Advertising is designed to have differing effects on consumers based on the goals of an individual campaign, and strategies may be more effective at one part of the process than another. Most businesses use a variety of methods to promote the achieving of a wide range of goals. A campaign designed to promote brand awareness, for example, would use different tactics than another campaign by the same company which had the goal of inspiring people to complete the purchase of a big-ticket item.
Different marketing channels may have differing impacts on a customer, and companies can use a combination of approaches to complete the sale. One study sponsored by the Postal Service's Inspector General's office used Temple University neuroscientists to measure how customers responded to various forms of advertising, and found direct mail was more impactful than online ads in influencing the customer's purchase decision. Digital ads, however, drew customer attention more quickly. Armed with that knowledge, a business might run an online ad campaign to build brand awareness, than follow it with a coupon sent via direct mail to close the deal. Other business might use radio ads to drive customers to log on to the company website to register for a specific promotional offer.
The increased ability to segment advertisements so that they appear only to a narrow portion of the audience allows for more precise targeting of messaging. For example, Progressive ran an online ad for its insurance product on Facebook that appealed to younger readers to renounce their parents auto insurance coverage and select its insurance instead. The ads only were designed to appear on the screens of those in specific age demographics; someone over 40, for example, would not have seen it. Companies can reach users online based on their browsing habits, location, interests and demographic groups. Ads can follow users across the Internet, and someone who searched for flights to holiday destinations on a travel website likely will see ads for tropical holiday packages or cruise lines when they then flip over to a news site.
All that targeting may not be a good thing in all cases. A study conducted by Lisa Barnard at Ithaca College, for example, suggests that online ads that target users based on their browsing patterns actually can have a negative effect on purchase decisions if it leads to the sensation that the users are being tracked. "My experience was that consumer's reactions to it were not good," Barnard said. "They found it to be really creepy."
Calls to Action
Advertising can also have a profound effect on consumer behavior with a convincing call to action that inspires consumers to act quickly. This may occur via a limited-time offer, such as a one-day discount. For example, Amazon declared June 15, 2015 as Amazon Prime Day, and promised thousands of great deals would be available only to those signed up for Amazon Prime, which as of this publication cost $99 per year. While the deals themselves were considered disappointing, and much of the conversation afterward was negative -- only 42 percent of social media mentions were positive, for example, according to Adobe -- sales still rose 93 percent that day, according to ChannelAdvisor, an online retail tracker.
Ads that Educate
While it may not be the central mission of of an advertising campaign, the efforts of advertising to educate the consumer also can have a positive effect. A Wharton study of pharmaceutical advertising, for example, found that the exhortations for viewers to call their doctors about a specific medication, it got them to see physicians about the particular condition advertised -- but also allowed them to get other health problems looked at. Some also walked away with cheaper generics rather than the brand names advertised.