People can process information in a superficial or systematic way. Most advertisements aim to persuade the consumer to buy products by targeting the superficial processing function through heuristic cues (Smith & Mackie, 2007). However, the most effective advertisements are undoubtedly direct response ads (Agee & Martin, 2001). While those ads can potentially work best on impulsive buyers because of their use of heuristic cues, Agee and Martin (2001) point out that a majority of consumers are planned buyers, which means they logically consider the reasons for buying products that are given in the ad. That is why direct response ads target both superficial and systematic processing functions, which enables them to outperform other types of ads (Woodside & Motes, 1980).
The direct response ad for the Shiseido Ibuki skincare regime is an excellent example of a well-written advertisement that persuades the reader to buy a product by targeting a variety of heuristics and components. According to Smith and Mackie (2007), there are seven main heuristics, which include emotions, attractiveness, familiarity, expertise/authority, message length, consistency, scarcity, and consensus. The Shiseido Ibuki ad covers all of them, but the most significant ones are familiarity, expertise, message length, consistency, scarcity, and consensus. It is also persuasive because it effectively addresses the emotional, cognitive, and behavioural components of decision-making.
The promise for the target market starts with the title “The Best of Both Worlds.” The lead continues to describe a problem their target market probably has. With a lot of hard work and the desire to maintain a rich social life, the reader’s skin may suffer, but the ad promises that Shiseido Ibuki skincare regime will strengthen the skin’s defences and its condition, “all without the need to change your lifestyle.” That sentence describes their unique selling proposition (USP), which is proven as an effective strategy for differentiating the product from competitors and gaining a competitive advantage (Low & Mohr, 1999).
The Shiseido Ibuki USP is effective because it is both a familiarity cue and a consistency cue. By differentiating their product from their competitors’ products, the potential customers will become more familiar with the brand and more likely buy their products. In addition, the USP promises the reader that their product will enable them to have beautiful skin without making sacrifices by changing their lifestyle. That is a very powerful statement because it gives the reader results without interfering with the consistency in their existing lifestyle behaviours and attitudes, so they can really expect “The Best of Both Worlds.”
According to Smith and Mackie (2007), people find longer messages more convincing, even when the messages do not have additional content. Although the length of the message alone appears to be convincing, the Shiseido Ibuki ad uses that length to add more content that utilizes the expertise, scarcity, and consensus heuristic cues. Expertise is established by providing detailed information about the main steps in their “fuss-free” skincare regime and describing the benefits of those steps in detail. The reader is eventually convinced that the product was designed by a company that knows how the skin works, what causes adverse skin conditions, and how it is possible to prevent those conditions.
The consensus cues are not used directly as testimonials, but there are statements that present other customers’ results and offer general tips for reducing stress that can affect skin health. At one point the ad states that, “After four weeks of use, 99% of women felt that their skin was more moisturised and less rough.” A side-note states that the study involved 104 women, and all of them were using a Shiseido product.
Finally, the ad presents stories from three women, age 24, 24, and 25, and their advice on dealing with stress from high-pressure jobs on the last page. Because their target market consists of women with a mean age of 24 or 25, it is possible that the readers consider and adapt their behavioural attitudes. Although none of them states using the actual product, a final tip acts as a call to action for women who can relate to the stories presented by other women and need to solve the same problems, so it clearly uses the consensus heuristic cue to impact decision-making.
The last page also uses scarcity to increase the response rate to the advertisement. The ad encourages potential customers to make an appointment for a moisture and skin resistance check, after which they will be given Ibuki samples. However, the offer is valid only until October 1, 2013. That is a good strategy for two reasons. First, all readers who fail to respond to the promotion will probably not have the same opportunity again, which make the offer scarce. Second, it is proven that free gifts can be an effective short-term strategy, but the brand is also cautious because long-term giveaways can cheapen the brand and drive customers away (Raghubir, 2004).
Systematic Process Functions
Even though there are a lot of heuristic cues in the ad, it does not rely on targeting superficial processing functions alone. According to Agee and Martin (2001), the common belief that people buy from direct response ads on impulse alone is false because a lot of participants stated they bought certain products because the ads contained interesting or useful information. Therefore, direct response advertising does not only target the superficial processing function, but it also targets the systematic processes because those processes justify and rationalize the sale. That is why Shiseido Ibuki also offers interesting and useful information to the reader by outlining their skincare regime. It is true that their approach builds expertise by demonstrating their knowledge of skincare, but it also provides useful information readers can analyse and consider before responding to the promotion.
According to Smith and Mackie (2007), emotional, cognitive, and behavioural components are the main determinants of attitude. Because of the Shiseido Ibuki ad is four pages long, it has sufficient length to cover all three components and present them in a logical order. As a typical direct response ad, the beginning of the Shiseido Ibuki ad covers the emotional components. If the potential customers are afraid of the detrimental impact of their lifestyle on their skin, they will more likely accept the solution offered in the ad.
It is proven that emotional components can deliver short-term increases in sales, but the long-term relationship really depends on the effectiveness of the product and addressing concrete appeal (Bulbul & Menon, 2010). That is why after catering to the general affective appeal for beautiful skin, the ad transitions into offering specific facts to satisfy the readers’ cognitive components. It clearly describes their skincare regime and the logical reasons for structuring their care regime in that manner, so the potential customers know exactly what they can expect.
The cues targeting the behavioural component can be seen in all segments of the ad by assessing the writing style. The most notable examples are subtitles, such as “Save your skin” and “Make the right change.” Of course, the call to action at the end also contains several examples, including “Get started on a daily skincare regime” and “Make an appointment to find out” All of those phrases are written in imperative form because they are designed to encourage the reader to take action. In advertising, the emphasis on immediacy is consistent because framing the reader in an imperative mood urges them to take quick action (Kilyeni, 2012).
Effectiveness and Limitations
The fundamental motives framework offers another interesting perspective on the effectiveness of the Shiseido Ibuki ad. The framework suggests that ancestral social motives, such as making friends, acquiring status, or dating, could influence buyer decisions today (Griskevicius & Kenrick, 2013). According to Griskevicius and Kenrick (2013), preferences and decisions are determined by fundamental motives that are currently active.
Because the Shiseido Ibuki target market are young female adults with a mean age of 24 or 25, it is possible to assume that their buying decisions will be shaped by their needs to maintain their social lives, establish relationships, social status, and make friends. Those fundamental motives are currently their top priorities, so the ad presents a product that can both enhance their skin and allow them to satisfy those needs. Therefore, it is possible to assume that the ad is very effective in promoting the brand and increasing sales.
Perhaps the ad could have performed better with a couple of modifications in the lead paragraphs. Although the readers’ problem and solution are clearly defined, the lead does not help the readers imagine how their lives could be different with the product. For example, the ad could describe how their social life could improve with beautiful skin because they would have more confidence and be more attractive. Then again, that description could indicate that the company is desperate to close the sale too soon, so it is not possible to confirm the effectiveness of that approach without adequate testing.
The Shiseido Ibuki ad uses various heuristics, targets all three major components of decision-making, and addresses both superficial and systematic processing functions, so it can be considered a very effective advertisement. Because the ad also persuades their target market that it is possible to achieve the results promised without modifying their active fundamental motives, the product presentation probably appeals to women with a mean age of 24 or 25. Although a different approach could present positive emotions associated with beautiful skin rather than presenting how stress can damage the skin, there is no way to prove the effectiveness of that approach because direct advertising is not an exact science with universal guidelines for developing ad content.
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