July 12, 2017

by Nigel Hollis

After reading the award-winning essays for the Admap Prize 2017 (inspired by Kantar, I should note) my eye was caught by the title Pre-Suasion toward the end of the same issue. Pre-Suasion turns out to be the title of a new book by Professor Robert Cialdini and the review suggests that the central theme fits well with the need to make a lasting impression.

Given that I have not actually read Pre-Suasion yet it may be a little premature for me to cite it as evidence to support our thesis that the power of advertising rests in memory not in the moment, but the summary by Sven Hughes, founder of Global Influence, certainly makes it sound that way. According to Hughes, Cialdini’s thesis is that we humans are highly susceptible to having our attention ‘channeled’ causing us to assign undue levels of importance to an idea as soon as our attention is drawn to it.

This sounds very similar to Kantar Millward Brown’s understanding of how advertising memories frame purchase decisions and enhance the experience of a product, by drawing attention to characteristics of the brand before the audience even thinks about buying the relevant product category. By establishing positive ideas, feelings and associations in people’s minds, advertising predisposes people to pay attention to a brand and elevates the advertised properties to influence the purchase decision.

Critical to this process is that the ad exposure is decoupled from the purchase decision. Provided people attend to an ad enough that it leaves associations linked to the brand in memory the advertising will have done its job.  Later, when people try to make up their minds about a purchase, the ideas and feelings left by the advertising will help shape their decision making, predisposing them to choose the advertised brand. If the same advertising had reached people while shopping, then the impression would be more likely discounted as ‘just advertising trying to sell me something’.

Based on the experiments cited in the review my suspicion is that Cialdini’s focus is on the moments immediately prior to a decision but that does not preclude the possibility of longer-term influences that act in the same way. After all, the current trend in the marketing world to value short-term performance over building long-term brand value is in part a result of the difficulty of proving a direct link between advertising exposure and sales effects. Far easier to demonstrate the immediate return from price discounts or ad exposure delivered during in the moment of shopping and I am sure the same is true when it comes to academic experiments.

I will update my thoughts on this topic once I have actually read Pre-Suasion but meanwhile what do you think? Are we undervaluing the longer-term effects of advertising simply because it is easier to measure the short-term? Please share your thoughts.


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