The Management Series

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Dec 2017

Smart Phones Offer Emotional Security, Marketing Opportunity

Warnings about overuse of smart phones are often dire. But one researcher is finding an unexpected upside: phone use can be soothing to adults.

“Smartphones often serve as a sort of adult pacifier for many consumers. It’s providing similar emotional and psychological benefits that a pacifier or security blanket might provide to a child,” Wharton business school marketing professor Shiri Melumad said on a recent Knowledge@Wharton podcast

However, an even more intriguing aspect of Melumad’s findings is that the emotional relationship adults have with their phones is also having an effect on the content created and read on that phone.

“It isn’t just that our phone is simply providing another platform for us to consume content or to generate content online,” she says, “but it also seems to be changing the very nature of the content itself.”

“Specifically,” Melumad explains, “I show that smartphone use is driving the creation of content that is more emotional and more positively emotional relative to the use of comparable devices.”

She suspects and is researching the possibility that content being read—not just created—is consumed differently. She suggests marketers consider ways not just to optimize ads for mobile devices but also whether those ads strike an appealing emotional tone.

“I think advertisers and marketers are mostly focused on whether the visualizations are optimized for mobile but less about how content might actually be fitting depending on the device people are receiving the advertisement on,” she says.

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