A Demo Does It

Isometric stand with promoter and customers. Promotional booth with advertising poster. Blank mockup. Vector illustration.

An associate shows customers how to cook a rosemary chicken dinner in your local grocery store. Your favorite TikTok influencer demonstrates a new planner system to optimize his schedule. A Costco employee shows how a new form of cleaner can get grease out of anything. If you look around, you’ll find product demonstrations almost everywhere products are sold, and they fall into two broad categories: process demonstrations, where the entire process of using a product is shown step-by-step, and outcome demonstrations, which showcase the end result.

But which is more effective, process or outcome demonstrations? This is one of the questions studied In “Does Your Demonstration Tell the Whole Story? How a Process Mindset and Social Presence Impact the Effectiveness of Product Demonstrations,” published last spring in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science by Culverhouse’s Dr. Christine Ringler along with collaborators Nancy J. Sirianni (Texas State University), Joann Peck (University of Wisconsin), and Anders Gustafsson (Norwegian Business School, Alliance Manchester Business School).

Ringler and her collaborators found that people are more invested in process demonstrations than product demonstrations, and are in fact more likely to buy as a result of being shown, step-by-step, how to use a product. However, the presence of other people can get in the way. If a process demonstration involves other people, it reduces the chances of making a sale, probably because a crowd—even an online, virtual crowd—distracts the potential buyer and focuses their attention on the actions of others.

The takeaway for marketers? Use process demonstrations to sell products, but keep the numbers small. One-on-one, if possible.

“From in-store to TikTok, product demonstrations are everywhere,” Ringler said. “It’s important for marketers to understand how to optimize the demonstration to keep consumers involved.”

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Zach thomas

Director of Marketing & Communications