Social Sciences

A new study reveals that cold imagery in commercials enhances the feeling of newness.

The imagery that appears alongside the actual images of a product in visual advertisements is crucial. Numerous studies and polls have demonstrated how effective these images are at evoking particular emotions in viewers and effectively conveying important brand- or product-related ideas. One way to convey “greenness” or “eco-friendliness” in advertising is to display encircling images of lush nature.

Few studies have examined how the concept of “newness,” which is defined as the degree to which a product is perceived as new, innovative, or creative, can be better communicated to consumers, despite the fact that many different consumer perceptions have been thoroughly analyzed.

In order to fill this knowledge gap, a research team from Sophia University in Japan, led by Associate Professor Taku Togawa, looked into whether the quality of being new could be expressed by using cold imagery. “Coldness frequently carries a bad connotation; for instance, people frequently use expressions like ‘She gave me the cold shoulder’ or ‘His comment froze me in place. ‘”.

“In fact, consumer researchers have found that warm temperatures increase consumers’ evaluation and purchase intention for a given product more than cold temperatures,”

Associate Professor Taku Togawa from Sophia University, Japan,

In fact, Assoc says, “Consumer researchers have demonstrated that warm temperatures increase consumers’ evaluation and purchase intention for a given product more than cold temperatures.”. Prof. Togawa said, “However, our study aimed to demonstrate that coldness is not always a deterrent to consumer behavior when it comes to advertising for new products.”.

Dr. Hiroaki Ishii of Aoyama Gakuin University, Dr. Jaewoo Park of Chuo University, and Dr. Rajat Roy of Bond University co-authored this work, which was published in the Journal of Business Research.

Utilizing construal level theory (CLT), the researchers first examined the psychological underpinnings of newness perception. In a nutshell, CLT is a social psychological theory that contends that a person’s interpretation of an object depends on their “psychological distance” from it. People typically perceive an object in more abstract and general terms, concentrating on its broader features and meaning, when it is psychologically removed from them.

Based on a prior discovery that the perception of coldness can increase a subject’s psychological distance from an event or object, Assoc. Prof. Cold imagery, according to Togawa and colleagues, may be used to improve a product’s perception of newness. Simply put, by increasing the psychological distance from a product using cold imagery, the consumer will perceive more ambiguity about it, which will lead them to label it as “novel” and pique their interest.

By performing four different experiments, the team was able to validate various aspects of their hypothesis. In each, over a hundred participants took an online survey after seeing fictitious product advertisements with accompanying “warm” or “cold” imagery. One car advertisement, for instance, either featured a picture of a sunny green field or a snowy landscape.

The initial experiment verified that respondents to the survey did, in fact, perceive newness as being more strongly associated with coldness. The results of the second experiment confirmed that coldness increased psychological distance, which in turn increased perceived ambiguity and novelty.

The third experiment demonstrated that, while using cold imagery did not increase perceived newness for products with an antique appearance, it did for those with a modern appearance. Finally, the results of the fourth experiment showed that consumers’ assessments of the advertised product were improved by the perceived novelty enhanced by cold imagery—but only when they were speculatively considering purchasing it rather than immediately.

When considered as a whole, these findings shed significant light on the use of coldness in visual advertising. Our findings will help develop a theoretical framework that explains how newness perception is conveyed through advertising, claims Assoc. Prof. Togawa: “We think that rather than altering the style and features of the product itself, which is expensive, marketers may be able to communicate product newness more easily, quickly, and inexpensively by using background imagery related to coldness in their advertisements.”.

More information: Taku Togawa et al, The temperature of newness: How vision–temperature correspondence in advertising influences newness perception and product evaluation, Journal of Business Research (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2023.113801

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