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Tuesday, Jul. 17, 2007 at 5:51 am

How Testosterone Affects Marketing

By Holly Buchanan
July 17th, 2007

Much of today’s marketing is targeted at the “alpha male.” This is the guy who’s seeking status and bragging rights; the guy who wants to impress the girls and make other guys envious. But did you know this so-called “alpha male” is also more generous than his lower testosterone cohorts?

The Neuromarketing blog tells of recent a study in the New Scientist in which male participants played “The Ultimate Game” while their testosterone levels were measured.

The Ultimatum Game gives one player money and lets that player divide it between himself and another player. The second player can accept or refuse the split. If the second player refuses the allocation, neither player receives any money. While pure self interest would predict that the second player should always accept the split in order to receive some money instead of nothing, in reality offers perceived as low or unfair are often declined. In this case, the first player was given $40 and the option of offering the other player either $25 or $5.

What the study found was the highest testosterone levels were more likely to refuse the $5 offer. They felt it was unfair.

[The researcher] thinks the high testosterone males decline “unfair” offers not to punish the other player but to avoid appearing socially submissive.

But here’s something else they found:

Interestingly, the high testosterone males were more generous with their own offers.

Wow, I didn’t see that one coming. “Generous” is not an adjective I would normally apply to an “alpha male.” But that’s the whole problem with stereotypes. So, how does this affect marketing?

A high-testosterone customer might pay a high price for an item if it would seem to enhance his social standing – ordering a pricey premium vodka, for example, when with a group of friends. On the other hand, that same buyer might decline to buy something expensive that might make him look weak or foolish. To confound marketers, it’s possible that the social setting could produce a different result.

Lots of interesting stuff. Read the whole article…

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Comments (3)

  1. links for 2007-07-18…

    How Testosterone Affects Marketing Not as silly as it sounds, and well worth a look. Low prices may sometimes have the wrong effect. (tags: advertising) You Mean There’s a Better Way? – Worse Than Failure Users do NOT report problems. It’s not becau…

  2. [...] recently wrote about a study on "alpha males." The research involved measuring men's testosterone level while they played The Ultimate [...]

  3. Males and Testosterone, i think you hit the nail on the head. Being a web marketer it is amazing to me how many people want big terms that won’t convert.

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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