Attribute Framing in Former Price Comparison Advertisements (1)
Devlin, James F., Ennew, Christine, McKechnie, Sally, Smith, Andrew, Consumer Interests Annual
Using an experimental design, in this paper we investigate the impact of alternative framing of a factually equivalent price comparison advertisement on the key outcome variables of believability, transaction value, acquisition value, search intention and purchase intention. We find that consumers do respond differently when the same factual information is framed in a different manner in former price comparison advertisements and that the attribute framing variable impacts in particular on assessments of transaction value, believability and purchase intention.
For some time the powerful effects of framing for decisions under risk have been known (Tversky and Kahneman 1981) and some effort has been made to apply these insights to consumer decision making (e.g. Thaler 1985; Diamond and Sanyal 1990). The essential lesson from generic framing research is as follows: the framing method can affect the final decision i.e. even when factual information is the same for two cases the biasing of the frame can affect the proposed outcome or solution nominated by a subject. One of the great playgrounds for framing has been marketing. Marketing practitioners and particularly advertisers have been intuitively aware of the potential of framing for some decades. Any advertisement represents an artifact with a number of framing elements that can be varied depending on the objective. However a great amount of research on framing relies on comparison of a distinct positive versus a distinct negative frame. This is particularly true of attribute framing (see Levin et al, 1998) for example something can be described as 10% fat or 90% fat free. The literature on graphical presentation formats suggests that where the positive and negatives are a little more ambiguous and based on visual representations of numeric data, a type of attribute framing still occurs (see Mussweiler and Schneller 2003; Diacon and Hasseldine 2006). In this paper we propose that consumers may react differently to alternative visual presentations of the same basic price offer in comparison price advertising. For example a discounted price of something costing 100 [pounds sterling] can be framed as 10 [pounds sterling] off or 10% less. One is not positively or negatively biased per se, the two are merely different representations of the same data. It follows that one may be more effective than the other and that advertisers may know this and therefore display a tendency to use certain numerical frames over others that are factually equivalent.
The literature covering comparison price advertising is well rehearsed (see Compeau and Grewal, 1998 for a thorough review), with a consumer's Internal Reference Price (IRP) being noted as an important influence on decisions, as well as the believability associated with a particular offer. Key outcome variables are the transaction and acquisition value associated with an offer, as well as the intention to continue searching or alternatively purchase the offer in question.
There are very few insights into how the more nuanced form of framing discussed above might impact on the consumer's response to comparison price advertising, hence the impetus for the experiment reported in this paper. We investigate the impact of alternative framing of a factually equivalent price comparison advertisement on the key outcome variables of believability, transaction value, acquisition value, search intention and purchase intention. The insights gained will be of interest to marketing practitioners, but also to policymakers as they seek to ensure that consumers are not unduly influenced by exaggerated former prices in advertisements.
An experimental methodology was adopted for the study. The context of the study was a package vacation, where advertisements featuring comparison with a former price are common. Our experiment was a 3 x 3 design, with three methods of "attribute framing" and three discounts sizes incorporated into the study. …