Recently, the warmth appeal in advertisements has drawn much attention. This study seeks to examine the widely used warm creative approaches in advertising and to examine unintended negative effects of the warmth appeal by applying two fundamental dimensions of social perceptions, warmth and competence, and a compensation effect between the two to the advertising and branding context. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine: 1) under what conditions a warmth appeal can attenuate perceived competence of a brand; 2) how the potential negative effects of a warmth appeal on brand competence affects overall brand evaluation (brand attitudes); and 3) a mechanism of these unintended negative effects of a warmth appeal on brand attitudes. To investigate the effects of the warmth advertising appeal, this study focuses on several specific variables: 1) advertising warmth, 2) perceptions of a product category, 3) perceived competence of a brand, and 4) attitude toward the advertised brand. Particularly, this study seeks to demonstrate an interaction effect on brand competence between the warmth appeal and the product category. To demonstrate the interaction effect, this study uses two different product categories: a high strength-related product category and a high gentleness-related product category. Based on this categorization, this study posits that the warmth advertising appeal can attenuate competence perceptions of a brand in the high strength-related product category, which would lead to a negative effect on brand attitude. On the other hand, this study proposes that warmth appeals could enhance competence perceptions of a brand in the high gentleness-related product category and it would result in more positive brand attitude. The problems of this study were examined by considering consumers’ categorization mental activity and inferential processes of warm advertisements against a product category of the advertised brand. In the high strength-related product category which is perceived as low warm, when the warmth appeal is used in an ad, a compensation effect would occur and perceived brand competence would be lowered, which will lead to decrease in brand attitude. On the other hand, in the high gentleness-related product category, when the warmth appeal is used, perceived brand competence will be enhanced, which would lead to increase in brand attitude. Additionally, considering that perceived brand competence has more impact on brand attitude, lowered brand competence would function as a mediating variable in relationship between the warmth appeal and brand attitude in a high strength-related product category. To test these hypotheses, this study employed a 2 (a warmth advertising appeal: presence vs. absence) x 2 (a product category based on the type of benefit: when gentleness-related attributes are highly valued vs. when strength-related attributes are highly valued) between-subjects factorial design. However, the results did not support the study hypotheses. Instead, ads with warmth appeals enhanced perceived brand competence and attitude toward the brand rather than they attenuated them. The Discussion Chapter explains why the experiment failed to support hypotheses by focusing on the methodological and theoretical issues in this study.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2016. Major: Mass Communication. Advisors: Jennifer Ball, Jisu Huh. 1 computer file (PDF); xiii, 121 pages.
Unintended Negative Effects of the Warmth Advertising Appeal on Brand Competence and Brand Attitude: A Compensation Effect between Brand Warmth and Competence.
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