When consumers think about the groups they belong to, they recall ads better, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
"A key determinant of how much consumers remember from an ad is the connection between the ad content and the consumer's own self-concept," write authors Kathryn R. Mercurio (UCLA) and Mark Forehand (University of Washington, Seattle).
Consumers identify with many different demographic groups, such as race, gender, or age. They also identify with family role groups (mother, father, sister), or occupational groups such as lawyer, teacher, or politician. And they sometimes identify with brand consumption groups (Mac, Harley Davidson, Facebook). Although consumers identify with a large set of groups, at any given time they only think about a small set of them, called the active self-concept.
Advertising often includes information or images that encourage consumers to think about groups they belong to, and research has demonstrated that consumers temporarily prefer brands that target those specific groups. For example, a tampax commercial helps female consumers think about their gender self-concept and makes them more responsive to other ads that are aimed toward their gender.
The authors also found that thinking about one's group membership influences memory for advertising. "Specifically, when a consumer views advertising while they are also thinking about one of their group memberships they unconsciously connect the new information to the group membership in memory," the authors write. Later, when those consumers think about that group membership, they are more likely to remember the information they learned earlier.
"Pragmatically, this suggests that advertisers should consider how consumers are likely to think about themselves when they are choosing products," the authors conclude.