Cue management: using fitness cues to enhance advertising effectiveness

Year of publication: 2011
Author(s): Vyncke P.
Appeared in: Evolutionary psychology in the business sciences, 257 - 287


Current thinking on advertising processing highly parallels contemporary psychological theory and research revealing that there are two distinct brain systems at work in human information processing and decision making: System 1 (S1, evolutionarily old, unconscious/preconscious, automatic, fast, and intuitive) and System 2 (S2, evolutionarily recent, conscious, controlled, slow, and reflective). Indeed, state-of-the-art models of advertising processing equally distinguish two different persuasive routes: one in which the consumer focuses on the content of the ad (product/brand attribute information) and in which he/she engages in extensive and mostly conscious, elaborated information processing (S2), and one in which she/he processes the ad only superficially, quickly and quasiautomatically in terms of a handful of meaningful “cues” (S1). Regarding S2 advertising processing, means-end-chain theory has been developed as a sound theoretical framework that can guide the advertising manager in designing advertising campaigns. However, regarding S1 advertising processing the question remains: What constitutes a meaningful cue? In this paper, I will argue that both the idea of evolutionary old brain systems like the S1 systems (evolved “mental organs”) and the idea of cues activating those systems (“fitness cues”) are central to evolutionary psychology. Therefore this new science of the mind can provide a framework for cue management. I will also present the results of a large scale experiment investigating the impact these fitness cues can have on ad-likeability scores (as indicators of the advertising effectiveness to be expected). My findings highly support the validity and practical usefulness of the new insights provided by evolutionary psychology. My conclusion then is a suggestion for cue management to be developed as a new and legitimate form of advertising management based on evolutionary psychology.

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