A new study, recreating real-world marketplace conditions, shows that positive feelings evoked by ads can create positive feelings toward brands, both directly and indirectly. This applies to all products, although hedonistic products show the greatest impact of ads on brand attitudes.
Previous academic studies have connected how people feel about an ad to how they feel about the brand, but the validity of these results in the real world marketplace was of some concern. These studies only involved small groups of participants, often students, answering questions about a small sample of ads. A new study that involved 1500 viewers watching 1000 actual television advertisements, however, confirms the results of the earlier studies. The feeling evoked by an ad will impact the feeling elicited by the brand. A pleasant ad will trigger a positive attitude about the brand; an unpleasant ad will have the opposite effect.
Ad-evoked feelings have both direct and indirect effects on brand evaluations. One direct effect may be pleasantness by association: The pleasant feeling evoked by a warm-hearted advertisement, for example, becomes, through association, incorporated into the consumer’s evaluation of the brand. In some cases, consumers may interpret their momentary feelings during the advertisement as indicative of how much they like (or dislike) the brand.
These automatic or direct effects, however, are in the minority. For the majority of consumers, an advertisement will generate an explicit attitude toward that advertisement (for example, “I like this ad” or “This ad is well made”). Consumers will then evaluate the brand influenced in large part on this attitude toward the ad.
Some consumers will make a cognitive assessment of the ad (for example, “this ad gives useful information” or “this ad is believable”) and then base their feelings about the brand on this cognitive assessment. But the impact of ad-evoked feelings on a consumer’s evaluation of the brand is mostly linked to changes in attitude toward the ad.
Most product category characteristics do not seem to make a difference on how much ad-evoked feelings impact brand evaluations. Product category characteristics include:
Whether the products are durable or not, or whether they are search products or experience products has no impact on the effects of ad-evoked feelings. Neither does customer involvement. However, the effects are more pronounced for hedonic rather than utilitarian products. The feelings evoked by ads for a vacation in the Bahamas (for example) will have a greater influence on the attitude of the consumer toward that vacation than the feelings evoked by ads for life insurance.
The study has obvious implications for business. Advertisements should be designed to evoke pleasant emotional feelings because these ads are not only going to be more popular, but will translate (indirectly but effectively) into more favorable brand attitudes.
The effect of these ad-evoked feelings is not only substantial, but also universal: in general, all product categories benefit, although hedonic products have a slight edge over utilitarian products. Thus, no matter what product you are selling, appeals that generate positive emotions will be the most powerful.
Surprisingly, even advertisers of hedonic products will make the mistake of informational appeals over emotional appeals. Food advertisers, for example, often create information-laden ads, ignoring the fact that food is a hedonic pleasure for most consumers.
The influence of ad-evoked feelings on brand evaluations: Empirical generalizations from consumer responses to more than 1000 TV commercials. Michel Tuan Pham, Maggie Geuens & Patrick De Pelsmacker. International Journal of Research in Marketing (Forthcoming).
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