It has always been a difficult proposition to show precisely how advertising affects the consuming public. Many, such as the Center for Media Literacy, hold that its effect on consumer choice is highly limited. What does matter in advertising is stereotyping and repetition. When consumer choice is manipulated by advertising, it is usually these variables working together.
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Low involvement categories are usually small purchases where the consumer does not believe different brands are really different from one another. This can have a great effect on consumer choice. For low involvement purchases, it is the smallest distinction among products that can sway a consumer.
These are higher priced items with substantial brand differences. Advertising works differently here. In these cases, the advertisement will stress one specific element of the brand: safety, lower price, ease of use, high quality or some other variable will be isolated and made the centre of the ad campaign. This can also sway consumer choice.
It is difficult to prove advertising makes decisions for people, according to the Center for Media Literacy. It can, however, serve more effectively to confirm what the culture in general says about a product. Volvo made "safety" the centre of its advertising to the point where safety is the hallmark of the car brand. Honda has done the same with "reliability." This has become a cultural "fact." This type of advertising confirms what the culture already "knows" about the product. In this case, those who are looking for safety or reliability will go to those respective brands first.
In order for something to be a cultural "fact," repetition must be used. Volvo stressed its "safety" variable over and over again. It became a "fact" due to repetition. In this case, consumer choice is not affected by a single advertisement, but by a long-term campaign stressing one (important and desirable) variable over others. The eventual snowball effect of advertising is a major goal. Here, advertising must be a long-term cultural commitment in order to sway consumers, according to the Advertising Educational Foundation.
Advertising, to be effective on consumer choice, must successfully create or confirm a cultural "fact." In short, it creates stereotypes. Conservative, family types want safety, that is, Volvo. Liberal, "free" types want Bud Light Lime beer. Tough guys want Ford trucks and even Marlboro cigarettes. "Country" types want blue jeans and Country music. These are familiar stereotypes created (at least in part) by advertising. It is the reproduction of these stereotypes that manipulate consumer behaviour.
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