The Effects of Advertisements on Consumers' Mood States: an Interactive Perspective

Ronald Paul Hill, The American University
ABSTRACT - Current literature in the mood area has focused on the ability of advertisements to elicit particular mood states or on the effects of mood on the processing of information contained in ads. However, this research stream has neglected the possible interactive relationship between the current mood of consumers and the mood intrinsic to and the information contained within the advertisement. This paper discusses possible mood management strategies of consumers when they evaluate advertisements and presents a simple framework for understanding this phenomena.
[ to cite ]:
Ronald Paul Hill (1988) ,"The Effects of Advertisements on Consumers' Mood States: an Interactive Perspective", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 15, eds. Micheal J. Houston, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 131-134.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 15, 1988      Pages 131-134

THE EFFECTS OF ADVERTISEMENTS ON CONSUMERS' MOOD STATES: AN INTERACTIVE PERSPECTIVE

Ronald Paul Hill, The American University

ABSTRACT -

Current literature in the mood area has focused on the ability of advertisements to elicit particular mood states or on the effects of mood on the processing of information contained in ads. However, this research stream has neglected the possible interactive relationship between the current mood of consumers and the mood intrinsic to and the information contained within the advertisement. This paper discusses possible mood management strategies of consumers when they evaluate advertisements and presents a simple framework for understanding this phenomena.

INTRODUCTION

Few consumer researchers doubt the pervasive and important influence that mood has on the processing of information and decision making by consumers. Strong evidence suggests that individual choice behavior can be based on affective as well as rational factors (Zajonc 1980). Further, the impact of mood states on the consumer decision process appears to be a function of the valence of the current mood (Gardner and Hill 1986).

Most of the studies that have investigated the role of mood or emotion in advertising have looked at the ability of ads to elicit different affective states (Holbrook and O'Shaughnessy 1984). This work has popularized the "attitude toward the ad" stream of research which typically views this construct as an intervening variable that mediates the effects of the advertising message on brand attitudes and preferences (Edell and Burke 1984). According to this perspective, the purpose of many ads is to create a favorable ad attitude by leaving the viewer/listener/reader in a positive emotional state after processing the ad (Hill and Mazis 1985). The assumption underlying this approach is that consumers are hedonistically motivated by the desire to feel good (Hirschman and Holbrook 1982).

Other investigations have looked at the effects of consumers' current affective states on subsequent evaluations of advertisements (Milberg and Mitchell 1984). The ads used in these studies are primarily informational and subjects' moods are manipulated outside the context of the ad. Evidence suggests that mood may impact the encoding and retrieval of information contained in an ad (Srull 1984). For example, consumers who are in positive moods upon exposure to an advertisement should encode favorable information about the advertised brand. This may result in more positive brand attitudes than would occur under different mood-related conditions.

The gap in our current knowledge involves an understanding of both effects simultaneously. In particular, how does a consumers mood state interact with the mood and information contained in an advertisement to produce ad and brand attitudes? The answer to this question is the purpose of this article.

RATIONALE

Consumer behavior which is motivated by affective desires has been termed "hedonic consumption" (Holbrook and Hirschman 1982, Hirschman and Holbrook 1982). The basis of this approach is that the search for emotional arousal is an important motivation for individuals when selecting products to consume. Implicit to this perspective is the assumption that consumers consciously or unconsciously utilize the buying process to manage their moods (Hill and Gardner 1986).

Recent evidence suggests that consumer behavior activities may result in the extension of an individual's positive mood or the transformation of his or her negative mood. In a study by Gardner and Hill (1986), subjects in positive moods who used an experiential strategy had more positive post-processing moods than those who used an informational strategy, and subjects in negative moods who used an informational strategy had more positive post-processing moods than those who used an experiential strategy. Interestingly, subjects in positive moods were more likely to use an experiential strategy than those in negative moods, and subjects in negative moods were more likely to use an informational strategy than those in positive moods. This finding suggests that subjects may have been employing a mood management strategy during decision making.

The two elements of an advertisement that have the potential to impact a consumer's mood are the mood inherent to the ad and the non-attribute and attribute-based information contained within the ad (Mitchell 1985). Both elements interact with the consumer's current mood to influence his or her resulting affective state. Diagrammatically, this relationship might take the form shown in Figure 1.

FIGURE 1

THE IMPACT OF AN ADVERTISEMENT ON A CONSUMER'S MOOD STATE

These ad components may work similarly to the hedonic and utilitarian affective attitude elements suggested by Batra (1986). Through the process of empathy, the mood inherent to the ad may act to reduce, maintain, or improve the mood of the receiver (Hill 1987). This could be characterized as the hedonic affective response of the consumer. Further, the information contained in the ad may act to reinforce this mood (non-attribute information) or may be used by the receiver to evaluate the advertised brand's potential to impact current and future mood states (attribute-based information). This could be characterized as the utilitarian affective response of the consumer. Gardner (1985) provides additional support for the dichotomous nature of advertisements by suggesting that ads designed to impact mood states contain two elements - cognitive mood inducers such as positive or negative statements (information) and non-cognitive mood inducers such as scary or happy music (inherent mood).

MOOD MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR ADVERTISEMENTS

According to the mood management perspective, consumers should prefer advertisements that have the desired impact on their current moods (Mitchell 1985). Specifically, consumers in positive moods whose moods are extended after exposure to an advertisement will have more positive ad and brand attitudes than individuals whose moods are not extended. On the other hand, consumers in negative moods whose moods are transformed after exposure to an advertisement will have more positive ad and brand attitudes than individuals whose moods are not transformed. A diagrammatic representation of this relationship might take the form portrayed in Figure 2.

FIGURE 2

THE EFFECTS OF THE INTERACTION BETWEEN A CONSUMER'S MOOD STATE AND AN ADVERTISEMENT ON Aad AND Abr

The mood management approach provides some insight into the relationship between resulting mood and ad and brand attitudes. What is not clear is how the mood and informational components of an advertisement interact with a consumer's current mood to produce his or her resulting mood state. The following subsections provide a general discussion of this relationship for both positive and negative pre-processing mood conditions.

Positive Pre-Processing Mood Conditions

As mentioned previously, consumers prefer advertisements that extend their positive mood states, and both the mood and informational components of an ad have $he ability to accomplish this task. With regard to mood inherent to the ad, it can be characterized as consistent (i.e., positive) or inconsistent (i.e., negative) with the consumer's positive affective state. Since consumers may empathically acquire the ad's mood, they should prefer ads with consistent moods. Another issue involves the intensity of mood. Although the consumer behavior literature suggests that individuals have a limited tolerance for arousal (Hill 1987, Ray and Wilkie 1970), this principle has been applied solely to negative mood conditions. Therefore, it will be discussed only in the negative pre-processing mood subsection.

In terms of the informational content of an ad, the non-attribute information also can be characterized as consistent (i.e., positive statements) or inconsistent (i.e., negative statements) with the consumer's positive affective state (Gardner 1985). However, the attribute-based information may be positioned somewhat differently. Mizerski, White, and Hunt (1984) suggest that "emotion as a benefit" is a viable and widely used product positioning strategy in advertisements. However, including attempts to de-market products such as tobacco and liquor, "emotion as a cost" should be included as a potential advertising positioning strategy. Thus, attribute-based information might suggest that consideration, purchase and/or consumption of the advertised product may lead to positive or negative emotional outcomes.

Therefore, consumers in a positive pre-processing mood should prefer the blend of ad characteristics shown in Figure 3 to all other possible combinations since it should be perceived to have the highest probability of extending their current mood states.

These are also the ad characteristics that Advertisers should utilize if they anticipate that consumers will be receiving their advertisements in positive pre-processing moods due to vehicle source effects. However, if advertisers wish to de-market a product, they may choose to use an entirely different strategy. Their goal might be to produce the most negative possible resulting mood and associate this mood with the product category under consideration. This strategy is portrayed in Figure 4.

Negative Pre-Processing Moods

Most of the ad characteristics that may impact a consumer's mood can be described similarly for negative pre-processing moods. For example, the mood inherent to the ad can be characterized as consistent (i.e., negative) or inconsistent (i.e., positive) with the consumer's negative affective state. Also, non-attribute information can be characterized as consistent (i.e., negative statements) or inconsistent (i.e., positive statements) with the consumer's negative affective state.

Differences, however, exist for attribute-based information. For negative pre-processing moods, "emotion as a benefit" is the product's perceived ability to transform negative affective states, and "emotion as a cost" is the product's perceived ability to extend unpleasant negative moods. Further, the optimal mix of ad characteristics differs according to the level of intensity of consumers' pre-processing moods. If their negative pre-processing moods are very intense, consumers may not be able to cope with these feelings. This situation may lead to a preference for ads with inconsistent moods and inconsistent non-attribute information so that they may escape from their current affective states. However, if the level of intensity of their pre-processing moods is in the moderate range, consumers may prefer ads that are consistent with their current moods in terms of mood and non-attribute information since these ads provide a justification for their feelings. Also, they may prefer ads that additionally provide attribute-based information in the form of emotion as a benefit as described above. Both negative pre-processing mood scenarios are diagrammatically illustrated in Figure 5.

Once again, the best strategy for advertisers to pursue is consistent with the mood management needs of consumers. If advertisers expect that consumers will be experiencing negative pre-processing moods of high intensity (due, potentially, to vehicle source effects), they should develop ads containing positive moods and positive non-attribute information. On the other hand, if advertisers expect that consumers will be experiencing negative pre-processing moods of moderate intensity, they should develop ads containing negative moods, negative non-attribute information, and attribute information that creates the impression that consideration, purchase and/or consumption of their products will lead to a transformation of consumers' current affective states.

FIGURE 3

OPTIMAL ADVERTISING STRATEGY FOR CONSUMERS IN POSITIVE PRE-PROCESSING MOODS

FIGURE 4

OPTIMAL (DEMARKETING) ADVERTISING STRATEGY FOR CONSUMERS IN POSITIVE PRE-PROCESSING MOODS

FIGURE 5

OPTIMAL ADVERTISING STRATEGY FOR CONSUMERS IN NEGATIVE PRE-PROCESSING MOODS

DISCUSSION

This paper suggests that consumers prefer advertisements which help them manage their current moods by aiding in the extension of positive affective states and the transformation of negative affective states. Further, successful use of mood manipulation by advertisers may depend on their ability to facilitate this process. The following are propositions based on this perspective.

Proposition 1a: Consumers experiencing positive pre-processing moods prefer advertisements which contain positive moods, positive non-attribute statements, and attribute-based information suggesting emotion as a benefit.

Proposition 1b: The mix of ad characteristics suggested in proposition la will result in more positive mood states than any other possible combination for consumers experiencing positive pre-processing moods.

Proposition 1c: The use of advertisements which contain negative moods, negative non-attribute statements, and attribute-based information suggesting emotion as a cost will result in more negative mood states than any other possible combination for consumers experiencing positive preprocessing moods.

Proposition 2a: Consumers experiencing high intensity of negative pre-processing moods prefer advertisements which contain positive moods and positive non-attribute statements.

Proposition 2b: The mix of ad characteristics suggested in proposition 2a will result in more positive mood states than any other possible combination for consumers experiencing high intensity of negative pre-processing moods.

Proposition 3a: Consumers experiencing moderate intensity of negative preprocessing moods prefer advertisements which contain negative moods, negative non-attribute statements, and attribute-based information suggesting emotion as a benefit.

Proposition 3b: The mix of ad characteristics suggested in proposition 3a will result in more positive mood states than any other possible combination for consumers experiencing moderate intensity of negative pre-processing moods.

Of course, there are other issues that need to be addressed regarding the relationship between preprocessing mood and ad characteristics. For example, what properties of mood (i.e., valence and intensity) have the potential to trigger mood management strategies on the part of consumers? Also, once mood management strategies are triggered, do consumers actually search for ads which have the potential to affect their moods in desirable ways or are they passive recipients of advertising messages which happen to be in their personal environments?

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