Brand Name Memory Following Ad Exposure: Inhibition, Interference and Attenuation Processes As Revealed By Direct and Indirect Tests of Memory

Shanker Krishnan, Indiana University
Carol Pluzinski, New York University
[ to cite ]:
Shanker Krishnan and Carol Pluzinski (1993) ,"Brand Name Memory Following Ad Exposure: Inhibition, Interference and Attenuation Processes As Revealed By Direct and Indirect Tests of Memory", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, eds. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 655.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, 1993      Page 655


Shanker Krishnan, Indiana University

Carol Pluzinski, New York University

The goal of this session was to point to new directions for measuring and interpreting attenuated memory for ad content. Especially highlighted were: (1) factors that might lead to poor memory such as the competitive environment and inherent brand name characteristics, (2) processes of inhibition and interference, (3) testing for such effects. The causes underlying poor brand memory may depend on several factors, each implying differences in the nature of information processing induced by ad exposure, for example, inhibition vs. interference (Wallace and Hasher). Since recall and recognition (direct tests) do not always capture the full extent of consumer memory, the papers provided a blend of direct and less traditional indirect tests in assessing ad memory. Indirect tests reveal memory by a demonstrated facilitation in task performance, and can provide access to memories that cannot be retrieved by direct tests. These papers have operationalized indirect tests as reaction times (Pluzinski and Johar), stem completions and preference judgments (Shapiro and Krishnan).

The first paper by Pluzinski and Johar specifically investigated the relationship between subjective and objective familiarity and their effects on brand processing and memory. The findings from their study suggest that the manner in which an ad is encoded has an effect on whether the brand name is recalled, but even if the brand name is NOT recalled, encoding affects the accessibility of the brand name as revealed through indirect measures of memory (i.e., reaction times). When an ad is processed superficially, the level of subjective familiarity with the brand as revealed by consumers' feelings-of-knowing the brand name plays a role in the accessibility of brand names. Brand names appeared to be more accessible to consumers who feel that they know the brand even though they did not encode the ad deeply and cannot recall the brand name.

In the second paper, Wallace and Hasher used frequency judgments as a test of memory and found that competing brand ads clearly impact the encoding and/or retrieval of target ads. Frequency judgments reliably discriminate actual frequency even when a) consumers are tested in a natural viewing context, b) multiple brands within a category are advertised, and c) consumers are tested 24 hours after watching the program. However, on immediate tests, competitive ads appear to inhibit frequency judgments of target ads. Generally, factors that would be expected to increase recall do not appear to affect frequency judgments. Wallace also raised several theoretical issues regarding inhibition research, and cautioned that complex ad stimuli and differing test characteristics posed special problems.

The third paper by Shapiro and Krishnan showed that memory for some brand names is attenuated due to their inherent characteristics such as word-frequency. Their results suggest that these effects are not pervasive across all memory tests, and depend on whether a direct (recall and recognition) or indirect (stem-completion and preference) test was administered. Finally, they test the efficacy of different encoding manipulations in reducing this inhibitory effect caused by frequency. Their findings indicate that ad repetition is more effective on an indirect test, whereas semantic elaboration causes increments in performance on the direct test.

As session discussant, Dipankar Chakravarti brought his expertise in consumer memory processes and task effects to understand brand memory issues. He lauded the use of the various indirect measures of ad effects, particularly since these may be indicators of choice and brand equity. He cautioned that research in this area needs to distinguish between tracing methods and trace types. He proposed that future research should focus on using patterns across several tests to understand how information is processed.