Context-Induced Mood and Brand Selection Strategy

Meryl P. Gardner, University of Delaware
Ronald Paul Hill, Cornell University
ABSTRACT - The general purpose of this paper is to examine the effects on brand selection strategy of one aspect -of context -- i.e., the mood or feeling state induced by context. More specifically, the relationship between mood (an affective state variable) and choice strategies that are primarily affective (experiential strategy) or cognitive (informational strategy) is examined. Findings of one study published earlier by Gardner and Hill (1988) are discussed, a second study is described, and future research directions are delineated. Particular emphasis is given to the mood management perspective advocated by Hill and Gardner (1986).
[ to cite ]:
Meryl P. Gardner and Ronald Paul Hill (1989) ,"Context-Induced Mood and Brand Selection Strategy", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 16, eds. Thomas K. Srull, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 492-494.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 16, 1989      Pages 492-494

CONTEXT-INDUCED MOOD AND BRAND SELECTION STRATEGY

Meryl P. Gardner, University of Delaware

Ronald Paul Hill, Cornell University

ABSTRACT -

The general purpose of this paper is to examine the effects on brand selection strategy of one aspect -of context -- i.e., the mood or feeling state induced by context. More specifically, the relationship between mood (an affective state variable) and choice strategies that are primarily affective (experiential strategy) or cognitive (informational strategy) is examined. Findings of one study published earlier by Gardner and Hill (1988) are discussed, a second study is described, and future research directions are delineated. Particular emphasis is given to the mood management perspective advocated by Hill and Gardner (1986).

INTRODUCTION

Recently, Hill and Gardner (1986) recommended that researchers explicitly consider the dynamic and interactive nature of the relationship between consumer behavior and consumers' mood states. This approach suggests mood may influence and be influenced by different factors at different stages of the buying process. Included in this discussion were need recognition (Berneman and Heeler 1986; Rook 1986), product evaluation (Holbrook 1985; Isen and Means 1983), product purchase (Rook and Gardner 1986), product consumption (Hirschman and Holbrook 1982; Holbrook and Hirschman 1982), and postconsumption outcomes (Barber and Venkatraman 1986).

The result of this discussion was several recommendations for researchers:

First, there is a need to consider the differential effects of mood within and across positive and negative mood states on the buying process. Second, researchers should begin to look at mood as a determinant as well as a result of various stages and activities in the buying process. Third, an attempt should be made to determine the extent to which consumers are aware of their mood-related needs and desires, and whether they consciously or unconsciously utilize the buying process to manage their mood states. (p. 410)

Consistent with this perspective, Hill (1987) used an interactive approach to discuss the relationship between consumers' mood states and their evaluations of advertisements. His article proposes that the current literature in the mood area has enhanced our knowledge concerning the ability of advertisements to elicit particular mood states and the role of mood in the processing of advertisement information. In addition, the article suggests that more attention should be paid to understanding the interaction among: (1) the consumer's pre-exposure mood, (2) the mood induced by the ad, and (3) the information contained within the advertisement. The paper seeks to fill this void by providing a revised perspective, hypothesizing possible mood management strategies associated with advertisement exposure, and presenting- a framework for understanding this phenomenon. The framework posits that advertisements may be viewed as composed of three parts: the focal product, attribute-based information, and contextual factors. These components are hypothesized to have the ability to interact with pre-processing mood to produce resulting mood. The article's hypotheses postulate that consumers prefer ads that extend positive mood states or transform (reduce) negative mood states.

STUDY I

Consistent with the mood management perspective described earlier, Study I examined the relationship between mood (an affective state variable) and choice strategies that are primarily affective (experiential strategy) or cognitive (informational strategy). (For a complete description of this study and its findings, see Gardner and Hill 1988.) The major objective of Study I was to describe an exploratory investigation of mood as an antecedent and consequence of brand choice strategies. Therefore, the key experimental questions were: (1) Can mood state affect the use of experiential vs. informational strategies for brand choice? and (2) Can the type of strategy selected by individuals in a given preprocessing mood influence their post-processing mood states?

A review of the literature found feeling states affect the incidence of purchase (Berneman and Heeler 1986; Weinberg and Gottwald 1982), but past research did not provide a clear prediction of which feeling states lead to which brand selection strategies. Results of studies involving cognitive effects of mood suggest that pre-processing mood states may be associated with informational strategies for brand selection, while results of studies involving behavioral effects suggest positive mood states may be associated with experiential strategies.

In order to investigate this issue, a two-group experimental design was used. To avoid the self-selection bias inherent in studies that assess subjects' pre-experimental mood states, subjects were randomly assigned to positive vs. negative mood conditions, and mood was experimentally induced using contexts similar to those in which marketing messages commonly appear. Prior laboratory research has found such contexts are strong enough to affect mood states (Veitch and Griffitt 1976; Johnson and Tversky 1982).

Although Study I was exploratory and primarily concerned with investigating the existence of a relationship between mood state and brand selection strategy, findings regarding the nature of the relationship are quite interesting. Specifically, findings indicate subjects in positive context-induced moods are more likely to use an experiential strategy than those in negative context-induced moods. Further, results indicate subjects in negative context-induced moods are more likely to use an informational strategy than those in positive context-induced moods.

Results also indicate the context-induced mood condition and processing strategy interact to affect post-processing mood. Findings indicate subjects in positive context-induced moods were not only more likely to use an experiential strategy than those in negative moods, but that those who did so had more positive post-processing moods than those who did not. Further, findings indicate subjects in negative context-induced moods were not only more likely to use an informational strategy than those in positive context-induced moods, but that those who did so had more positive post-processing moods than those who did not. This is consistent with the use of appropriate strategies for mood management. Additional support for the role of experiential strategies as mood enhancers and of informational strategies as mood disruptors comes from an analysis of post-choice moods: Subjects who used an experiential strategy maintained their induced moods more than those who used the informational strategy. In fact, examination of experimental data suggests those in the positive induced-mood condition who used an experiential strategy and those in the negative induced-mood condition who used an informational strategy had similar post-selection mood states.

The results of Study I suggest strategies for brand selection should be viewed as an important part of consumers' emotional lives, and models of brand choice should consider consumers' feeling states. Findings indicate mood state can influence brand selection strategy. In addition, they indicate the type of strategy selected by individuals in a given preprocessing mood can influence their post-processing mood states.

STUDY II

To clarify and extend these findings, Study II was conducted. This investigation differed from Study I in several important ways. First, Study II provides additional insights into the mood states induced by the experimental manipulations of context. In Study L mood was assessed with the Peterson and Sauber (1983) Mood Short Form. This manipulation check indicated that the positive mood context was associated with more favorable moods than the negative mood context. It did not, however, provide insight into the subjects' absolute mood valence. To ascertain whether the positive (negative) mood context induces a positive (negative) mood or simply one which is more (less) favorable than that induced by the negative (positive) mood context, additional data were collected in Study II. Subjects were asked to complete the statement, "As I read this story, I felt:". Their written responses were coded as positive, negative or neutral. Additional insights into subjects' mood states will be obtained by examining the number of positive statements minus the number of negative statements.

Second, Study I involved a "forced-choice" where subjects were required to select either an experiential or informational strategy for their decision and were to maintain the selected strategy during the entire decision process. While this procedure may have captured their strategy preferences, in reality "pure" experiential and informational strategies may be the extremes of a continuum, with most consumers lying somewhere in between. In Study II, subjects made their decisions as they wished. Upon completion of the experimental session, the number of experiential and informational statements elicited during the decision process were coded and used as indicators of experiential and informational processing.

Third, Study I allowed subjects to select any product category for the decision task. This experimental procedure may have introduced a confound since it is difficult to determine whether the post-processing mood states were the result of the product category or the decision strategy-selected. In Study II, all subjects utilized the same product category (automobiles) to ensure that differences are due to the choice of strategy.

Fourth, Study II extends the investigation of the interplay between decision making and consumers' mood states by examining decision protocols. There is a need to go beyond the "global" categories of experiential and informational and focus on more specific methods of categorization. For example, do subjects express different needs in positive versus negative mood? Study II investigates the hypothesis that consumers in negative moods tend to focus more on "necessities" and consumers in positive moods may focus more on "luxuries". Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow 1970)-may be helpful in the development of an appropriate coding scheme. Also, do subjects invoke different or a wider array of senses during the decision process in positive versus negative moods? Study II also investigates the hypothesis that consumers in negative moods tend to "withdraw" from stimuli and, subsequently, utilize fewer senses when evaluating products.

FUTURE RESEARCH

Further work is needed to extend our understanding of the interplay between context-induced mood and brand selection strategy. Conceptually based research is needed to enhance our understanding of the role of the dimensions of mood states in processing for brand selection. Research also is needed to examine the generalizability of the findings reported to specific types of positive and negative moods, and more ecologically valid settings. Also, researchers might consider different products within the same investigation to examine main and interaction effects of product category and brand selection strategy.

REFERENCES

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