The Role of Emotions and Cognitions in Post-Trial Product Attitudes: Assessing the Effects of Attribute Information for Hedonic and Utilitarian Products

Article excerpt

Abstract. This research investigates the role of emotional responses and cognitive structures in attitude formation from product trial experience of hedonic versus utilitarian products, when trial is preceded by different attribute information. The results indicate that, for utilitarian products, cognitive responses and pleasure play an important and distinctive role in posttrial attitude formation, whether search or experience attribute information is provided before trial. For hedonic products, providing search (vs. experience) attribute information prior to trial results in differential effects of emotions and cognitions on attitude formation. Specifically, when search attribute information is included in pre-trial advertisements, cognition and pleasure are significant antecedents of post-trial attitude formation. However, when experience attribute information is provided before trial experience, only emotions (pleasure and arousal), but not cognitions, have a significant effect on post-trial product attitudes. Theoretical and managerial implications of the study are provided.

Keywords: emotions and cognitions; utilitarian and hedonic products; search and experience attributes; trial.

1. Introduction

In the U.S., Yoplait sells several varieties of yogurt, including Yoplait Original and Yoplait Light. In promoting Yoplait Original, the claim argues that the yogurt provides "the delicious blended creaminess of Yoplait", whereas when promoting Yoplait Light, the ad claims "it's fat-free and less calories" (http://www.yoplait.com/products_creamy.aspx). How will the emotions and cognitive responses triggered by these advertising messages influence product evaluations after trial? Will the former message which includes information about fat and calorie content, referred to as search attributes (which are easily conveyed by advertisements) result in higher cognition, which will more strongly affect post-trial evaluations? Will the latter message which contains information about taste and creaminess, referred to as experience attributes (which are better judged through product trial) trigger more emotions, which will better explain the post-trial attitude formation? Will these effects be different if claims were promoting a hedonic product, such as chocolate, versus a more functional product, such as yogurt?

The advertising-trial literature provides some insights related to our questions, suggesting that several product and personal/situational characteristics can influence the role of emotions and cognition on post-trial attitude formation (Kempf, 1999; Kempf and Smith, 1998; Kim and Morris, 2007; Park and Kim, 2003). With regard to product characteristics, research has shown that cognitions and emotions play a differential role in explaining attitude formation for utilitarian versus hedonic products (Kempf, 1999). Further, research shows that some situational characteristics, such as involvement, can moderate the effects of emotions and cognitions on post-trial attitude formation (Kim and Morris, 2007; Park and Kim, 2003).

The current research integrates and builds upon this literature to further our understanding of how emotions and cognitions triggered by advertising followed by product trial can influence consumers' post-trial evaluations, in the context of hedonic and functional products. Although several studies have examined the combinatory mechanism of affect and cognition in product trial attitude formation (Kempf, 1999; Kim and Morris, 2007; Park and Kim, 2003), they have not manipulated the pre-trial advertising content, to examine any effect that the pre-trial information content may have on post-trial attitude formation. In the light of the wide practice of advertising followed by product sampling in marketing, it is essential to investigate how attitudes are formed when advertising content is varied. Indeed, by knowing how consumers process information from advertising and trial, when the pre-trial advertising provides different attribute information, managers could refine their strategies by adjusting the affective or cognitive messages in the pre-trial advertisement. …