Imagination is a complex mental process where consciousness departs from reality to create new content not currently found in existence. Imagination is key to marketing persuasion, but studies that examine consumer imagination in response to marketing messages illustrate confusing and sometimes contradictory perspectives about consumers’ mental processing. This paper aims to provide a review of the existing literature on consumer imagination relevant to marketing scholarship, and builds a new theoretical framework to organize and explain these papers.
A systematic review of the marketing literature was undertaken to identify all papers related to consumer imagination and its role in marketing persuasion. A focus was placed on empirical papers, review papers and meta-analyses.
A new conceptual framework was created to classify the consumer imagination literature based on both the characteristics and the content of imagination. The existing marketing literature was then organized into the framework. The framework helps to explain seeming contradictions between different studies as well as helps to collect similar studies together to summarize schools of thought.
The imagination framework presents an entirely new way of conceptualizing imagination research in marketing. This new categorization structure not only clarifies consumers’ use of imagination in response to marketing messages but also identifies questions for future research in this area of marketing theory.
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