Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Curiosity works

To motivate people to buy a certain product, not only should an advertisement be able to get people’s attention, but also generate their interest in the ad and the product. I personally think the ad above produced by Microsoft is a successful example in generating curiosity, which was defined as the desire to seek further information. On the billboard, it is written ‘This is not just a laptop.’ next to an image of the advertised laptop, which attracted my attention and generated my interest in the product. Hoping to know what’s special about this laptop, I was motivated to look at the image and also the words that follow: ‘This is the new Surface. One device for everything in your life.’ This ad successfully captures the role that curiosity plays in effective advertising.

Menon and Soman (2002) looked at how different types of knowledge gap affect curiosity resolution. A knowledge gap is defined as the difference between what a person knows and what he would like to know. Menon and Soman hypothesised that curiosity is generated when a person becomes aware that a knowledge gap exists – he would be motivated to search for more information in order to close the gap. Also, they asserted that a knowledge gap is effective only when it is perceived as moderate, where target consumers receive some cues about the product that enable them to generate meaningful hypothesis about the knowledge gap, thus being motivated to search for more information so that they can confirm or reject their hypothesis. A high knowledge gap was expected to be ineffective as readers would have no clue about what’s actually being advertised. Therefore, the desire for further elaboration would not be generated. A low knowledge gap was also expected to be less effective compared to a moderate knowledge gap as curiosity was thought to draw attention to the information, generating interest in it.

At the time of the study, digital camera was new to the market, where consumers were not aware of its features and benefits. In their first experiment, Menon and Soman created diferent versions of advertisement for the digital camera, which differed in the type of benefits that they would like to portray - some versions portrayed the digital camera's 'create benefits', which means that consumers could edit the digital pictures they had taken; the other versions portrayed the 'communication benefit', which means that consumers could send pictures to other people on the Internet. Furthermore, these versions of advertisement differed in the level of knowledge gap - they were divided into high, moderate and low knowledge gap. Overall, a 3 (high, moderate and low knowledge gap) X 2 (2 types of benefits of the advertised digital camera) design was used in the experiment, and each participant was asked to look at one of the six versions of the advertisements. Participants’ curiosity about the product, desire to read more about the product, level of involvement they felt in reading the ad, and intention to check out the product at a store were measured, and these scores were averaged to give a single curiosity score.

Only knowledge gap had a main effect on curiosity score, but not the type of benefits. As predicted, curiosity was the greatest when participants’ were faced with a morderate knowledge gap: as shown in Table 1, curiosity score was the highest in the moderate knowledge gap condition (6.5), followed by high knowledge gap (4.03) and low knowledge gap (3.67). The authors recommended that a curiosity advertising strategy should highlight a knowledge gap, as having a knowledge gap (high or moderate knowledge gap) was found to be more effective than not having a knowledge gap (low knowledge gap). More importantly, as moderate knowledge gap was found to be the most effective in the experiment, the authors suggested that it is important to provide a hint to guide elaboration for curiosity resolution.

Table 1. Mean curiosity scores for different knowledge gap conditions

The reason why the Microsoft ad is successful is that it generates a knowledge gap, and at the same time it gives readers some information about what’s happening there, creating a moderate knowledge gap which was found to be the most effective compared to a high or a low knowledge gap. The headline ‘This is not just a laptop.’ and the image of the laptop informs readers that the product is a laptop, but there’s something special in it that makes it different from other laptops. Therefore, the knowledge gap created in this ad is a moderate one and is effective in getting readers’ attention and generating curiosity, which could potentially affect purchase intentions.

Menon, S., & Soman, D. (2002). Managing the power of curiosity for effective web advertising strategies. Journal of Advertising,31(3), 1-14.

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