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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Using Cognitive Risk Engagement in Marketing Messages


Marketing is a fundamental function of any business or organization. Without a strong marketing mix and design maximization revenue will be limited. A study by Zhang & Buda (1999) tested the effectiveness of message framing and need for cognition to determine which types of people certain advertisements appeal. Most demographics are based in tangible concepts such as locality and income but the psychological depth of processing advertising has not been fully explored. 

All marketing messages are part of a communication. It follows a process where the sender encodes information, uses a medium (i.e.) media, is distorted by environmental noise (internal or external), decoded by the receiver, that elicits a response (i.e. to purchase or not purchase) (Yehsin, 1999). The depth by which person decodes and interprets information is important for determine marketing effectiveness. Those with a need for higher or lower cognitive engagement will naturally have different responses. 
Message framing is a concept that explains how the word choices are formulated to make positive or negative impressions in the listener’s minds. A positively framed message emphasizes the products advantages while a negatively framed message highlights the losses that result from not taking action. Products become evaluated on their economic gains and losses while mediated by consumer personality.

How these messages are framed has an important impact on the reaction of viewers. Prospect theory helps understand that risk aversion and risk prone behaviors are a result of how the message is framed (Kahneman and Tversky, 1979). When messages are positive viewers may think in terms of avoiding risk while when a message is negative people are likely more risk-prone in avoiding loss. Negative messages seem to have a greater influence in attracting interest. 

The need for cognition is another variable in the marketing mix. Cognition is associated with the ability to think about the message and process it deeper than those who have a lower need for cognition (Andres, et. al., 1990).  There are some people in the environment who want critical information to gain benefits and process information deeper while some process information at a lower rate and make decisions based on less logical motivations.  

Those with higher levels of education are likely to be more focused on the gains (i.e. positively framed messages) while those with less education are more respondent to negatively framed messages (Smith, 1996). Educated managers and experienced businesspersons are likely to pay attention to more critically oriented positively framed messages. A higher value product will require additional cognitive engagement when compared to lower priced convenience products. 

The researchers found through their study of 160 participants that framing has a significant influence on consumer’s response. Messages should be framed by cognitive predispositions of the target audience. Those with a lower need for cognition are more susceptible to negatively framed messages while those with a higher need for cognition are more receptive to positively framed messages. Expert opinions are supported by those who have lower cognition levels while such opinions are less useful for those with higher level cognition.  Higher cognition people focused on the message core while lower cognition people focused on the message context. 

Comment: Demographics and culture can change the way in which people understand and react to marketing messages. This leaves some difficulty finding ways to market within different cultures. Since cognitive engagement, or lack of cognitive engagement, is a universal aspect of being human it is less subject to cultural decoding bias. Business to Business marketers may want to focus on high cognition marketing (the message) while retail and convenient product markets may want to focus on low cognition marketing (the context).

Ahang, Y. & Buda, R. (1999). Moderating effects of need for cognition on responses to positively versus negatively framed advertising messages. Journal of Advertising, 28 (2).

Andrews, et. al. (1990) A Framework for Conceptualizing and Measuring the Involvement Construct in Advertising Research," Journal of Aduertmng,19 (4), 27-40.

Kahneman, Da. and TverBky, A. (1979), Prospect Theory: An Analysia of Decision Under RiBk., Econometrica, 47, 263-291.

Smith, G. (1996). Framing in Advertising and the Moderating Impact of Consumer Education. Journal of Advertising Research, 36 (5), 49-64.

Yehsin, T. (1999). Integrated marketing communications. Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford.

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