Current Issue Summary:
Sept 2019 (Vol. 59, Issue 3)
What Do We Know about Neuromarketing?
Neuroscientific tools, such as eye tracking, skin conductance, heart rate, and actual brain imaging, provide windows into consumer attention when exposed to advertising. Researchers and advertising practitioners alike need to learn to use these new resources effectively, notes Editor-in-Chief John B. Ford, and they face challenges that demand additional training as well as partnerships between technicians who are medical and physiologically knowledgeable and marketing/advertising researchers. “No one tool delivers all the information needed to make fully accurate readings of consumer intention,” Ford writes as he highlights this issue’s special section, which “provides some new understanding of the requisite skills and their powerful potential.”
How Amazon Will Revolutionize the Future of Television Advertising
Is Amazon on its way to dominating advertising across measured media? eMarketer analyst Andrew Lipsman assesses evidence that could very likely point to “Yes” as the answer. “Amazon now is leveraging its impressive customer data into an advertising platform that has put the rest of the media industry on notice,” Lipsman writes. “Using its valuable first-party customer data, high-powered digital-advertising platform, expanding advertising-supported video inventory, dominance in voice, and direct-to-consumer product-sampling initiative, Amazon is reimagining how marketing and advertising work.” Among Lipsman’s observations:
- Amazon is expanding its advertising-supported video inventory, having acquired rights to Thursday night NFL games and Premier League Football. It “reportedly has made overtures to buy Fox Sports and the YES Network to grab a foothold into local sports content.
- “Its Free Dive is an ad-supported catalog of TV and movie content, and its Fire TV strategy appears to be emulating Roku’s approach to leveraging a considerable hardware-device audience into an OTT advertising platform.
- “Advertisers are learning the process of buying, measuring, and optimizing ads through Amazon and acclimating to the ecosystem.”
Lipsman adds: “In harnessing the power of video advertising at scale and closed-loop measurement, Amazon will fulfill a promise that traditional television never could …. (and it) could acquire enough video inventory to become a formidable media company in its own right, with a complementary high-margin revenue stream that creates considerable synergies for the retailer.”
What should brands do to prepare for the inevitable, further disruption in advertising? Lipsman draws from earlier research to suggest the following:
- “Adopt a direct-response mind-set for TV: Brands need to refamiliarize themselves with the bottom-of-the-funnel metrics, such as add-to-cart, purchase and sample response rates (Bellman, Schweda, and Varan, 2012)
- “Put purchase data front and center: Get better acquainted with purchase-based targeting to find the right audiences (Sylvester and Spaeth, 2019) and with closed-loop measurement to evaluate ROI.
- “Rethink video-advertising creative content: For a performance-driven environment, test shorter-form ad units that quickly highlight the brand and product benefits and include a call to action (Wolf and Donato, 2019).”
“Above all,” Lipsman concludes, with a nod to research by effectiveness gurus Les Binet and Peter Fields: “Don’t abandon brand building….long-form, narrative-driven content should remain a part of the mix to support shorter-form direct-response effectiveness.”
Cultivating Appreciation of Hedonic Products: A Synesthetic Approach to Marketing
The Speaker’s Box column identifies significant areas of research affecting advertising and marketing. Its goal: to bridge the gap between the length of time it takes to produce rigorous work and the acceleration of change within practice. In this edition, and with advertising and marketing of wine as her chief product focus, Kathryn A. LaTour (Cornell University) investigates how better to engage consumers in learning synesthetically (causing multiple sense to interact) through managerial communications. “With a hedonic product experience, harnessing visual imagery, and using cross-modal associations or metaphors, should be an effective way to engage learning. In marketing, however, little has been done in this area, nor has there been research about the process of learning synesthesia in a consumer context. This approach to experience can be important for creating long-term retention,” LaTour writes.
With results from a survey comparing synesthetic tendencies between wine experts and regular consumers, she demonstrates that learning can change the manner and way that consumers approach products. “Participants sampled two California pinot noirs side by side, one of which had some oak tannins added, which changed the flavor and mouthfeel,” LaTour explains. “One group described the wines verbally, with traditional tasting notes, whereas another group drew a picture of the wine’s taste. When the experts drew the wines’ taste, they more likely noticed the structural differences between them. The experts thought the verbal notes were easier, and that regular consumers would not be able to understand how to draw the taste. In later studies, however, intermediate consumers were able to retain more about their taste experience when they thought of the wine as a shape versus using written descriptors.”
LaTour then uses an experiment to explain how communications can help consumers learn to appreciate hedonic products. Among the implications of her findings:
- Consumers want to learn about hedonic products, and managers can aid that learning through their messaging.
- “Rather than thinking about what attributes or aspects they think their consumers prefer, managers could provide consumers a means to better understand and appreciate their experience. This can be done through communications that help consumers make cross-modal associations and help ‘tell a story’ that can be used to create a gist representation in memory (capturing the senses, patterns and meanings of experience) “such as knowing that champagne has a linear aspect associated with the chardonnay grape.”
- The benefit to such a synesthetic approach is that “managers can direct the consumer learning by setting the stage for the experience (how it should begin) as well as how it should be experienced.
- “Creating a visual metaphor to engage that learning can be helpful,” but so can other means of communication such as using figurative language to describe, for example, the differences between “wines from the New World as being open and supple (like the sounds from a cedar-top guitar) and wines coming from the Old World (Europe), as tasting taut and restrained, similar to sounds from a German spruce-top guitar.”
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT NEUROMARKETING
The Strata Model Predicting Advertising Effectiveness: A Neural-Network Approach Enhances Predictability of Consumer Decision Making.
September JAR’s special neuromarketing section opens with an academic/practitioner collaboration from Dallas and Miami. The authors add a new technique to neural-network analysis with a “Strata” model, which uses a laddering approach of direct questioning in place of more traditional psychophysical information.
Neural-network research, built upon the neural structure of the brain, follows a “means-end chain that underlies the consumer’s preference and thus purchase intention,” Thomas J. Reynolds (University of Texas — Dallas, and private consultant to the ad industry) and Joan M. Phillips, (Andreas School of Business, Barry University, Miami) write. “To test the neural-network basis of the means-end grounded Strata model, (the research) empirically assessed the strength of the linkages between the concepts (or elements) of a means-end chain and advertising effectiveness, operationalized as purchase intention.”
In other words, an iterative series of questions mirroring the brain-synapse firings and cognitions of the viewer can model previously unexplored decision-making mental processes. In a test of 240 TV ads with 5,520 participants from eight different countries across a variety of product categories, the authors concluded that means-end theory—as operationalized by the questioning format of the Strata research methodology—allows the integration of “three areas of interest to advertising researchers: means-end decision theory, neuromarketing, and assessment of advertising effectiveness.”
Researchers then can witness how decision processes unfold after exposure to an advertisement, significantly adding to the understanding of the cognition process toward purchase intention for a given product, service, or political candidate. Moreover, the authors found, “The results of this direct comparison suggest that the neural model is substantially more predictive of advertising effectiveness than is a traditional, entertainment-based copy-testing assessment approach.”
Why does this matter, from a practical standpoint? The Strata methodology can be used to :
- Develop effective ads that create a neural network;
- Assess finished or animatic advertisements, which can lead to significant increases in advertising effectiveness and production-cost savings.
- Provide a creative foundation: “Asking the creative team to specify, as precisely as possible, what in a proposed execution will result in the linkages (between neural concepts) being made,” the authors conclude, “provides a process to focus meaningful discussion and ongoing learning.”
Building a Foundation for Neuromarketing and Consumer Neuroscience Research: How Researchers Can Apply Academic Rigor to the Neuroscientific Study of Advertising Effects
The JAR in previous years has published work that scrutinizes the methods used in neuromarketing and consumer neuroscientific research. In a new wrinkle on that theme, a Danish consultant to leading corporations offers a framework for analysis that raises the bar on the academic rigor involved. Thomas Zoëga Ramsoy’s (Neurons, Inc.) examines the problems inherent in a field that he observes are plagued by:
- “Methodological differences,
- Conceptual inconsistencies,
- A lack of systematic validation of neuroscience-based metrics, and
- Questionable business practices.”
Ramsoy explores “symptoms of a discipline that is in need of rigor and maturation” as it attempts to build an effective foundation from which “neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience can become a valid, coherent field of conduct.”
The author proposes that neuroscience in marketing needs to:
- Provide a way to ensure that basic research is translated, validated, and tested against the initial claims;
- Make better distinctions “among basic, translational, and applied research … (that will) … allow researchers to better navigate the different types of insight and how they can be used for inspiration and for application;
- “Clear the conceptual confusion that this field is littered with;
- “Have a rigorous means of ensuring the validity of neurometric approaches and measures.”
Finally, Ramsoy urges marketers to:
- Employ the language of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience, “because it has the longest and most substantial research on the faculties of the mind”;
- Use collaborative efforts “to reduce conceptual confusion and increase the validity of neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience.”
Best Measures of Attention to Creative Tactics in Advertising: When Do Attention-Getting Devices Capture or Reduce Attention?
One reason that measuring attention to an advertisement is so difficult is because no two tests are the same, and each piece of research demands its own specific set of metrics. Steven Bellman, Magda Nenycz-Thiel, Rachel Kennedy, and Nicole Hartnett (the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia) partnered with Duane Varan (MediaScience) to examine a series of scalable biometric measures across responses to 10 creative devices in more than 100 television advertisements.
The research team used a rich mixture of tools to examine attention-getting ability. The authors advise that “different measures are needed to detect when any attention is being paid; for this reason, no one measure of attention is enough.” They further suggest that “it is necessary to link advertising measures—including biometrics—to content in order to determine the specific characteristics people are responding to.”
Biometric devices that record eye tracking, skin conductance, and heart rate, in particular, are associated with measuring arousal, which is a necessary step in aiding marketing academics and professionals to assess advertising effectiveness.
The Ehrenberg-Bass/Media Science study utilized laboratory data from 1,040 respondents with responses across 118 advertisements. Each participant viewed eight advertisements shown in a random order in the context of television programming.
The authors report important findings:
- They were able to demonstrate that “across the three levels of attention that generally apply to television viewing—preattention (inattention), focal attention, and comprehension—biometric measures detect the lowest level of attention, which is focal attention (orienting responses) to advertising stimuli.”
- “By using a combination of measures, this study shows—for the first time—that it is possible to mark the transition between these two lowest attention levels” (between preattention and focal attention).
- “If one biometric measure has to be prioritized before others, these results suggest heart rate as the best option (in utilizing neuromarketing to improve advertising research) because it was most strongly associated with market performance.”
OTHER FEATURE ARTICLES
Can Media Neutrality Limit Creative Potential? How Advertising’s Use of Ideation Templates Fares across Media
Media neutrality–the process of creating ad templates for the purpose of execution across different media channels– is desirable in terms of strategy, but does it limit creativity? Empirical research on media neutrality and its influence on creativity so far is limited to case studies, authors Alexander Tevi (Nottingham Trent University), and Scott Koslow and John Parker (both at Macquarie University) note in their introduction to this article. Underlying their initial question, further, is this: “Are highly creative ideas actually perceived to be independent of media in the first place?”
Tevi, Koslow, and Parker—known for their expertise on the creative process—approached the question of media neutrality by investigating whether ideation techniques such as templates produce the same quality of ads across media. “Unification and activation are examples of templates—deep, repeatable structures in advertising that consumers not only do not see but do not get tired of,” the authors explain, citing an earlier study (Goldenberg and Mazursky, 2008). “An iconic Absolut Vodka print advertisement,” as an example of a metaphor template, “imposes the unique silhouette of the Absolut bottle as Central Park in an aerial photograph of New York, with the line ‘Absolut Manhattan.’ Still other ideation techniques, however, (e.g. extreme consequence, absurd alternative, inversion), tend to be message based …and have a much greater likelihood of developing execution that ultimately will prove media neutral.”
“A media-neutral creative concept thus is one that usually draws from message-based templates, (whereas) concepts that use media-based templates may struggle to move across media platforms.”
The authors sought to find out whether “media neutrality sometimes can impede creativity in that the source of creative ideas can be message dependent but also can be media dependent. …Highly creative advertising usually follows specific patterns or templates, such as unification, metaphor, and extreme consequence, which one can apply to develop new ideas.”
In their research, the authors tested their ideas about media neutrality on a sample of 207 creative professionals who produce advertising in both television and print media. They used two scales from previous research to measure two constructs—originality and strategy—by self-assessments. They presented to the participants a hypothetical brief with one print ad and one TV commercial. The self-reported results showed that ideas from two media-dependent techniques (unification and metaphor) worked well across media. However, the authors note, “advertisers may draw from different media elements to manipulate these techniques … so they may not work together in a coherent campaign.
By contrast, the ideas from the message-dependent, or storytelling, techniques (otherwise referred to as “extreme consequence”) and the control condition did not work well, in fact they led to uneven creative quality across media, the authors reported. “They are more suited to television than print but can be expressed in a more limited way through print. Such trade-offs must be frustrating but are part of everyday life in creative departments.”
In other words, “some creative-ideation techniques are independent of medium but others are highly dependent on medium. Advertisers who want to pursue media-neutral strategies thus also must focus on message-dependent templates, such as extreme consequence. Clients first need to have a persuasive message worth expressing in multiple media. If they do not, then it may be better to follow media-dependent templates—and eschew media-neutral strategies.”
Summing up their findings:
- “The creative ideas represented by templates impose real limits and introduce trade-offs.
- “Knowing what ideation technique works better on which medium will go a long way in meeting the demands of clients.
- “Storytelling techniques, such as extreme consequence—which exaggerates the benefit of the product or service—are not adaptable to all media and are more suitable for television.
- “In assigning briefs to creative teams, creative managers should consider the appropriateness of team members’ creative expertise and skill sets for client-specific product and brand categories.
- “Future research needs to understand better the characteristics of ideas that have legs, such that those ideas can travel across media better.
- “Ideation techniques may perform differently in other product categories, particularly low-involvement ones.”
The Impact of Rational, Emotional, and Physiological Advertising Images on Purchase Intention: How TV Ads Influence Brand Memory
Previous research has shown that TV commercials are important influencers of brand memories. Academic theory and practitioner-performance metrics have focused on consumer recall and recognition of advertising content. This study further advances that practice by considering effects from advertising that is “aligned with rational, emotional, and physiological appeals,” according to Charles Young and Christian Otto (Ameritest), and Brian Gillespie (University of New Mexico Robert O. Anderson School of Management).
This practitioner/academic collaboration used a dataset representing 59,000 consumer interviews collected nationally between 2008 and 2009 on 590 TV commercials that aired for the top 16 U.S. fast-food restaurant brands. The researchers used a moment-by-moment visual-recognition test that had been developed, validated, and implemented by industry professionals to demonstrate that emotional and physiological appeals are more likely to be related to consumer purchase intention compared with rational visual appeals.
Among the implications:
- The findings “stress the importance of understanding how advertising content influences brand memory and offer further insights into both theory and practice.
- “Visual advertising appeals affect consumers’ future purchase intention: Images associated with emotional and physiological appeals lead to greater consumer purchase intention; images associated with rational appeals do not.
- “Higher levels of rational responses suppress the positive benefits of emotionally and physiologically based responses on purchase intention.
- “The positive association between emotional and physiological responses, on the one hand, and purchase intention, on the other, remain when rational responses are lower.”
Analyzing the Click Path of Affiliate-Marketing Campaigns: Interacting Effects of Affiliates’ Design Parameters with Merchants’ Search-Engine Advertising
Online service providers increasingly use multiple channels for their advertising. Within that universe, an affiliate—usually a small, private company or individual maintaining a website or blog—informs others about a product or service sold by a partnering company (a merchant). “One compelling combination integrates affiliate marketing with search-engine advertising, research trio at University of Hagen, Germany, observe. “The affiliates’ design parameters and the merchant’s parallel search-engine advertising both influence the click paths of users in an affiliate-marketing campaign, which runs from clicks to sales.”
In this study, Rainer Olbrich, Patrick Mark Bormann, and Michael Hundt found that the merchant’s simultaneous use of search-engine advertising, however, “cannibalizes clicks and sales in the click path.” As a result, “affiliates must use different text links to ensure positive impacts on clicks and sales in their affiliate-marketing campaign.”
“Many studies have examined the influence of one channel on another, but there is no consensus about the influence of search-engine advertising on other channels,” the authors note.
During a period of five and a half months, this study examined two online channels of a merchant—an education service provider for professional economic and information technology training (and therefore a high-involvement service due to its high cost). The research included the perspectives of:
- “Affiliates, which seek to measure the number of advertising impressions and advertising media (text links) used during the survey period;
- “The merchant, for which the focal measures pertain to its parallel search-engine advertising activities (ranking and click-through rate of an ad campaign during the time affiliates promoted its services);
- “Users, who provide measures of the click paths (clicks, leads, and sales – a method drawn from a 2016 study).”
Among the findings:
- “Search-engine advertising might cannibalize the effects of an affiliate-marketing campaign.
- “Merchants should evaluate the overall effect of both channels.
- “The rank in search-engine advertising has no influence on the click path. Merchants should aim for lower rankings to decrease their costs per click, keeping in mind the risk of weakening the effects of search-engine advertising.
- “Using different text links in affiliate marketing can increase the effects in the click path.
- “Using more advertising impressions in affiliate marketing can increase the effects in the click path.”
The Relative Effectiveness of Endorsers: The Identity Badge of CEOs and Founders versus the Attractiveness of Celebrities
Ads with chief executive officers and company founders are a “fast-growing brand-endorsement tactic,” according to Arpita Agnihotri (Penn State Harrisburg) and Saurabh Bhattacharya (Newcastle University Business School). “Recent studies also indicate that CEOs as business leaders influence consumers’ purchase intention,” they note.
Although there is a wealth of knowledge on the risks and rewards of using a celebrity spokesperson to endorse a company, the few studies comparing the use of celebrities and chief executive officers as spokespersons have mixed results. The authors observed another research gap: no empirical research comparing endorsement by CEOs with founders.
Agnihotri’s and Bhattacharya’s research used print ads for a fictitious coffee drink being launched at the sandwich chain, Pret A Manger, and the study was replicated for a hotel-and-pub company in the U.K. Their work
- “Indicates that when the identity of CEOs and founders is signaled through their identity badge (i.e. their title and designation), consumers find an advertisement more effective (in terms of their attitude toward the brand) than an advertisement with celebrities.”
- Moreover, the authors found that ads with founders as endorsers were “more effective for new products, whereas CEOs as endorsers were more effective for existing products.”
- The findings are applicable specifically to small and mid-sized companies, for which celebrity endorsement is very expensive.
The thinking behind the second part of the research—comparing the effectiveness of CEO versus founder endorsement—is grounded in what is referred to as the “match-up hypothesis,” whereby the “effectiveness of an endorser depends on his or her fit with a product or service,” the authors note, citing earlier research. “Because this fit is based on external attributes, not internal attributes, of the spokesperson, stereotyping rather than credibility explains the differences in advertising effectiveness. Sports celebrities are a better fit for sports products, for instance, and female celebrities are a better fit for cosmetic products.”
CEOs and founders have no difference in credibility but do have differences in product association and skill sets; founders typically are associated with new products, whereas CEOs (selected externally) are viewed as being more adept at sustaining growth of existing products through brand-management strategies and as having other leadership and organizational skills.
There were a few limitations to this study, including that the ads were fictitious, “and the effectiveness of actual advertisements may vary.” Future research could
- “Explore how the achievements of CEOs and celebrities could influence the success of their brand endorsements. (In the service industry, the effectiveness of animated characters as endorsers has been established well, but in this study, the authors did not control for such effect.)
- “Explore the impact of spokespersons on frequently used consumer-behavior constructs, such as attitude toward the brand and purchase intention, using structural equation models, because (according to extant research) advertisement attitude itself could influence purchase intention.
- “Be conducted across a variety of products and services.”
Measuring Different Emotions in Children with a Pictorial Scale: A Self-Reported Non-Verbal Tool Measures the Emotions Children Experience when Exposed to Ads
“Emotions play a key role in shaping children’s responses to advertising, but research on these influences is scarce and underdeveloped,” according to Joëlle Vanhamme (EDHEC Business School) in France. Vanhamme partnered with Chung-Kit Chiu, an illustrator and children’s book author to propose a nonverbal, pictorial instrument for children that can assess basic emotions, is particularly well-suited for 8- to 11-year-olds, and can be used by both practitioners and academics around the world without the need for translation.
Chiu, who holds a masters degree in marketing management (Erasmus University of Rotterdam) created the illustrations for what the authors named the “Self-Reported Nonverbal Emotion-Measurement Instrument for Children” (SNEMIC) scale. The tool “consists of a set of pictograms (e.g. cartoon puppets), each representing facial and bodily expressions associated with a so-called basic emotion (joy, surprise, anger, sadness, fear, and disgust), that appear together with a 4-point response format indicating intensity.” Previous pictograms that measured affective states (e.g. the smiley-face scale) are unidimensional and therefore can’t properly measure multiple discrete emotions; neither can multidimensional scales because they focused on underlying components of emotions (arousal, pleasure, and dominance) or were too complex to be used by children.
All sampled children in this study spoke Dutch. The authors encourage future work to “validate this scale in other settings (e.g. usage experience) and in countries with national languages different than Dutch.”
Research also is needed, moreover, “to determine the extent to which the SNEMIC might be suitable for children younger than 8 years,” given that preliminary results indicated an increased liking of the scale among younger children and an ability to recognize basic emotions before the age of 2 years.
A few more takeaways from this study:
- “Emotions are key drivers of advertising effectiveness, especially among children, so advertisers need to measure the emotions that children experience on their exposure to advertising.
- “Conducting marketing and advertising research on children using traditional measures of emotions (e.g. fMRI, EMG, GSR) is neither practical nor cost-effective, and such research often lacks validity and reliability.
- “The SNEMIC is reliable, and valid, and it can support cross-cultural studies without requiring translation efforts.”
- “It is fun for children to use, which contributes to its effectiveness.
- “The scale “also could be used to assess which emotions result in the most effective outcomes in response to different public-policy messages, such as to discourage smoking or to trigger preferences for sustainable products.”
Coming in December: What We Know about Social-Media Marketing
Editor-in-Chief John Ford looks back on JAR research about social-media marketing as he previews the December-issue special theme section.