Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Beyond puppies and babies

An opinion piece in BrandWeek yesterday asks (and answers) the question, "Is advertising too emotional?" The author argues that yes, advertising has gone overboard with inducing feeling but not backing those feelings up with product information that results in sales. I'll admit that I'm a sucker for an ad with puppies (I know I'm not alone here), but I rarely remember what those kinds of ads were for to begin with. One of the reasons advertisers are so keen on emotion is that they hope to use positive emotion as a sort of mental shortcut for consumers. So that when consumers see an adorable puppy, they will think: puppies=good and cute=warm fuzzy feelings=warm fuzzy feelings about product=I will buy the product. This is an oversimplification of a piece of the Elaboration Likelihood Model (shown here) that says there are basically two ways people decide on whether or not they're going to buy a product: 1. Through careful thought and analysis of product benefits and features or 2. By relying on a shortcut (a heuristic) like puppies. When consumers are either unable or unwilling to think too much about whether or not they'll buy a product (when's the last time you carefully weighed the pros and cons of bar soap?), option #2 may be a good bet. But, as the BrandWeek article points out, it may be possible to go too far.

The so-what part: When creating library ads, you may want to think about how motivated or able your patrons are to evaluate your service. Detailed service descriptions may be more palatable to the experienced researcher than the novice. Also, you may want to read over the BrandWeek article, which poses some good points about how to both communicate the value of your service while not boring people to tears.

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