Processing By Attribute Versus Brand: the Mediating Role of Imagery

Ann McGill, New York University
Punam Anand, New York University
ABSTRACT - Past studies on consumer choice have revealed two major information processing strategies. In some cases consumers process information on one attribute at a time (Russo and Dosher 1983). According to this strategy, consumers select an attribute and examine values for several brands on that attribute. They then select another attribute and examine several brands on that attribute, and so forth. The other strategy involves processing information on one brand at a time. According to this approach, consumers separately evaluate each brand on the attributes presented. Although several modifications of these two processing approaches have been identified, processing by brand and processing by attribute represent the main strategies (Bettman & Kakkar 1977).
[ to cite ]:
Ann McGill and Punam Anand (1988) ,"Processing By Attribute Versus Brand: the Mediating Role of Imagery", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 15, eds. Micheal J. Houston, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 184.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 15, 1988      Page 184

PROCESSING BY ATTRIBUTE VERSUS BRAND: THE MEDIATING ROLE OF IMAGERY

Ann McGill, New York University

Punam Anand, New York University

ABSTRACT -

Past studies on consumer choice have revealed two major information processing strategies. In some cases consumers process information on one attribute at a time (Russo and Dosher 1983). According to this strategy, consumers select an attribute and examine values for several brands on that attribute. They then select another attribute and examine several brands on that attribute, and so forth. The other strategy involves processing information on one brand at a time. According to this approach, consumers separately evaluate each brand on the attributes presented. Although several modifications of these two processing approaches have been identified, processing by brand and processing by attribute represent the main strategies (Bettman & Kakkar 1977).

Findings in the literature suggest that whether a person processes by attribute or by brand is dependent on information presentation format (Bettman and Kakkar 1977), the number of attributes or brands considered (Wright 1975), prior experience and the learning goals of the consumer (Bettman and Kakkar 1977). This paper suggests another factor that may affect processing strategy selection. Specifically, instructions to imagine owning and using the brands prior to choice versus to avoid imagery and use logic were posited to determine choice of information processing strategy.

In the past decade, considerable interest has developed in the role of mental imagery in consumer information processing (cf. MacInnis and Price 1977 for a review). Imagery research to date has focused primarily on the effects of mental imagery at low levels of cognitive elaboration, for example, mentally picturing a stimulus object. The effects of mental imagery at higher levels of cognitive elaboration, for example, imagining owning and using a product, have received less attention from consumer behavior researchers.

While it has been suggested that elaborated imagery processing may affect several aspects of consumer choice including brand evaluation strategy and post choice enjoyment, there is no empirical evidence to support these claims (MacInnis & Price 1987). The goal of this study is to provide empirical support for propositions on the relationship between elaborated imagery and consumers' choice processes.

In this paper, we examine differences in strategy selection across conditions that either encourage or discourage subjects from using imagery. Specifically, subjects are instructed either to imagine owning and using alternatives or to avoid the use of imagery and to use logic to evaluate alternatives. The plan of the paper is as follows. First we review the research on imagery and brand evaluation strategies. We then present the rationale for the differential effects of imagery instructions on subjects' choice of processing strategy, amount of information searched per alternative, pattern of information search per alternative and subjects' assessed likelihood that they would enjoy owning and using the alternative selected. Hypotheses about the effects of imagery instructions are then tested experimentally. The paper concludes with a discussion of practical implications on how imagery may determine brand choice.

REFERENCES

Bettman, James R. and Pradeep Kakkar (1977), "Patterns of Processing in Consumer Information Acquisition," Journal of Consumer Research, 3 (March), 233-240.

MacInnis, Deborah I. and Linda L. Price (1987), 'The Role of Imagery in Information Processing: Review and Extensions," Journal of Consumer Research, 13 (March), 473-491.

Russo, J. Edwards and Barbara A. Dosher (1983), "Strategies for Multiattribute Binary Choice," Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 9 (4), 676-696.

Wright, Peter (1975), "Consumer Choice Strategies: Simplifying vs. Optimizing," Journal of Marketing Research, 12 (February), 60-67.

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