Researchers from Japan show that ads with imagery conveying a feeling of coldness can positively influence consumer behavior and perception about a product
Imagery in visual advertisements can be a powerful tool to convey the qualities of a product to consumers. However, how imagery can be used to communicate an idea of “newness” has been rarely addressed. In a recent study, researchers demonstrated that coldness and cold imagery can be leveraged to increase the perceived newness of a product, paving the way to a consistent psychological framework of newness perception and to more effective advertisements.
In visual advertisements, the imagery that accompanies the actual pictures of a product is extremely important. Multiple studies and surveys have shown that these images can help evoke specific feelings and communicate key brand- or product-related concepts to consumers. For example, showing accompanying images of lush nature in an ad can instill an idea of “greenness” or “eco-friendliness.” While many different consumer perceptions have been analyzed thoroughly, few studies have focused on how the idea of “newness” can be better communicated to consumers, which is defined as the extent to which a product is perceived as new, innovative, or creative.
To address this knowledge gap, a research team led by Associate Professor Taku Togawa from Sophia University, Japan, investigated whether newness can be conveyed in a rather unexpected way: using cold imagery. “Coldness often has a negative connotation; for example, people regularly use expressions such as “She gave me the cold shoulder” or “His comment froze me in place.” Indeed, consumer researchers have shown that warm temperatures increase consumers’ evaluation and purchase intention for a given product more than cold temperatures,” explains Assoc. Prof. Togawa, “However, our study sought to prove that, in the context of advertising for new products, coldness is not always a negative factor in consumer behavior.” This work was co-authored by Dr. Hiroaki Ishii from Aoyama Gakuin University, Dr. Jaewoo Park from Chuo University, and Rajat Roy from Bond University, and their paper was made available online on March 1 2023 and published in Volume 160 in May 2023 in the Journal of Business Research.
First, the researchers considered the psychological mechanisms of newness perception using construal level theory (CLT). In short, CLT is a social psychological theory that states that the way people construe or interpret an object depends on the “psychological distance” between them and the object. When an object is psychologically distant, people tend to perceive it in more abstract and general terms, focusing on its broader features and meaning.
Based on a previous finding that the perception of coldness can increase a subject’s psychological distance to an event or object, Assoc. Prof. Togawa and colleagues theorized that cold imagery could be leveraged to enhance the perception of newness for a product. Put simply, by amplifying the psychological distance to a product using cold imagery, the consumer’s perceived ambiguity about that product will increase, which in turn will cause them to identify it as “novel” and engage their curiosity.
The team verified various aspects of their hypothesis by conducting four different experiments. In each, an online survey was sent to over a hundred participants, which were shown fake product ads with accompanying “cold” or “warm” imagery. For example, one ad for a car either had an accompanying photograph of a snowy landscape or a sunny green field.
The first experiment confirmed that coldness was indeed statistically associated with a higher perception of newness in the survey participants. Meanwhile, the answers in the second experiment verified that coldness led to a higher psychological distance, and therefore higher perceived ambiguity and newness. The third experiment showed that using cold imagery was effective at increasing perceived newness for modern-looking products, but not for antique-style products. Finally, the fourth experiment indicated that the perceived newness enhanced by cold imagery improved the consumer’s evaluation of the advertised product, but only when they were hypothetically planning to buy it in the distant future rather than in the short term.
Taken together, these findings provide much insight about how coldness can be effectively leveraged in visual advertising. “Our results will contribute to building a theoretical framework explaining how newness perception is communicated through advertising,” highlights Assoc. Prof. Togawa, “We believe marketers may be able to communicate product newness more easily, quickly, and inexpensively by using background imagery related to coldness in their advertisements rather than altering the style and features of the product itself, which is costly.”
With any luck, further insight into this topic will help marketers fully employ the power of coldness to get their message across!
- Title of original paper: The temperature of newness: How vision–temperature correspondence in advertising influences newness perception and product evaluation
- Journal: Journal of Business Research
- DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2023.113801
- Authors: Taku Togawa1, Hiroaki Ishii2, Jaewoo Park3, Rajat Roy4
1Sophia University, Faculty of Economics, Department of Management
2Aoyama Gakuin University, School of Business, Department of Marketing
3Chuo University, Faculty of Commerce, Department of Marketing and Trade
4Bond University, Bond Business School
About Sophia University
Established as a private Jesuit affiliated university in 1913, Sophia University is one of the most prestigious universities located in the heart of Tokyo, Japan. Imparting education through 29 departments in 9 faculties and 25 majors in 10 graduate schools, Sophia hosts more than 13,000 students from around the world.
Conceived with the spirit of “For Others, With Others,” Sophia University truly values internationality and neighborliness, and believes in education and research that go beyond national, linguistic, and academic boundaries. Sophia emphasizes on the need for multidisciplinary and fusion research to find solutions for the most pressing global issues like climate change, poverty, conflict, and violence. Over the course of the last century, Sophia has made dedicated efforts to hone future-ready graduates who can contribute their talents and learnings for the benefit of others, and pave the way for a sustainable future while “Bringing the World Together.”
About Associate Professor Taku Togawa from Sophia University, Japan
Dr. Taku Togawa received a Ph.D. in Marketing from Waseda University in 2018. He joined the Department of Management at Sophia University as an Associate Professor in April 2020. He mainly conducts experimental studies in consumer behavior, focusing on how and when sensory inputs from marketing tools influence consumers’ perceptions, evaluations, and consumption behavior. His works have been featured in top-tier journals, such as the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Retailing, Journal of Business Research, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Motivation Science, and Food Quality and Preference. He also serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Marketing & Distribution, JSMD Review, and Japan Marketing Journal.
This study was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research, grant number: 19K01943).