This paper examines the influence of self-construal on the effectiveness of warm/competent advertising appeals on consumer-brand identification and purchase intention, its underlying mechanism and boundary conditions. Specifically, we propose that a warm (competent) advertising appeal should enhance consumer-brand identification and purchase intention among interdependent (independent) consumers through increased pleasure. In addition, this interaction effect between advertising appeal and self-construal should be mitigated when firm type (modern vs. traditional) is made salient. This is because for modern firms all consumers should prefer a competent advertising appeal, whereas for traditional firms all consumers should prefer a warm advertising appeal, regardless of their self-construal. Three experiments provide empirical support for these predictions, and rule out several rival explanations (including fluency, arousal and involvement). Study 1 uses a 2 (advertising appeal: warmth/competence) × 2 (self-construal: independent/dependent) between-subject design. A fictitious shampoo brand “Pantam” is selected as the focal stimulus, and the experimental materials are in the form of a print advertisement. In order to minimize the confounds of experimental results by advertising design, both warm and competent ads adopt the same layout and text length. We recruit 116 participants, manipulate the advertising appeal by designing different patterns, backgrounds and ad copies, and measure participants’ self-construal using an existing scale. We confirm the proposed interaction between advertising appeal and self-construal on brand identification. While the results of Study 1 are supportive of our prediction by using a utilitarian product, in a follow-up study we replicate these results using a hedonic product (i.e., chocolate), demonstrating the robustness of our results for different product types. Study 2 uses a similar between-subject design, using a toothpaste with a fictitious “MysPlant” brand name as the focal stimulus. In order to eliminate the possible confounds in Study 1, a new advertising copy is created. We recruit 149 participants, and manipulate advertising appeal and self-construal. Consistent with our prediction, we confirm the interaction between self-construal and advertising appeal on brand identification and purchase intention. We additionally support the proposed mechanism underlying the interaction effect that is due to an enhanced sense of pleasure, and rule out fluency, arousal, and involvement as possible rival explanations in this and a follow-up study. Study 3 uses a 2 (advertisement appeal: warmth/competence) × 2 (self-construal: independent/dependent) × 2 (firm type: traditional/modern) between-subject design to further test the moderating effect of firm type. Advertising appeal and self-construal are manipulated in similar fashions as in Study 2. The focal stimuli are also similar to those in Study 2. To minimize confounds, we manipulate firm type and verify our manipulation in a pretest. We recruit 278 participants for this study. The results provide support to the moderating effect of firm type and re-confirm the mediation effect of enhanced sense of pleasure. Specifically, we find that for a modern firm all consumers prefer a competent advertising appeal, regardless of their self-construal. In contrast, for a traditional firm whereas interdependent consumers prefer a warm advertising appeal, independent consumers’ preference for a competent advertising appeal is mitigated and they are indifferent between warm and competent advertising appeals. In addition, these effects are mediated by the sense of pleasure. Combined, the results from the three experiments (and the replications of Studies 1 and 2) provide strong empirical evidence for the interaction effect between self-construal and advertising appeal on consumer-brand- identification and purchase intention, the moderating effect of the salience of firm type on this interaction effect, and the underlying mechanism due to a sense of pleasure.
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