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Advertising likeability and its effectiveness.

Abstract

Advertising likeability is of great importance to marketers. Some marketers and advertising practitioners believe that advertising likeability has a direct link to its effectiveness. Advertisements that consumers like are likely to be effective because it helps them to process the information in the advertisement. Other researchers have also put forward the fact that there is no direct link between likeability and effectiveness as far as advertising is concerned. They believe that some advertisements may be liked by consumers but that does not guarantee its effectiveness. The main objective of this research was to investigate the relationship that exists between advertising likeability and effectiveness through empirical means. The technique of sampling adopted was convenience sampling: The instrument used in collecting data was structured questionnaire. The sample size was 500 respondents all of whom were students of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. The research revealed among other things that, though likeability has a strong impact on advertising effectiveness, some customers had actually bought products whose advertisement they really disliked. Factors such as the choice of media, language and targeting the right audience were among other determinant of advertising effectiveness. It was therefore recommended that marketers and / or advertisers develop a holistic approach to advertising effectiveness by exploring other dimensions other than likeability.

Keywords: Advertising, Communication, Likeability, Consumers, Effectiveness.

INTRODUCTION

The debate as to whether or not advertising likeability is important to the achievement of advertising objectives is ongoing among practitioners and academics. Franzen (2003) has indicated that advertising likeability translates to brand likeability. Research conducted by Advertising Research Foundation has shown that advertising likeability has been the strongest factor linked to persuasion and sales (Smith, et al. 2006). Biel (1990), however, holds the view that advertisements which were actively disliked could be very effective in the achievement of their objectives.

Kotler, (2003), defines advertising as 'any paid form of nonpersonal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods or services by an identifiable sponsor'. Kitchen, (2001) also defines the subject as 'a communication via a recognisable advertisement, placed in a definable advertising media, guaranteeing delivery of an unmodified message to a specified audience in return for a published rate for the space or time used.'

According to Kotler, (2003) advertising objectives can be classified according to whether the aim is to inform, persuade, remind or reinforce. Touching on advertising objectives, Jobber (2007) has this to say. The ultimate aim of advertising is used to stimulate sales and increase profits; but of more operational value is a clear understanding of its communication objectives. He goes on to say that advertising can create awareness, stimulate trial, position products in the minds of consumers, correct misconceptions, remind and reinforce and provide support for the sales force.

Advertising effectiveness, therefore, has to do with the extent to which an advertisement stimulates sales and/or profitability. Effective advertisements stimulate sales and ineffective advertisements, as it were, do not stimulate sales. Advertising effectiveness is therefore measured by whether a consumer bought a particular product through the stimulation of its advertisement (Jobber 2007).

According to Staymond and Batra (1991), Advertising likeability deals with how consumers process advertising information and their involvement with it. Likeability therefore has to do with the extent to which consumers are ready to process information that is carried by an advertisement. Advertisements that are liked are those that engage consumers' minds and hearts. According to Staymond and Batra (1991), consumers move through a cognitive and affective phase before manifesting a particular behaviour.

Franzen (2003) has indicated that advertising likeability translates to brand likeability. Biel (1990), has contributed positively to likeability of advertising being closely related to the achievement of its objectives. According to him, two main reasons account for likeability being related to advertising effectiveness. Firstly, advertising that is liked get better exposure. He continues to say that individuals are more inclined to look at commercials that they like. If a consumer likes an advertisement, there is less chance of zapping and he/she is likely to continue watching till the information in the advertisement is processed. Biel (1990), again posits that advertisement liking leads to brand liking. This is supported by Walter and Dubinsky (1994), who argue that advertising liking is one of the most important determinants of brand liking. Du Plesis, (1994), also adds his voice to the relationship that exists between likeability, recall and effectiveness by accepting the fact that there is a positive relationship among the three variables.

In an attempt to research into the relationship between likeability and effectiveness, many researchers such as Biel and Briggwater (1990), have examined advertising likeability dimensions. The dimensions are divided into positive and negative categories. Positive dimension of likeability comprises advertising that is entertaining, unique, lively, empathetic, sensual and relevant or meaningful. Negative dimensions of advertising likeability have to do with confusion, familiarity and irritation. Most advertisements leave the consumer confused and unable to process any information from such advertising message. Du Plesis (1994), believes that there is an exception to this. According to him, some advertisements are well planned and executed in such a way that no matter the number of times consumers hear or see them, they still like to see them over and over again.

It is against this background that this study investigated the relationship between advertising likeability and its effectiveness and going further to explore other variables that contribute to advertising effectiveness. In other words, the aim of the research was to find out whether the mere likeness of an advertisement of a particular product by consumers necessarily results in the purchase of the product.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

The study was mainly a descriptive research since the main objective of the study was to establish the relationship between two marketing variable-likeability and effectiveness of advertising (Malhotra 2007). Data collected were centred on advertising.

The sampling technique adopted was convenience sampling. The sample consisted of current students of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. Convenience sampling was adopted because it is the less expensive and less time consuming (Malhotra 2007). The instrument used in collecting data was structured questionnaire. The questionnaire was made up of open-ended as well as closed-ended questions. The study area was the campus of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. The sample size was 500 respondents. Four hundred and seventy-three (473) respondents completed the questionnaire and returned them and they were all usable. The response rate therefore was 94.6%.

The study mainly employed qualitative methods, but also integrated quantitative methods of data analysis. Thematic analysis was employed to evaluate qualitative data, while descriptive statistics comprising frequencies and simple percentages generated with Microsoft Excel software were used for quantitative analysis.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Processing of Advertising Information

For advertising to achieve its objectives, one of the cardinal issues is that people should pay attention to that advertisement. In other words, the processing of advertising information should be done consciously (Walter & Dubinsky 1994). Information was therefore, elicited from respondents regarding this issue. Majority of the respondents; 55 per cent said that they processed advertising messages consciously. The rest, that is 45 per cent of the respondents said otherwise.

Those who responded in the affirmative gave reasons. Knowing what was new on the market, getting information about products; making the right purchase decision and watching something interesting and entertaining were the reasons given. This calls for presenting comprehensive advertisements. If the advertisement is not comprehensive, it will not meet the diverse needs of consumers. Effective advertising planning is important in achieving this objective (Doyle & Stern, 2006).

Those with contrary views also gave their reasons. The reasons are summarised as follows: they were too busy to pay attention to advertisements; advertisements were fabricated and/or full of exaggeration; purchase decision should not be influenced by advertisements and some of the advertisements were repetitions and/ or antiquated.

Advertising Effectiveness: the Starting Point

When it comes to advertising effectiveness, the starting point is to get people or consumers to pay attention to that advertisement. If no attention is paid to the advertisement by consumers and/or individuals, its effectiveness will definitely be affected. This is supported by the idea of Mackenzie and Lutz (1989), that if the advertiser gets the attention of the consumer, the opportunity to facilitate his/her involvement exists. Thus, there is the likelihood of motivating and affecting behaviour significantly (Brown, 1991). The problem with this is that, advertisers and/or marketers have little or no control over getting people to pay attention to advertisements and to process the message they carry (David and Lomax, 2008).

As mentioned earlier, majority of respondents (55%) consciously pay attention to advertisement. The fact still remains that, there are several reasons for doing that and marketers need to incorporate them into their advertisements. These include provision of valuable information about products and making sure that advertisements do draw consumers' attention by making it attractive and/or entertaining.

This will go a long way to attract the category of customers who do not consciously process any advertising message. This is explained by the fact that, this category of customers has some reasons why they do not pay attention to advertisements. Some customers do not have the time and do not want to make the time for advertisements. Robinson (1997) underscores the fact that societal changes have facilitated the development of extremely busy consumer lifestyles. It has therefore, become very difficult if not impossible for advertisers to command attention and behaviour for that matter. As leisure time becomes increasingly limited and therefore precious to consumers, they tend not to waste time and effort paying conscious attention to advertisements (Collett, 1994; Hollis, 1995; Biel & Brigdwater, 1990). This, notwithstanding, marketers can have some level of control over the factors which dispel customers from advertising messages. For example, exaggerations could be reduced. In addition, advertisements must be revolutionised. A mere repetition of a particular advertisement, no matter how good and attractive it is has the tendency of being labelled antiquated and/or obsolete by consumers. It becomes boring and consumers will not pay attention to it (Doyle and Stern, 2006). Therefore Kotler (2003), suggests that even an excellent execution of an advertisement must be updated before it gets outdated.

Things that Generates Interest in Advertisement

People may not pay attention to advertisements for the sake of it. Consumers pay attention to advertisement in which they have interest. The study identified some of the factors that attract consumers to advertisement. The result is indicated in the figure 1 below:

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Interest in a particular advertisement is very important when it comes to advertising effectiveness. The question therefore is what are the things which generate interests? There are many things that generate interest. It is also important to realise that interests will depend on the individual consumer (Franzen, 2003). Some of these interest generating factors include entertainment, sports, celebrities, humour, information, animation and music. Of these, the most important of them is information as indicated by figure 2. Cummins (1996) has made a claim that people watch television to gain access to information. Information about the product and its use is very important to consumers and/or customers. Music may draw an individual to an advertisement, TV commercial for example, but what will let the consumer stay glued to the advertisement is whether he/she will get the information he/she is looking for. If the consumer realises that he cannot get the information needed, that customer will withdraw from that advertisement. Information delivery in advertisements is therefore invaluable for its effectiveness. This is not to say that the other factors are not necessary. They are very important. Haley and Baldinger (1991), therefore, suggest that all the potentially important components of advertising should be covered in any complete copy-testing method.

The Preferred Medium

One important task for the marketer and/or advertiser is to choose the media to carry the messages he/she has chosen (Kotler, 2003). Respondents were made to select the advertising media they preferred. The media included newpapers, magazines, TV commercial, radio, posters and the internet and the results are shown in the figure 2.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

One cannot rule out the fact that advertising likeability has a strong connection to the kind of media selected. Keane and Faro (2005) have indicated that there has been an increase in the number of media available to advertisers and this has led to a sharp reduction in their relative strengths with respect to breadth, depth and reach. TV commercial, nonetheless, has proven to be the medium liked by most consumers (Brassel, 2010) as figure 2 indicates. The reason for the likeability of TV commercial is the fact that it is active (Blythe, 2008). Its audio-visual nature and wider reach also account for the likeability of TV commercials (David & Lomax, 2008). When consumers watch television, they tend to be "captive" audience absorbing whatever is shown (David & Lomax, 2008). Consumers can see the product being advertised, read information about the products or hear what is being said about the product. Celebrities are seen and heard endorsing products. This builds some confidence in the consumer that the product is worth purchasing since the consumer is convinced by what he sees and hears (Brassel, 2010).

We must, however, make mention of the fact that TV commercial should more often be supported by other media channels. This calls for effective planning and implementation of integrated marketing communications (Kotler et al., 2002). It is against this premise that Fam and Merrilees (2000) postulate that with the plethora of media channels available, the development of integrated marketing communications has become difficult in terms of logistics and financial constraints. Advertisers therefore find themselves in a dilemma in deciding which medium or media are likely to yield the desired results considering the expanse of advertising clutter.

The least preferred media is advertising via the internet although advertising on the internet is on the increase (Blythe, 2008). This may include sending junk mails containing advertisements and posting advertisements at websites. The respondents did not like this media because many of them do not have access to computers and/or the internet. That is the main reason why they preferred internet advertisements the least. Even those who have access to the internet had some problems. Some of the problems of respondents included slow network connection, slow download speed and power outages.

The Influence of Likeability and Dislikeabilty

Another question the research sought to answer was whether some advertisements were disliked or not. It was observed that some advertisements were really disliked. As high as 80% of respondents said they disliked some advertisements. Those who sometimes disliked advertisements gave among others, the following reasons: advertisements are noisy and irritating; they are sometimes not educative and/or informative; some are deceptive; others are against religious beliefs. In addition, some advertisements use languages respondents that do not understand. Others are exaggerated, boring and sometimes difficult to process. What results in boring advertisements is the repetition of advertisements over and over again without any changes; hence Kotler (2003) suggests that even an excellent execution of an advertisement must be updated before it gets outdated. Sometimes also activities that take place in some advertisements are not practical. They are computer aided activities and therefore exaggerated and incredible (Marketingweb, 2009).

Related to the above is the issue of the relationship between likeability and dislikeability on purchase decision. The study revealed that 71% of respondents had bought products whose advertisements they liked. Twenty-nine per cent (29%) on the other hand had not bought products even though they liked their advertisements. With regards to dislikeability, 57% had bought products whose advertisements they disliked. Forty-three per cent (43%) on the other hand responded in the negative.

One would expect that advertising likeability will automatically result in brand preference and hence purchase (Franzen, 2003). However, not all advertisements that are liked influences purchase decision. Some people have actually bought products whose advertisements they disliked. This corroborates the assertion of Biel (1990) who holds the view that advertisements which were actively disliked could be very effective in the achievement of its objectives.

It is, therefore, misleading to perceive likeability as the only determinant of advertising effectiveness. It is astonishing to realise that the percentage of consumers and/or respondents who had bought products whose advertisements they disliked (57%) far outweighed those who had bought products because they liked their advertisements (43%). If the purchase of a product is the sole determinant of advertising effectiveness, then likeability does not provide the answer.

Nonetheless, if we consider the various objectives of advertising, then we can have some connection between likeability and effectiveness. According to Kotler (2003) advertising objectives can be classified according to whether the aim is to inform, persuade, remind or reinforce. If we take information, for example, to be the main aim of advertising, then likeability could result in effectiveness.

When consumers are made aware of the existence of a product, there is the likelihood that some of them; particularly the innovators, will give it a try if it is a new product. If the product meets their expectation, they then decide to be full users of it and therefore adopt the product (Kotler et al., 2002). We can, therefore, not rule Out completely the fact that likeability has some link with advertising effectiveness. Consumers have to like the advertisement, pay attention to it or process its information and go ahead to a make purchase decision.

The Influence of Product Type on Likeability

There was the need to investigate the relationship between the type of product being advertised and the processing of the advertising message. One important thing marketers have to realise is that consumers have their preferences for some types of product before they are even advertised. In some cases customers have made up their minds about what product they want (Stokes & Lomax, 2008). Advertising likeability therefore will depend to a very large extent on the type of product being advertised. The type of product in this context refers to the attitude of the consumer towards the product being advertised. If the consumer, for example, does not want a particular product and therefore has a negative attitude towards it, he/she may not pay attention to that product's advertisement (Kotler, 2003).

On the other hand, if the consumer happens to like a particular product, getting the attention of the consumer to the advertisement will be very easy. The study revealed that 72% of consumers as against 28% said that their likeness for an advertisement is influenced by the type of product being advertised. Marketers must therefore define their target markets very well and develop the right channels of communication that will facilitate the dissemination of product information to the right audience (Doyle & Stern, 2006).

The Language Factor

According to Stokes and Lomax (2008), marketing communication process involves establishing a common understanding between the sender (advertiser) and receiver (customer). Therefore, the processing of advertising message and its likeability may depend on the language selected. The study indicated that English is preferable to all other languages when it come to processing advertising messages. This is shown in the figure 3.

It is important for marketers to know which language will be preferred by the target market. Figure 3 shows that majority of consumers interviewed preferred English, followed by their own languages. One factor that accounted for this was that all the respondents could read and write and therefore understood the English Language. The situation could have been different if respondents could read little or nothing at all. The effectiveness of advertising, therefore, depends to a large extent, on the marketer's ability to identify the target market and the preferred language of that target market. As Doyle and Stern (2006) put it 'advertising starts with the segmentation of the potential market to identify the key target segments'.

Language is a powerful tool when it comes to advertising. Little wonder, most advertising messages in Ghana are in English or one of the major indigenous languages. That accounts for why most TV Commercials made outside Ghana which are not in English are translated into English and/or local languages. Marketers and/or advertisers just cannot communicate with consumers who do not understand the language being used (Marketingweb, 2009). The choice of the right language for the target market, therefore, can go a long way to influence advertising likeability. The only problem that is encountered is the effective standardisation of the message being delivered (Kotler et al., 2003) if the language has to be translated or if the advertisement has to be subjected to voice over.

Now the question is which language to use? This is a pertinent question when it comes to multilingual countries such as Ghana where we have English as the official language, 9 government-sponsored languages (Akan, Dagaare/Waale, Ga-Dangbe, Dagbane, Ewe, Ga, Gonja, Kasem and Nzema) and at least 26 nongovernment sponsored languages or dialects (Adele, Buli, Bassari, Kokomba, Koma, Mampruli Nkonya, Wali etc (http://ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/tribes/languages.php).

RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSION

On the basis of the findings and discussion, it can be recommended that all efforts must be geared towards getting the attention of consumer to advertisements since that is the beginning of the process of making advertising effective. Without the attention of the consumer, the message will not be considered at all, let alone processed. Advertisers should provide enough information in the advertisement as it serves as the springboard for positive behaviour. Consumers look for information which helps them to make purchase decision. Advertisements which do not contain the right information will not be effective even if it is given initial attention by the consumer.

Since product type (whether or not the consumer wants and/or like the product) influences likeability, there is the need for effective targeting and media choice. Effective segmentation and targeting will result in products' information getting to the right consumer group. In addition, the medium that the target market has access to must be given the priority and not just the medium that is less expensive and has a wider reach. Language is an important factor; therefore, for effectiveness, the dominant language of the target audience must be used. In a multilingual country like Ghana, it is important that advertisements are carried in the official language with some local versions to cater for the illiterate population of 21% and 39% for male and female respectively (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/general/pop_growth_map.php). Television commercials should be the dominant medium. This is because of its power of audio visuals which enables easy transmission of information. However, for effectiveness; it must be integrated with other media channels.

It can be concluded that, so many things go into making advertising effective. The marketer, therefore, has to look at advertising in its entirety. Likeability has something to do with advertising effectiveness. However, it is not the only determinant of advertising effectiveness. Advertisements that are disliked have proven to have greater influence on purchase decision. Marketers have to be cautious when it comes to the selection of the medium and language used in advertisement. These must be determined by the target audience.

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BYLON ABEEKU BAMFO, Lecturer, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, School of Business, Kumasi, Ghana, E-mail: babamfo.ksb@knust.edu.gh
Figure 3: The Influence of Language on Likeability

English         73%
Mother tongue   26%
Other            1%

Source: Author's fieldwork, Aprl, 2009

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Author:Bamfo, Bylon Abeeku
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Date:Mar 1, 2011
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