The Smiling Face in Marketing Appeals and its Effects on the Customer (MBA Project)

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Joy appeals appear frequently in marketing, but they have received little attention from marketing researches compared to other emotional appeals (e.g., sexy appeals, humor appeals, and attraction appeals wit decorative models).

This study examines one particular aspect of the joy appeal in a marketing context, the smiling face stimulus. The main findings are that the smiling face is more effective than non-smiling faces in eliciting (1) a positive attitude toward the smiling stimulus person, (2) a positive overall attitude to the firm using the smile appeal, and (3) intentions to patronize and recommend this firm.

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. It is also clear that the customer’s emotions affect subsequent responses in terms of several variables in hierarchy-ofeffects models.

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 with 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. This neglect is unsatisfactory, because joy appeals are frequently encountered in contemporary marketing.

Typical applications are ads with pictures of smiling people having a good time, messages framed in terms of benefits such as fun or laughter, and employees who attempt to keep an emotional front loaded with smiles in customer interactions. Moreover, joy is a fundamental emotion in many emotion typologies, and it affects several variables related to thought processes and social interaction.

In this paper, we are particularly concerned with joy appeals involving a smiling face. Smiles are not the only way to elicit target person joy in a marketing context, and a joyful person may express his or her joy by other means than smiles, but smiles do appear to be related to joy. Moreover, the smile is a universal expression commonly assumed to play a crucial role in human interaction.

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.

Moreover, in the case of services, the employee’s degree of smiling behavior has been shown to affect customer behavior. 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.Authors: Magnus Söderlund, Sara Rosengren

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