In psychological terms, context is almost everything. Much as we like to think that we know how we will act and react in a given situation, without the richness of...
Yesterday’s article, for all its mediocrity (sorry about that), did spark an interesting question from Yann. He questioned the extent to which the ads I was discussing would generate business for those companies.
As I mentioned in my reply to Yann, at least part of the way in which advertising works is to “register” a brand or product at an unconscious level.
Given the way in which the unconscious mind works (by associations) I’m convinced that the unconscious benefit is likely to be maximised when unconscious awareness of the ad coincides with positive emotions. Even if the humour has little or no relevance to the product, the fact that the two exist together at that moment in time can have a positive impact.
Part of the support for my theory comes from the fact that the only meaningful correlation that people who track advertising have been able to identify from the many (it turns out mostly pointless) questions they ask people, is that ads that score well for ‘like-ability’ generate more sales.
Forget unprompted awareness, prompted awareness, accurately identifying the brand, recalling the tag line, remembering what product it was promoting… none of that seems to count for much.
Last year researchers from the University of Maryland discovered that, simply by showing pictures of people going about daily activities near a product (Dasani bottled water in this case), participants were more likely to choose that product over three alternatives; this was the case even when people were unaware of having seen the product in those pictures.
The more pictures they saw containing the product, the more likely they were to select it later.
When alternative versions of the pictures were shown that included either someone wearing a cap from the same university or one from a rival (again with the product present), the presence of someone with an unconscious link to themselves also prompted greater take up of the brand.
The more I see studies like this, the more convinced I am about the importance and power of unconscious associations in determining consumer behaviour.
Perhaps most crucially, it’s important to understand that what the unconscious mind values isn’t necessarily the same as what we would like to think is important to us.
Source: University of Chicago Press Journals (2008, October 15). Subconscious Encounters: How Brand Exposure Affects Your Choices