Visual Puffery in Fragrance Ads

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Rollins College

Rollins Scholarship Online
Faculty Publications

1-1-2012

A study of visual puffery in fragrance advertising: Is the message sent stronger than the actual scent? Mark Toncar
Youngstown State University

Marc Fetscherin
Rollins College, mfetscherin@rollins.edu

Published In
Mark Toncar, Marc Fetscherin, (2012) "A study of visual puffery in fragrance advertising: Is the message sent stronger than the actual scent?", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 46 Iss: 1/2, pp.52 - 72

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A Study of Visual Puffery in Fragrance Advertising Is the message sent stronger than the actual scent? Abstract Purpose - This paper investigates visual exaggerations of fragrance advertisements by comparing subjects’ expectations resulting from print ads to their subsequent product evaluations. It then considers whether the actual scents fall short, meet or exceed these expectations. Design/methodology/approach - By means of a semiotic analysis we capture the corresponding literary attributes of the ads to develop adjective pairs describing the meaning of the ads. Interviews are conducted to assess the meaning that consumers draw from the fragrance ads and we supplement these findings by performing a blind olfactory product evaluation of the fragrances. Paired sample t-tests are used to compare subjects’ ad expectations to their subsequent product evaluation of the actual scent. Findings - Our results show that the visual cues and imagery in the fragrance ads appear, under certain conditions, to result in product expectations that exceed actual product evaluations, suggesting the existence of visual puffery. We also found that the more abstract descriptors of the ad resulted in significantly higher expectations, while the more concrete descriptors resulted in significantly lower expectations than the actual product evaluation. Research limitations/implications - A small sample size of homogenous consumers limits the generalizability of the results. No measures of attitude effectiveness were taken. Practical implications - Visual puffery may be effective and help marketers, even in countries where verbal puffery is illegal, to use another means to reach consumers. Originality/value - This paper investigates an under-researched area in advertising. A multimethod approach and primary data are used to assess subjects’ ad expectations of a fragrance and the actual product evaluation and demonstrates the existence of visual puffery.

Keywords Puffery, Advertising, Fragrance, Perfume Paper type Research Paper

1. Introduction Consumer research in advertising has a long history of investigating how the structure of a persuasive message can influence its effectiveness (Belch and Belch, 2009). One useful way to classify previous research is that which pertains to the verbal aspects of the message, the visual aspects, or research that considers both verbal and visual cues (Stern, 1996; McQuarrie and Mick, 2003a; Stathakopoulos, 2008). Illustrative of the research focusing on verbal cues includes studies focusing on order of presentation of product claims (Kamins and Marks, 1987; Krugman, 1962), whether to include or omit conclusions (Chance, 1975; Kardes, 1988) and the effectiveness of one-sided versus twosided messages (Eisend, 2006; Belch, 1983; Sawyer, 1973). More recently, researchers have begun to focus on the effects of the visual components of advertising such as visual hyperbole (Callister and Stern, 2007) and visual metaphor (McQuarrie and Phillips, 2005) recognizing that both the verbal and visual information presented in an ad can influence the way an advertising message is processed and perceived (Oliver, 1979; Mitchell, 1986; Edell and Staelin, 1983;...
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