NEW YORK: Mixing audiences of "users" and "non-users" of a product or service in research may significantly compromise the validity of such studies, according to analysis from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute.

Authors Kelly Vaughan, Virginia Beal and Jenni Romaniuk – all from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute – outline this discovery in a paper entitled, "Can Brand Users Really Remember Advertising More Than Non-users? Testing an Empirical Generalization across Six Advertising Awareness Measures", and published in the 2016 fall issue of the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

Their broad-stroke finding: research across six different measures, which extends cues to execution and media prompts, "shows the user bias in memory for advertising is not a measurement artifact. It is, in fact, a real phenomenon, occurring under a wide range of conditions".

Or, in other words, a brand user is likely to bring his/her experiences into marketing research, whereas non-users come to the process with a more open-minded, unbiased perspective.

Specifically, the study demonstrates, "irrespective of whether the brand is present or absent in the advertising awareness question, brand users systematically remember advertising for that brand more than non-brand users".

That finding, the authors believe, has implications for creative design, branding and pre-testing, "particularly with advertising that primarily aims to attract non-users", as well as assessing global and cross-platform advertising.

According to Vaughan, Beal and Romaniuk, "All advertising awareness measures are shown to be biased to users, and, therefore, aggregate-level metrics may inaccurately imply a campaign is less successful in countries where market shares are lower, since the user bases are much smaller.

"This could lead marketers to make unnecessary modifications to campaigns to compensate for perceived lower advertising awareness.

"Only by comparing brand users and non-users separately can an advertiser determine whether this is because of the different effectiveness of the advertising itself, or the different composition of the advertising's audience," the JAR paper concludes.

Data sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by Warc staff