Evoking the Imagination as a Strategy of Influence

Any famous magazine will tempt us to visualize ourselves using different things as we browse its pages. Advertisers frequently employ requests like "picture yourself in a Mercury," "discover yourself here," or "imagine your perfect house" to induce consumer images. Virtual reality and 3D advertising urge customers to engage with the product and picture their use of it. So, in reality, what purpose does it serve?

Evoking the Imagery as a Strategy of Influence

Narrative tales, drama advertisements, slice-of-life, and transformative advertisements heavily rely on imagery. According to consumer researchers, imaging is the method of storing perceptual information in working memory. The discursive, analytical processing of information, including verbal encoding, cognitive response, counter argumentation, and the creation of choice rules, has been differentiated from imagery. The creative process involves storage in the manner of nonverbal concrete sensory representations, as opposed to discursive processing, which incorporates abstract symbols, languages, and arithmetic.

The available data indicates that imaging can significantly impact consumer behavior. It has been demonstrated to improve memory, even fabricate memories, and raise the perceived probability of an occurrence. For instance, visualizing a political candidate winning an election might enhance the perception of that candidate's chances of winning, just as visualizing yourself picking up the jackpot can raise our perception of our chances of winning. It has also been shown that imagery increases the intentions to engage in a behavior. The desire to carry out specific actions increased when people imagined going on vacation, beginning a new career, or giving blood.

Of course, the effects of product imagery are of particular interest to consumer researchers. According to this line of research, encouraging consumers to engage their imaginations as they absorb product information or including imagery pleas in an advertisement can improve product assessments and increase the possibility that the consumer would buy the product. In one of the earliest experiments on the impact of fantasy in a consumer environment, for instance, information about the characteristics of a cable service was supplied to half of the neighborhood's people. Another side of the households was asked to consider how they may use the cable service's features. A few weeks later, cable company representatives asked for these residents' requests for cable service. 19.5% of the locals who had only learned about the product's characteristics eventually subscribed, according to the findings.

Nevertheless, the regular membership was 47.4% among those who envisaged getting cable TV service. Sales were increased by simply asking customers to picture themselves using the product. Given the research demonstrating how imagery affects customers' perceptions and actions, it is crucial to comprehend the processes by which these effects take place. Although researchers have proposed numerous processes, it still needs to be determined how imagery affects consumer preferences and behavior.

Traditional Approaches to Processes Affecting the Effects of Imagery

Research on persuasion has traditionally focused on cognitive processes, including mood, argument consideration, and recollection. These methods have also been used to study the effects of imagery. For instance, research indicates that imagery can improve product evaluations due to the subjective responses it elicits. Additionally, research shows that information processed through imagery is retained in both a perceptual and conceptual code, making imagery easier to recall than information kept in a semantic code. It has also been proposed that vivid information or directions that visualize the goods probably affect brand preference by improving the accessibility of favorable product-related information, given the importance of information accessibility.

The availability-valence theory further contends that as imaging can enhance cognitive elaboration, it might increase or reduce product preferences depending on the value of the information about the product. In other words, images may make positive and negative product information more accessible. In these circumstances, urging customers to picture themselves using the goods can reduce their desire for them. Even though there is evidence to support these mechanisms, more recent research contends that other processes occur when customers envisage using the goods.

Similarly, imagery appeals may activate mechanisms distinct from those elicited by merely showing someone a picture of a product. According to a recent series of experiments, enhancing the luster of the product representation led to more product-relevant thoughts and better memory of the product's details, supporting the availability-valence concept. Nevertheless, regarding imagery appeals, these impacts were not seen. Telling participants to use their imagination to absorb the information reduced the amount of product-related, product-specific, and attribute-specific thoughts and memory.

Also, it has been shown that picturing how to use the product can make people less receptive to the persuasiveness of the arguments made in the advertisement. Also, neither cognitive elaboration nor an individual's dispositional propensity to spontaneously build on information affected the effects of imagery.

Modern Approaches to Processes Affecting the Effects of Imagery

Several studies have found that customers' imaginations of the product experience may involve theoretically novel processes. Findings in the field of narrative transportation led to one such method. According to research on the eloquence of narratives, stories are efficient at influencing people's attitudes and beliefs because they immerse listeners in a different reality, which lessens their analysis of the message's advantages and disadvantages. The act of travelling has been compared to "immersion into a text" and "becoming lost" in a narrative. Through a similar approach, imagery may affect how buyers rate products by lulling them into a fantasy world and distracting them from how favourable the actual information is. When people are taken into an imagined environment, they might not feel driven to change their ideas and expectations because (a) they might not think the imagery had an impact on them and (b) stopping the imagery to present the opposing viewpoint might make it less appealing. Additionally, as witnessing the imagery is bound to use a significant amount of mental energy, people might not be able to account for the direct consequences of the image on their assessments.

Consumers' subjective perceptions of fluency are the topic of another general research area that has sparked fresh inquiries into the mechanisms behind the benefits of imagery. Quite a bit of data has developed to show that when establishing attitudes, opinions, and judgements, people are likely to weigh both the content of the information they are given as well as how easily this information comes to mind. Consider the possibility that consumers may base their assessments of products not only on the information supplied on the products themselves but also on how quickly they can assimilate this information. Also, buyers frequently rely on their product choices on the subjective availability of these reasons rather than the number of justifications they may come up with for buying the goods.

Research on automated processes is a third source of fresh information about how imagination works. The ideomotor action principle states that simply thinking about behaviour may make one more likely to carry it out. It may be more likely for the behaviour to be activated when a representation of the behaviour is activated through imagination. Several studies have shown results that support this theory.

The engagement of a perceptual depiction may result in matching behaviour, according to research on the relationship between perception and conduct. We may anticipate that imagery may stimulate actual consumption by triggering a mental image of consuming the substance because perception and imagery involve similar mental processes.


Consumer researchers have just recently begun doing systematic research into the psychological mechanisms underpinning imagery's impacts, even though imagery has long been understood and employed as a method of persuasion. The research under discussion offers significant new information about the potent influence that visualisation has on customer preferences and behaviour.

Additionally, it suggests procedures that are conceptually distinct from the psychological processes that influence and persuasion researchers have historically investigated. To further understand the mechanisms by which imagery affects consumer behaviour and the circumstances in which such impacts take place, more research is still required.

Updated on: 30-Mar-2023


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