Promotion Or Prevention

Think of all the things your product/service can do. All the features. All the benefits.

When you’re designing a campaign, how do you know which of these features/benefits to use?

Do you choose the one which seems best? Or do you use as many as you can, hoping something in there will appeal to your market?

An interesting paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research has something to say about this.

Should a TiVo ad highlight the freedom that users enjoy to view what they want, when they want? Or would the message have greater impact if it were to describe how one could replay telecasts of sports events in slow motion? Similarly, should a Budweiser TV spot pay tribute to the brand’s heritage of quality by featuring its Clydesdales? Or would it be more persuasive to highlight how Bud’s choice hops are hand selected by experts to ensure superior taste?

There’s two levels of information presented here: high level (abstract, lofty) and low level (concrete, descriptive).

Viewed from this perspective, the personal freedom afforded by TiVo and the assurance of quality provided by Budweiser’s brand heritage are high-level construals.

TiVo’s slow motion viewing capability and Budweiser’s hand-selected choice hops represent low-level construals.

Which should you use: high level or low level?

Well, it depends on your target audience.

Are they driven more by promotion or prevention?

Those who are psychologically driven by promotion seek the positive (e.g., will visit the dentist to get white, shiny teeth). Those driven by prevention seek to avoid the negative (e.g., will visit the dentist to prevent getting a cavity).

If your audience is driven more by promotion, you should promote high level (abstract, lofty) features.

If your audience is driven more by prevention, you should promote low level (concrete, descriptive) features.

The present research offers support for the fit from construal hypothesis, which predicts a correspondence between regulatory focus and level of construal. Whereas prevention focused individuals tend to construe information at a low level, those with a promotion focus are more inclined to construe information at a high level.

To come to any reasoned conclusion about the motivation/drive of your audience, be sure to conduct thorough psychographic research. What you’ll find is a number of subsets, groups within groups, which have a bent toward either promotion or prevention. Powerful information to have, because now you can segment campaigns. You can launch targeted/relevant appeals directly at the individuals you’ve predetermined will respond most positively.

Questions for you:

  • Is your target audience predominantly driven by promotion or prevention?
    • If unsure, choose a subset of your audience.
  • What is the single most appealing feature/benefit you could include in your next promotion, based on the findings of this research paper?
  • How might you segment your next campaign?

Want to talk through these during a free 50-minute strategy session
with one of our Senior Consumer Psychologists?

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