Measuring Advertising Effectiveness

By William D. Wells | Go to book overview

5
Advertising Repetition and Consumer Beliefs: The Role of Source Memory

Sharmistha Law Scott A. Hawkins University of Toronto

Convincing consumers of a product's benefits is crucial to the success of an advertising campaign. To achieve this goal, a strategy commonly adopted by marketers is to repeat simple product claims -- we have heard on numerous occasions that, "Campbells soup is good food." Therefore, an enduring question in the study of advertising effectiveness concerns the effect of repetition on the consumer (for reviews, see Calder & Sternthal, 1980; Pechmann & Stewart, 1989). Repeating an ad has been found to enhance memory for the advertised brand ( Belch, 1982; Cacioppo & Petty, 1979). Multiple exposures of the same ad have also been found to first increase and then decrease positive attitude toward the advertised products ( Cacioppo & Petty, 1979; Sawyer & Ward, 1979). Although the effect of repetition on consumers is clearly an important concern for marketers, very little research has been done on the impact of repetition on consumer beliefs. The objectives of this research are to (a) confirm prior findings that repetition increases belief in marketing claims, and (b) further our understanding of the memory mechanisms underlying the effect of repetition on beliefs.

Repetition-induced belief was first reported by Hasher, Goldstein, and Toppino ( 1977), who found that subjects rated repeated statements as being more truthful than new statements. This phenomenon has since been called the "truth effect." Two causal mechanisms have been proposed for this effect.

First, it is argued that subjects' sense of having seen the item before (i.e., sense of familiarity) leads to heightened validity ratings: A statement will seem true if it expresses facts that feel familiar (e.g., Bacon, 1979; Hawkins & Hoch, 1992). The only study in the marketing literature that has examined the truth effect is reported by Hawkins and Hoch ( 1992), who observed that repetitioninduced familiarity leads to increases in belief of simple product claims. In an initial session, subjects were shown consumption-related trivia statements selected to be plausible but of uncertain truth value. During a later session, half of the original statements were re-presented along with a set of new statements.

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