regarding their purchasing behaviour is of great interest and important to consider.”
What is fascinating about her work is that she is solving a little piece of that human psyche puzzle with research findings that are highly valuable toward effective marketing strategies
and gaining consumer confidence and loyalty.
The new and exciting area of digital brand engagement, a focus of McShane’s current research, once again happened organically. By teaching the digital marketing course, an interesting and yet unexpected gem surfaced in the form of an emoji. Emojis are small digital images or icons used to express an idea or emotion. There is a lot of literature on the use of images in communications and how to use them effectively, however, the effectiveness of emojis in online brand-consumer communications is largely unknown. To date, McShane has looked at this from the impact of emojis, as well as other media tools (hashtags, embedded media, and deservingness claims) and their effects on consumer engagement. She is currently examining the digital content of leading consumer brands’ social platforms to determine how and where emojis are used and looking at how emojis influence the efficacy of communication in both a business-to-business and business-to-consumer context.
“There is something unique about emojis, and how they affect our perceptions on many levels, that we don’t quite understand yet.”
Here is where McShane gets excited: her current data shows clear trends—how emojis are being used, and how and where they are highly effective, but what the data does not show is the “why” piece of the puzzle. McShane recognizes the need to tease this out, so she is running controlled experiments parallel to the analysis of large scraped datasets to flesh out the big picture. What makes her research so cutting edge is that businesses are now actively engaging with consumers through digital platforms to join consumer conversations using embedded images, such as emojis, and essentially changing the landscape for meaningful communication. McShane’s contributions in this area will clearly further the understanding of how businesses and brands can navigate this digital world and continue to foster relationships with their consumers and other businesses.
Who would have ever thought that those cute little emojis would have such a huge effect on consumer behavior? Well, McShane did, and lucky for Sprott, she is one of their not-sohidden gems!
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