pleasure? Or avoiding pain?
all depends upon how customers view themselves, says Professor
customers respond more strongly to advertising that promises
fun, happiness and prosperity? Or will an ad stressing the
avoidance of illness or hardship be a better sell?
depends on how your customers see themselves, says Kellogg
Marketing Professor Angela Lee. Those who define themselves
as individuals for example, stereotypical Americans
probably will respond more to ads that promise greater
enjoyment in life.
who see themselves primarily as members of a larger group
for example, people in East Asian cultures tend
to pay more attention to ads suggesting a product will help
them avoid a negative fate.
the United States, we tend to focus on self-enhancement,
notes Lee, who investigates the impact of cultural differences
on consumer behavior. We want to better ourselves.
in China and other East Asian countries, people tend to see
themselves as part of a larger group. It is a more self-critical
culture, and people focus more on responsibilities, obligations
Chinese and others with this interdependent self-view,
membership in the group takes precedence over individual achievement.
Therefore, they will respond most strongly to threats to their
ability to interact with the group.
also more risk-averse, Lee notes, and more influenced by ads
that focus on avoiding undesirable outcomes. Ads with a prevention
focus those that promise to spare the customer
from negative consequences such as disease or danger
appeal more strongly, in general, to those with this view.
marketers can increase their effectiveness by ensuring that
ads appeal to their desired audiences self-view.
pay more attention to what is relevant to us, says Lee,
who published her findings with co-researcher Jennifer L.
Aaker of Stanford University in a June 2001 article in the
Journal of Consumer Research.
American audience in Lees study, for example, responded
more favorably to sample ads for a tennis racket when these
ads stressed the glory of winning a tournament. A Chinese
audience, meanwhile, was more persuaded by messages stressing
the importance of not losing the tournament.
can be manipulated, Lee adds, through priming
the practice of exposing customers to stimuli that
lead them to think about themselves or others in a certain
study, for example, the Chinese audiences were read a statement
encouraging them to think of their individual interests. They
were told they were about to play a championship tennis match
and had the chance to bring home a large trophy for themselves.
American study subjects, meanwhile, were told their teams
hopes rested on their performance in the match, thus priming
them to think in a more interdependent way.
the typical Chinese response to the tennis-racket ad reflected
a desire to seek a positive outcome, while the North American
subjects responded more warmly to advertising that played
to their desire to avoid a negative result.
notion that people with an independent self-view seek out
pleasures while those with an interdependent self view avoid
pains helps explain why different people adopt different strategies
to achieve their goals, Lee says.
makes it even more interesting is the fact that the way we
look at ourselves is not fixed. We are very adaptive and can
project ourselves in a different light as the situation changes.