By: Kinza Raza

We have been told so often that the role of advertising is to persuade that we seem to have come to believe it.

How often do we hear the comment, ‘It wouldn’t make me run out and buy it’ This is common in market research when participants are asked to analyze introspectively how they react to an ad -especially if it is an image ad. It demonstrates the myth of how advertising is supposed to have its influence. No-one really believes that any ad will make them run out and buy the advertised product. Nothing has that kind of persuasive or coercive power. So why do people say, ‘It wouldn’t make me run out and buy it’? Because they can’t think of any other way the ad could work. The effect of advertising is not to make us ‘run out and buy’. This is especially true with low-involvement products and especially true with image advertising. It is beam-balance stuff.

High-involvement buying contrasts with low-involvement, low-cost purchases. When people are parting with substantial sums of money to buy a TV, a car or a vacation, they do not take the decision lightly. These are high-involvement decisions for most consumers. Before making them, we actively hunt down information, talk with friends and generally find out all we can about our prospective purchase.

Furthermore, the alternative brands available will usually have many more differences. They are unlikely to be almost identical, as is the case with many low-involvement products.

Advertising is one influence in high-involvement buying decisions, but it is only one among many. Often it is a relatively weak influence, especially in comparison with other influences like word-of-mouth, previous experience and recommendations by ‘experts’. In the case of high-involvement products, much of advertising’s effect is not so much on the final decision as on whether a brand gets considered — whether we include it in the set of alternatives that we are prepared to spend time weighing up. This is one of the ways that advertising influences our thinking indirectly. For example, there are hundreds of brands and types of cars, far too many for us to consider individually in the same detail. We seriously consider only those that make it onto our short list.

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