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Market forces and ad persuasiveness

May 30, 2013 0 Comments

persuasive-guyA simplistic approach to advertising effectiveness tries to draw a straight line from an ad’s internal characteristics – its creativity, catchiness, product depiction, value proposition, memorable characters, etc. – to a product’s success in the marketplace.

I was thinking about such claims when I came across a 2006 article from the Journal of Promotion Management:

Stanton, J., & Herbst, K. (2006). The Effects of Current Market Forces on the Impact of a TV Commercial in Creating Persuasion. Journal of Promotion Management, 12 (2), 119-135 DOI: 10.1300/J057v12n02_09

As summarized in the abstract:

The present study investigates the extent to which extenuating factors (excluding those produced by the commercial) affect the extent to which an advertisement is both persuasive and eventually engenders persuasion. The authors collected data from over 5,000 television commercials in the United States, and identified the existing market structure (e.g., brand share, number of competing brands, brand loyalty) surrounding each item at the time the product was advertised, in an effort to separate the effects of the advertisement from the effects of pre-existing market forces on persuasiveness.

The results demonstrate that the combined pre-existing market forces have a greater impact on a commercial’s ability to persuade than does the message or creativity in the advertisement itself. However, when pre-existing market forces between two products were similar, a creative advertising campaign was still identified as important in producing persuasion.

Marketing strategy implications are discussed. (emphasis added)

So according to this massive analysis, ad content alone cannot predict marketplace performance.  The best predictor of future marketplace performance is current marketplace performance!  The authors go further:

[I]t may be too much to ask of any advertising campaign to significantly move sales. This demand on advertising seems to de-emphasize the role of all the other marketing factors that affect sales such as, sales and trade promotions, sales training, product quality, distribution advantages, pricing programs, sampling, etc. Additionally, it fails to recognize that market structure factors such as brand share, number of competing brands, and brand loyalty can have an impact on sales. A myriad of research has identified these factors as affecting a brand’s ability to grow (Agrawal, 1996; Chaudhuri, 1999; Hoyer and Brown, 1990).

For example, if there are ten brands in the market and you are ranked number ten, it may be quite difficult to get people to switch to your brand. Similarly, if there is high brand loyalty amongst competing brands, one would expect little brand switching. Thus, any advertising would be challenged to create a commercial that “moves” share.

This finding will hardly be surprising to any professional in marketing or advertising.  What is surprising is that some neuromarketers seem reluctant to acknowledge that product marketplace success does not magically spring from a single ad’s internal measures of attention, emotion, and memorability.

Smart marketers and advertisers do not expect magic from neuromarketing research techniques, nor do they respond well to claims that ignore reality.  Given a choice between two ads, they will be happy to get any reliable data that helps them make the right choice.   They will apply their professional judgment to deploy that ad most effectively in the context of market forces they find their product in.

Neuromarketing provides tools for decision making.  They work best in combination with other tools and sound professional judgment.  They are not silver bullets.  They cannot undo the reality of market forces.  In the final analysis, the best marketers are those who know how to play the hand they are dealt.  Neuromarketers should not claim to know their jobs better than they do.  The researcher’s job is to give them the information they need to understand what cards they are really holding.

This is a slightly modified re-post of an article originally posted in my long-defunct previous blog on May 12, 2009.

About the Author:

Steve is a writer, speaker, researcher, and marketing consultant. He is author of Intuitive Marketing (2019), a study of persuasion and influence in marketing theory and practice, and co-author of Neuromarketing for Dummies (2013), a comprehensive overview of neuromarketing science, applications, methodologies, and ethics. He is Managing Partner at Intuitive Consumer Insights, where he focuses on marketing education and consulting.

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