The Smiling Face in Marketing Appeals and Its Effects on the Customer

Emotions have for some time attracted the attention of marketing researchers, particularly those who are active in the advertising effectiveness tradition, and it is clear that many marketing appeals elicit emotions. In fact, it is difficult for a marketing appeal not to produce at least some level of emotion (Zeitlin and Westwood 1986).

It is also clear that the customer’s emotions affect subsequent responses in terms of several variables in a hierarchy of effects models (Brown and Stayman 1992; Holbrook and Batra 1987). Marketing researchers’ interest in this matter, however, has not been equally distributed over the full gamut of emotional appeals.

This means that some emotional appeals have received more attention than others, particularly sexy appeals, fear appeals, humor appeals, and attraction appeals to decorative human models. Yet one common appeal has escaped attention – the joy appeal. In fact, reviews of the effects of message appeals do not include the joy appeal at all (cf. Percy and Rossiter 1992). This neglect is unsatisfactory because joy appeals are frequently encountered in contemporary marketing.

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The main premise in this paper is that a smiling face in a marketing appeal has the potential of eliciting target person joy and evoking target person responses in terms of intermediate response variables commonly used by marketing researchers (and practitioners). Indirect support for some of these links exists in previous research, in the sense that smiling faces have been shown to elicit target person happiness (Lundqvist and Dimberg 1995).

Moreover, in the case of services, the employee’s degree of smiling behavior has been shown to affect customer behavior (Tidd and Lockard 1978). What we believe is missing, however, is empirical evidence specifically related to a marketing context and the links between a smiling face stimulus, target person joy, and the intermediate effects of joy. The purpose, then, is to examine target persons’ responses to this stimulus in terms of joy and a set of attitudes and intentions frequently encountered in marketing research.




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