NEW YORK: "Resonant" ads, which use a twist in messaging and imagery to create multiple meanings and connection points, work better with "promotion-focused" than "prevention-focused" consumers, according to research published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

Do Resonant Advertisements Resonate with Consumers? The Interaction of Wordplay, Regulatory Focus, and Need for Cognition and Its Impact on Persuasion is grounded in the understanding that two "individual-level characteristics" may play a key role in a viewer's motivation to decode a resonant advertisement.

"Visual–verbal resonance comprises wordplay in the headline or text and an accompanying pictorial or graphic to reinforce that wordplay," Jieun Choi (South Korea's Kangwon National University), Charles R. Taylor (Villanova University) and Doo-Hee Lee (Korea University) write.

"This type of resonance can be demonstrated by a Pepsi print advertisement bearing the headline 'This Year, Hit the Beach Topless,' accompanied by an illustration of a Pepsi bottle laying on a beach with its cap removed."

Promotion-focused, highly motivated individuals – consumers who are motivated to facilitate positive outcomes – are said to have a greater ability to grasp multiple meanings in resonant advertisements of this type.

Prevention-focused consumers – described as individuals "inclined to be vigilant and [consider] only appropriate options for avoiding negative outcomes" – are, by contrast, less motivated to decode an advertisement and, thus, more likely will see only the literal meaning.

"It is well documented that minor wording differences in advertising can influence consumer perception toward the advertised brand," the authors write.

The academics conclude: "In a highly cluttered advertising environment, a subtle difference that enables an advertisement to stand out with a group of consumers may represent a significant advantage to the advertiser."

Additionally, "the findings suggest that this variable is worthwhile for advertisers to study, given that significant differences between promotion-focused and prevention-focused individuals have been found.

"Some consumers are motivated to process messages and appear willing to reward advertisers for novel and complex approaches that require effort to process.

"The results suggest that this reward can go beyond mere 'liking' and extend to brand attitudes and, ultimately, purchase intention."

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