How do metaphors in advertising influence consumer response?

Seminar Paper, 2014

16 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Theoretical framework: types of metaphors and influences
2.1 Product type as an influencing variable
2.2 Need for cognition and the elaboration likelihood model
2.3 Juxtaposition versus synthesis

3 Meaningful impact on consumer attitude and response
3.1 Influence of metaphoric headline and picture
3.2 Determinants of response: need for cognition and the elaboration likelihood model
3.3 Effectiveness of juxtapositioning and synthesizing

4 Managerial implications

5 Conclusion


1 Introduction

In current advertising literature, metaphors are widely used by marketers to deliver marketing communication messages in a creative way and to prompt new ways of thinking.

Clearly, advertisers have come to believe that it is not sufficient just to state the product´s attributes any longer and therefore have moved away from the more traditional way of advertising. By presenting the characteristics metaphorically, they attempt to capture the consumers´ interest and attention and shift their response in the desired direction.

Nevertheless, such visual argumentation is complex and advertisers have recently had to make a decision about what kind of metaphors to include in their ads in order to influence the audience in a positive way and to be effective in advertising.

The present paper initially refers to the theoretical framework of metaphors, describing the different types of metaphors and ways they can be represented as well as two different var- iables that have been identified to exert an influence on the consumers’ choice. Subse- quently, the ways how metaphors, as figures of speech, can affect consumer response and achieve a persuasive effect, are described. In this case the elaboration likelihood model is explained in greater detail as it plays a moderating role concerning the information pro- cessing of consumers when they are exposed to a metaphorical expression or artful devia- tion in general. Furthermore, the effectiveness of verbal versus visual metaphors is illus- trated as well as the impact that modes of representation such as juxtapositioning or syn- thesis can have on consumer belief and response. Consequently, it is possible to deduce managerial implications from the summarized results and thus to make recommendations on how marketers can strategically include metaphors in order to maximize the effective- ness of their ads.

2 Theoretical framework: types of metaphors and influences

Applying analogy, a metaphor draws a comparison between two separate objects by sug- gesting that one of them is figuratively like another. Even though they seem to differ from each other on the surface, they share an underlying meaning (Stern 1990, p. 71; Ward/Gaidis 1990, p. 637). Metaphors, as figures of speech, are considered to be of crucial importance for the modern communication form in advertising. In general, rhetorical fig- ures are used to present a claim either visually in the form of a picture and/or verbally, for instance by mentioning it in a text (Chang et al. 2013, p. 80). They are used by contempo- rary marketers as a powerful strategy in order to develop brand personality (Rentschler et alii 2012, p. 1464).

According to Gkiouzepas et al. (2011) there are two types of pictorial metaphors, which are often employed in print advertising. Both need to be distinguished and understood in order to be able to manage ad campaigns strategically. The first one is the explicit meta- phor, which is clearly about the product image that is expressed formally as well as plainly visible in the visual metaphoric display. In contrast to that an implicit metaphor is rather passive in nature, avoiding an obvious metaphoric illustration of the product and possibly using a small depiction in a less prominent place for instance at the bottom of the ad. Thus, the imagination of the reader is stimulated and they have to draw upon their own experi- ences.

Furthermore, in their study Chang et al. (2013) state that there are two variables which have an influence on the advertiser’s choice between an implicit and an explicit metaphor: the need for cognition and the product type. Both are identified as being influential on the effectiveness of metaphor advertising and will be explained in the following.

2.1 Product type as an influencing variable

Symbolic and hedonic products are two product types, which are somewhat similar to each other, but still differ concerning the buying behavior of consumers (Wood 1960, pp. 16- 19). In her study Okada (2005) emphasizes that hedonic consumption is perceived to be more random in nature, partly depending on the purchase situation. The purchase of such goods leads to benefits in terms of experimental enjoyment, fantasy and fun. Even though consumers might experience a sense of pleasure, hedonic consumption elicits a feeling of guilt as well. Thus, justification of the situation and the purchase intention is needed to keep the sensory experience. On the contrary, utilitarian consumption is more rational and down to earth and rather perceived to be more necessary in nature. Hence, in this case jus- tification is easier than for hedonic products. However, it is not possible to draw a general conclusion about which products are inherently hedonic and which are utilitarian as the same product might be necessary to some and arbitrary to others.

2.2 Need for cognition and the elaboration likelihood model

The need for cognition is an important moderator of metaphor advertising and exerts an influence on the consumer´s attitude formation and decision as well (Chang et al. 2013, p. 81). This personality variable measures to which extent the consumer enjoys effortful cognitive activities such as thinking processes and the evaluation of the message they are exposed to (Haugtvedt et alii 1988, p. 209).

Therefore the elaboration likelihood model by Petty and Cacioppo serves as a framework to understand the link between the effects of metaphors in advertising and the importance of need for cognition as well as the general effect of persuasive communication.

According to Petty et al. (1983; Petty/Cacioppo/Schumann 1983) the goal of advertising is to influence consumers´ attitudes and to persuade them to purchase the product. In this case there are two distinct routes of persuasion. The central route is effective, when people are both highly motivated and able to effortful evaluate a message they are exposed to. Thus, the elaboration likelihood is high if they are deeply processing information and if there is a high need for cognition so that people enjoy putting effort into thinking process- es. They rather question persuasive messages and build their attitudes rationally, following the central route of persuasion. Hence, visual arguments which are depicted by pictorial metaphors are related to the central message and might lead to systematic processing (Jeong 2008, p. 69).

In contrast, if the person is rather unmotivated and unable to elaborate on the message then he or she will follow the peripheral route of persuasion which does not require high cognitive effort. In this case the attitude is affected by positive or negative cues, heuristics or just simple decision rules and there is a low need for cognition and just superficial information processing (Petty et al. 1983, pp. 21-23).

Furthermore, Chang et al. (2013) stress that those consumers with a high need for cogni- tion are able to differentiate between implicit and explicit metaphors. In contrast to that consumers with a low need for cognition are less likely to do so. In turn this leads to the fact that the effect of ads using implicit versus explicit metaphors will differ minimally.

2.3 Juxtaposition versus synthesis

Research has shown the moderating role of metaphorical visual structures which have an impact on consumers´ elaboration likelihood and attitude formation. Even though creative ideas have often similar design styles when depicting visual metaphors, there are different forms how they can be represented (Gkiouzepas et al. 2011, p. 103). One of these forms is most effective in reaching an audience in any given situation. Thus, the way in which a statement is delivered might be more important than the content itself (McQuarrie et al. 1996, p. 425).

Gkiouzepas et al. (2011) have developed a conceptual framework that analyses the repre- sentational mechanisms that are used by advertisers as well as the impact of metaphors in print advertising. The framework is based on two dimensions, building a matrix of six dif- ferent types of combinations: objects´ mode of representation and visual scenario. The ob- jects´ mode of representation describes the juxtaposition (whole entities) or synthesis (part of the entities) of visual metaphors and answers the question about what is being related. According to representational incongruity human expectations of how these entities would be represented in the real world are important. This first dimension has been well discussed in recent literature under a variety of different names. For instance Phillips et al. (2004) explain these dimensions by calling them juxtaposition and fusion.

Furthermore, by introducing the visual scenario as a dimension, the conceptual framework by Gkiouzepas et al. (2011) extends the previous differentiation between juxtaposition and synthesis. This second dimension is about the question of how these whole or part objects have to be constructed so that each one of them can be related to another visually. Moreo- ver, it is applied to the way advertisers construct and justify the co-appearance and fitting of the relation between the key visual objects according to real-life visual experiences. In this way six different types of combinatory mechanisms are identified in which every type has its unique features and there is no clear link between visual imagery and verbal rhetori- cal figures. The following figure illustrates the conceptual framework as described above:


Excerpt out of 16 pages


How do metaphors in advertising influence consumer response?
European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)
International Marketing
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ISBN (Book)
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Marketing, Metaphors, Advertising, elaboration likelihood model
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Dejla Hrnjadovic (Author), 2014, How do metaphors in advertising influence consumer response?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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