• May 18, 2023

Looking for Effective Ad Imagery? It's Cool to Include this

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Ads with imagery conveying a feeling of coldness can positively influence consumer behavior and perception about a product, university researchers in Japan found in a new study.

The study found that coldness and cold imagery can be leveraged to increase the perceived newness of a product.

The study began with the assumption that in visual advertisements, the imagery used is extremely important and can help evoke specific feelings and communicate key brand- or product-
related concepts to consumers. For example, showing accompanying images of lush nature in an ad can instill an idea of greenness or eco-friendliness. “Coldness often has a negative connotation; for example, people regularly use expressions such as ‘She gave me the cold shoulder’ or ‘His comment froze me in place.’ Indeed, consumer researchers have shown that warm temperatures increase consumers’ evaluation and purchase intention for a given product more than cold temperatures,” says associate professor Taku Togawa from Sophia University in Japan, who led the study. “However, our study sought to prove that, in the context of advertising for new products, coldness is not always a negative factor in consumer behavior.”

For the study, the researchers first considered the psychological mechanisms of newness perception using construal level theory (CLT), which states that the way people construe or interpret an object depends on the psychological distance between them and the object. When an object is psychologically distant, people tend to perceive it in more abstract and general terms, focusing on its broader features and meaning.

Previous studies have found that the perception of coldness can increase a subject’s psychological distance to an event or object.

By amplifying the psychological distance to a product using cold imagery, consumers’ perceived ambiguity about that product will increase, which in turn will cause them to identify it as novel and engage their curiosity.

The study was conducted in four parts. In the first part, Togawa and his colleagues sent online surveys to more than 100 participants, who were shown fake product ads with accompanying cold or warm imagery. One ad for a car, for example, included imagery of either a snowy landscape or a sunny green field. Results confirmed that coldness was indeed statistically associated with a higher perception of newness.

The second experiment verified that coldness led to a higher psychological distance, and therefore higher perceived ambiguity and newness.

The third experiment showed that using cold imagery was effective at increasing perceived newness for modern-looking products, but not for antique-style products.

Finally, the fourth experiment indicated that the perceived newness enhanced by cold imagery improved consumers’ evaluations of the advertised product, but only when they were hypothetically planning to buy it in the distant future rather than in the short term.

“Our results will contribute to building a theoretical framework explaining how newness perception is communicated through advertising,” Togawa concludes. “We believe marketers may be able to communicate product newness more easily, quickly, and inexpensively by using background imagery related to coldness in their advertisements rather than altering the style and features of the product itself, which is costly.”

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