The processing of advertising: does a consumer’s level of materialism make a difference?

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Materialism has been given great attention in the consumer behavior literature. How materialistic tendencies are shaped by advertising has also been documented. Yet, the impact of consumers’ materialism on their perceptions of ads is not clearly understood. The goal of this research is to examine the relationship between an individual’s materialism and his/her perceptions of various kinds of advertising. Using four specific advertising appeals (i.e., interpersonal, prestige/status, achievement, and appearance-related), attitudes toward the ad, and thoughts elicited by the advertisement were measured and compared across high and low materialism groups. Significant differences were found between respondents from the two groups with respect to the evaluation of each type of appeal. When prestige/status, achievement, and appearance-related appeals were used in advertising, they were evaluated more favorably by consumers with high levels of materialism than by consumers with low levels of materialism. In contrast, advertising that used an interpersonal appeal was viewed more favorably by consumers with low levels of materialism. The results of this research provide implications for marketers on three perspectives: the furthering of our conceptualization of the materialism construct, the design of promotional communication for specific target markets, and the public policy dimension of targeting consumers more vulnerable to certain appeals.

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    • Table 1. Coding scheme for elicitation of thoughts for advertisements
    • Table 2. Demographic characteristics for the sample, low materialism, and high materialism respondents
    • Table 3. Average number of thoughts elicited for each stimuli
    • Table 4A. ANOVA for attitude towards the family appeal ad
    • Table 4B. Chi-square analysis for family appeal advertisement
    • Table 5A. ANOVA for attitude toward the prestige/status appeal ad
    • Table 5B. Chi-square analysis for prestige/status advertisement
    • Table 6A. ANOVA for attitude towards the achievement appeal ad
    • Table 6B. Chi-square analysis for achievement advertisement
    • Table 7A. ANOVA for attitude towards the toothpaste ad
    • Table 7B. ANOVA for attitude towards the clothing ad
    • Table 8A. Chi-square analysis for toothpaste advertisement
    • Table 8B. Chi-square analysis for clothing advertisement
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