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Asia Pacic Management Review 21 (2016) 9e17

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Asia Pacic Management Review


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/apmrv

The moderating roles of ad claim type and rhetorical style in the ads of competitor
brands for diluting the consumers' brand commitment to the existing brands
Danny Tengti Kao*
Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, Division of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, National Hsinchu University of Education, Taiwan

a r t i c l e i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 16 February 2015
Accepted 20 May 2015
Available online 10 July 2015

This research explores the moderating roles of ad claim type and rhetorical style in the ads of competitor
brands for diluting the consumers' brand commitment to the existing brands. Results indicate that, for
highly committed consumers, experiential ad claims will elicit more favorable attitudes toward the
competitor brand than functional ad claims. Conversely, for low committed consumers, functional ad
claims will elicit more favorable attitudes toward the competitor brand than experiential ad claims.
Moreover, for highly committed consumers, metaphorical ads will elicit more favorable attitudes toward
the competitor brand than straightforward ads. On the contrary, for low committed consumers,
straightforward ads will elicit more favorable attitudes toward the competitor brand than metaphorical
ads. Subsequently, for highly committed consumers, metaphorical ads with experiential claims will lead
to more favorable attitudes toward the competitor brand than metaphorical ads with functional claims.
In contrast, highly committed consumers will not engender differentially favorable attitudes toward the
straightforward ads, regardless of ad claim type. At last, for low committed consumers, functional claims
will elicit more favorable attitudes toward the competitor brand than experiential claims, regardless of
rhetorical styles.
2015 College of Management, National Cheng Kung University. Production and hosting by Elsevier
Taiwan LLC. All rights reserved.

Keywords:
Ad claim type
Rhetorical style
Brand commitment

1. Introduction
An important task of advertising is to provide consumers with
relevant information for them to determine the brand's true merits.
Once committed to this preferred brand, consumers tend to stay
with it to avoid the switching costs. Specically, one of the most
important advantages for established brands is the brand
commitment to which the loyal consumers attach. A new
competitor brand, which attempts to cross the border to a categoryspecic area, has to overcome the favorable position of the established brand and defend the consumers' attitudinal resistance
toward the new competitor brand in consumers' minds. As
Ahluwalia (2000) argued, brand commitment is a key determinant
of attitudinal resistance when counter-attitudinal information
about the preferred brand appears. In fact, the brand commitment
effect occurs wherever the counter-attitudinal information is

* National Hsinchu University of Education, Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, 521, Nan-Da Road, Hsinchu City, Taiwan. Tel.: 886
930218899; fax: 886 3 5252205.
E-mail address: danny@mail.nhcue.edu.tw.
Peer review under responsibility of College of Management, National Cheng
Kung University.

present (Raju, Unnava, & Montgomery, 2009). Though for its


importance, brand commitment has not received considerable
attention in the literature on branding and marketing yet. This
premise forms the rst motivation for this research.
Brand commitment may have a negative impact on the
competitor brands, especially for the new entrants into the same
product category. As a consequence, marketers of new competitor
brands may be interested in how to mitigate the inherent weakness
resulting from the brand commitment attached to the established
brands. Clearly, this research attempts to examine how to mitigate
the negative impact of brand commitment on competitor brands by
introducing other factors. Scant research has indicated that the ad
claim type contributes to mitigate the counter-arguments; however, the underlying mechanism of ad claim type is still open for
further interpretation. Therefore, the second question to be
examined in this research is the moderating role of ad claim type
(experiential vs. functional) in the impact of brand commitment on
brand preferences.
At last, this research extends its ndings by examining the effect
of rhetorical style (metaphorical vs. straightforward) on brand
commitment. Previous research has indicated that metaphors are
commonly used in ads (Leigh, 1994) and able to meaningfully alter
consumer belief (Phillips & McQuarrie, 2009) and consumer

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apmrv.2015.05.002
1029-3132/ 2015 College of Management, National Cheng Kung University. Production and hosting by Elsevier Taiwan LLC. All rights reserved.

10

D.T. Kao / Asia Pacic Management Review 21 (2016) 9e17

response (Mothersbaugh, Huhmann, & Franke, 2002). However, the


effect of rhetorical style varies depending on situations. Therefore,
this research aims to distinguish between the impacts of metaphor
and straightforwardness and clarify whether they contribute to
switch brand preferences.
2. Background overview and theoretical development
2.1. Brand commitment
Prior research suggests that commitment is a central
relationship-specic motive, and feelings of commitment reliably
promote pro-relational cognitions, motivations and behaviors
(Rusbult & Buunk, 1993). Rusbult (1983) denes commitment level
as a psychological state that represents the experience of dependence on a relationship, a long-term orientation toward it, feelings
of attachment to a person or an object and a desire to maintain the
relationship. In the consumer behavior literature, Sargeant and Lee
(2004) propose that commitment has been regarded as a key
mediating inuence on consumer behaviors. In addition, commitment has been dened as an enduring desire to maintain a valued
relationship.
As compared with a less committed consumer, a highcommitment consumer generates emotional connections to the
brand and is unwilling to switch to competitor brands (Raju et al.,
2009). This sense of being connected to a brand results in the attitudinal insistence on the brand to which consumers are currently
committed and the increased resistance to attitude change.
Moreover, brand commitment is mainly driven by consumers'
experiences with a brand. Mick and Buhl (1992) further contend
that consumers are committed to a brand across situation and usage experiences through how it ts into the consumers' life styles
rather than how effective it is in meeting a specic need or solving a
specic trouble. Brand commitment is deemed as a deeply-rooted
thought in the minds of committed persons. Hence, competitor
brands have to gure out effective strategies to mitigate these
negative impacts originated in brand commitment.
2.2. Ad claim type
Consumers' emotional response occurs before rational thought
and, in fact, decision making always has emotional components
(Rubinson, 2008) or based upon the experiential bonds with a
brand. Understanding the relationship between a brand and a
consumer on an affective or experiential-based connection helps
build long-term consumer commitment (Heath, Brandt, & Nairn,
2006). Even based on this premise, advertisers are still in face of
two options: functional ad claims versus experiential ad claims
when they attempt to launch a new brand in a well-established
category. While functional claims center on tangible attributes
and benets, experiential claims focus on promises of experiences
the consumer should expect from the new brand. The conclusions
regarding whether functional claims or experiential appeals are
more persuasive are mixed.
Trope and Liberman (2000) imply that affect or experiential
appeals are more inuential on consumer decisions than rational
or functional appeals. Practically, some advertisers may choose to
convey the superiority of messages with an experiential content,
as consumers supposedly are overexposed to attribute-based,
functional messages (Samuelsen & Olsen, 2010). With experiential messages, advertisers hope to evoke memories to affect consumers' evaluations of the advocated brands (e.g., Braun-LaTour,
LaTour, Pickrell, & Loftus, 2004; Price, Axom, & Coupey, 1997).
Likewise, Pine and Gilmore (1998) argue that as goods and services become commoditized, the customer experiences that

companies create will matter most (p. 97). Sujan, Bettman, and
Baumgartner (1993) suggest advertisers to make connections
between the new brands and consumers' routine lives and make
the new brand perceived as personally relevant to consumers.
Metcalfe and Mischel (1999) further argue that the affective
experience can drive the behavior. Lerner and Keltner (2001)
conclude that affective experiences tend to elicit different associations and hence may affect behavior. Blbl and Menon (2010)
also argue that affective or experiential claims have positive impacts on consumer decisions.
In contrast, the goal of functional claims is to focus directly on
the features or benets of the product. As Johar and Sirgy (1991)
dened, functional claims highlight the functional features of the
product (or brand) or performance information. Dourish (2001)
implies that functional appeals prompts consumers to take actions in exchange for benets afforded by a product.
As compared with experiential claims, functional claims propose the more concrete consequences of consuming the utilitarian benets endorsed by the advocated brand (Dourish, 2001)
and are more straightforward and more consistent with the ad
information with semantic facts-based knowledge about the
prototypical attributes and benets in the category (Samuelsen &
Olsen, 2010). Deighton (1987) observes that, functional claims
are more likely to change cognitive expectations about the
brand's performance than experiential claims. Functional claims
are more easily compared to the salient category points-of-parity
benets than experiential claims (Keller, Sternthal, & Tybout,
2002). In addition, Heath, Nairn, and Bottomley (2009) argue
that emotional or experiential claims do not drive as much
attention as functional claims. Samuelsen and Olsen (2010) argue
that functional claims are likely to face less variation in the target
segment's comparison standard, simply because the brandrelated information opens up for relatively less idiosyncratic interpretations, is more familiar to most recipients, and is potentially more easily encoded.
Due to the mixed conclusions, this research predicts that
experiential and functional ad claims can vary as a function of individual differences; that is, the extent of brand commitment can
affect individual attitudes toward the competitor ads with experiential and functional claims.
2.3. Rhetorical style
The linguistics literature argues that different meanings can be
conveyed by rhetorical styles and the message recipients will form
different perceptions toward the conveyed meaning content
(Phillips & McQuarrie, 2009). Prior research has demonstrated that
rhetorical styles are increasingly common in advertising and
contribute to alter consumer belief and response (e.g.,
Mothersbaugh et al., 2002; Lagerwerf & Meijers, 2008). Traditionally, straightforward or explicit claims have long been applied as
the means for advertisers to launch new products. Generally, advertisers usually adopt explicit (or straightforward) strategies to
highlight the features (Ziamou & Ratneshwar, 2003) in comparison
ads to ensure that the newly launched products are really perceived
as innovative or different. More clearly, advertisers who apply
straightforward appeals believe that the straightforward claims can
facilitate consumers to perceive the differences between the
existing and new brands. Therefore, it is logical for advertisers to
apply straightforward appeals to differentiate the new brands from
their existing brands.
However, advertisers increasingly apply rhetorical styles to
penetrate the ad clutters and communicate a specic message
(Ang & Lim, 2006). McQuarrie and Mick (1996) dene rhetorical
styles as expressions that deviate from expectations, and yet are

D.T. Kao / Asia Pacic Management Review 21 (2016) 9e17

not rejected as nonsensical or faulty phrases. When metaphors


are applied in text or images in an ad, they are considered as
rhetorical gures (Lagerwerf & Meijers, 2008). A rhetorical gure
is an artful deviation in form that adheres to an identiable
object (Phillips & McQuarrie, 2004; Lagerwerf & Meijers, 2008).
In contrast to straightforward or explicit claims, a metaphor
asserts a similarity between two objects that one does not expect
to be associated; in contrast, a non-metaphor describes the world
literally (Ang & Lim, 2006). Clearly, metaphor is linguistically
dened as two distinct concepts presented as similar (Lagerwerf
& Meijers, 2008) and is a rhetorical style of comparing to dissimilar objects, and as a consequence of the comparison the
characteristic of one object in being transferred to the other
(Sopory & Dillard, 2002).
The advertising literature has indicated that the use of rhetorical
devices such as metaphors is common (McQuarrie & Mick, 1996)
and encouraged (Morgan & Reichert, 1999). Specically, the use of
metaphors leads to more extensive ad processing (Toncar & Munch,
2001), expands dimensional thinking (MacInnis, 2004), and enhances ad responses (McQuarrie & Phillips, 2005). Metaphors
usually lead consumers to perceive the brand as imaginative and
provoke more imaginations than straightforward expressions
(Oliver, Robertson, & Mitchell, 1993). Moreover, the greater degree
of pleasure exhibited in the metaphors, the more exciting and
emotional connections will be evoked to the advocated brand
(Barthes, 1986).
From a practical perspective, advertisers usually apply metaphors to invent possible similarities between two concepts and
create desired meanings in the ad (Giora et al., 2004). For example,
the Dexter Shoe ad juxtaposes two images, a shoe and a bed, or the
Reex racquet ad uses two images, a sports racquet and a shark, are
ads using visual metaphor (see Phillips & McQuarrie, 2004). The
Dexter ad was arguing that the Dexter shoes are soft and
comfortable as a bed, and the Reex ad was trying to convince the
viewers that the Reex racquet can help them become a erce and
aggressive competitor like a shark. These claims can be stated
straightforwardly as well. By using metaphors; however, the ads
are expected to increase the strength of cognition without changes
in the product claim or message argument per se. In other words,
messages using metaphors may lead to higher cognition and
credibility than straightforward arguments.
Much prior research has uncovered several variables that
moderate the effects of comparative advertising (e.g., Grewal,
Kavanoor, Fern, Costley, & Barnes, 1997; Rose, Miniard, Barone,
Manning, & Till, 1993); however, none of these studies has investigated the impact of metaphorical versus straightforward appeals
on consumers' brand commitment. Therefore, the key questions
addressed by this research are whether rhetorical style (metaphorical versus straightforward) serves as a moderator in the
relationship between brand commitment and attitudes toward the
competitor brand.
3. Hypotheses
As Mick and Buhl (1992) contended, consumers are committed
to a brand across situation and usage experiences through how it
ts into the consumers' life styles rather than how effective it is in
meeting a specic need or solving a specic trouble. Clearly, brand
commitment is mainly driven by consumers' emotional connections or experiences with a brand. Raju et al. (2009) also argue that
high-commitment consumers are more likely to generate
emotional connections to the brand and are more unwilling to
switch to competitor brands than low-commitment consumers. As
compared with low-commitment consumers, high-commitment
consumers are more likely to emotionally adhere to the existing

11

brand and generate attitudinal resistance to the function-based


competitor brands. Therefore, the competitor brands characterized by emotional or experiential ad claims are likely to touch the
minds of high-commitment consumers and mitigate their resistance to the attitude changes, as these consumers focus on
emotional connections and promises of experiences they should
expect. Clearly, for high-commitment consumers, experiential ad
claims will elicit more favorable attitudes toward the competitor
brand than functional ad claims.
Alternatively, low-commitment consumers are less likely to
emotionally adhere to the existing brands and are more concerned
with the non-emotional attributes than high-commitment consumers. Functional claims, focusing on tangible attributes and
benets, are more likely to switch low-commitment consumers'
initial brand preference of the existing brand and elicit more
favorable attitudes toward the competitor brands than experiential
claims. These predictions lead to the following hypothesis:
H1: For high-commitment consumers, experiential advertising
claims will elicit more favorable attitudes toward the competitor
brands than functional advertising claims. Conversely, for lowcommitment consumers, functional advertising claims will
elicit more favorable attitudes toward the competitor brands
than experiential advertising claims.
As compared with metaphorical ads, straightforward ads are
more likely to radically and explicitly highlight the competitor
brand's superiority and underrate the existing brands, which may
incur harms to the psychological state of consumers, especially to
high-commitment consumers who emotionally adhere to the current brand. Specically, for high-commitment consumers,
straightforward ads tend to result in emotional frustration and
elicit attitudinal resistance. Hence, it is predicted that for highcommitment consumers, metaphorical ads will elicit more favorable attitudes toward the competitor brands than straightforward
ads.
In contrast, low-commitment consumers have less emotional
attachment to the current brand and tend to seek a brand, which
can fulll their unsatised needs. Straightforward ads usually
explicitly convey specic benets and propose the competitor
brand's superiority to the existing brand, and thus may elicit more
favorable attitudes than metaphorical ads. These inferences lead to
the following hypothesis:
H2: For high-commitment consumers, metaphorical ads will
elicit more favorable attitudes toward the competitor brands
than straightforward ads. On the contrary, for low-commitment
consumers, straightforward ads will elicit more favorable attitudes toward the competitor brands than metaphorical ads.
Brand commitment is mainly driven by consumers' experiences
with a brand. H1 has predicted that high-commitment consumers
usually have more emotional connections to the existing brand than
low-commitment consumers; hence, experiential ads are more
likely to mitigate the emotional resistance to the competitor brands
than functional ads. As predicted in H1, experiential ads tend to elicit
more favorable attitudes of high-commitment consumers than
functional ads. In addition, H2 predicts that metaphorical ads are
expected to bring about slighter impacts on consumers' mental
states and elicit less attitudinal resistance than straightforward ads.
Hence, it is predicted that when high-commitment consumers are
exposed to metaphorical ads, they appear to engender more favorable attitudes toward the experiential claims than functional claims.
However, the competitor brand's straightforward ads can instead
incur the high-commitment consumers' emotional frustration and

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D.T. Kao / Asia Pacic Management Review 21 (2016) 9e17

attitudinal resistance. Therefore, high-commitment consumers will


not engender differential attitudes toward the straightforward ads
either with experiential claims or functional claims.
H3: For high-commitment consumers, metaphorical ads with
experiential claims will lead to more favorable attitudes toward
the competitor brands than metaphorical ads with functional
claims. However, high-commitment consumers will not
engender differentially favorable brand attitudes toward the
straightforward ads, regardless of ad claim type.
Low-commitment consumers usually have less emotional connections to the existing brand and their attitudes toward a brand or
a product are capricious. Functional claims, which focus on positive
attributes or benets, are more likely to alter the low-commitment
consumers' brand preferences and lead to their attitudinal acceptance to the competitor brands than experiential claims. In other
words, functional claims, either in metaphorical or straightforward style, are more persuasive than experiential claims for
low-commitment consumers. Hence, it is assumed that lowcommitment consumers tend to engender more favorable attitudes toward functional ad claims than experiential ad claims of
competitor brands, regardless of metaphorical style.
H4: For low-commitment consumers, functional claims will
elicit more favorable attitudes toward the competitor brands
than experiential claims, regardless of rhetorical style.

4. Methodology
4.1. Pretests of stimulus material
According to Martin, Lang, and Wong (2003), a pretest for
identifying an appropriate product is based on two criteria: (1) the
product offered a range of attributes for manipulation, and (2) the
product is relevant to the research sample. Hence, a pretest has
been conducted to assure the appropriateness of the stimulus
material for the following experiments. 20 undergraduates were
asked to create a list of complex products. Next, 32 subjects rated
the four most frequently mentioned products from stage one on
ve, 7-point scales (e.g., unimportant/important) for involvement,
from which an average score was derived. The pretest revealed that
digital cameras are among the highest involvement score
(M 6.16), most of the subjects previously or currently own a
digital camera (93.75%), and a large number use a digital camera
more than two times a week (90.63%), suggesting a pretty high
frequency of use. Thus, digital cameras were selected as the stimulus material in this research.
Another pretest was conducted to ensure that the two ad claim
types are perceived as equally strong. 36 students were randomly
divided into two groups, and these groups rated the perceived
cogency of the arguments in either the experiential or the functional version of the ad. Participants rated themselves on the
following self-referencing items on a 7-point scale after reading the
ads: I can picture myself in that position and It reminded me of
my past experiences (Chang, 2006). The t-test on perceived
argument strength indicated that the ads were perceived as equally
strong (Mexperiential 4.83, Mfunctional 5.33, t(34) 1.58, p > .05).
4.2. Research design and procedure (study 1)
Study 1 aims to investigate the brand commitment effect on
evaluations of the competitor brand on viewing a competitive ad
that varies in the ad claim type in the message appeal. A total of 116

undergraduates were randomly assigned to a 2 (ad claim type:


experiential vs. functional) between-subjects factorial design,
where brand commitment acts as the measured independent variable, ad claim type fullls as the manipulated moderator and attitudes toward the competitor brand act as the dependent variable.
4.2.1. Measurement for brand commitment
The measurement of brand commitment was adapted from the
study of Raju et al. (2009). The participants were told that they
were joining a market research for a digital camera targeting the
student segment. They were given one booklet containing brand
information of the target brand, and then were encouraged to list
some positive attributes and suggest a slogan for this target brand.
Subsequently, the measurement of brand commitment for the
target brand started. Subjects were asked to assume that this target
brand nearly had fullled the unsatised consumers' needs in all
aspects, followed by asking if their slogan and testimonials could
potentially be adopted by this target brand for its advertising.
The competitor brand was introduced at this point by handing
out another folder containing the ad for the competitor brand
(either the experiential claims or functional claims). Participants
were told that this brand was a competitor brand to the target
brand. Following ad exposure, they were asked to rate their attitudes toward the competitor brand.
Participants' commitment to the target brand was measured
using a three-item brand commitment scale used in previous
research (Agrawal & Maheswaran, 2005; Ahluwalia, Unnava, &
Burnkrant, 2001). The three items are (1) if (brand name) are not
available at the store, it would make little difference to me if I have
to choose another brand; (2) I can see myself as being loyal to
(brand name); and (3) I will be more likely to purchase a brand that
is on sale than (brand name). Participants will express their
agreement with each statement using a 7-point scale anchored by
1 disagree/7 agree. Subjects were dichotomized into high and
low commitment groups based on a median split (median 3.83,
a .84). High-commitment and low-commitment consumers
exhibited signicantly different scores (Mhigh commit 3.02, Mlow
commit 5.29, t(114) 21.76, p < .001).
4.2.2. Manipulation of ad claim type
The manipulation of ad claim type will be adapted from the
study of Samuelsen and Olsen (2010). Two versions of print ads will
be created, equal in all respects except for their claim type. The
headline in the experiential claim reads You will experience ,
whereas the headline in the functional claim reads We promise to
deliver . Below the headline, information highlighting either the
functional benets or future positive experiences of the competitor
brand will be provided. The ads for the competitor brand will be as
similar as those for the target brand in all aspects except for functional versus experiential framing. Specically, the framing is varied in the two ad versions through the headline of the ads, and
through the wording of the ad claims. Subjects will be asked to view
the ad and read a statement about the ad appeals for a ctitious
digital camera brand (DigiSnap). The following excerpt shows the
main ad copy of the experiential appeal for DigiSnap:
~~ You will experience unprecedented photographical joys by using
DigiSnap digital cameras.
In contrast, the main ad copy of the functional appeals for DigiSnap reads:
~~ We promise to deliver the nest photo quality supported by
DigiSnap's state-of-the-art optical technology.

D.T. Kao / Asia Pacic Management Review 21 (2016) 9e17


Table 1
Univariate analysis of the effects of brand commitment and ad claim type on brand
attitudes toward the competitor brand.
Source of variance

h2p

Brand commitment  ad claim type


Brand commitment
Ad claim type

418.58
6.75
.026

.000***
.011
.871

.789
.057
.001

13

the contrary, functional advertising claims elicited more favorable


attitudes toward the competitor brands than experiential advertising claims for low-commitment consumers (Mexperiential 3.58,
Mfunctional 5.04, t(56) 17.23, p < .001, see Table 2 and Fig. 1).
Therefore, H1 was supported.
4.4. Research design and procedure (study 2)

Notes: *** means the p-value is smaller than .001.

4.3. Results
4.3.1. Manipulation check of ad claim type
The manipulation check of ad claim type was assessed by having
respondents rate whether the ad claim was experiential framing on
a 7-point scale anchored by 1 extremely disagree and
7 extremely agree. As expected, the t-test revealed that the
perceived experiential ad claim valence and the perceived functional ad claim valence differed signicantly (Mexperiential 5.69,
Mfunctional 2.72, t(114) 20.09, p < .001), implying that the ad
claims characterized as experiential and functional were regarded
as being different. Therefore, the manipulation of ad claim type was
effective.
4.3.2. Measurement of attitudes toward the competitor brand
Attitudes toward the competitor brand were measured with
three 7-point scales anchored by bad/good, not nice/nice, unlikable/likable (Zhang & Zinkhan, 2006). The Cronbach's a value was
.70, which indicated an acceptable internal consistency. Therefore,
those scales were summed to form a single attitude measure.
4.3.3. Hypothesis testing
The interaction effect of brand commitment  ad claim type on
the attitudes toward the competitor brand (F(1, 112) 418.58,
p < .001, h2p .789, see Table 1) reached the signicance level,
implying that the ad claim effect on the attitudes toward the
competitor brand was subject to brand commitment. The followup t-test for the attitudes toward the competitor brand revealed
that experiential advertising claims elicited more favorable attitudes toward the competitor brands than functional advertising
claims for high-commitment consumers (Mexperiential 4.84,
Mfunctional 3.40, t(56) 12.67, p < .001, see Table 2 and Fig. 1). On
Table 2
Dependent measure across brand commitment  ad claim type conditions.
Brand attitudes

Low-committed
Experiential

Mean
S.D.
t
p

3.58
.27
17.23
.000***

Highly-committed
Functional
5.04
.37

Experiential
4.84
.46
12.67
.000***

Functional
3.40
.40

Notes: *** means the p-value is smaller than .001.

Study 2 aims to investigate the brand commitment effect on


evaluations of the competitor brand on viewing a competitive ad
that varies in the rhetorical style in the message appeal. A total of
124 undergraduates were invited separately to participate in a 2
(rhetorical style: metaphorical vs. straightforward) betweensubjects factorial design. The procedure is identical to that in
Study 1.
4.4.1. Measurement for brand commitment
The measurement of brand commitment was identical to that
in Study 1.
4.4.2. Manipulation of rhetorical style
The manipulation of rhetorical style was adapted from
Lagerwerf and Meijers (2008). Two versions of print ads were
created. The metaphorical ad contained a metaphor developed by
an implicit combination of a headline copy and an image of the
advertised product without any further body copy for description.
In contrast, the straightforward ad was made by changing the
headline copy and the image of the advertised product, with a
description of the image and the product. Subjects were asked to
view the ad and read the ad copy of DigiSnap. The following excerpt
showed the main slogan with no further description for the
metaphorical ad:
~~ DigiSnap brings you into the real world.
In contrast, the main slogan with a further description for the
straightforward ad read:
~~ You will enjoy the fun of photographing by using DigiSnap
digital cameras.
4.5. Results
4.5.1. Manipulation check of rhetorical style
The manipulation check of rhetorical style was assessed by
having respondents rate whether the ad copy was shown in a
metaphorical manner on a 7-point scale anchored by 1 extremely
disagree and 7 extremely agree. As expected, the t-test revealed
that the perceived valence of rhetorical style for the ad copy characterized as metaphorical style and straightforward style differed
signicantly (Mmetaphorical 5.24, Mstraightforward 2.94,
t(122) 16.59, p < .001), implying that the rhetorical styles characterized as metaphorical and straightforward were regarded as
being different. Therefore, the manipulation of rhetorical style was
effective.

Table 3
Univariate analysis of the effects of brand commitment and rhetorical style on brand
attitudes toward the competitor brand.

Fig. 1. Interactions of brand commitment  ad claim type on brand attitudes toward


the competitor brands.

Source of variance

h2p

Brand commitment  Rhetorical style


Brand commitment
Rhetorical style

179.38
.17
.55

.000***
.682
.461

.599
.001
.005

Notes: *** means the p-value is smaller than .001.

14

D.T. Kao / Asia Pacic Management Review 21 (2016) 9e17

Table 4
Dependent measure across brand commitment  rhetorical style conditions.
Brand attitudes Low-committed

Highly-committed

Metaphorical Straightforward Metaphorical Straightforward


Mean
S.D.
t
p

3.30
.62
11.15
.000***

5.15
.69

5.00
.90
8.18
.000***

3.34
.67

Notes: *** means the p-value is smaller than .001.

ad copy about the ad appeals of DigiSnap. The following excerpt


showed the main ad copy of the experiential appeal in the metaphorical ad:
~~ You will experience the unprecedented joys of exploring the real
world by using DigiSnap digital cameras.
In contrast, the main slogan of the ad copy of the experiential
appeal in the straightforward ad read:
~~ You will experience the unprecedented joys of taking nest
photos for everyone by using DigiSnap digital cameras.
Moreover, the main slogan of the functional appeals for the
metaphorical ad read:
~~ We promise you can explore the world more with DigiSnap's
state-of-the-art optical technology.
In contrast, the main slogan of the functional appeals for the
straightforward ad read:

Fig. 2. Interactions of brand commitment  rhetorical style on brand attitudes toward


the competitor brands.

~~ We promise you can easily take nest photos for everyone with
DigiSnap's state-of-the-art optical technology.
4.7. Results

4.5.2. Measurement of attitudes toward the competitor brand


Attitudes toward the competitor brand were measured with
three 7-point scales anchored by bad/good, not nice/nice, unlikable/likable (Zhang & Zinkhan, 2006). The Cronbach's a value was
.79, which indicated an acceptable internal consistency. Therefore,
those scales were summed to form a single attitude measure.
4.5.3. Hypothesis testing
The interaction effect of brand commitment  rhetorical style
on the attitudes toward the competitor brand (F(1, 120) 179.38,
p < .001, see Table 3) reached the signicance level, implying that
the effect of rhetorical style on the attitudes toward the competitor
brand was subject to brand commitment. The follow-up t-test for
the attitudes toward the competitor brand revealed that metaphorical ads elicited more favorable attitudes toward the competitor brands than straightforward ads for high-commitment
consumers (Mmetaphorical 5.00, Mstraightforward 3.34, t(60) 8.18,
p < .001, see Table 4 and Fig. 2). In contrast, straightforward ads
elicited more favorable attitudes toward the competitor brands
than metaphorical ads for low-commitment consumers
(Mmetaphorical 3.30, Mstraightforward 5.15, t(60) 11.15, p < .001,
see Table 4 and Fig. 2). Hence, H2 was supported.
4.6. Research design and procedure (study 3)
Study 3 aims to investigate the brand commitment effect on
evaluations of the competitor brand on viewing a competitive ad
that varies in the ad claim type and the rhetorical style in the
message appeal. A total of 224 undergraduates were recruited
separately to participate in a 2 (ad claim type: experiential vs.
functional)  2 (rhetorical style: metaphorical vs. straightforward)
between-subjects factorial design. The procedure is identical to
that in Study 1.
4.6.1. Manipulations of ad claim type and rhetorical style
The manipulations of ad claim type was identical to that in
Study 1, whereas the manipulation of rhetorical style was identical
to that in Study 2. Subjects were asked to view the ad and read the

4.7.1. Manipulation check of ad claim type


The manipulation check of ad claim type was assessed by having
respondents rate whether the ad claim was experiential framing on
a 7-point scale anchored by 1 extremely disagree and
7 extremely agree. As expected, the t-test revealed that the
perceived ad claim valence for the ad copy characterized as experiential framing and functional framing differed signicantly
(Mexperiential 5.14, Mfunctional 3.19, t(238) 14.42, p < .001),
implying that the ad claims characterized as experiential and
functional were regarded as being different. Hence, the manipulation of ad claim type was effective.
4.7.2. Manipulation check of rhetorical style
The manipulation check of rhetorical style was assessed by
having respondents rate whether the ad copy was shown in a
metaphorical manner on a 7-point scale anchored by 1 extremely
disagree and 7 extremely agree. As expected, the t-test revealed
that the perceived valence of rhetorical style for the ad copy characterized as metaphorical style and straightforward style differed
signicantly (Mmetaphorical 5.36, Mstraightforward 2.70,
t(238) 21.00, p < .001), implying that the rhetorical styles characterized as metaphorical and straightforward were regarded as
being different. Therefore, the manipulation of rhetorical style was
effective.
4.7.3. Measurement of attitudes toward the competitor brand
Attitudes toward the competitor brand were measured with
three 7-point scales anchored by bad/good, not nice/nice, unlikable/likable (Zhang & Zinkhan, 2006). The Cronbach's a value was
Table 5
Univariate analysis of the effects of ad claim type and rhetorical style on brand attitudes toward the competitor brand (under the situation of highly commitment).
Source of variance

h2p

Ad claim type  rhetorical style


Ad claim type
Rhetorical style

17.14
14.78
4.70

.000
.000
.032

.129
.113
.039

D.T. Kao / Asia Pacic Management Review 21 (2016) 9e17

15

Table 6
Dependent measure across brand commitment  ad claim type  rhetorical style conditions.
BrandAttitudes

Low-committed

Highly-committed

Metaphorical
Experi
Mean
S.D.
F
p

3.29
.65
67.57
.000***

Functio
4.66
.63

Straightforward

Metaphorical

Experi

Experi

3.31
.53
136.06
.000***

Functio
5.10
.65

4.59
.53
34.99
.000***

Straightforward
Functio

Experi

Functio

3.69
.64

3.88
.46
.04
.842

3.91
.79

Note: Experi denotes experiential; Functio denotes functional.


*** means the p-value is smaller than .001.

Fig. 3. Interactions of highly commitment  ad claim type  rhetorical style on brand


attitudes toward the competitor brand.
Table 7
Univariate analysis of the effects of ad claim type and rhetorical style on brand attitudes toward the competitor brand (under the situation of low commitment).
Source of variance

h2p

Ad claim type  rhetorical style


Ad claim type
Rhetorical style

3.48
194.63
4.26

.064
.000***
.041*

.029
.627
.035

Notes: * means the p-value is smaller than .05 and *** means the p-value is smaller
than .001.

brand was subject to ad claim type. The follow-up ANOVA revealed


that for high-commitment consumers, metaphorical ads with
experiential claims resulted in more favorable attitudes toward the
competitor brands than metaphorical ads with functional claims
(Mmeta-exp 4.59, Mmeta-func 3.69, F(1, 59) 34.99, p < .001, see
Table 6 and Fig. 3); however, no differentially favorable brand attitudes toward the competitor brand were found between
straightforward ads with experiential claims and straightforward
ads with functional claims (Mstrai-exp 3.88, Mstrai-func 3.91, F(1,
59) .04, p > .05, see Table 6 and Fig. 3). Therefore, H3 was
supported.
In contrast, for low-commitment consumers, the interaction
effect of ad claim type  rhetorical style on the attitudes toward the
competitor brand (F(1, 116) 3.48, p > .05, h2p .029, see Table 7)
did not reach the signicance level. The follow-up ANOVA revealed
that for low-commitment consumers, metaphorical ads with
functional claims resulted in more favorable attitudes toward the
competitor brands than metaphorical ads with experiential claims
(Mmeta-func 4.66, Mmeta-exp 3.29, F(1, 59) 67.57, p < .001, see
Table 6 and Fig. 4); alternatively, straightforward ads with functional claims resulted in more favorable attitudes toward the
competitor brands than straightforward ads with experiential
claims (Mstrai-func 5.10, Mstrai-exp 3.31, F(1, 59) 136.06, p < .001,
see Table 6 and Fig. 4).Therefore, H4 was supported.
5. Discussion
5.1. Theoretical contribution

Fig. 4. Interactions of low commitment  ad claim type  rhetorical style on brand


attitudes toward the competitor brand.

.77, which indicated an acceptable internal consistency. Therefore,


those scales were summed to form a single attitude measure.
4.7.4. Hypothesis testing
For high-commitment consumers, the interaction effect of ad
claim type  rhetorical style on the attitudes toward the competitor
brand (F(1, 116) 17.14, p < .001, h2p 129, see Table 5) reached the
signicance level, implying that for high-commitment consumers,
the rhetorical style effect on the attitudes toward the competitor

This research differs from the prior research in three main respects, which contribute to the psychology literature. First, from an
academic perspective, theoretical understanding of the effects of
brand commitment is promising but underdeveloped. While
advertising literature focuses on examining the ad effectiveness and
neglects consumers' commitment, this research explores the extent
of consumers' brand commitment and further examines its impact
on the interaction effects of ad claim type and rhetorical style.
Second, recent empirical studies in the literature of advertising
have examined how brand commitment is moderated by other
factors. Specically, brand commitment is usually regarded as a
moderator (e.g., Iglesias, Singh, & Batista-Foguet, 2011) or a
nig, 2011; Srivastava &
dependent variable (e.g., Burmann & Ko
Owens, 2010) in these studies. In contrast, this research treats
brand commitment as an independent variable and examines its
effects interacted with ad claim type (in Study 1) and rhetorical
style (in Study 2).
At last, while the brand commitment literature has mostly
conned itself to studying the effect of brand commitment to the
existing brands (e.g., Iglesias et al., 2011) and rarely investigated
how the competitive brands overcome the brand commitment effect (Raju et al., 2009), this research examines the consumer

16

D.T. Kao / Asia Pacic Management Review 21 (2016) 9e17

attitudes toward the competitive brands by measuring consumers'


brand commitment to the existing brand and manipulating ad
claim type and rhetorical style in the competitive brand's ad.
Accordingly, the roles of brand commitment and other inuencing
factors in the advertising research can be further claried.
5.2. Practical implications
Findings in this research have extremely important practical
implications as they imply that, if the sponsors of competitive
brands seek to grasp consumers from the existing brands, they
need to work better on understanding those consumers' brand
commitment and thereby devising their advertising strategies (i.e.,
ads characterized by experiential or functional appeals) in order to
reduce those consumers' counterarguments or attitudinal resistance. For example, even though the high-commitment consumers
tend to stick to their existing brands, competitive brands can cut
into the market by applying experiential advertising appeals. On
the contrary, for the market consisting of low-commitment consumers, who have lower attitudinal resistance to the competitive
brands, competitor brands are advised to use functional advertising
appeals. Alternatively, a metaphorical ad strategy is more effective for competitor brands to elicit more favorable attitudes of highcommitment consumers; in contrast, a straightforward ad strategy
is preferred for targeting the market consisting of low-commitment
consumers.
In addition, when competitor brands seek to use a metaphorical
ad strategy to pinpoint the high-commitment consumers, experiential claims are more effective than experiential claims. However,
no straightforward ad strategy is suggested for competitor brands
as neither experiential nor functional ad appeals are effective to
reduce the attitudinal resistance of high-commitment consumers.
Alternatively, when the competitor brands attempt to pinpoint
low-commitment consumers, functional claims are more effective
than experiential claims, either a metaphorical or a straightforward
strategy.
5.3. Limitations and future research
As stated above, this research contributes to the knowledge base
of advertising psychology and proposes some practical implications
to advertisers. However, some limitations need to be mentioned for
future research. First, this research concludes that advertisers can
adopt different types of ad claims and rhetorical style for targeting
consumers with different extents of brand commitment; however,
it is a tough challenge for advertisers to distinguish from consumers
with different extents of brand commitment (high-commitment or
low-commitment) before an ad message strategy is devised. Second, in this research, brand commitment was measured to examine
the interaction effect with ad claim type and rhetorical style on the
existing brands. Future research is expected to treat brand
commitment as a manipulated variable to examine its main effect
and interaction effects on the existing brands. In addition, this
research uses digital cameras as the experimental stimulus materials. Future research is expected to adopt intangible services to
examine the external validity.
Conicts of interest
None.
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