Happiness and the Betty Crocker Effect

Those who’ve jumped on the bandwagon of that often-superficial beast we call behavioural economics know all too well about the mysterious power of the so-called Ikea Effect.  This is the tendency to place a higher value on an item we have had some role in constructing ourselves compared to a comparable product ready-made for us.  It may be a crap and badly-assembled chest of drawers, but it’s my chest of drawers, and it’s worth far more than than pristine and well-crafted dresser you’ve got!

Personally, I always refer to this as the Betty Crocker Effect as it was the motivational researcher Ernest Dichter who first exploited this phenomenon when he told the world-famous cake company to amend its recipes so consumers were required to add a quite unnecessary egg to its cake mixes with a quite dramatic effect on sales.  Because of the egg, American consumers felt more like they were “baking” a cake themselves and so loved the end results more.

Whatever we call this variant of the goole-old endowment effect (over-valuing something we already own), its impact on both perceived monetary value and affection for the product is well established.  A recent post by Utpal Dholakia over on the Psychology Today blog, however, suggests that the power of the Betty Crocker Effect may be far greater than we first thought.  Revising recent studies in this area, mostly surrounding food products, Dholakia points out that products involving a degree of self-creation tend to be consumed more mindfully and responsibly.  For instance, we tend to be less likely to over-indulge, waste food or experience feelings of post-consumption guilt.  In short, we eat healthier and develop far more positive perceptions of our own health in the process. Most importantly, perhaps, we actually enjoy the product more too.

With the growth of self-creation, especially in the FMCG sector, there are some really useful potential marketing messages here, as well as some possible new ways of encouraging responsible and sustainable consumption practices along the way.

Categories: Emotion, Motivation