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Be rational or be emotional: advertising appeals, service types and consumer responses

Hongxia Zhang (Department of Marketing, Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, Beijing, P.R. China)
Jin Sun (Department of Marketing, School of Business, University of International Business and Economics, Beijing, P.R. China)
Fang Liu (Department of Marketing, Business School, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Australia)
John G. Knight (Department of Marketing, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 4 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

This research aims to examine the use of emotional and rational advertising appeal regarding service options that differ in terms of their experience and credence properties and exploring the moderating role of individual difference in affect intensity on the consumers’ varying reliance on rational vs emotional appeals.

Design/methodology/approach

Study 1 is a 2 (service type: restaurant vs dentist) × 2 (advertising appeal: emotional vs rational) between-subjects design. In total, 137 undergraduate students took part in this study. Study 2 is a 2 (service type: airline vs hospital) × 2 (advertising appeal: emotional vs rational) between-subjects design. In total, 84 MBA students were randomly assigned to each of the experimental conditions. Study 3 is a 2 (service type: airline vs hospital) × 2 (advertising appeal: rational vs emotional appeal) × 2 (affect intensity: high vs low) between-subjects design. The sample size was 170 undergraduates.

Findings

The results of the first two studies provided support that an emotional advertising appeal led to a higher purchase intention in the experience service condition, while a rational message generated higher purchase intention in the credence service condition. Study 3 showed the moderating role of individual difference in affect intensity. High affect intensity individuals reported higher levels of brand favorability than did their low affect intensity counterparts when exposed to ads using emotional appeal. Conversely, subjects showed no significant differences in the intensity of their emotional responses when exposed to rational appeals.

Practical implications

Our results suggest a strong need to tailor ads to fit different service categories. An emotional appeal would be more effective for experience services, and a rational appeal would be more effective for credence services. Besides, individual traits may also need to be considered when matching the appeal to the service type.

Originality/value

This study makes an important contribution to the limited existing research by providing a more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between advertising appeal and the type of service across different sub-categories, themes, individual trait and effectiveness measures. Specifically, the present research seeks to illuminate the relative effectiveness of emotional vs rational appeals in services advertising. In addition, the current research reveals new knowledge about the role that affect intensity plays in determining consumer responses to advertising.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by two grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China awarded to Hongxia Zhang (Grant No. 71172031) and Jin Sun (Grant No. 71002006, 71372004), respectively. This research was also supported by Beijing Higher Education Young Elite Teacher Project (Grant No. YETP0894) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities in UIBE (Grant No. 14YQ03).

Citation

Zhang, H., Sun, J., Liu, F. and G. Knight, J. (2014), "Be rational or be emotional: advertising appeals, service types and consumer responses", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 48 No. 11/12, pp. 2105-2126. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-10-2012-0613

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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