The purpose of this paper is to examine the dynamics of self-regulatory focus (SRF) in the context of advertising effectiveness pertaining to rational vs emotional appeals. Past research has dichotomized self-regulatory (SR) foci (i.e. prevention or promotion) on the basis of an individual’s so-called “chronic” orientation, i.e. high or low prevention focus; high or low promotion focus. However, psychological theorists purport that SRF is orthogonal and, thus, various combinations of both foci are evident in any given population.
A two (rational appeal vs emotional appeal)×two (utilitarian product vs hedonic product) experimental design was used. Data was collected via an online survey instrument which included the stimulus advertisements (experimental manipulations) and the relevant independent (SRF) and dependent measures (advertising effectiveness).
The findings of this study support application of regulatory focus theory (RFT) as an appropriate framework to study consumer behaviour and as a mechanism by which to segment consumers. However, past advertising research has predominantly examined consumer’s “chronic” foci (i.e. prevention and promotion). This study found that consumers can adopt various combinations of information processing styles and goal orientations and cannot be boxed into dichotomous categories based on either a prevention of promotion focus. As such, the findings reveal very different conclusions in contrast to previous advertising and marketing research in the SRF area.
This study is the first to approach SRF from a quadratic perspective (i.e. involving all SRF combinations). In calling to question the validity of previous findings, this study paves the way for numerous future research opportunities.
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