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Q: Consumer response to advertising messages ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Consumer response to advertising messages
Category: Business and Money > Advertising and Marketing
Asked by: jimweber62-ga
List Price: $150.00
Posted: 19 Jul 2006 14:51 PDT
Expires: 18 Aug 2006 14:51 PDT
Question ID: 747860
Do American consumers better comprehend verbal/literal advertising
messages than purely visual communications? I am interested in
determining whether advertising that includes copy (headlines and/or
body copy) are more effective in communicating brand messages to
average American consumers than advertising with no verbal/written
Subject: Re: Consumer response to advertising messages
Answered By: guillermo-ga on 31 Jul 2006 23:17 PDT
Hello Jimweber62-ga,

Thank you for this very interesting question.

The sources that you will find below seem to confirm your assumption,
in the sense that American consumers respond better to advertisement
including text.

However, things are not so simple -- through time there have been
different research studies that led to different conclusions.

In the article "The Power of Words: Another Look at the Verbal and
Visual Components in Print Ads" (University of Michigan; 1999) by
Yulian Li ( )
the author does quite a comprehensive review of previous research,
where we can read:

"Childers and Houston (1984) explained that pictures are 'more
memorable' than words and that pictures act as 'a rich mnemonic device
that enhances learning and retention of material over such techniques
as sentence elaboration or rote rehearsal' (p. 643).
Believing in the effectiveness of 'visually oriented advertising' over
'verbally oriented advertising,' Percy and Rossiter (1980) suggested
that 'those creating print advertising should be aware that visual
imagery can play a significant part in enhancing attitude for the
advertised product' (p. 168).

"However, learning and memory theorists seemed to favor words over
pictures. They argued that processing verbal information was more
automatic than processing visual information, because word reading was
a learned process and much more automatic than picture recognition
(Schneider & Shiffrin, 1977; Beck et al., 1982; Logan, 1988).
Reviewing studies on the Stroop effect, MacLeod (1991) argued that
words were much more powerful than pictures when the two types of
stimuli were processed simultaneously.
"Some advertising studies found that when a picture was added in a
print ad, it did not necessarily have a more positive effect than a
verbal ad, because people had limited cognitive resources. Such a
phenomenon was termed the ceiling effect (Kisielius & Sternthal,
1984). Furthermore, pictures might interfere with the processing of
verbal information, creating a reverse Stroop effect (Dyer &
Severance, 1972; Dyer, 1973)."

¿What is the Stroop effect?

Wikipedia comes in our help ( :

"In psychology, the Stroop effect is a demonstration of interference
in the reaction time of a task. When a word such as blue, green, red,
etc. is printed in a color differing from the color expressed by the
word's semantic meaning (e.g. the word "red" printed in blue ink), a
delay occurs in the processing of the word's color, leading to slower
test reaction times and an increase in mistakes. The effect is named
after its discoverer, John Ridley Stroop, and was first noted in an
article Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions published
in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 1935.

"In his experiment, Stroop administered several variations of two main
tests. Stroop referred to his tests as RCN, to stand for "Reading
Color Names", where participants were required to repeat the written
meaning of words with differing coloured fonts, and NCW, to stand for
"Naming Colored Words", in which participants were asked to verbally
identify the color of each printed color name. Additionally Stroop
tested his participants at different stages of practice with each
task, to account for the effects of association.

"Stroop identified a large increase on the time taken by participants
to complete the NCW (Naming Colored Words) tasks, an effect still
pronounced despite continued practice at each task. This interference
is thought to have been caused by the automatization of reading, where
the mind automatically determines the semantic meaning of the word,
and then must override this first impression with the identification
of the color of the word, a process which is not automatized."

Another way of describing it is that our primary reaction is to say
the word (for example, "blue" written in red characters), and if asked
to name the color regardless of the word, we need to refrain ourselves
from saying the word and focus in the color. I works this way and not
the opposite. I tried it myself and with any person I did, the result
was always the same.

Back to the experience related in Yulian Li's paper, it was meant to
try the following hypothesis:

"1. Verbal ads have a more positive effect than visual ads in the high
involvement situation.
"2. Visual ads have a more positive effect than verbal ads in the low
involvement situation.
"3. Ads with verbal-visual combinations have a more positive effect
than visual ads in the high involvement situation. This is based on
the assumption that the verbal-visual combination ad has a verbal
component which is expected to dominate in high involvement
"4. Ads with verbal-visual combinations have a more positive effect
than verbal ads in the low involvement situation.  This is based on
the assumption that the verbal-visual combination ad has a visual
component which is expected to dominate in low involvement

(In order to stay in the safe side regarding copyright -- i.e., not
falling from "fair use" into "abuse" -- I would ask you please read
the details of the experience, given its extension, in Yulian Li's
article itself, which is linked above, where it is extendedly

The experience led to the following conclusion:

"This study found that verbal stimuli are more powerful and effective
than visual stimuli, confirming the theory of automaticity (Logan,
1988; Schneider & Shiffrin, 1977) that the automatic process, word
reading, is superior to the controlled process, picture recognition.
In both the high involvement and low involvement situations, a verbal
ad (words only) is more effective than a visual ad (a picture with a
brand name) in creating a favorable attitude toward the product,
enhancing consumers' recall of the product's attributes, and creating
a purchase intention. However, a verbal ad might not be as effective
as a visual ad in creating a favorable attitude toward the
advertisement in the high involvement situation. In the low
involvement situation, a verbal ad is just effective as a visual ad on
the ad attitude."

In other words, regarding attitude toward the brand and product, the
verbal message had a stronger influence than the image. Only in the
"high involvement situation" case, and in relationship with the
attitude toward the ad itself -- not brand or product -- the image
proved more effective.

Now, this experience and the quoted literature in the paper describing
it may be valid for anyone. But, how about your particular interest in
the American public?

In this case, it is the theory of "low-context" and "high-context"
cultures, developed by Edward T. Hall in the 1950s. The notion comes
from the communicational situation, which always has a "context" to
which the meanings are referred. Some societies -- typically, those
that give a high value to affective links, group identity, human needs
-- are said to have high-context cultures, precisely because of the
many understood meanings and references created in that merging of
links amid their members. Asian, African, Latin American, Southern
European societies are said to be predominantly high-context ones.
Northern Europeans and Americans, conversely, are said to be typically
low-context societies -- relationships are more distant, the
individual, rather than the group, is greatly valued, their focus is
mainly oriented to tasks and accomplishment of goals, among other
characteristics. As a consequence of these different characteristics,
the latter are more verbal in their communication styles, because
there are many contextual references taken as understood to link
non-verbal references -- such as gestures, sounds and images -- while
the former can rely better on non-verbal communication. (For more
information on this theory you can visit its entry on Wikipedia
[ ]; also there is an
interesting comparative table of characteristics at [it
makes part of an article published at the American Association for the
Advancement of Science's website -- ].

The theory of low-context and high-context cultures in relationship
with the greater effectiveness of verbal advertisement is mentioned in
the article Marketing Communications, Culture, and Localization, by
Yves Lang (

"Communication in a high-context culture depends heavily on the
context, or the nonverbal aspects of communications. Low-context
cultures tend to depend more on explicit, verbally expressed forms of
communication. The United States is a low-context culture that
generally relies heavily on information communicated explicitly by
words. Asian and Hispanic cultures, by contrast, resemble high-context
audiences that generally accept communications that are deeper and
more complex than spoken or written messages.
"The difference between high and low-context cultures helps us
understand why, for example, Japanese and American advertising styles
are so different. Generally, Japanese audiences prefer indirect verbal
communication and symbolism over the direct "in your face"
communication approaches used by Americans. American advertising
traditionally relies on words to explain the product and its features
and how the product differs from the competition. In contrast,
advertising communications used in high-context countries such as
Japan rely on nuances and overall differences in the tone, music,
scenery, and other nonverbal cues to differentiate the product."

I believe that the information provided above should match your needs
-- otherwise, or if something remains obscure, please let me now and
I'll be happy to clarify.

My search strategy included the phrases "verbal communication",
"verbal advertisement", "visual communication", "visual
advertisement", "high-context culture", "low-context culture", "stroop

Best regards,


Clarification of Answer by guillermo-ga on 02 Aug 2006 06:07 PDT

Where it reads:
"As a consequence of these different characteristics, the latter are
more verbal in their communication styles, because there are many
contextual references taken as understood..."

It should read:
"As a consequence of these different characteristics, the latter are
more verbal in their communication styles, because there are NOT SO
many contextual references taken as understood..."
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