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Ads That Penetrate Consumers’ Heads and Hearts

Consumers process only the most useful and appealing information presented in advertisements.

(originally published by Booz & Company)

Title: Do All Advertising Appeals Influence Consumer Purchase Decision? An Exploratory Study (Subscription or fee required.)
Author: Sanjeev Verma
Publisher: Global Business Review, vol. 10, no. 1
Date Published: January/June 2009

Every day, through billboards, television, and the Internet, consumers are bombarded with a wide variety of advertisements. From emotional appeals — fear, humor, warmth, irritation, sexual arousal — to rational arguments about saving money or energy, advertising strategies are designed to influence an individual’s purchasing decisions in both the short and long terms. The author of this paper conducted a yearlong study of nearly 1,200 consumers across different demographic groups in India to better understand the components of an effective ad.

Using a five-point questionnaire, the author asked participants — 60 percent of whom were age 25 or younger — for their response to advertisements about soft drinks. The study found that among all rational appeals, the concept of “refreshment” had the biggest effect on purchase decisions. Participants paid far less heed to other rational appeals, such as nutritional information. Emotional appeals such as “thrill,” “affection,” “pride,” and “fear” were attractive, but only “thrill” and “pride” actually persuaded consumers to buy the soft drink. Although the study supports the idea that not all advertising appeals are equal, the author stopped short of studying why some ads are more effective than others.

Bottom Line: Consumers process only the most useful and appealing information presented in advertisements. Marketers are urged to test both emotional and rational advertising appeals to figure out which ones will attract and maintain consumers’ interest and to closely evaluate how ads impact consumers’ purchase decisions. 

Author profile:

Matt Palmquist is an award-winning feature writer for the San Francisco–based SF Weekly, and a founding staff writer and contributing editor at Miller-McCune magazine.
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