Product Placement related IMPLICIT memory and consumer behavior

Recently, we described how advertising works and how to measure it. In this post, we want to provide you more (scientific) details on how consumer behavior is linked to the implicit memory of Product Placement.


Implicit memory – the background

What exactly the implicit memory is, was very controversial in the past (Richardson Klavehn and Bjork 1988, Schacter 1987). Basically it was discussed, whether it is just a lower degree of activation or even a second memory system besides the explicit memory (Küst 1998, Shapiro and Krishnan 2001). Based on recent findings in brain research (Deecke 2012) the theory of multiple memory systems seems to be more likely. The implicit memory primarily includes subconsciously processed information (Küst 1998) and thus correspondingly more content than the explicit memory (Graf and Masson 1993). Accordingly, the implicit memory is an automatic, subconscious and unintentional process that handles perceived information (Coates, Butler, and Berry 2004; Schacter 1987; Shapiro and Krishnan 2001). The knowledge that is associated with the implicit memory is mainly used in everyday situations and decisions, such as low involvement, pulse or emotionally charged purchase decisions (Krishnan and Chakravarti 1999; Shapiro and Krishnan 2001). There, the conscious collection and analysis of relevant information is relative to “expensive” for the consumer. That’s why the implicit memory is much more relevant for the decision (Coates et al. 2004). Taking a closer look at the implicit memory, it must further distinguished in terms of perceptual and conceptual types (Roediger 1990). While some research assumes that subconscious cognition is reduced to perceptual processing of the stimuli (Janiszewski 1993; Shapiro, MacInnis, and Heckler 1997; Shapiro and MacInnis 1992), there is also evidence that at the same time, even a semantic analysis of the stimulus can take place in a given context (Shapiro 1999).


When and how it works

Generally, the implicit memory of a stimulus is indicated by an increase in performance in tasks that do not require conscious recollection of past events (Coates et al. 2004). Thus, consumers might not remember a product placement, but experience a change in terms of attitude towards the placement (Cowley and Barron 2008) or decisions (Kardes 1986. Shapiro et al 1997; Shapiro et al 1999; Shedler and Manis 1986). This can be explained, among other things, by the processes that influence the subconscious mind. Thus, product placement can even on a subliminal level increase familiarity with a given brand (Processing Fluency) (Buss 1998; Klinger and Greenwald 1994). This improves both the assessment (Janiszewski 1988; Nordhielm 2002; Perfect and Askew 1994) as well as the attitude (Janiszewski and Meyvis 2001; Krishnan and Shapiro 1996; Lee and Faber 2007; Yoo 2007, 2008) towards the brand and increase the likelihood it is choosen in a purchase decision (Coates, Butler, and Berry 2006; Ferraro, Bettman, and Chartrand 2009). The stronger this congruence between the product placement and the rest of the content is, the stronger is the implicit influence on the attitude towards the placement (D’Astous and Bitz 1995, McDonald 1991, Parker 1991). Priming can also support the process that a brand is shortlisted (in the consumer’s consideration set) for a purchase decision (Coates et al. 2004), even when the brand is not known at all (Holden and Vanhuele 1999). Additionally, Priming can affect the purchase decision (even long term) (Chartrand and Bargh 1996; Chartrand et al. 2008; Dijksterhuis et al. 2005).

Although there are some studies that deny an implicit relationship between product placement and purchase intent (Chaney, Lin, and Chaney 2004; Ong and Meri 1994), indication predominate that there indeed are relevant effects (Auty and Lewis 2004; Baker and Crawford 1995; Law and Braun 2000; Mallinckrodt and Mizerski 2007; Morton and Friedman 2002; Yang and Roskos-Ewoldsen 2007).

It should also be noted that the implicit memory is always used simultaneously with the explicit memory (Shapiro and Krishnan 2001), since among other things a subconscious stimulus processing always takes place before a conscious processing (Elger et al. 2004; Libet 2005). In the context of explicit memory, the concomitant recognizability of the persuasion tactic often results in defense reactions of the consumer, as explained before. However, this can also again interfere with the effects of the implicit memory. If the advertiser wants to improve the attitude towards the brand and also to increase the probability of purchase, product placement should be integrated more subtle into a given scene (D’Astous and Chartier 2000).


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Jens Kuerschner

Author: Jens Kuerschner

Jens Kuerschner is founder and CEO of Placedise. As an expert in the field of consumer behavior and media enthusiast, he is especially responsible for the product know-how. In our blog, this knowledge and the experience of many years of research and study will be shared with you.

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