The Effect of Congruence between Brand Personality and Consumers’ Self-concept on Consumers’ Visual Attention: Eye-tracking Patterns in online Advertisements
With the explosion of the popularity of the digital media, ‘attention economy’ is gathering an increasing interest among scholars and the public. Excessive loads of information compete for our limited attentional resources in online medium. So, companies develop extremely sophisticated strategies to draw attention in order to boost their product sales. The study of consumer behavior, particularly visual attention can bring benefit for marketers and help them to identify the most influential factors attracting consumers’ visual attention. This information can also be beneficial for the consumers by increasing their awareness of marketing strategies that aim at influencing their behavior. Drawing upon self-congruity theory, we examine the impact of congruence between consumers’ self-concept and brand personality on consumers’ visual attention to the advertisements. Research on brand personality has informed us about the symbolic value of brands. However, the influence of the congruence between the brand personality and consumer’s self-concept on their visual attention to advertisements has not been studied. We will use questionnaires to measure participants’ self-concept and their notion about brand personality, and an eye-tracking device to track participants’ attention while they are viewing online advertisements that are either congruent or incongruent with their self-concept. This project will help us better understand the mechanisms that influence consumers' cognitive processes, motivations, and brand preference.
Keywords: Brand Personality, Self-Concept, Eye Tracking, Visual Attention, Consumer Behavior
The “attention economy” emerged as a result of a greater recognition for the significance of attention (Davenport & Beck, 2001). Owing to the fact that attention plays a crucial role in forming consumer attitude towards brands, marketers use diverse methods to strike a nerve with potential consumers in order to capture their attention. Besides, self-congruence has also been suggested to enhance affective, attitudinal, and behavioral customer reactions to a brand (Aaker 1997). According to self-congruence theory, when a customer's self-concept is consistent with a brand, the user is more likely to generate preferences, positive emotions, and a feeling of relation to the product (Chen 2020). A consumer, for example, may prefer brands with sincere brand personality because their images correlate with what they aspire to be. To the best of our knowledge, however, no study has investigated the effect of the congruence between the brand personality and consumer’s self-concept on their visual attention to the online advertisements. We draw together state of the art research on how the actual versus ideal self-congruence affects consumers’ visual attention to online advertisements.
1.1. Research Motivation
Insights from attention-based marketing play an important role in the attention economy (Harris, 2005). The findings of this study will also provide insights into the efficacy of advertisements. Furthermore, the findings of this study will assist marketing researchers in better understanding the implicit mechanisms, motives, and preferences of consumers.
1.2. Gaps in the literature
Previous eye-tracking research have primarily focused on the visual processing of print ads (Rayner, 2008; Wedel, 2008, Radach, 2003, Pieters, 1999). However, because online sites are now a primary medium for brands to influence their audience by sharing ads, it is critical to examine the processing of online advertisements. Promotional content studies have attempted to elucidate the effectiveness of ads by studying advertising elements. For instance, the usage of taboo elements in commercials (Myers et al, 2019), the efficacy of personalized ads (Pfiffelmann, Dens, & Soulez, 2019), and the optimum positioning of sponsorship ads (Dos Santos,2019) have been studied. Despite many prior studies, the influences of congruence between the presented brand personality and consumers pre-existing notions about their actual and ideal selves on their visual behavior have not yet been investigated in online shopping context. Therefore, the effect of congruence between the consumers’ self-concept and the brand personality on the consumers’ visual attention to online ads will be examined in this research.
1.3. Research Contribution
Having a consumer-centric perspective in defining the brand personality strengthens consumer’s emotional attachment to brands (salimi,2018). In previous studies, emotional reactions to advertisements were measured using conventional approaches such as surveys and interviews. Since customers are unable to interpret the true motives and tendencies of shopping, neuroscience visualization technology is now one of the most accurate data collection methods. So, eye-tracking techniques will be used to illustrate how consumers respond to advertisements. Besides, fixed exposure times can weaken research authenticity. Participants of this research can control the pace of their exposure to online ads. This research will provide an insight into the several ways to streamline the organization's advertising and marketing. This research will also contribute to the understanding of how the congruence between brand personality and consumers' self-concept affects their visual attention to ads.
1.4. Research aims and objectives
The aim of this research is to enrich the literature in the area of neuro-marketing and provide practical implications for marketing managers as well as consumers. This research will shed light on the new possibilities created by the combination of measurement of visual attention and underlying cognitive processes. The results of this research will generate insights into advertising and promote the effectiveness of advertising. Furthermore, this study will help researchers to better understand consumers’ cognitive processes, motivations and expectations. This study's goals are as follows: 1) to investigate the impact of actual self – brand personality congruence on visual attention, 2) to investigate the impact of ideal self – brand personality congruence on visual attention, and 3) to compare the influence of actual self-vs. ideal self –brand personality congruence on visual attention.
2. Literature review
Brand personality explains the symbolic consumption and emotional attachments that consumers form with a brand (Aaker et al., 2004). The five dimensions of brand personality are presented by Jennifer Aaker (1997): Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, and Ruggedness. Aaker proposed that consumers favor brands associated with a range of personality characteristics similar to their own. Brand personality is crucial in generating customer engagement with the brand, as well as in creating, developing, and maintaining strong brands (Harris, 2005). The similarity of consumer personality and brand traits can reinforce customer-brand relationships. (Sundar and Noseworthy, 2016). This research uses self-concept congruence to describe the match of brand personality with consumers’ self-concept.
Self-concept can be classified into two forms: the "actual self" and the "ideal self." The actual self is based on how people perceive themselves, while the ideal self is based on people's imaginations and aspirations (Lazzari et al., 1978). Grubb and Grathwohl (1967) proposed an image congruency theory, claiming that consumers could identify, conserve, and reinforce their self-concept by purchasing symbolic products. This study measures self-concept congruence based on the degree of similarity between the participants’ perception of brand personality and themselves.
Visual attention and eye-tracking methodology
Conventional advertising hierarchy models, such as the AIDA (attention–interest–desire–action model by Aaker, Batra & Myers, 1992) propose that attention is required as the first phase and is an antecedent for further information processing. Since eye movements are closely linked to higher-order cognitive processes, they can be considered strong behavioral candidates for evaluating visual focus and information acquisition. Eye-tracking offers precise information on the consumer's gaze fixation and scan routes (Vila & Gomez, 2016). This method helps in identifying how viewers process the ad message.
2.1 Extant Studies on the Topic
Much has been discovered about consumers' visual attention over the last few decades, but several research questions remain at least partly unanswered. An extension of current research, for instance, is investigating the impact of self-concept congruence on visual attention in advertisements of hedonic vs. utilitarian goods. furthermore, the effect of self-concept congruence on the visual attention should also be studied in other fields of marketing, like social marketing.
2.2. Model and Hypotheses development
Self-congruence theory is a subset of cognitive-consistency theories (Festinger 1957). According to these hypotheses, inconsistence between views and attitudes causes tension and stress. Self-verification theory suggests that people are eager to verify their current self-concepts. Based on these considerations, we propose the following hypotheses:
H1: Actual self-congruence increases the level of visual attention to advertisements.
Self-enhancement theory suggests that people are inclined to approach their ideal selves in order to boost their self-esteem (C Sedikides, MJ Strube - 1997). As a result, if a customer sees his or her hopes and dreams reflected in a brand, he or she will be attracted to that brand (Salimi, 2018). Based on these considerations, we suggest the following hypotheses:
H2: Ideal self-congruence increases the level of visual attention to ads.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to explore this subject, so we're taking an exploratory approach to it.
An online database will be used to select forty online advertisements. Since this study anticipates that participants would demonstrate different visual behavior depending on the product type, 20 utilitarian products and 20 hedonic products will be chosen.
A desktop EyeLink 1000+ eye-tracking device (SR Research, Ltd., Kanataka, Ontario, Canada) will be used to measure attendees' visual attention (i.e., the position and length of eye fixations) to the ads. In addition, a questionnaire will be used to assess the independent variables. Jennifer Aaker's brand personality scale, which proposes five overall personality dimensions, will be adapted to evaluate the attendees' ideal-self and actual-self. The constructs of the questionnaire will be assessed using five-point Likert scales anchored by “strongly disagree” and “strongly agree”. Respondents will be asked to think about how they see themselves (actual-self) and how would they like to be (ideal-self).
When the participants (n=60) arrive at the laboratory, the experimental procedure will be explained to them. Following that, they will fill in a questionnaire that will collect demographic information as well as their current thoughts on their self-concept.
The number of fixations and their duration are the primary metrics used to measure consumers’ visual attention to the online ads. Statistical analysis of the relationships between eye movement variables and questionnaire measures will be done using PLS software.
4. Expected results
The project will be a significant step forward in understanding consumers' cognitive processes, which will benefit both researchers and marketing managers. This data would be directly applicable to the development of marketing strategies. Overall, the findings of this study would support the implementation of new research methods and their dissemination to business and customer groups.
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