After answering a series of questions about both sites, the participants completed two surveys, one that measured their level of self-association with the two brand families and one that measured their implicit attitudes toward them. They were also asked to choose which of the cars they would most like to receive as a prize in a lottery. Consistent with the first two experiments, participants chose automobiles that had appeared in the banner ads embedded in their personal Facebook pages significantly more often than those featured on a generic Facebook or Hi5 page.
The experiment demonstrated that the effects of subconscious connections between brands and consumers’ self-identity can occur even in “completely passive contexts,” the authors write, which involve no deliberate attempts by consumers to understand or bond with a brand. “Social networking naturally encourages the development and maintenance of self-related information, and this creates a fertile ground for the cultivation of implicit self-referencing.”
Because consumers are increasingly willing to provide a wealth of personal information online, “such digital extroversion certainly creates opportunities for marketers to effectively target and embed their appeals,” the authors write, by focusing on stated preferences for certain types of products or services.
Social networking websites such as Facebook hold tremendous potential for marketers because consumers subconsciously identify with brands advertised on their personal pages. Objects and brands that are intertwined with a person’s self-identity can create a bond without the consumer actually using, owning, or even paying much attention to the product being advertised.