Silent Persuasion. Incidental Use of Promotional Merchandise Benefits Unfamiliar Brands

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Many brands distribute promotional merchandise like branded pens, flash drives or mugs in the hopes that it will improve consumers’ reactions to the brand. Yet, consumers often use them purely incidentally, i.e. they casually use them and pay no attention to the brand, such as when borrowing a pen from a colleague. We query whether even such incidental use of promotional merchandise affects consumer response. Drawing on the specifics of merchandise use and a combination of prior insights on persuasion, we suggest that incidental use of promotional merchandise affects in particular unfamiliar brands. In two controlled lab experiments, we find that consumers react more positively to an unfamiliar brand after incidentally using its merchandise. The effect emerges even though consumers do not consciously notice the brand’s logo but does not extend to a familiar brand. Equivalent incidental visual exposure to advertising stimuli, i.e., posters, was less effective than the haptic incidental use of promotional merchandise. Durable promotional merchandise may be a worthwhile investment, in particular for unfamiliar brands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1135-1159
JournalInternational Journal of Advertising
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 502019 Marketing

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