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Posts Tagged ‘Memory’

Our sweet delight for the day is the macaron. In basic terms, a macaron is made of two rounded meringue-based biscuits that hold between them, like a sandwich, a creamy filling. Macarons may come in various flavours (e.g., lemon, coffee, strawberry, caramel-fleur-de-sel) and appear each in a colour associated with its flavour. But from here on, the whole difference lies between a good-quality Macarons by Ladureemacaron and a mediocre one: How brittle are the top and bottom biscuits, finished with sugar glazing on surface and crispy edges? How soft and tasty is the filling in match with the biscuits? And how well does the whole composition melt in your mouth? A fine colourful arrangement of macarons on display in-store can be a visual celebration to our eyes; and the choice of flavours for making them is an excellent ground for creativity and ingenuity.

Macarons were developed in the form we know them today in the 1950s and 1960s. However, they have become so popular and ubiquitous in just the past five to ten years. The macarons are French in origin; according to some differing narratives they have gone through a few forms since the 18th century and until reaching the one most familiar now. The traditional fillings were ganache, buttercream or fruit jam, but the range of flavours currently available is much broader.

Much of the credit for the rise in demand for macarons in recent years, so it appears, belongs to the French patisserie and confectionary maker Ladurée whilst being under the ownership and leadership of the Holder family since 1993. Louis-Ernest Ladurée originally founded his tea room and patisserie in Paris of the late 19th century; the founding Ladurée family developed its successful recipe of macarons sometime before or around the mid-2oth century. Their single venue was located on rue RoyaleLaduree flagship shop and cafe, Champs Elysees, Paris near Place de la Concorde. The acquiring Holder family relocated its flagship venue in 1997 to the Champs Elysées and established under one roof a shop, a café next to it, and a restaurant (on its second floor). Moreover, the new owner has been investing with dedication in elevating the Ladurée brand. Their international expansion started in 2005 with London and have since spread to cities in Europe (e.g., Milano, Dublin, Zürich), the United States (New-York), Middle East (e.g., Beirut, Doha), Asia (e.g., Seoul, Hong-Kong, Shanghai) and Australia (e.g., Sydney), covering nearly 30 countries aside from France. They have, furthermore, a strong presence on the Internet in a fine brand-designed group of websites with vending functionalities.

It would do unjust, however, to suggest that good macarons in Paris come only from Ladurée. Fine and tasty macarons may be easily found in numerous venues across the city, particularly at chocolatiers and patisseries (e.g., Pierre Hermé, Fauchon, Maison du Chocolat). Some are better known confectionary and pastry makers, others may be less specialised vendors, so one has to try a few macarons to find out which he or she likes best. The increase in popularity, nevertheless, has motivated bakeries and confectionary makers in other countries to produce locally their own macarons, and there indeed consumers should take greater care to find truly good-quality macarons. There is also a bundle of recipe suggestions for macarons on the Internet.

  • Macarons have become particularly trendy in the United States. It is said that Americans welcome them as a replacement for cupcakes that went out of favour. But then the question is: Are macarons adopted in the US just as a hip that will fade away after a couple of years or are they there to stay. Macarons are most likely to stay popular in their home country, France, and probably also in some of the European countries, depending on how deeply such treats are rooted in those countries’ culinary cultures.

What probably makes Ladurée different, except for the high-quality of its macarons, pastries and other treats, is the carefully built strength or equity of its brand. It is created and maintained around the prestigious decorated flagship venue, the selection of its physical locations, and its websites. People stand in line outside its main shop to buy their macarons. Alternately, connoisseurs may sit in its café on Champs Elysées, enjoy some of their delicious pastries, and order a take-away pack of macarons, chosen from a special menu card, to be carefully packaged and brought to the table. They have a boutique shop-in-shop at Printemps upscale department store. Ladurée also collaborated in the past few years with well-known fashion designers to enhance its prestige image, especially during fashion week fairs (e.g., in New-York and Milano).

There is yet a variant form of macarons, famous of its own merit, known as Luxemburgerli by the Swiss chocolate specialist and patisserie Sprüngli. Their recipe was brought-in in the late 1950s from a confectionary maker originated, as the name suggests, in Luxemburg, who collaborated with Confiserie Sprüngli. The Luxemburgli is somewhat taller than the classic macaron with more filling — it feels like a richer combination of biscuit and cream. Like many of Sprüngli’s chocolate and bakery treats, their Luxemburgerli is an artisan delight. It would be interesting to find out how Ladurée succeeds against Swiss veteran makers of chocolate confections or pastries like Sprüngli, Teuscher or Läderach.

Consumers often do not feel comfortable to indulge themselves with products or services that are discretionary, and furthermore a luxury, whether it is specialty chocolate pralinés, a dinner at a top-class or luxury restaurant, or a holiday on a cruise ship. People want to feel they deserve it beforehand. In some cases, when heavier spending is required on a luxury, consumers appear to have a greater difficulty permitting themselves to enjoy an expensive luxury than resisting such temptation; they may need to precommit themselves to make the indulgence (e.g., going on a cruise for vacation versus replacing an old dishwasher)(1). The contemplation over smaller indulgences, like a sweet treat, is less demanding, yet people want to feel somehow entitled, so as not to suffer guilt and regret after the act.

Consumers may consider spoiling themselves in different circumstances. The occasion may simply arise when people are on vacation, indulging on premium chocolate or macarons as a way of enhancing their enjoyment, making the best of the holiday. But for many consumers such an occasion may not account for a reason concrete or good enough to indulge. (Celebrating a public holiday or a birthday make a notable exception.) Consumers are likely to expect indulgences to be more appropriate as a reward for an achievement or good performance (e.g., completing a tough assignment, a high-grade in an exam). Conversely, it may be justified as a consolation for bad or disappointing performance (e.g., failing an entry exam, losing a client). There is also an expectation of consumers that an indulgent experience will be more enjoyable when it comes as a reward than as a consolation. However, all this effort of justification may be an outcome of misconception and insufficient learning by the consumers. Xu and Schwarz show that consumers indeed have such expectations, that may drive their decisions, but they are inconsistent with what they reportedly feel during the experience episode or shortly after it. Differences in emotions expressed in their predictions (expectations) were not reflected in their episodic memories. (2)

  • More elaborately, the evidence indicated that consumers feel similarly positive (e.g., enjoyable) about an indulgent experience, and incur similarly negative feelings (e.g., guilt), whether they have had a “legitimate” reason or not, and whether it occurred as a reward or as a consolation. Furthermore, as consumers get more distant in time from affective episodes they report on, such reports are more in accordance with their predictions than with their episodic memories. The prior expectations and the late reconstructed reports of consumers similarly draw or rely on global beliefs and general knowledge, unlike reports of episodic memories when consumers have “lively” access to specific memories of attributes of the product or event they indulged on and their evoked feelings. Nonetheless, people are not very good at reconciling their beliefs, predictions and experiences and hence their learning is impaired.

Consequently, for indulgences that are not really luxurious, rather discretionary, consumers seemingly worry too much about being “justified” or “deserving”to indulge, and what would be their feelings thereafter, as these concerns do not coincide with how they really feel while indulging; hence they may be encouraged just to enjoy the indulgence (e.g., macarons) as it happens.

Consumers may rightfully wish to relish their hedonic experiences later in time, beyond the momentary pleasure, but it may turn out to be more effortful. When they are engaged with the product of indulgence, their attention is focused on its attributes and how they enjoy them (e.g., texture, taste and appearance of the macarons). But as time passes after the hedonic experience, its details fade in memory and so the benefits may also be lost. (Hedonic experiences may have to be more profound, with stronger emotions, than having chocolate truffles or macarons, to have a more lasting effect on happiness.)

The smaller types of indulgence usually do not have significant financial consequences as a barrier, but they could have other negative consequences like damaging health implications — in the case of chocolate or macarons, it could be related to high sugar levels. A consumer considering this kind of indulgence may be stopped by concern for his or her health and seek a reason to justify this “irresponsible” behaviour.

Feeling sadness due to a previous event can especially attenuate such a concern before committing the indulgence, and thereof avoid it. However, not in all cases of sadness it should impede indulgence. If one’s goal is explicitly to indulge for the sake of it (e.g., having a festivity on a generous steak or a pack of chocolate truffles), sadness is more likely to highlight to the consumer the potential damages; in desire to prevent further losses to one’s well-being, the consumer is more likely to cancel the intended indulgence. If on the other hand the consumer had no such hedonic eating goal at the time he or she became sad, the indulgence is likely to be applied as a tool for moderating emotions. Specifically, it allows indulgence (e.g., eating macarons) as a consolation, helping to make one feeling better, less sad (3).

Facilitating or even encouraging consumers to indulge, as in buying and eating macarons, could mean making them feel more comfortable, reduce pressure from them that could make them feel in conflict — by using messages like “enjoy the moment”, “do it just for fun”, “carpe diem”, and “it is OK to indulge even without a reason”. Yet there are additional factors that can give an advantage to a particular brand. A strong brand of fame, as demonstrated by Ladurée, has the power to cause consumers to perceive that its macarons taste even better than they may objectively be judged (notwithstanding that Ladurée’s macarons are of high-quality, nice looking and tasty). There are social effects to account for, as when people stand in-line in front of a shop, visible to others who may join them. Furthermore, an artistically impressive display of colourful macarons, in-store or better in the front window, can create the visual inducement necessary to persuade consumers to accept the temptation.

Actually, having chosen the right macarons, you will not regret it.

Ron Ventura, Ph.D. (Marketing)

Notes:

1. Self-Control for the Righteous: Toward a Theory of Precommitment to Indulgence; Ran Kivetz and Itamar Simonson, 2002; Journal of Consumer Research, 29 (Sept.), pp. 199-217.

2. Do we Really Need a Reason to Indulge?; Jing Xu and Norbert Schwarz, 2009; Journal of Marketing Research, 46 (Feb.), pp. 25-36.

3. Hedonic Eating Goals and Emotion: When Sadness Decreases the Desire to Indulge; Anthony Salerno, Juliano Laran, & Chris Janiszewski, 2014; Journal of Consumer Research, 41 (June), pp. 135-151

Further reading on pleasure and hedonic consumption:

Pleasure Principles: A Review of Research on Hedonic Consumption; Joseph W. Alba and Elanor F. Williams, 2012; Journal of Consumer Psychology, 23 (1), pp. 2-18 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcps.2012.07.003).

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The concept of brand attachment has become a frequent, almost integral component of attitudinal models of brand equity in commercial studies since the late 1990s. It has been introduced to represent an emotional bond that is expected to build between a brand and consumers to allow for their sustainable loyalty to the brand. Perceived quality and other assessments of a rational nature about branded products and services are generally not regarded as sufficient to connect a consumer with a brand. In addition, brand attachment is meant to represent a disposition towards a brand that is more solid and enduring regarding consumer-brand relations than brand attitude. However, what signifies and distinguishes that construct has not been properly and agreeably defined.  In a recent seminal article (2010), Park and MacInnis of the University of Southern California and their colleagues (*) offer an approach to fill this caveat coherently. The researchers define the construct of brand attachment, test and demonstrate how it differs from brand attitude strength.

We may find a spectrum of relationships between consumers and brands at different levels of depth and strength. What creates, for example, the deep attraction, to an extent of passion, of consumers to brands like Nike or Apple? On the contrary, the brand Nokia of mobile phones has for the past few years lost its favour with consumers. Last month it was revealed that Microsoft, which had acquired the mobile division from the Finnish mother company, intends to abolish the Nokia brand name but retain the “Lumia” name for new models of smart-mobile devices (e.g., phones, tablets, and whatever comes next); if indeed brand attachment by consumers to Nokia has diminished, no one would shed a tear. Coca Cola almost ruined its brand equity in 1985 due to its New Coke ordeal — apparently consumers were insistent on their attachment to the brand and what it represented to them to force the company to step back and save the brand. Brand attachment captures the affective linkage that is created between a brand and its customers.

A brand equity model may start from awareness of and basic familiarity with the brand of interest at its ground. On top of which should come associations of product attributes and functional benefits (tangible product assets) next to “softer” associations of feelings or personality traits assigned to the brand (intangible assets). After accounting for these building blocs, a bridge of attachment can be erected between the consumers and the brand, leading to commitment (a manifest of attitudinal loyalty). Several facets can be proposed based on pervious academic and applied research in the field to represent brand attachment: (a) respect for the brand and its leadership; (b) personal identification with the brand; (c) favourability of brand legacy and values; and possibly also (d) appreciation of how the brand treats its customers.

Park and MacInnis et al. develop a scale of brand attachment that formally specifies aspects of brand-self connection — it emphasises identification of the consumer with the brand; yet to this factor they add a second factor of brand prominence in memory. Thus, they suggest a scale constructed from two factors; they show that treating the scale as a composition of the two components has better validity than a single-unified scale. Furthermore, the authors demonstrate the effect of brand attachment on behavioural intentions as well as actual behaviour (self-reported and as registered in customer database records).  They cover a range of activities or actions that differ in their level of difficulty.  It is shown that brand attachment is able to predict the intention to perform the more difficult types of behaviour that brand attitude strength cannot.

Brand attitude strength is measured by the valence of an attitude (positive-negative) weighted by the confidence with which the consumer holds that attitude. However, research repeatedly has shown that attitudes get to impact behaviour when the valence is more extreme in either direction and confidence is strong. Attitudes do have an affective basis but it is generally sublime and concerned primarily with valence. That is, brand attitude alone does not contain a scope of emotions people may exhibit; it is very limited in its emotional capacity. Brand attachment, on the other hand, is more emotionally charged and can tell a better story about the relation of the consumer to the brand. Park and MacInnis et al. conceptually define brand attachment as “the strength of the bond connecting the brand with the self” (p. 2). This bond materializes when it is supported by a rich and accessible network of positive thoughts and feelings about the brand in the consumer’s memory.  A brand-self connection ascribes to the extent to which a consumer identifies with a brand as if they could merge together. In other words, the self (concept) of the consumer is extended so as to absorb the brand and make it part of his or her own self (image or goals). While the representation is cognitive, the researchers note, the brand-self linkage is inherently emotional. Brand prominence indicates in addition the ease and frequency with which  thoughts and feelings (underlying the connection) are brought to the consumer’s mind. The brand-self connection can “come to life” more readily when brand prominence is greater, hence the consumer experiences a stronger brand attachment.

  • The researchers first constructed a scale with five items for each of the two components. However, they sought to make the scale more parsimonious and practical to implement, and proposed a reduced scale of two items for brand-self connection and two items for brand prominence. Looking at the factor loadings suggests that it would be justified to keep four items for the first component and three items for the second. But in the researchers’  judgement parsimony should win over. For example, the item “feel emotionally bonded” could be discarded in favour of “feel personally connected”.

In their analyses, Park and MacInnis and their colleagues confirm that brand attachment and brand attitude strength are related yet empirically distinct constructs — while correlation between them is moderate-high they cannot be confounded. This supports the convergent and discriminant validity of brand attachment. The authors provide further support for the validity of attachment by showing an interesting relation to separation distress, a negative emotional state that may occur when losing a relationship with an entity people felt close to (e.g., feelings of depression, anxiety and loss of self). Brand-self connection and prominence each independently “contribute to the prediction of separation distress as indicators of brand attachment” (p. 8). The research additionally substantiates that brand attachment is distinct from attitude strength, the former being more strongly associated with separation distress.

Eventually, marketers would want to know how brand attachment is linked to behaviour. Three categories of difficulty are distinguished: (1) Among the most difficult forms of behaviour are buying always the new model of brand X, waiting to buy brand X versus an alternative brand, and spending money, time and energy to promote brand X (e.g., in pages and forums of social media and in blogs). (2) Moderately difficult forms of behaviour include paying a price premium for brand X and defending it when others speak bad of it. (3) The least difficult modes of behaviour include, for example, recommending brand X to others and buying the brand for others. Notably, recommending a brand to relatives or friends involves a certain personal risk for the endorser because one puts his or her own reputation or credibility on-line by suggesting to others to buy and use the particular brand. Yet, this alone is not considered hereby as a major cause of difficulty vis-á-vis the investment of time, money or energy to promote the brand (e.g., tell a story in a blog post, add photos).

With respect to intention to behave in ways that favour a brand (reflecting brand commitment) it is found that brand attachment predicts the intention to engage in behaviours regarded as the most difficult remarkably better than brand attitude strength. Brand attachment also better predicts intention to behave in moderately difficult ways but the difference from attitude strength, although also statistically significant, is rather small. There is no significant difference between attachment and attitude strength in predicting intention of performing the least difficult behaviours — they do equally well.  These findings bolster the importance of addressing brand attachment as a driver of brand commitment, particularly via more demanding modes of behaviour.

  • An additional test suggests that brand prominence is less essential than the brand-self connection component in predicting intentions. (Intentions were tested with respect to Nike.)
  • In a different set of analyses of actual behaviour (banking-investments), the researchers found furthermore that brand attachment is a better predictor of past purchases than brand attitude strength. In this case, however, brand attachment represented by both brand-self connection and brand prominence is predicting behaviour better than the former alone. That is, with regard to actual behaviour, brand prominence is an essential component.

Many brand owners would find utility in applying this scale of brand attachment (in a full or reduced form): from food (e.g., Nestlé) or toys (e.g., Lego) to banking (e.g., Royal Bank of Scotland) or carmakers (e.g., Peugeot). Take for instance Microsoft that now holds four brand names they may apply for marketing mobile devices: their own corporate name, Surface, Nokia or Lumia. Microsoft could use the aid of such a scale to decide which brand proves as better ground to build upon and which name is better eliminated. It may be a major factor in the contest of brand equity for mobile-smart devices of Microsoft versus Apple, Samsung Electronics, and Lenovo (Motorola).

Although the brand strength construct may capture a brand’s mind share of a consumer, attachment is uniquely positioned to capture both heart and mind share (p. 14).

The scale of brand attachment constructed by Park and MacInnis and their colleagues emphasises consumer identification with a brand, representing an emotional connection, and actualised through its prominence in memory. It does not cover other possible sources of attachment, but the approach taken is focused, concrete and well-substantiated. The researchers provide a valid scale for practitioners in brand management and research for measuring brand attachment, stand-alone or as part of a brand equity model.

Ron Ventura, Ph.D. (Marketing)

(*) Brand Attachment and Brand Attitude Strength: Conceptual and Empirical Differentiation of Two Critical Brand Equity Drivers; C. Whan Park, Deborah J. MacInnis, Joseph Priester, Andreas B. Eisingerich, & Dawn Iacobucci, 2010; Journal of Marketing, 74 (November), pp. 1-17.

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With click rates on online ad banners ranging between o.5% and 2% it is not difficult to understand why many in the marketing, advertising and media professions often question the efficacy of click-based models of advertising on the Internet. It is a problem for both advertisers of products and services and the website owners that publish ad banners on their pages.

For advertisers, exposure of consumers to their ads is not a sufficient or satisfying criterion but immediate action in response to the ad banner is very difficult to elicit; perhaps clicking-through should not be expected just because these objects are “clickable links”.  Should the effectiveness of ad banners be doubted because of low traffic it may generate, or is it that the criteria used are inappropriate?

For the owners of websites used as vehicles for advertising (e.g., newsmedia, portals, social media), it is a question of effectiveness in generating satisfactory revenue from those ads, conditioned on mouse clicks. When webpages receive high volumes of visits, even very low click rates may be sufficient to collect a handsome sum of money, but this cannot be generalised to most websites and pages. On the other hand, if a website is loaded with ads across the pages to generate more revenue, it may end up cluttering its own content and chasing away visitors.

Internet users who browse websites in search for information on a particular subject (e.g., photography, nature), and  read or watch related content on webpages, are very likely to see ad banners as no more than a distraction from their main task. Clicking on a banner that sends the users to another page means an interruption of the kind many would not welcome. There are exceptions, of course, when for example the ads are for products (e.g., cameras, hiking gear) related to the main topic of the website and thus provide access to additional information that can be of interest on relevant options (i.e., context in which ads appear matters). Ads may be perceived less disturbing to surfers who are engaged in exploration with no planned goal but for fun and entertainment; checking on advertised companies and products may be accepted as part of the exploration, although maybe not in every condition (e.g., when users are wary of non-trusted solicitations, busy interacting with friends in social networks, engaged in watching music videos and so on).

However, viewing an ad banner for a brand can leave an impression, and a trace in memory, in consumers’ minds that will have its effect at a later time, especially if a choice situation in the same product domain is looming soon after. Consumers may register in memory the exposure episode, with the brand name and additional information contained in the ad, for checking-up later without being required to click-through at the same moment. Importantly, this “registration” does not have to occur consciously to make an impact.

If a consumer-surfer is interested, he or she may attempt intentionally to remember the ad and look-up for the brand’s website when the time becomes available and convenient. When  working on a computer or a mobile device, one can easily type a note or set-up a reminder, especially if the website address also appears on the banner. But an ad banner can operate without waiting for a voluntary response or overt reaction from the consumer.  It depends to a large extent on the kind of impression made by the visual image of the ad banner on the consumer-surfer at an initial or quick glance. An image that is easier for the eye and mind to process, that feels pleasant to look at, its informational content will become more readily acceptable and persuasive. Visual processing fluency (1) at the perceptual level suggests that principal elements of the image can be identified with little effort and great accuracy — for instance, in a banner’s image, that may include the brand/company name, logo icon, and picture of a product. Visual fluency can be facilitated by the use of colours and recognizable shapes that are pleasing to watch, symmetry, clear contrast between figure and ground, etc. Its persuasive effect may not be strong enough to trigger a mouse-click yet increased fluency can make the ad’s content better remembered as well as better liked by the viewer for a longer time after exposure.

An ad banner can influence consumer attitude and response also through a process of priming. This type of effect in the particular domain of ad banners on the Internet has been studied by Mitchel and Valenzuela (2). The consumer is initially introduced to the ad in a seemingly casual and incidental way. However, information in the ad stimulus, “planted” as a trace in the consumer’s memory, would prime her or him, unconsciously, to use it during a future task, for example when recalling brands or choosing between alternative brands. Such exposure could work simply by evoking a positive attitude towards the brand in the priming ad. In another procedure, a joint presentation of a brand with a product attribute in the ad banner would prime the consumer to look for and give priority to that same combination when it appears in the information provided on a set of product alternatives to choose from.

according to this research, priming by an ad banner can affect the consideration of brands for purchase (tested with airlines) in three significant ways. First, a brand whose ad had been shown earlier was more likely to be considered for purchase (of air-tickets) than if an ad for another brand had been shown or no ad at all (control). Second, this effect is stronger for a lower quality brand than for a higher quality brand, that is, a stronger brand has less to gain from priming through its ad banner. Third, when consideration is based on recall from memory, priming has a stronger effect in leveraging the likelihood of consideration of a primed brand than if the brands have to be selected from a constrained list — this may be explained by the added impact of priming through prior exposure on memory (note: this difference is valid only for the lower-quality brand!). Advantages of priming are established also when making the final choice of a single brand to purchase from (subject again to the second and third qualifications above).

Mitchel and Valenzuela further reveal in their research an interesting effect of priming of established brands on a “new” unfamiliar brand (i.e., a fictional airliner). All participants were exposed to an ad banner for the unfamiliar brand before given any tasks and therefore the relevant priming effects arise from the lower-quality and higher-quality brands. It is shown that results for the unfamiliar brand were more favourable if at the beginning of the research the higher-quality brand had been primed rather than if the lower-quality brand or neither of them had been primed. The more positive image of a higher-quality brand seems to spill over to the unfamiliar brand by lifting the brand’s evaluation higher and increasing its likelihood of consideration and being finally chosen — an advantage that earlier priming of a familiar but lower-quality brand cannot provide to the unfamiliar brand.

We may learn from this research that ad banners can be utilised to create an advantage for a brand during consumers’ decision processes without their full awareness of it but it will not help any brand — it is more suitable for brands that are currently weaker — and not in every situation. The placement of the ad banner for this purpose has to be planned wisely, preferably in websites, and on particular webpages, where consumers are engaged in learning about a product domain or making the first steps of searching and screening products. Designing an ad banner that is clear, concise and pleasant to watch can only help to maximise impact.

Measuring the effectiveness of ad banners is undoubtedly faced with difficulties and barriers. There is greater tendency to refer to statistics of page views to assess also potential exposure  to ads placed on a page (“impressions”). However, overall “page impressions” are not detailed enough as they refer to the whole webpage; they cannot tell us to which sections or objects, particularly ad banners, a consumer-surfer attends, nor at what level information is processed. Capturing fixations on particular objects by Internet users requires an application of the methodology of eye-tracking. Latency of eye fixations can already provide an indirect indicator of the extent of processing information. However, that methodology cannot be practically and economically applied on a large-scale nor can it be applied on a regular basis.

A third-way approach that is based on tracking mouse movements over a webpage, and is able to detect objects on which a mouse hovers even without clicking on them, provides a sort of middle-ground solution. It is not as complete and accurate as eye-tracking but it can provide a substantive even if partial information on objects to which a consumer-surfer attends; it is based on the premise that our hand often follows our eyes (i.e., visuo-motor correlation) and we tend to point the mouse on a place or item we concentrate at a given moment. And, not least, it is a more feasible solution, technically and economically, to operate on a large data scale. At this time, it seems as a viable platform for developing extensions and improved measures of consumer attention, browsing behaviour, and response to stimuli.

  • The Internet company ClickTale, for example, offers a range of methods for analysis and visualisation of users’ behaviour with a mouse (e.g., “heat maps” based on frequency of mouse “landings” in different locations over a webpage and tracking the movements of a mouse on a webpage).

There are remaining limitations to behavioural data that do not allow us to assess more fully the extent to which ad banners are processed and how it may affect our attitudes, thoughts and feelings. Difficulties can be foreseen for example in measuring the implicit effects of visual fluency or priming on consumers in a “live” environment in real-time. The way to test and measure these effects is by conducting experiments while combining cognitive, attitudinal and behavioural data. The new age of touch screens presents yet a new set of challenges in measuring covert and overt responses.

To conclude, here are a few points that may be worth considering:

  1. The relatively small area of a standard ad banner can make it challenging to construct and design effective ads. First, it is recommended to graphically design an image that is visually fluent for the consumers-surfers, as much as it is in control of the designer  — the rest is in the eye and mind of the viewer. Second, include sufficient information in the banner, like a key claim or description of strengths, that the consumer can relate to and keep in mind, consciously or unconsciously, without having to click-through anywhere else. Third, include a web address the consumer can save and use anytime later.
  2. Think a few steps ahead, what consumers-viewers may do next, that is, how consumers may be influenced by the information and utilise it in a subsequent activity (e.g., shopping online). Thereby, plan the content, placement and timing of the ad banner with respect to events or types of behaviour it intends to affect.
  3. Animated ad banners quickly capture the attention of viewers by their motion. However, such ad banners that appear especially on sidebars attract attention involuntarily at the periphery of the visual field, that is, even if the reader tries to avoid it. Limit the period of time the animation works or let the user stop it lest she is likely to abandon the page altogether.
  4. Beyond the advantages of motion and sound of ad video clips, they can be activated on-site and viewed without requiring the consumer-surfer to leave anywhere else, an important benefit of time-saving and convenience. They should display a visually appealing opening screen and be kept at time-lengths of 30 seconds to two minutes to attract and engage viewers for a reasonable period of suspension from other tasks on the website.

References:

1. Cognitive and Affective Consequences of Visual Fluency: When Seeing Is Easy on the Mind; Piotr Winkielman, Norbert Schwarz, Rolf Reber, & Tedra Fazendeiro, 2003; in Persuasive Imagery: A Consumer Response Perspective, L. M. Scott and R. Batra (eds.)(pp. 75-91), Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

2. How Banner Ads Affect Brand-Choice Without Click-Through; Andrew Mitchel and Ana Valenzuela, 2005; in Online Consumer Psychology: Understanding and Influencing Consumer Behavior in the Virtual World, C. P. Haugtvedt, K. A. Machleit, & R. F. Yalch (eds.)(pp. 125-142), Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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