How brands can use visual metaphors to influence consumer attitudes and enhance purchase intentions
In this month’s Marketing Science Cheat Sheet for brands we explore how consumers attitudes and purchases intentions are influenced by the use of visual metaphors in brands communications.
Consumer attitudes and purchases intentions are enhanced more by the use of visual metaphor-based advertisements than non-metaphor based advertisements, when the product is in a low-involvement category.
A visual metaphor is defined as the representation of a person, place, thing, or idea by means of a visual image that suggests a particular association or point of similarity.
Findings from “Metaphor as Visual Thinking in Advertising and Its Effects: Focus on Brand Familiarity and Product Involvement” by Soojin Kim et at. 2017, highlight that when a brand uses visual metaphors in advertisement, consumers’ view the brand more favourably and purchase intentions are enhanced, when the product being advertising is in a low-involvement category.
Low-involvement products are everyday items which consumers routinely purchase or which are low risk, so therefore do not require a lot of personal thought. An example of a low-involvement product could be cereal or a shampoo.
High-involvement products are usually much more experience than low-involvement products, and therefore there is an increased risk to the consumer so the purchase requires more thought and personal involvement. An example of a high-involvement product could be a car or a new home.
With consumers becoming more adept at seeing through less sophisticated marketing and advertising tactics, it is important for brands to assess their communication strategies to ensure that their audiences are engaged.
Brands that are able to effectively incorporate visual metaphors into their communications will be able to positively influence their target audiences’ attitudes towards themselves and promote purchase intentions.
The Louisiana State University collaborated with the University of Florida in the USA to test whether consumers attitudes and purchase intentions are influenced by the use of visual metaphors in advertising. The research was published in the Journal of Promotion Management, a scientific academic journal dedicated to research on all aspects of promotion management that close the gap between future business needs and current business practices.
The report analysed how the impact of visual metaphors perceptions varies depending on the level of the consumers familiarity with the brand and the product involvement, conducting a self-report study of the reactions to four well-known global brands (including Land Rover and Ariel).
This study revealed that advertisements using visual metaphors led to consumers reporting more favourable attitudes towards the brand, as well as greater purchase intentions, than the advertisements that didn’t include visual metaphors, in low-involvement product categories.
Who can benefit
Kantar’s third annual Dimension report shows that over half of UK consumers are suffering from advertisement fatigue. To compensate for this, brands need to adapt their communication strategies, such as utilising persuasive visual metaphors, to ensure that their advertisements are engaging their audience and increasing purchase intentions.
These findings will benefit brands that offer low-involvement products, including service brands such as Airbnb, global brands such McDonalds and value brands such as Unilever, but will also affect other industries such as high street fashion and technology. The use of visual metaphors will help distinguish brands from their competitors and engage their audiences in a way to promote purchase intentions.
Opportunities to Create Brand Magic
To capitalise on these findings, brands can use creative visual metaphors that can be related to their unique products and services, to engage consumers and drive purchase intention.
Brands such as Heinz regularly use visual metaphors in their campaigns. A recent example of this is the brand’s ‘Grow Your Own’, which featured its well-known ketchup product. The advertisement featured a group of tomato vines growing in the shape of the iconic bottle. The campaign was designed to encourage consumers to grown their own vegetables, and promote the idea that the product only uses natural ingredients.
Another example of a brand using visual metaphors to engage their target audience and drive purchase intention is Thinx. The brand recently launched a series of campaigns to promote its period pants, with posters showing half a peeled orange to represent female genitalia.
To celebrate Easter and communicate that the chain was going to be open over Easter Sunday, Burger King created a campaign were they turned an egg into a ‘burger egg’. The different, yet simple, use of the traditional Easter egg image meant that the brand was able to stand out from the crowd whilst engaging with consumers and driving traffic to their restaurants.
StoryScience is the UK’s first scientific strategic creative agency. Moving away from the traditional opinion-led approach, StoryScience’s guiding purpose is to pioneer scientific creative and deliver brand magic that audiences want and the results clients need. We deliver creative and strategic marketing solutions underpinned by a scientific creative thinking. In short, we use science to create brand magic.