perception 4

My perceptions of advertisements are usually accurate.
Strongly disagree 1
Strongly agree
Have students access to answer the polling questions for each chapter of
CB. Ask them to take the online poll to see how their answers compare with other students taking
a consumer behavior course across the country. Then turn to the last page of the chapter to find
the What Others Have Thought box feature. This graph is a snapshot of how other consumer
behavior students have answered this polling question thus far.
After studying this chapter, the student should be able to:
L01 Define learning and perception and how the two are connected.
L02 List and define phases of the consumer perception process.
L03 Apply the concept of the JND.
L04 Contrast the concepts of implicit and explicit memory.
L05 Know ways to help get a consumer’s attention.
L06 Understand key differences between intentional and unintentional learning.
Consumer perception and reality are not always the same thing—a point that Gulf of Mexico fish
and seafood retailers are well acquainted with after the BP oil spill of 2010. Although aggressive
marketing messages were immediately used to communicate to consumers that products from the
Gulf fishing areas that remained open were safe to eat, public confidence continued to erode.
Even with extra funding from BP and the government, some estimate it may take up to five years
and many millions of dollars to regain consumer confidence. [Source: Kari Huus, “Is BP On the
Hook for Fish’s Sullied Reputation?” MSNBC, July 30, 2010,]
Slide 1
Slide 2
Slide 3
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Define learning and perception and how the two are connected.
Defining Learning and Perception
Slide 4
Value is important to the discussion of consumer behavior and cannot be communicated without
consumer learning and perception. Learning refers to a change in behavior resulting from the
interaction between a person and a stimulus. Perception is how the consumer is aware of and
interprets reality.
Slide 5
Consumer Perception
An issue important to consumer researchers is: what’s more important, perception or reality?
This is important to understand since the way a consumer perceives something greatly influences
Q: Ask students to find Exhibit 3.1 in the book and answer the question it asks,
“What Is the Reality in the Image Below?”
A: Answers will vary. A discussion of differences in perception should follow.
Exposure, Attention, and Comprehension
There are three elements of consumer perception: exposure, attention, and comprehension.
Exposure brings a stimulus in close proximity to a consumer to be sensed by one of the five
human senses. Attention is the consumer’s allocation of information-processing capacity toward
the stimulus to develop an understanding of it. Comprehension occurs when consumers attempt
to derive meaning from the information they receive.
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Slide 6
List and define phases of the consumer perception process.
Consumer Perception Process
Slide 7
Slide 8
The three phases of consumer perception include: sensing, organizing, and reacting as shown in
Exhibit 3.3.
This is an immediate response to stimuli that have come into contact with one of the five senses.
When a consumer reads a Tweet from someone he or she is following, the perceptual process
goes into action.
When something is sensed, the consumer organizes information like sorting mail, as shown in
Exhibit 3.4. Consumers develop an interpretation during this stage and begin to comprehend the
stimuli. If a consumer has difficulty categorizing a stimulus, the brain tries to reconcile the
inconsistencies by reacting in three possible ways:
1. Assimilation occurs when a stimulus has characteristics that consumers readily recognize
as belonging to some specific category.
2. Accommodation occurs when a stimulus shares some, but not all, of the characteristics
that allow it to fit in an existing category.
3. Contrast occurs when a stimulus does not share enough in common with existing
categories to allow it to be categorized.
©2012 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be scanned, copied or duplicated, or posted to a publicly accessible website, in whole or in part.
Slide 9
Slide 10
This is the end of the perceptual process and can be both physical and mental in response to the
stimuli. The example in the book details when a driver notices that the car ahead has its brake
lights on so the learned response is to apply brakes as well. The reaction occurs as a response or
Selective Perception
What would you pay attention to if you saw this picture of a street in Seoul? Selective exposure
screens out most stimuli and exposes a person to only a small portion of stimuli. Selective
attention is the process of paying attention to only certain stimuli. Selective distortion involves
how consumers interpret information in ways that are biased by their previously held beliefs.
Slide 11
Subliminal Processing
Subliminal processing refers to the way our brains handle very low-strength stimuli, so low that
the person has no conscious awareness of such stimuli. Exhibit 3.5 shows the Vicary experiment
that reportedly took place in a New Jersey movie theater when a researcher added subliminal
messages within a movie.
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Slide 12
Have students find other products online that they perceive as smiling.
Bring examples to class for discussion. Did the smile have an effect on their
preference? Are there other human-like characteristics you can find in products
for sale?
Apply the concept of JND.
Applying the JND Concept
Slide 13
Slide 14
Slide 15
The JND concept is closely related to the perceptual process and deals with changes in the
strength of stimuli. Weber’s Law states that as the intensity of the initial stimulus increases, a
consumer’s ability to detect differences between two levels of the stimulus decreases. The book
uses the decibel levels at a concert as an example.
The JND has numerous marketing implications for marketers attempting to provide value
to consumers.
1. Pricing changes by small increments do not attract a lot of consumer attention.
2. Quantity changes by small increments do not attract a lot of consumer attention.
3. Quality improvements in small amounts will not attract attention so the difference must
be large enough to create a true perceptual difference.
4. Add-on purchases work if it doesn’t create the perception of increased spending.
Just Meaningful Difference
Closely related to JND is JMD. The example in the book asks, how much of a change in price is
really needed to influence consumer behavior and learning? What makes the change in price
meaningful to the consumer? Retailers generally find a 20% price discount effective.
©2012 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be scanned, copied or duplicated, or posted to a publicly accessible website, in whole or in part.
Slide 16
Q: Have you noticed any price changes in products that you use regularly?
A: Answers will vary. Try to pinpoint the amount of change that makes a price
change meaningful.
Contrast the concepts of implicit and explicit memory.
Implicit and Explicit Memory
The knowledge a person gets from reading a textbook is stored in explicit memory—memory for
information that a person is exposed to, attends to, and applies effort to remember. Implicit
memory is for things that a person did not try to remember such as stimuli you are exposed to but
do not pay attention to. Banner ads on websites are a good example of implicit memory.
Slide 17
Slide 18
Mere Exposure Effect
This effect leads consumers to prefer a stimulus to which they’ve previously been exposed.
Consumers prefer familiar objects. There is a difference between the mere exposure effect and
subliminal effects. Subliminal messages are presented below the threshold of perception while
during the mere exposure effect, the stimulus is evident and could be paid attention to. Product
placements are another way promotions can impart implicit memory among consumers.
©2012 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be scanned, copied or duplicated, or posted to a publicly accessible website, in whole or in part.
Slide 19
Attention plays a key role in distinguishing implicit and explicit memory. Involuntary attention
is beyond the conscious control of the consumer and occurs as a result of exposure to new or
surprising stimuli. A natural reflex that occurs as a response to a threat from the environment is
an orientation reflex. This happens when attention is given to a stimulus that surprises us.
Slide 20
Q: What examples of marketing get your attention when you’re multi-tasking
(studying, listening to music, instant messaging a friend)?
A: Answers will vary.
Know ways to help get a consumer’s attention.
Enhancing Consumers’ Attention
Slide 21
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Factors that Get Attention
Getting a consumer’s attention is even more difficult in today’s multi-tasking society. These
factors can enhance attention:
 Intensity of Stimuli – examples might include a brightly colored ad
 Contrast – examples might include quiet TV commercials when you’re expecting it to be
 Movement – examples might include a strobe light to advertise a car wash
 Surprising Stimuli – examples might include the billboard that featured a fake small child
and teddy bear seated on top of it
 Size of Stimuli – examples might include a billboard with a life-size MINI Cooper
 Involvement – examples will vary depending on how relevant each individual finds the
Slide 22
Consumers should devote cognitive capacity to comprehend the choices that offer the most value
for them. Comprehension is the way consumers organize and understand information.
Q: Are there any infomercials you’ve watched recently with surprising stimuli?
Did they keep you watching through the entire segment?
A: Answers will vary. Determine why surprising stimuli gains consumer
attention. In this reality-TV age, how surprising does stimuli have to be to
keep our attention?
Understand the key differences between intentional and unintentional
The Difference between Intentional and Unintentional Learning
Both types of consumer learning (intentional and unintentional) concern perceptual processes.
©2012 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be scanned, copied or duplicated, or posted to a publicly accessible website, in whole or in part.
Slide 23
Slide 24
Slide 25
Behaviorism and Cognitive Learning Theories
Psychologists generally follow one of two basic theories of learning: behaviorist approach to
learning or information processing (or cognitive) perspective. The behaviorist approach focuses
on changes in behavior due to association without great concern for the cognitive mechanics of
the learning process. So consumers are exposed to stimuli and respond in some way. For
information processing theory, the focus is on the cognitive processes associated with
comprehension. So the consumer’s mind acts like a computer processing bits of knowledge to
form meaning.
Slide 26
Unintentional Learning
Two approaches to unintentional learning from the behavioral learning theory are classical
conditioning and instrumental conditioning. Pavlov’s experiments were the most famous in
classical conditioning studies. BF Skinner provided much of what we know about instrumental
(or operant) conditioning. The Dockers ad illustrates a popular use of unintentional learning
through classical conditioning—the use of intimate imagery. The girl at the casino is playing a
slot machine, which requires repetitive action to play. Her behavior is reinforced each time she
pulls the lever.
Slide 27
Slide 28
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Q: Does the Dockers ad on page 60 “condition” the brand in your minds
because of this image? Has the advertiser succeeded?
A: Answers will vary.
In instrumental conditioning, discriminative stimuli are stimuli differentiated from other stimuli
because they signal the presence of a reinforcer. In Exhibit 3.7 the discriminative stimuli could
be an ad giving 10% off for shopping in a particular store. The behavior is for the person with the
ad to shop in that store. Reinforcement occurs after the purchase is made.
Slide 29
PowerPoint Clip from Culver’s Restaurants
Run time 1:22 minutes
Slide 30
Culver’s is an American style hamburger and ice cream family-owned restaurant with a strong
focus on the positive interactions between customers, staff, and high-quality food. Founded in
1984, Culver’s is famous for their friendly and quick service as well as their fresh never frozen
Butterburger. CEO Craig Culver founded the business with his wife and parents after working
for McDonald’s and realizing there was a niche for providing fresh, quality food in a fast paced
Ask your students:
1. Why does Culver’s use a phrase like “quick service” rather than “fast food” to describe their
food service?
Answer: Language can affect and reflect consumers’ perceptions of quality. Culver’s wants
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customers to know that their burgers are prepared after they order not before and kept warm via a
heat lamp.
2. Why is a high-level of customer service such an important part of Culver’s business model?
Answer: Culvers’ believes that if customers feel respected and cared for they are more likely to
perceive their dining experience as pleasurable and thus to return.
Visit to access the online case studies for CB.
1. Several advertising agencies are competing for the Golf Buggy account. Most are
recommending communications that are consistent with an intentional method of learning.
However, one agency is suggesting a behavioral or unintentional learning campaign.
Should Gold Buggy give serious consideration to this agency based on its approach to
consumer learning? Explain your choice.
Answer: Chances are that an intentional learning approach would be best. Most, but not all,
advertising campaigns assume that intentional learning takes place. Unintentional learning
processes often result from the use of sales promotions. For example, a consumer can be
offered a certain reward for visiting a dealership, then offered a rebate, and finally offered a
low price when purchasing a product. Although either process could apply, it is likely that
the intentional learning perspective would be better, especially when considering that this is
most likely a high-involvement purchase situation.
2. How is a single-seat, three-wheel golf cart likely to be initially received in the marketplace?
Use the steps in the consumer perception process to explain your position.
Answer: The product would most certainly be viewed as “new” and “different.”
The consumer would need to be exposed to the information, pay attention to the
information, and comprehend the information in some way. Also, consumers would need to
sense the information, organize it, and react to the information and product. The critical
step here would be organizing the information. As the text explains, the information could
be assimilated, accommodated, or contrasted. Chances are that some type of
accommodation would take place, that is, the buggy would share some, but not all, features
of traditional golf carts.
3. Would Golf Buggy have more success targeting a vehicle like this at non-golfers for use in
large workplaces and perhaps even for consumers liking for an alternative to walking or
driving when traveling short distances? Explain why.
Answer: The product should probably be aimed at the traditional golf market. However,
these other uses do apply. When organizing the information and reacting to the cart, most
consumers would view the cart as applying most readily to the golf experience. As such,
this should be the primary aim. However, other marketing efforts could focus on alternative
uses for the product.
©2012 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be scanned, copied or duplicated, or posted to a publicly accessible website, in whole or in part.
(*) Indicates material on prep cards.
1. [LO1] Define exposure in a consumer behavior context. Provide five examples of
marketing stimuli (products, advertisements, environments) that you have been exposed to
within the last day or two.
Answer: Exposure refers to bringing some stimulus within the proximity of a consumer so
that it can be sensed with one of the five human senses (sight, smell, taste, touch [tactile],
sound). Examples are endless: a radio ad with a familiar rock song that garners attention, a
food counter at the mall providing samples of one of their dishes, new-car smells and the
feel of rich leather seats when test-driving a car, a billboard with an eye-catching design, a
banner ad with a person dancing, or a PA announcement of a price promotion during an
athletic event.
2. [LO1] An adolescent consumer places a CD into a boom box. An adult nearby overhears this
and has never before heard this particular sound. What steps does the consumer go to in
trying to identify the “sound”?
Answer: The consumer goes through the human perception process, which is sensing,
organizing, and reacting.
3. [LO1] What three outcomes are possible as a consumer tries to “interpret” stimuli through
the human perceptual process?
Answer: assimilation, accommodation, and contrast
4. *[LO1LO6] Define learning within a consumer context. Provide an example of something
you have learned as a consumer.
Answer: Learning refers to some change in behavior resulting from some interaction
between a person and some stimulus. Consumers could have searched the Internet for prices
on auto parts or off-season vacation destinations.
5. [LO1LO6] A box feature in the chapter talks about watches that smile at you. Using the
perceptual process, explain how a smiling product might lead to a more favorable reaction.
Do you think that a smiling product would be equally effective for all types of products?
How much could one change the time of a smiling watch and have it still look like a smile?
Do you think any potential learning is due more to implicit or explicit memory effects?
Answer: Mainly, a question to get the students to extend what they have learned here. The
watch has to be seen and the position of the hands relative to the face have to be organized
into a smile. This may cause a person to react by reproducing the smile or just causing an
instinctively better reaction (in the next chapter, we will learn more about how schema
congruity may play a role). The student should apply the JND when thinking about how
much the time could change. These effects appear more consistent with implicit memory
because few people would actually pay attention to the smile. Therefore, this is probably a
preattentive effect.
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6. [LO1LO4] What do you think of the ethics of subliminal advertising attempts or sexually
embedded advertising? Why do you believe that there have been so few legal actions aimed
at stopping subliminal advertising?
Answer: This is primarily an opinion question. Students generally develop the opinion that
it is better to use a stronger, overt appeal than a weaker, less overt appeal. The question of
whether subliminal advertising should be illegal is mute because of its limited
effectiveness. Also, demonstrating intent to deceive would be difficult.
7. *[LO2] Ask a friend who has never studied marketing or consumer behavior
to flip through a popular magazine, such as Sports Illustrated or People. Ask them to find
examples of attempted subliminal persuasion. Have them discuss the ads and explain their
choices. What do you think of their opinions?
Answer: The main focus here is to see whether students can identify any examples at all.
Have students detail their friend’s discussion. Did they succumb to the urban legends
surrounding such effects?
8. *[LO3] Provide three examples each of how consumers might learn through explicit and
implicit memory.
Answer: Explicit memory – Using the Internet to find product information, consulting with
a friend before a big weekend to find good places to go (developing knowledge), and
learning from a product that performs poorly that you should not buy that brand again.
Implicit memory – Classical conditioning efforts such as those used in advertisements,
mere exposure effects as shown in ads or other media, and product placements.
9. *[LO3] How does the JND differ from the absolute threshold?
Answer: The absolute threshold deals with the amount of strength of a stimulus, ranging
from no strength at all up to the point when a person actually realizes that the stimulus is
present. For example, how much citrus scent must be introduced into a room before
someone can actually smell citrus? The JND deals with the change in stimulus. How much
more citrus scent do you need to introduce to one room before someone realizes that the
smell is stronger than the citrus scent in the adjacent room? This works for all senses.
10. [LO3] How might the JND apply to the following situations?
Radio advertising
Price promotion
Internet promotion
Quality control
International marketing
Answer: Radio advertising – Changing the volume so that it can be noticed over other
programming. Price promotions – Changing the price just enough so that it is noticed as a
sale price. Internet promotion – Changing the size of banner ads so that they become
noticeable. Quality control – Decreasing the level of acceptance for some product by a
small amount so that no difference in quality is noticed. International marketing – Adjusting
©2012 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be scanned, copied or duplicated, or posted to a publicly accessible website, in whole or in part.
the quality of products sold in different markets so that no difference in quality is noticed
relative to other products.
11. [LO4] Explain under what conditions a marketer might believe that an advertising
execution involving mere exposure might effectively cause consumers to “learn” to like a
product. How would a researcher test to see whether the mere exposure effect held for
brand logos?
Answer: A marketer might use mere exposure when the brand is unfamiliar or perhaps new
and the consumer has little prior knowledge. To test mere exposure with brand logos, the
researcher could develop 10 pictures of new logos and show them to subjects when
embedded with 50 other logos. During the next week (or month), the researcher could show
another grouping of 50 logos to the same subjects that contains the same 10 logos to which
the subjects were previously exposed. Subjects should like the 10 original logos better, on
average, than the newer logos based on the mere exposure effect.
12. [LO5] Define attention. What are ways that consumer attention can be enhanced?
Answer: Attention is the purposeful allocation of information-processing capacity toward
understanding some stimulus. Consumer attention can be enhanced in the following ways:
Stronger stimuli – With all things being equal, a consumer is more likely to pay
attention to a stronger stimulus. Thus, a loud sound captures more attention than a
quieter sound. A television commercial with louder volume than the rest of the
programming will draw attention.
Learned responses  Consumers have hard-wired responses to many sights and sounds.
For instance, have you ever reached for your phone when you heard a ring tone even
though that ring tone was not available on your phone? Or, you may have reached for
your phone when the sound of a phone ringing was played on a radio commercial. This
is a learned response to a phone ringing.
Nudity – Partially nude or suggestive photographs are effective in getting consumers’
attention in most mainstream publications. Now, if the entire magazine contains photos
of nudes, this type of attention may not be very effective. Bare skin will typically make
a consumer pause momentarily.
Contrast – Contrasting stimuli are extremely effective in grabbing attention.
In the past, a color photo in a newspaper was extremely effective in drawing attention.
However, a color advertisement stands out less in today’s newspapers. A black and
white image in a magazine filled with color can also stand out. A period of silence in an
otherwise noisy environment can attract attention.i Social outcasts also create attention
because of the contrast with established social norms.ii
Consumers with strange hairstyles or who are dressed inappropriately for a given
situation create attention.
13. [LO6] Compare and contrast the following terms:
Intentional learning
Unintentional learning
Behavioral learning
Information processing
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 Classical conditioning
 Instrumental conditioning
Answer: Intentional learning involves actively trying to learn something. Unintentional
learning occurs without any effort. Behavioral learning is a type of unintentional learning
such as occurs through classical conditioning. Information processing takes place in steps
beginning with exposure and ending with the coding of something in memory. In contrast,
traditional information processing results in explicit memory, meaning that the person was
indeed trying to remember the stimuli. Classical conditioning is a type of unintentional
learning that occurs as unconditioned stimuli are paired together with conditioned stimuli in
such a way that the natural response from the former gets transferred to the latter.
Instrumental conditioning is a type of unintentional learning involving reinforcement of
behavior through rewards and punishments to positive or negative behaviors.
14. [ETHICS] Consider the ways in which subliminal persuasion would influence consumers if
it had a significant effect on choice and consumption. Would an attempt to persuade
consumers through subliminal persuasion be ethical? Explain your choice.
Answer: This is a discussion question. However, students should focus on whether the
consumer’s sovereignty is questioned. As long as the consumer maintains in control,
subliminal persuasion should not present a problem. If the subliminal process could truly
deceive consumers so that they behave irrationally, then an ethical question emerges. In
reality, however, little evidence suggests that a concern is warranted based on the limited
effectiveness of subliminal persuasion.
15. [ETHICS] Given the way that mere exposure can influence likeability, are attempts to use
the mere exposure effect through advertising or product placements in television shows and
movies ethical? Explain your choice.
Answer: The difference between mere exposure and alleged subliminal persuasion is that
there is no attempt to deceive when using mere exposure effects. In fact, brand logos or
products can actually be seen by an attentive consumer. Because the consumer is always in
control, no ethical problem is obvious when using mere exposure techniques.
16. Interview several non-business major students. Ask them their opinions of subliminal
persuasion. Follow up to include a question asking if they had ever been influenced to buy
something through subliminal influences. Draw conclusions from these interviews. What
are your thoughts on your findings?
Answer: This is a discussion question. Students should be using key terms from the
chapters to describe consumers.
17. Mix a concoction of 10 percent 7-Up or Sprite (or similar clear beverage) and 90 percent
apple juice. Have two different consumers try the concoction. For one, ask them to try this
new “soft drink.” For the other, ask them to try this new “fruit drink.” Do you get the same
reaction? Explain using material on cognitive categorization.
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Answer: This exercise is a good way to demonstrate the consumer perception process. The
person who gets the “soft drink” will typically not like the mixed drink, but the person who
gets the “fruit drink” will often like the concoction. In fact, a product named Slice was
based on a small amount of fruit juice combined with lemon-lime soda.
* Get together with at least two other students from the class. Have one of the students play the
beat the clock game for Chapter 3 while the others reserve. The beat the clock game can be
found on Then, have another student try the beat the clock game for
Chapter 1 and the third try beat the clock for Chapter 2. Is there a winner (did one do better than
another)? Are there any CEOs? Explain what is going on perceptually when playing beat the
clock. How is explicit memory involved? Is there a way for implicit memory to play a role?
Answer: An opportunity to apply the perceptual process in detail.
To view the video case Advertising and PR at Ogeden Publications, go to the CB
companion website to select this video.1
Ogden Publications of Topeka, Kansas has been working in the green space for decades. Its most
popular magazine, Mother Earth News, reaches about 1.85 million readers annually. It was started in
1970 around the time of the very first Earth Day and features projects you can do to reduce your
impact on the environment. The company’s second most popular magazine, Natural Home, debuted
in 1999. Natural Home is for those interested in “greening up” their suburban home. The key
difference between the two magazines is that Natural Home is more focused on things one might
buy—heating systems, cleaning products, appliances, and décor. Mother Earth’s readers tend to be a
bit more hands-on with their projects. Ogden also publishes nine other magazines, including
Motorcycle Classics for collectors and Utne Reader, for alternative media junkies.
On Ogden’s website, a quotation by publisher Bryan Welch makes the following claim: As the
world’s largest publisher of magazines in the conscientious consumer category, Ogden
Publications is deeply committed to the environment. Everything we do, from our editorial
coverage to the ads we carry, offers readers the tools to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
Ogden Publications and Mother Earth News enjoy a reputation as an authority on sustainable
living. This gives them a lot of street cred with their readers, but to potential advertisers, it’s
pretty scary. Welch admits it has been a challenge explaining to advertisers and partners that
we’re not “a bunch of holier than thou old hippies” ready to rip their product’s greenness to
shreds. On the upside, according to a 2006 study by leading advertising and marketing research
firm, Signet Research, Inc., Mother Earth readers are on average 80–90 percent more likely to
From Boone & Kurtz. Advertising and PR at Ogeden Publications from Contemporary Marketing 14e, pg. VC-15.
Copyright (c) 2010 South-Western, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission. 1
©2012 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be scanned, copied or duplicated, or posted to a publicly accessible website, in whole or in part.
pay more money or go out of their way to purchase organic and earth-friendly products. Few
publications, even mainstream magazines, could offer such a great advertising proposition.
Natural Home is an easier sell to more mainstream advertisers breaking into the green marketplace.
On their pages you are likely to see Toyota Prius and Home Depot ads alongside a beautiful gourmet
kitchen photo spread. A solid 95 percent of readers are willing to pay more for green products. They
are almost exclusively female with a median age of 45. Many of them are married with children and
own their own homes. Add to that a $90,000 average household income, and an advertiser can feel
pretty good about presenting their bamboo flooring and European high-efficiency washer/dryer unit.
According to Welch, Ogden’s main types of advertisers are either endemic or consumer. An
endemic advertiser sells a product directly related to the editorial content of the magazine or
website. Because the demographic for each of Ogden’s magazines is pretty specific, the bulk of
its ads are endemic. Endemic ads are fairly easy to sell, usually featuring a specific product—a
low-flow showerhead, for instance. Advertisers know that 75 percent of the magazine’s
readership consists of building contractors who will likely purchase this product in the next six
months. There is little gamble on the part of the showerhead manufacturer. Consumer advertising
is more for products that know no specific demographic. You can sell soft drinks to pretty much
anyone around the world, so it doesn’t matter where you place the ad. Or does it? Do healthconscious readers with organic gardens and compost heaps in their backyards drink soft drinks?
Not likely. If they do, they probably don’t want to talk about it too much. The very sight of a soft
drink ad in their favorite publication may cause them to stop purchasing the magazine. This puts
publishers like Bryan Welch in a difficult position. Magazines are funded by ad sales and
companies like Pepsi, Ford, or GE can afford big ad buys. All of these companies are looking to
magazines like Natural Home for an “in” to their very desirable readers. And some of these large
companies may be able to make inroads. “A lot of big consumer advertisers have a great
authentic message. [They] have new products that are genuinely more enlightened,” says Welch.
He names Honda, Toyota, and Owens Corning as companies that have demonstrated a true
commitment to improving the sustainability of their products. “Those are the folks we are trying
to connect with,” he says, “and our readers want to know about those products and bring them
into their lives and the lives of their friends. That’s the perfect formula.”
Ask your students:
1. Given that most of a magazine’s revenue comes from ads, would you be willing to turn
down a large consumer advertiser because your readers may disagree with their product or
business practices? Discuss the ethical, PR, and financial implications of your decision.
Answer: Answers will vary, but the marketers of Ogden magazines like Mother Earth and
Natural Home are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to advertising. The
publisher needs revenues from advertisers but risks alienating readers if it sells space to
advertisers perceived as “not green enough.” Siding with readers means less advertising
revenues for the company; siding with mainstream advertisers means losing diehard loyal
readers. Ogden seeks compromise by attracting companies like Honda, Toyota, and Owens
Corning—companies that are perceived to be producers of authentically green products.
Selling ad space to non-green businesses is ethical and legal, but it may alienate readers of
©2012 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be scanned, copied or duplicated, or posted to a publicly accessible website, in whole or in part.
Mother Earth News. Finally, advertisers will be accused of puffery if they exaggerate the
environmental friendliness of their products in ads.
2. What challenges do specialized magazines such as Mother Earth News face when trying to
entice advertisers? Create a pitch to a potential green-product advertiser stating the benefits
of advertising in Mother Earth News.
Answer: Highly specialized magazines typically have small audiences and therefore
limited reach for ads. As the video points out, many advertisers are “scared” of Mother
Earth’s readers; they perceive them as highly critical
of businesses and potentially threatening. Advertisers who target environmentalist
audiences risk a backlash of negative opinions about their products and services. However,
businesses that have an authentic “green identity” are likely to advertise in Ogden
publications with success.
Ang, S. H., S. M. Leong, and W. Yeo (1999). “When Silence is Golden: Effects of Silence on Consumer
Ad Responses,” Advances in Consumer Research, 26, 295-299.
David B., D.W. Wooten (2006). “From Labeling Possessions to Possessing Labels: Ridicule and
Socialization among Adolescents,” Journal of Consumer Research, 33, 188-198.
©2012 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be scanned, copied or duplicated, or posted to a publicly accessible website, in whole or in part.