The Effect of Experiential Analogies on Consumer Perceptions and Attitudes

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Goode, Miranda R., Dahl, Darren W., Moreau, Page C. Journal of Marketing Research. (2010). The Effect of Experiential Analogies on Consumer Perceptions and Attitudes. Journal of Marketing Research, Volume 47, Number 2. pp. 274-86.

Reviewed by Christopher Berry, August 2010

Executive Summary

The authors conduct three studies on the use of emotional analogies. They conclude that analogies are an effective method for communicating about a product experience, and that they need to be mindful in their selection.

They define the differences between novel experiential analogies (“like a first kiss…the Bugatti Sportcar”), novel functional analogies (“not since the human body has anything worked like a Bugatti sports car”), and conventional similes and metaphors (“fast a speeding bullet…the Bugatti sports car”). They break out each type by emotionality, and cognitive resources required, preference for the base domain…among others.

In their three studies that follow, they find that emotional connections within the analogy are effective, that base preference towards the product matters, and that in general, sound analogies work better.

Why you should care

Web analysts in particular are very good at analyzing the data that is most readily available to them – namely – web analytic data. We’re generally less good at examining the content on those pages and experiences. It’s worth a look.

As reviewed before in Modeling the Determinants and Effects of Creativity in Advertising, there are very robust frameworks for creative analysis. Web analysts have a key role to play here.

Goode et al’s findings are welcome confirmation of what marketers should know. On the face of it, a marketer should be mindful about which emotions they’re going to liken product experiences to. Not everybody has warm feelings towards specific product segments or experiences in their life. Comparing the feeling you get when you use a computer to your first bike ride might conjure up heightened exhilaration followed by an unfortunate encounter with a curb, going over the handlebars, and the smashing of ones face into pavement. Crashing in one sense is transferred to crashing in the other. It’s a vivid memory, and to the detriment of the product.

An astute analyst might question if this just comes down to variant testing in the end. Testing in the absence of theory does very little to advance actual understanding. Testing with theory in mind, over time, is more likely to result in repeatable successes than if one was to take a random walk down web street. In effect, it’s important to understand why you’re testing and what you’re expecting.

What isn’t included in this study is the nature of specific clichés on purchase intent, brand perception and cognition. A cliché requires little cognition to process, and by definition, isn’t all that surprising to a consumer at all. It won’t stand out. Worse, if the consumer expectation from the brand is to be surprised, a cliché analogy might end up damaging. It might actually be more important to generate a sense of intrigue within the analogy so that the customer wants to be engaged further. Such tradeoffs exist.

Web analysts who are interested in content optimization will get value from this paper.

A single copy of the full journal reviewed above is available to members of the Web Analytics Association. To request a copy, email Shannon Taylor.