Gatton's Hardesty: Marketing Messages Can Be Contagious

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 25, 2015) — What does a teenage girl's excitement over seeing a Taylor Swift poster displayed in a store have to do with selling school supplies located on a nearby shelf to that same teen? It turns out plenty, according to a study co-authored by David Hardesty, the Thomas C. Simons Endowed Professor of Marketing in the University of Kentucky's Gatton College of Business and Economics.

Hardesty, who also serves as director of Graduate Studies and the Von Allmen Behavioral Lab in Gatton's Department of Marketing and Supply Chain, together with research colleagues Jonathan Hasford of Florida International University and Blair Kidwell of The Ohio State University, published the results of their study in the current issue of the American Marketing Association's Journal of Marketing Research.

Titled “More Than a Feeling: Emotional Contagion Effects in Persuasive Communication,” the article finds that the thrill a person feels at seeing one particular item while shopping often carries over to unrelated items.

“Marketers typically don’t consider that the emotions produced in one marketing message may be influencing more than just our feelings toward the targeted product,” write Hardesty, Hasford, and Kidwell. “Our study should encourage marketers to think about how the emotions we associate with one product may affect how we view the next product we encounter.”

The authors conducted a series of studies to determine how the emotions called forth by the marketing effort for one product affected a consumer’s feelings and attitudes toward another. The study first examined how a display of favorable (Taylor Swift) and unfavorable (Miley Cyrus) celebrity posters affected spending on school supplies. In a second study, participants watched a series of ads for a movie starring favorable (Will Smith) and unfavorable (Justin Bieber) celebrities, and then viewed an ad for a shoe company and evaluated the shoe brand.

The presence of an unrelated positive or negative celebrity poster led to an increase or decrease, respectively, in consumer spending on school supplies. Viewing a positive celebrity movie ad led participants to evaluate the shoe ad more positively, and vice versa. Ads for emotion-laden fictitious brands influenced evaluations of unrelated products viewed next. If the fictitious brand was associated with positive emotions, evaluations of the unrelated product became more favorable.

“Whereas marketers often focus on price and prominence when purchasing ad space, this study stresses the importance of nearby ads and how they affect the primary message. In television, this would mean considering ads airing directly before the target ad. In magazine advertising, marketers should consider ads on nearby pages. No matter how carefully designed, advertisements are not evaluated in isolation, and the emotions in one message can absolutely affect a neighboring product,” the authors conclude.

Hardesty was recruited to the UK faculty from the University of Miami in 2005. Honors earned by Hardesty at Gatton include MBA Teacher of the Year in 2007 and the Robertson Outstanding Faculty Researcher Award in 2011.


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