Warm me up and Cool me down: How Temperature Affects Preference for Emotional Ad AppealsRelevant topics Archive, Advertising
Imagine you are walking through the city center on a cold winter day. You come across an ad displaying the perfect hot chocolate and you start craving some warmth. One minute later, you find yourself standing in line to grab one.
It is not very surprising that hot chocolate ads work better during winter time than summer time. But did you know that you can boost your ad by adjusting it to the surrounding temperature for almost any product?
In this blog, we'll explore the science behind how temperature influences our perception of advertising. We'll delve into how temperature affects our mood and cognitive processes and how advertisers can use this knowledge to their advantage. We'll also examine the impact of temperature on consumer behavior and how it can affect the success of advertising campaigns.
Whether you're an advertiser looking to improve your campaigns or simply curious about the role of temperature in advertising, this blog is for you. So, let's dive in!
The Impact of Temperature on Our Mood and Cognitive Processes
We probably all know that temperature can affect our mood. But did you know that it can even influence the way we process information and our attitude towards advertising? This has everything to do with the psychological principle embodied cognition.
Put in simple terms, embodied cognition implies that cognition is based on our sensory experience. For example, we perceive someone who offers us a warm cup of tea as having a warmer personality as compared to when someone offers us a cold drink. And: firming muscles help firm our willpower because this kind of experience makes us tolerate disturbing but essential information. And one more fun fact: we make better decisions on a full bladder. This has to do with the fact that a full bladder causes people to inhibit, which spills over to the cognitive domain, which makes people resist impulsive choices in monetary decision making.
In a similar fashion, temperature can too affect our cognitive state. For example, a warmer temperature positively affects social perceptions (IJzerman & Semin, 2009), and accelerates our consumption of cognitive resources (Hancock et al. 2007). On the other hand, a lower temperature can cause a sense of loneliness (Williams & Bergh, 2008).
The Importance of Temperature in Advertising
We now know that temperature affects our mental states. But what does this have to do with marketing and advertising?
First, temperature affects the way we process information. Warmer temperatures cause us to rely more on emotions rather than reason when processing information. Therefore, we might think that emotional appeals work better in warmer temperatures.
For a part, that is true, but we do have to make a distinction between comfortable temperatures and uncomfortable temperatures, as it turns out that these have opposite effects.
Comfortable temperatures: An assimilative effect
When temperatures are within the comfortable range, warmer temperatures make people more likely to perceive warm cues, thereby positively affecting their attitude towards emotional ads. In turn, this leads to a more positive attitudes towards nostalgic ads, too, as these ads are typically associated with warm memories and emotions.
In turn, colder temperatures do not accelerate the depletion of our cognitive resources. Therefore, more informative ads will probably work better in cooler environments.
Uncomfortable temperatures: A complementary effect
So far the effects in comfortable temperatures. But what about a hot summer day? Or a freezingly cold winter day? Do we react the same towards ads?
As it turns out, no. In uncomfortable temperatures, the effects seem to work the other way around. A complementary effect occurs, in which the coldness causes a compensatory system to unfold, causing people to generate an unconscious need for psychological warmth to compensate for their physical cold.
So, in the same way we crave physical warmth leading us to drink hot chocolate, we also compensate through mental processes, by demanding psychological warmth and demanding social activities. In a similar way, watching romantic movies can make people feel warm.
On the other hand, people who feel hot will be looking for ways to cool themselves down, improving their attitudes toward emotionally cold advertising.
As such, when it comes to uncomfortable temperatures, emotional ads are more likely to work better in very cold settings, while emotionally cold (or more informational) advertising is likely to work better in hot settings. Yang et al. (2022) specifically focused on nostalgic advertising in their study on temperatures and attitudes towards advertising and indeed found that nostalgic advertising works better in uncomfortable cold conditions than in uncomfortable warm conditions (whereas when the temperatures are comfortable, it works best in warm temperatures).
Let’s get practical
Given the significant impact of temperature on our cognitive processes and attitudes towards advertising, it's no surprise that advertisers are paying increasing attention to the role of temperature in their campaigns. Understanding how temperature affects consumer behavior can help advertisers to create more effective ads and improve the success of their campaigns.
As an advertiser, you might want to think about the timing of your ads, such as seasonal timing but also time of the day.
One way that advertisers are using temperature to their advantage is by tailoring their advertising to the season. For example, during the winter months (with uncomfortably cold temperatures), ads that evoke feelings of warmth and coziness may be more effective, while in the hot summer (with uncomfortably warm temperatures), ads that focus on more rational products or ad campaigns may perform better.
When it comes to spring and autumn (with comfortable temperatures), you might want to apply a reverse strategy by using emotional ads such as nostalgic ads on warmer days and locations whereas using more informational ads on colder days.
Another way that temperature is being used in advertising is through the physical environment in which ads are displayed. For example, you might want to choose for a more emotional appeal in comfortably warm settings, such as in shopping malls, or - contrastingly - an emotionally cold appeal when the temperature gets unconfortable warm, such as outside during summer.
Key take aways
- Temperature influencers our mental processes and by doing so the way in which we process ads
- In comfortable temperatures, an assimilative effect occurs in which warmer temperatures increase our preference for warm emotional ads, such as nostalgic ads.
- In uncomfortable temperatures, a contrasting complementary effect occurs in which uncomfortable cold temperatures increase our preference for warm emotional ads, such as nostalgic ads, to compensate for our physical cold.
- When launching an ad, think of the environment in which you launch it and its temperature to maximize effectiveness.