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In a
world where we are spoilt for choice, constantly being bombarded by a swarm of advertising
appeals, marketers slug it out to make their brand striking to the consumer. A
plethora of marketing tactics are used to
influence consumer behaviour. Brand names, logos
and slogans are an indispensable part of any company’s marketing tactic. All
appear to chase the same goal: to make consumers reciprocate positively to a
product (….or do they?)

“Because
you are worth it!” does this sentence ring a bell? If you
are a marketing buff, you would have recognised the L’oreal tagline, probably having
pictured Aishwarya Rai endorsing the brand’s products. A second glance at that
slogan and you may respond to it in either of the two contrasting ways. One,
you may already be looking for the L’oreal products online or deciding which of
its products you should be buying the next time you go shopping. Two, you may
wonder “I don’t need a product to determine my worth.” While slogans or
taglines are created with the expectation that the consumers will adopt the first
response, advertisers should not easily dismiss the second possibility. A recent
study in the Journal of Consumer Research (Laran, Dalton, & Andrade, 2011) demonstrated a strange facet of consumer
behaviour: people behave differently when they encounter companies’ brands than
they do when they encounter their slogans. That is, slogans backfire, giving rise to a contrast effect.  

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Priming and Reverse Priming effects on
behaviour

Laran et.al (2011) conducted a series of
five studies on several undergraduate students and concluded that consumers most
often behave in ways intended by a brand name or a logo. They made two
important observations. One, after participants were exposed to luxurious
brands (such as Tiffany and Neiman Marcus) as well as neutral brands (such as
Publix and Dillard’s), the average expenditure was an additional 26% in case of
the former. Two, average expenditure decreased by 37% after participants were
exposed to low-priced brands (such as Dollar Store and Kmart) as compared to
neutral brands. These brands demonstrated the “priming” effect (i.e.,
behavioural effects as implied by the brand) (Laran et al., 2014). Moreover,
consumers tended to think more creatively following exposure to the company
logo for Apple which stands for innovation and creativity as opposed to the IBM
logo which is known as traditional, smart and responsible (Fitzsimons, Chartrand, & Fitzsimons, 2008), providing further support
for the priming effect of brands and logos.

However, when brands were replaced by
slogans, the same participants failed to follow the prompt of the slogan. When they
saw a slogan associated with spending (“Luxury, you deserve it”), they spent 26%
less than after they saw a neutral slogan (“Time is what you make of it”). On the
other hand, exposure to a slogan intended to promote saving behaviour (“Dress
for less”) led them to spend, on average, 29% more. This was an instance of
slogans having a “reverse priming” effect (i.e., behaviours opposite to those intended
by the slogan) (Laran et al., 2011). 

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