How and When Advertising Can Influence Memory for Consumer Experience

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HOW AND WHEN ADVERTISING CAN INFLUENCE MEMORY FOR CONSUMER EXPERIENCE Journal of Advertising,  Winter 2004  by Braun-LaTour, Kathryn A,  LaTour, Michael S,  Pickrell, Jacqueline E,  Loftus, Elizabeth F

ABSTRACT: Recent "paradigm shifting" research in consumer behavior dealing with reconstructive memory processes suggests that advertising can exert a powerful retroactive effect on how consumers remember their past experiences with a product. Building on this stream of research, we have executed three studies that incorporate the use of false cues with the aim of shedding new light on how post-experience advertising exerts influence on recollection. Our first experiment investigates an important but yet unexplored issue to advertisers who are perhaps reticent about embracing this paradigm: Does the false cue fundamentally change how consumers process information? After finding that when the false information goes undetected it is processed in a similar manner as more "truthful" cues, we use this paradigm to shed light on the pictorial versus verbal information debate in advertising. We discuss the implications of our findings for those interested in managing consumer experience and for advertising researchers seeking indirect measures of the influence of advertising. Remember your childhood visit to Disneyland-Cinderella's castle glistening, the cartoon characters laughing, grouping for photos, the many rides with their height requirements, the smells of freshly cooked food, and Bugs Bunny shaking your hand? As you bring that experience to mind, you may have the feeling you are reliving it, seeing your childhood pass through your mind's eye, much like reviewing a videotape. But the way human memory works is very different from that of a video tape recorder-our memories are actually reconstructions of bits and pieces of information we have obtained over time. Sometimes those reconstructions are very similar to what we experienced; other times we are "tricked" and remember things differently than how they actually happened. Bugs Bunny is not a Disney character, yet some people "remember" him as being part of their childhood experience after hearing that suggestion. What leads to such memory alterations, and what if they could be directed by advertisers?

The nature of consumer experience has been an area of interest to advertising researchers because of the interesting paradox it presents: Experiences have the potential for malleability and manipulation, yet consumers trust their experiences most within their decision making (Hoch 2002). Advertisers have been interested in ways in which they can "transform" the nature of the consumer experience by setting expectations that influence the way consumers attend to information (Hoch and Deighton 1989). As Wells puts it: "Advertising helps consumers interpret these experiences. It suggests what should be noticed. It provides cues and clues to help consumers understand and appreciate their feelings. And in this way it can change the nature of the response" (1986, p. 9). When advertising works in this manner, it can exert an insidious effect on consumer behavior. For instance, a classic experiment done by Olson and Dover (1979) found that advertising received prior to a bitter coffee experience made consumers tolerate and appreciate the taste more than those who did not receive the advertising. Most of the research that has investigated how advertising can influence experience has assessed "forward framing," where the advertising is presented before the experience (e.g., Boulding et al. 1993; Deighton 1984; Deighton and Schindler 1988; Olson and Dover 1979). More recent research, however, suggests that advertising received after an experience can exert an impact by influencing how that experience is remembered (Braun 1999). Although the effect of post-experience advertising on consumer memory has been demonstrated (Braun 1999), we still know very little about what is leading...
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