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Why they put puppy photos on toilet paper

If you’ve ever wondered why the supermarket toilet paper aisle features more puppies and kittens than a pet shop, it’s because of people like Simon Preece and the ancient, reptilian part of your brain.

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You know that the puppies and kittens are supposed to make you buy the products – and you think you’re not falling for it.

Simon knows how to make sure you do.

Mr Preece is a brand consultant – his title is “head of effectiveness stuff” at multi-award winning UK brand design consultancy Elmwood.

His job is to design product packages that make people want to buy them.

To do this, Mr Preece and his team use pioneering tools that employ how the human brain works at its most basic emotional level.

The tools are called biomotive triggers, and they are the latest development in the field of sensory marketing.

Biomotive triggers use understanding of the brain’s primal responses – like fight-or-flight and the nurturing instinct – to create a product that makes consumers respond, whether they know it or not.

Those puppy eyes gazing out from the eight-pack of toilet paper aren’t just a cute picture: everything from the size of the eyes to the angle of the dog’s head and how it sits, a little mournfully, in the bottom corner of the pack is calculated to send a message of “take me home”.

“As long as you are a human being you will respond to certain stimulus in a given way,” Mr Preece says.

“They are subconscious and they generate emotion and action without the conscious side of the brain clicking in – so what we basically appeal to is the reptilian part of the brain.”

Biomotive triggers were developed from the work of an Australian musician and scientist, Manfred Clynes, who created a theory of “sentic triggers” in the 1970s.

The triggers are expressed in pairs, such as cusps and curves, slender and chunky, agitation and calm.

Cusps – curved points – signal fear and danger, Mr Preece says – think claws and shark’s teeth, while curves represent safety and softness.

Cusps grab attention, curves encourage interaction. Each has a purpose for a story a brand wants to tell.

“When we come into this world we’re delivered onto our mothers’ stomachs, we nuzzle in for our first breastfeed and we’re surrounded by curved shapes,” Mr Preece says.

“Heavy metal bands write their names in cusps – it says `we’re aggressive, we’re dangerous’.”

Olive oil is an example of slender-chunky: regular oil is in a thick, chunky bottle, while pricey extra virgin is in a tall, slim bottle that says ” premium product – pay more”.

Enormous amounts of money and creativity are expended on the appearance of products but Mr Preece says a lot of marketing misses something.

“We analyse the consumer like a laboratory rat but we actually forget that at one level we are just human beings,” he says.

“We get information overload, so the consumer now is world-class at screening out marketing communication.

“If you are going to cut through you have to be amazing.”

Elmwood’s biomotive approach has delivered results: in the UK, six years of declining sales for Andrex toilet paper were turned around by rethought packaging that felt and looked classier and used a redesigned puppy photo.

Sales of an own-brand baby moisturising cream jumped 70 per cent after a nondescript bottle was reshaped with curves and a cute cleft to suggest a bub’s bottom.

In Australia a packaging redesign for Carman’s muesli and bars delivered a big boost in supermarket sales.

Elmwood counts some of the world’s biggest brands among its clients, including Nestle, Walmart and Procter and Gamble, while supermarket giant Coles is among the Australian clients.

Sensory design and marketing might sound like elaborate trickery but Mr Preece says that is not the case because if a product is no good, no amount of emotion will help.

“What you can’t do is force people to do something against their will,” Mr Preece says.

“People will have an emotional relationship with brands – we do it all the time – but what we’re working on is help build and design in the feelings that the brands want to communicate.

“At the end of the day consumer has all the power. All you can do is try to engage them.”

Brazilian host city scraps Fan Fest

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke has criticised the decision of a Brazilian host city to cancel its Fan Fest, saying the event, which allows thousands of fans to watch games for free on large screens, is an important part of the World Cup.

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Valcke made his comment on Sunday after the northeastern city of Recife said it will not spend public money on a Fan Fest, which lets fans without tickets watch matches in public areas.

“Not having a Fan Fest is a mistake, to make it very clear,” Valcke said.

While Recife was the first city to officially cancel the event, others among the 12 host cities have expressed concerns about whether it is worth spending public money on events which usually combine football with musical and cultural attractions. Local vendors are not allowed in the Fan Fest and only official World Cup sponsors can sell products inside the Fan Fest area.

Valcke dismissed the idea that FIFA profits from such events, saying they are something “for the city” and the local fans.

“A Fan Fest is a big part of the organisation of the World Cup,” Valcke said. “If you don’t have a Fan Fest, you are missing something … (the) kind of communion of people playing a game, playing a part of what a World Cup is for a country.”

Fan Fests first became part of the official FIFA program in Germany in 2006, following the huge success of unofficial public viewing events in South Korea in 2002. In 2010, the idea was expanded so that not only did South African host cities stage Fan Fests, but six other international venues also held events.

Valcke is in Brazil for an inspection tour of three host cities. His stop on Sunday was in the jungle city of Manaus, which has confirmed a Fan Fest for about 35,000 people on match days next June.

The secretary general arrives as the country continues to struggle to finish its World Cup preparations. With less than four months before the opener, five stadiums remain under construction, and there are still doubts whether the southern city of Curitiba will remain in the tournament amid significant delays in stadium construction.

The Socceroos are set to play Spain on June 23 at Curitiba.

Valcke will visit the capital Brasilia on Monday and then goes to the southern city of Porto Alegre, where another problem awaits him. Local officials are continuing to fight over who will pay the nearly $13 million needed to build the temporary facilities required by FIFA outside the venue.

Hooker impressed by vault world record

Steve Hooker would love to have been the man to finally consign one of pole vault supremo Sergey Bubka’s world records to the history books.

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Five years ago, as the reigning world and Olympic champion, the Australian looked the athlete most likely to challenge Bubka’s legendary outdoor and indoor world marks, which had stood unchallenged since the early 1990s.

Hooker’s life has since taken a different tack, the Australian now a husband and proud father, budding TV star and club-level sprinter.

The 31-year-old still hasn’t ruled out a return to vaulting.

But right now, it’s on the backburner, with family the No.1 priority and his Russian wife Katya Kostetskaya eyeing a return to the track in the 800m for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

After high-profile disappointments at the 2011 world titles and the London Olympics, Hooker split with long-time coach Alex Parnov and spent time past year in the US with the squad of Dan Pfaff, the coach of 1996 Olympic 100m champion Donovan Bailey.

“I’m not retired but I’m just doing the sport to enjoy it right now,” Hooker told AAP.

“The last few years of pole vaulting were not a lot of fun for me.

“But I had a really positive experience going to Arizona and training with Dan.

“I haven’t jumped since July last year but I am still in shape.

“I feel like I’m running fast enough, I’m strong enough and fit enough that if I wanted to have another go at it, I could.

“It’s a more complicated decision than people understand and I want to take my time with that decision.”

Bubka’s indoor world mark of 6.15m and outdoor best of 6.14m had both stood for 20 years before Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie soared over 6.16m indoors in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Saturday.

Hooker, who still sits third on the alltime indoor world list with 6.06m, estimates he had half a dozen cracks at Bubka’s marks throughout his career.

“I got to the point where I had my head around jumping the height and it was just a matter of putting it into practice on a particular day,” he said.

“But you don’t get many opportunities.

“There have only been four or five guys in the last 20 years who have got to a point in a competition where they have put the bar up to that mark and probably only two or three of them were actually realistic chances of jumping it.

“You’ve got to have had a season and a number of years in a row where you have got to a level mentally where you can jump at the height.

“And in that competition you need to have retained enough energy and be at that optimal point when you’re attempting the world record.”

Hooker is satisfying his competitive urge by contesting the sprints for his club Box Hill and will have a crack at the 200m at the upcoming Victorian titles.

Man City on guard for Barcelona in ECL

Barcelona appear to have hit form with ominous timing for Champions League knockout-phase debutants Manchester City ahead of Tuesday’s last-16 first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

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After one win in four Spanish league games, Barcelona have won their past two matches emphatically, scoring 10 goals in the process.

Following a 4-1 success at Sevilla, Saturday’s 6-0 demolition of Rayo Vallecano strengthened their position on top of the table on goal difference from Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

The game featured a goal-scoring return from injury for Neymar.

“Now the best part of the season, where all the games are important, is upon us,” captain Carles Puyol said.

“We are facing a very good team with great players, but Barcelona always believe in their own chances. We are in good form and it will be a very even tie.”

City could scarcely have asked for more daunting opposition in what will be their first knockout game in the post-1992 Champions League era, but Manuel Pellegrini’s side can also take heart from their weekend result.

After two games without victory, the 2012 English champions beat Chelsea 2-0 in the FA Cup fifth round.

Samir Nasri believes it was ideal preparation for Barcelona’s visit.

“It is a massive game,” said the French midfielder, back from a five-week injury layoff.

“Every player wants to play those kind of games – Champions League, last 16, against Barcelona. The good thing is we are really strong. We have our confidence back.

“I think they are weaker than they were two years ago.”

With James Milner suspended and Fernandinho a doubt with injury, Javi Garcia is in line to partner Yaya Toure in midfield, while top scorer Sergio Aguero is expected to miss out with a knee problem.

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has the rare luxury of a fully-fit squad to choose from.

Despite demonstrating his fitness, Brazilian superstar Neymar is expected to be on the bench, but Xavi is likely to come back in after being rested on Saturday.

With Lionel Messi scoring 10 goals in 11 games since his return to fitness, Pellegrini feels that reports of Barca’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

“Any coach would love to have the roster that Barca has.

“Barca have 12 wonderful players. Messi, Xavi, (Andres) Iniesta, Neymar, Cesc (Fabregas), Pedro – they are full of great players.

Taxes remain a drag on small business

A leading business group believes small firms have suffered more under a carbon pricing regime than their larger counterparts.

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The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s latest small business survey for the December quarter shows firms continue to face difficult conditions and are less upbeat than larger companies.

Profits, sales and employment remain weak and as a result investment continues to struggle.

Business taxes and government charges are seen as the number one constraint on small business investment for a 12th successive quarter, which the chamber says demonstrates the need for tax reform as a priority.

Its acting chief economist Burchell Wilson said the government’s focus on repealing the carbon tax was appropriate, adding the impost was a key factor undermining small businesses.

Energy-intensive, trade exposed industries and households were provided with compensation when the carbon tax was introduced, he said.

“Small businesses on the other hand were provided with absolutely no compensation … largely on the assumption that they would be able to pass this cost on to consumers,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

“There wasn’t a lot of evidence to support that assumption.”

The latest survey showed the small business conditions index rising to 43.2 points for the final three months of 2013 from 42.5 points in the September quarter but remaining below the 50-mark that separates contraction from expansion.

Sales revenue remained in contraction, recording the longest period below 50 in the 18-year history of the survey, while the profits index was a limp 36.2 points.

The one positive was a second consecutive rise above 50 points for expected economic conditions.