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Can Your Advertisement Go Abstract Without Affecting Willingness to Pay? Product-Centered versus Lifestyle Content In Luxury Brand Print Advertisements



Advertising can focus on concrete product attributes or on lifestyle expressions and abstract benefits. In the context of print advertising for luxury brands, the authors explored the relationship among advertising style (product-based versus lifestyle-building), advertising language (abstract versus concrete), and consumers' willingness to pay through the lens of construal level theory, which analyzes the way consumers interpret the brand. The study found that lifestyle branding was related to high language abstractness; product-based branding was related to language concreteness; and construal level was a mediator, enhancing willingness to pay when low. The use of abstract language and lifestyle-based advertising therefore requires careful consideration.
Advertising can focus on concrete product attributes or on lifestyle
expressions and abstract benets. In the context of print advertising for
luxury brands, the authors explored the relationship among advertising style
(product-based versus lifestyle-building), advertising language (abstract
versus concrete), and consumers’ willingness to pay through the lens of
construal level theory, which analyzes the way consumers interpret the brand.
The study found that lifestyle branding was related to high language
abstractness; product-based branding was related to language concreteness;
and construal level was a mediator, enhancing willingness to pay when low.
The use of abstract language and lifestyle-based advertising therefore
requires careful consideration.
Brands are often vessels for iconic life stories. In a
commercial for Dior’s Sauvage fragrance collec-
tion, Johnny Depp rediscovers his natural
instincts in Joshua Tree National Park. In a print
advertise-ment, Sean Connery rests on a wooden
landing on a beach in the Bahamas with a Louis
Vuitton bag by his side.
In both cases, brands project themselves in a
symbolic world to occupy a distinctive corner of the
consumer’s mind. This trend, whereby brands build
remarkable stories of life and convey mean-ings that
enrich their image beyond the valence of the product
offered, is known as lifestyle branding.
Through lifestyle advertising, brands become
detached from the tangible characteristics of their
products to become a means of self-expression
(Berger and Heath, 2007). Brands connect to con-
sumers on a more personal level, emphasizing their
personality and acting like friends (Cohen, 2014).
This repositions the brand from a focus on func-
tional physical attributes to more abstract benefits,
fits the brand to consumers’ lifestyle, and allows self-
projection (Keel and Nataraajan, 2012). Engaging in a
process that renders the intangible tangible and
delivering convincing stories requires considerable
investment in communication (Cooper, Schembri,
and Miller, 2010). The commercial for Dior’s Sauvage
Massara, F., Scarpi, D., & Porcheddu, D. (2019). Can Your Advertisement Go Abstract Without Affecting Willingness to
Pay?: Product-Centered versus Lifestyle Content In Luxury Brand Print Advertisements. Journal of Advertising
Research, JAR-2019.
Can Your Advertisement Go Abstract Without Affecting Willingness to Pay?
abstractness but of the construal level
triggered by the advertisement. This type
of theorization also helps to explain some
of the contradictory findings in previous
literature, in which only the direct effect
of advertising style or advertisement text
was explored.
with Johnny Depp cost an estimated $5
mil-lion to produce (Weil, 2015).
Lifestyle advertising is common in the
luxury industry and often is meant to
enhance consumers’ willingness to pay
(WTP) a premium price (Kapferer, 2012). As
tangible product characteristics become
secondary in the pursuit of lifestyle brand-
ing, major business outlets often hire mar-
keters across sectors, especially from the
fashion industry. Apple, for instance, hired
a former marketing manager at Burberry
(O’Connor, 2013) for its shift to lifestyle
Initial findings with regard to luxury
fashion brands suggest that lifestyle adver-
tising effectively enhances WTP (Li, Li, and
Kambele, 2012). Lifestyle advertising
recently has received significant criticism in
the marketing community, however,
because it does not lead necessarily to
competitive advantage but instead often
exposes brands to “much broader, cross-
category competition for a share of a con-
sumer’s identity” (Chernev, Hamilton, and
Gal, 2011, p. 66).
By shifting from specific, tangible fea-
tures to more general, abstract benefits,
lifestyle advertising flattens the differences
between brands (Chernev et al., 2011). In
turn, this flattened differentiation increases
price sensitivity (Mitra and Lynch, 1995;
Netemeyer, Krishnan, Pullig, Wang, et al.,
2004). Consumers thus might perceive other
brands as providing the same fit with their
lifestyle, although by means of
different physical attributes or ingredients.
In contrast, as the means–end chain theory
poses, there are few higher level benefits but
many low-level features (Gutman, 1982).
Both cases lead to lower WTP.
Flattened or enhanced perceived dif-
ferentiation between objects, as well as
between physical attributes and abstract
benefits, is open to a completely differ-ent
theoretical interpretation in a separate
stream of literature related to construal
level theory (Liberman and Trope, 1998).
This theory posits that individuals con-
strue the world around them by adopting
either high- or low-level mental represen-
tations: The higher the representation is,
the less evident differences become, just
as the farther one travels from a
landscape, the more blurred its details
become. With greater proximity, in
contrast, details become more evident,
just as one usually brings something
closer to one’s eyes to inspect it.
From the perspective of construal level
theory, lifestyle advertising elevates con-
strual because it focuses on high-level,
abstract benefits, whereas product-based
advertising lowers construal because it
tends to focus on low-level, concrete attri-
butes. Through the lens of construal level
theory, one can read the link between higher
perceived uniqueness and higher WTP in
terms of the presence of more con-crete
points of difference between brands.
Variations in WTP thus are the outcome not
of advertising style or language
According to construal level theory, peo-ple
understand stimuli in the environment on
the basis of the perceived distance between
the evaluating self and the object to be
evaluated. Objects that are perceived at
greater distances are evaluated more in
terms of abstractness and lead to high
construal (Liberman and Trope, 1998). A
consequence of high construal is that peo-
ple pay less attention to concrete features,
perceive less variety, and underestimate the
differences between products (Fujita,
Henderson, Eng, Trope, et al., 2006). Closer
objects, conversely, are evaluated more in
terms of concreteness, which thus induces
lower construal levels. This consistently
leads to more attention to concrete fea-tures,
enhancing the perceived differentia-tion
among objects and overall perceived variety
(Fujita, Henderson, et al., 2006; Liberman
and Trope, 1998).
Construal levels can translate easily from
the psychological literature into mar-keting
practice because they are induced effectively
through managerially opera-tionalizable
cues, such as pictures (Bar-Anan, Liberman,
and Trope, 2006), sounds (Hansen and
Melzner, 2014), and language (Hansen and
Wänke, 2010). According to the linguistic
categorization framework, nouns are more
concrete than adjectives, inspire more vivid
imagery, and provide more accessible cues
(Carnaghi, Maass, Gresta, Bianchi, et al.,
2008). Verbs are more abstract than nouns,
and adjectives are the most abstract (Fujita,
Henderson, et al., 2006). This linguistic
classification is
Can Your Advertisement Go Abstract Without Affecting Willingness to Pay?
coherent with other models that address
language concreteness–abstractness (e.g.,
the linguistic category models by Semin
and Fiedler, 1988).
Lifestyle advertisements use abstract
language more frequently and speak about
experiences, whereas product-centered
advertisements use concrete language more
frequently and speak about prod-uct
features. It thus is necessary to disen-tangle
the effects of advertisement content from
advertisement language to ascer-tain
whether consumers’ perceptions are driven
by advertisement content (lifestyle-related
elements versus product-centered features)
or by the language used to con-vey this
content. To do so, the authors considered
both advertising content and language
abstractness in the present study.
Ad style
Ad language
to pay
Figure 1 The Hypothesized Relationships between
Advertisement Variables and Willingness to Pay
The authors propose that lifestyle and
product-centered branding strategies can be
re-read from the perspective of construal
level theory as expressions of high- and low-
level positioning strategies. Lifestyle
branding may induce a high-level mental
representation of a brand through a focus on
benefits and values. It also should lead
consumers to perceive fewer differences
between brands compared with product-
centered branding strate-gies, which instead
may convey a lower level mental
representation of the brand through a focus
on tangible attributes.
The presence of concrete differences
between brands usually is assumed to drive
perceptions of product quality and,
ultimately, WTP (Netemeyer et al., 2004).
Advertising strategies such as lifestyle
advertising de-emphasize concrete char-
acteristics; thus, they may leave consum-ers
with fewer bases on which to infer a distinct
value and fewer motives to pay a premium
price. In this vein, consum-ers usually rely
on feature-specific prod-uct attributes to
make quality inferences, which are
enhanced when the judgment is
psychologically close (Yan and Sengupta,
2011). Because WTP is related directly to
quality inferences (Netemeyer et al., 2004),
low construal levels can be expected to
work better for enhancing WTP. Thus:
H1a: Abstract advertising language
leads to a higher level of con-
strual, whereas concrete adver-
tising language leads to a lower
level of construal.
H1b: Advertising style moderates the
relationship between advertising
language and construal level.
H1c: A higher level of construal leads
to a negative impact on con-
sumers’ WTP for the advertised
brand, whereas a lower level of
construal leads to a positive
impact on WTP.
H1d: The construal level fully medi-
ates the relationship between
advertising-language abstract-
ness and WTP.
The authors consider the construal
level to be driven by the language used in
the text of an advertisement (in line with
studies on linguistic categoriza-tion), and
they expect differences in advertising
styles—because of their specificities and
content—to moderate the language–
construal relationship. The authors posit
that keeping an advertise-ment concrete
increases WTP and that more concrete
language works better with product-
centered advertisements (See Figure 1 for
an illustration of the hypothesized
Luxury brands possess many aspirational
qualities, and lifestyle branding frequently
is employed for these brands (Hansen and
Wänke, 2011). They often have distinguish-
able physical attributes, which also makes it
possible to use attribute-centered adver-
tising. For managers, therefore, the choice
between one advertising style and another
becomes strategic. The authors accordingly
Can Your Advertisement Go Abstract Without Affecting Willingness to Pay?
in the Theoretical Background and Hypoth-
eses Development section, the authors
created different texts using different
adjective-to-noun ratios to manipulate the
level of concreteness–abstractness across
experimental conditions. The ratio was set
located the study’s empirical analysis in
the context of luxury brands.
A 2 × 3 full factorial between-subjects
design was employed:
advertising style: lifestyle versus prod-
uct centered;
advertising-language abstractness: high
versus neutral versus low.
The sample, procedure, and stimuli are
described below. All advertisements were
for the same brand (Louis Vuitton) and
product (a bag), and all displayed a picture
of the product, identical across conditions.
Sample and Procedure
Three hundred Western European respon-
dents (72 percent female; Mage = 35 years)
were recruited from an online panel.
Participants were trained to distinguish
between advertising styles (lifestyle ver-sus
product-centered) and asked to clas-sify 10
pretested sentences implying either lifestyle-
or attribute-based positioning. Examples
included, “Our lifestyle is a reflection of
yourself,” for lifestyle posi-tioning and,
“Our high-quality products are handmade
and not mass-produced,” for product-
centered positioning. Next, participants
were exposed randomly to the experimental
stimuli described below in a between-
subjects design and asked about their
construal level and their WTP.
Following suggestions by previous authors
(Wertenbroch and Skiera, 2002) for increas-
ing reliability in measuring WTP, the
authors asked respondents to state how
much they would bid for the item if they
actually could buy the product at the high-
est bid. Construal level was measured with
the Behavioral Identification Form (Val-
lacher and Wegner, 1989), as recommended
by the developers of construal level theory
(Trope and Liberman, 2003, 2010).
The Behavioral Identification Form con-
sists of a set of neutrally described actions,
each followed by two alternative restate-
ments: one corresponding to the “how” or
low-level aspects, and one to the “why” or
high-level aspects. The neutral action of
“filling out a personality test,” for exam-ple,
can be restated as either “answering
questions” or “revealing what you’re like.”
To prevent cognitive overload, the authors
asked respondents to answer a random
subset of 8 out of 19 items (as in Lee, Deng,
Unnava, and Fujita, 2014).
Respondents were assigned a score of
0 if they chose the low-level restatement
(e.g., “Filling out a personality test [means]
answering questions”) and 1 if they chose
the high-level restatement (e.g., “Filling out
a personality test [means] revealing what
you’re like”; as in Lee et al., 2014, and Val-
lacher and Wegner, 1989). Accordingly, the
score for construal level ranged from 0
(completely low level) to 8 (completely high
level) depending on the number of “how”
and “why” statements the participants
chose (Liberman and Trope, 1998; Trope,
Liberman, and Wakslak, 2007).
Advertising Language. In line with the lin-
guistic categorization framework addressed
1:3 for abstract advertising language (9
adjectives, 16 verbs, 29 nouns),
1:11 for concrete advertising language
(9 adjectives, 13 verbs, 36 nouns), and
1:6 for the intermediate or “neutral”
lan-guage abstractness level (4
adjectives, 16 verbs, 26 nouns)
on the basis of real-life advertisements (See
Appendix A for examples of the advertise-
ment texts). A manipulation check ensured
that respondents correctly classified the
texts (on a 7-point measure ranging from
1 = concreteness to 7 = abstractness).
Advertising Style. In these experiments,
lifestyle advertisements described a way
to experience the brand and its mean-ings
for the lifestyle of the consumer, whereas
product-centered advertise-ments
contained more factual claims about the
product. A manipulation check ensured
that respondents correctly under-stood
the styles of the advertisements. Across
the experimental conditions, the text for
the lifestyle and product-centered
advertisements changed only with
respect to the adjective-to-noun ratio (See
Appendix A for examples of the two
advertising styles).
A pretest ensured that there were no dif-
ferences in liking for the product, the brand,
or the text or in message persuasiveness as a
result of respondents’ gender, advertising
language, or advertising style (all ps >.10;
Appendix A provides some details).
Moderated Mediation Model
The authors ran a moderated mediation
analysis using the SPSS PROCESS macro
Can Your Advertisement Go Abstract Without Affecting Willingness to Pay?
Ad style
Int. – 0.60 –15.61
Ad language
abstractness –2.33 to pay
(4.86) n.s.
Int. = Interaction; * p < .05; *** p < .001
Figure 2 The Moderated Mediation Analysis (Model 7
by Hayes, 2013)
.002. Task completion time was not
signifi-cantly different across conditions,
F(5, 240) = 1.512, p = .19.
Moderated Mediation Analysis
Abstract advertising language led to higher
levels of construal (B = 1.69, p < .001), which
provides support for Hypothesis 1a. As
proposed in Hypothesis 1b, advertising
style significantly moderated the effect of
advertising language on construal level (B
=0.60, p = .03). The relationship between
advertising language and construal level
was reduced for product-centered adver-
tising (Bproduct = 1.14 versus Blifestyle = 1.70),
as hypothesized.
Consistent with Hypothesis 1c, construal
was related negatively to consumers’ WTP
(B = 15.61, p < .001). Given that construal
consistently predicted WTP but advertis-ing
style buffered construal, the highest
(Hayes, 2013) to estimate the proposed
model, with
advertising style as the moderator of
the advertising language–construal
construal as the mediator of the adver-
tising language–WTP relationship, and
WTP as the dependent variable (See
Figure 2).
The analysis assessed
the effects of advertising language on
WTP (both directly and indirectly,
through construal level),
the effect of advertising language on
construal (as moderated by advertising
style), and
the effect of construal level on WTP.
The analysis combined mediation and
moderation to estimate the conditional
indirect effect of advertising language on
WTP through construal level as moderated
by advertising style (Model 7 by Hayes,
2013; See Figure 2). The authors evaluated
the statistical significance of the direct and
indirect effects by means of 10,000 bootstrap
samples to create bias-corrected confidence
intervals (95 percent). Variables were mean-
centered before the analysis. Although the
measurement scales for con-strual and WTP
were of very different sizes (construal
scored from 0 to 8 and WTP scored from 100
to 1,000), scores were not standardized. This
implies that some coef-ficients might appear
quite large; however, standardizing in
mediation models is not recommended
(Hayes, 2013).
Manipulation Checks
Classification accuracy between adver-tising
styles was very high (91 percent), indicating
that respondents correctly understood the
difference between the advertisements.
Abstractness differed significantly between
the advertisements when the adjective-to-
noun ratios were 1:3, 1:6, and 1:11,
respectively (M1:3 = 6.64; M1:6 = 4.15; M1:10 =
3.21), F(2, 287) = 6.643, p =
levels of WTP were observed for
individu-als who were exposed to
product-centered advertisements
conveyed through concrete language.
The evidence from the model, on the
whole, supports construal as a mediator
of the relationship between advertising
language and WTP (B = 1.69, p < .001), as
proposed in Hypothesis 1d. The authors
found no significant direct effect of adver-
tising language on WTP (B = 2.33, p = .
63) but a significant indirect effect
through construal (B = 15.61, p < .001).
The results suggest that participants
exposed to abstract language developed a
higher construal level and thus also had
lower WTP. (See Figure 2 for the results
of the PROCESS macro and Tables 1 and
2 for a summary of the results.)
Summary of the Results
Hypotheses 1a–1d were supported. The
authors compared two advertising styles
(lifestyle and product centered) and
manipulated their degree of abstract-ness
in a complete 2 × 3 factorial design.
Can Your Advertisement Go Abstract Without Affecting Willingness to Pay?
Moderated Mediation Analysis
Effect Coefficient SE t p LLCI ULCI
Language abstractness on construal 1.69 0.18 9.38* .00 1.332.04
Advertisement style on construal 0.64 0.57 1.12* .26 −0.481.77
Moderation of advertisement style −0.60 0.26 −2.17* .03 −1.09−0.05
Construal on WTP −15.61 2.95 −5.29** .00 −21.42 −9.817
Language abstractness on WTP −2.33 4.86 −0.48** .63 −11.91 7.24
Direct effect −2.33 4.86 −0.48** .63 −11.91 7.24
Notes: Coeff = coefficient; LLCI = lower level confidence interval; ULCI = upper level confidence interval; WTP = willingness to pay. * df = 286; ** df = 287.
Moderator Analysis: Conditional Effect of Language Abstractness on Construal at Values
of the Moderator (Advertisement Style)
Effect Effect SE t p LLCI
Lifestyle centered 1.71 0.18 9.49* .000 1.35 2.06
Product centered 1.14 0.19 5.90* .000 0.76 1.52
Notes: LLCI = lower limit confidence interval; ULCI = upper limit confidence interval. * df = 286.
Neither advertising style nor advertising
language had a direct impact on consum-
ers’ WTP.
Instead, construal level affected WTP:
Lower construal levels were triggered by
concrete language, worked best with
product-centered advertising, and posi-
tively affected WTP. In contrast, higher
construal levels were triggered by abstract
language, worked best with lifestyle adver-
tising, and negatively affected WTP.
Stepping Out of the Lab
To increase the ecological validity of the
findings, the authors conducted an in-field
study using real advertisements for dif-
ferent categories of luxury-brand prod-ucts
(clothing, accessories, cars, watches, jewelry,
etc.). The field study tested whether
lifestyle- and product-centered real
advertisements were perceived to
be significantly different in terms of
In a pretest, 30 respondents classified
36 advertisements as either lifestyle or
product centered. One advertisement was
excluded because it was classified ambig-
uously. The remaining 35 advertisements
(18 lifestyle and 17 product centered) dis-
played an adjective-to-noun ratio fully in
line with the authors’ previous findings
and manipulations: lower for product-
centered advertisements (M = 0.21, SD
=0.29) than for lifestyle advertisements
(M = 0.76, SD = 1.08), F(1, 33) = 4.082, p =
The advertisements then were evalu-
ated for concreteness–abstractness (on a
7-point scale) by 170 respondents (168
usable answers; 55 percent women;
Mage = 33 years) naive to the purpose of
the study. The advertisement appearance
order was randomized. A repeated-
measures analysis of variance confirmed
that lifestyle advertisements were per-
ceived as more abstract than product-
centered advertisements were (Mlifestyle
=3.98, SD = 0.96, versus Mproduct = 3.43,
SD = 0.79), F(1, 167) = 57.896, p < .001.
(See Appendix B for examples of the
Follow-Up Study
The authors conducted a follow-up study
offline to increase the validity of the
findings from the moderated mediation
model, to demonstrate convergence of the
results, and to help reduce alternative
explanations. A sample of 200 partici-
pants naive to the purpose of the study
was drawn from the general population
(63 percent women; Mage = 34 years). One
hundred respondents saw in random
Can Your Advertisement Go Abstract Without Affecting Willingness to Pay?
order the 18 lifestyle advertisements iden-
tified from the field study. Another 100
respondents saw in random order the 17
product-centered advertisements identi-
fied from the field study.
All respondents were asked to rate each
advertisement they saw as either product or
lifestyle centered, to rate how concrete–
abstract each advertisement was (on a
seven-point scale; 1 = completely concrete,
7 = completely abstract), and to complete a
scale for measuring construal (as used in the
main study for the online respondents;
0 = completely low-level construal, 8 =
completely high-level construal; scale was
drawn from Lee et al., 2014).
Previous literature has suggested that
high versus low construal-level manipula-
tion might induce different mood states,
raising the possibility of a link between
positive mood and abstract construal and
between negative mood and lower con-
strual (Fujita, Trope, Liberman, and Levin-
Sagi, 2006; Labroo and Patrick, 2009). In this
vein, research in health control has found
that positive mood tends to be asso-ciated
with global and abstract cognitive
processing, whereas negative mood tends to
be associated with local and concrete
cognitive processing (Watkins, Moberly,
and Moulds, 2011).
To rule out mood-based alternative
explanations for this study’s outcomes,
the authors therefore had respondents
complete the Positive and Negative Affect
Schedule (PANAS; Watson, Clark, and
Tellegen, 1988; as did Fujita, Trope, et al.,
2006). Finally, respondents were invited
to provide reasons for buying at least one
of the advertised items.
The results showed almost perfect inter-
rater agreement between the field and the
follow-up studies (Fleiss’s > .80).κ
In addition, respondents related lifestyle
advertisements to abstraction (M = 4.62)
and product-centered advertisements to
concreteness (M = 3.64), F(1, 198) =
p < .001. This was consistent with the find-
ings and manipulations from the model and
with the adjective-to-noun ratio in
the advertisements (Mlifestyle = 0.76 versus
Mproduct = 0.21), F(1, 33) = 4.082, p = .05.
The results of the follow-up study show
that respondents exposed to more
abstract advertisements exhibited higher
levels of construal (M = 5.20) than did
those exposed to more concrete
advertisements (M = 4.45), F(1, 198) =
6.402, p = .01, in line with the evidence
from the moderated mediation model.
Computation of the adjective-to-noun
ratio in the participants’ stated reasons for
buying a product showed that rea-sons
provided for the lifestyle advertise-ments
included approximately the same number of
words as those provided for the product-
centered advertisements (Mproduct = 11.91
versus Mlifestyle = 13.01), F(1,
196) 1.416, p = .235. Respondents in the
lifestyle-advertisement condition, how-
ever, used more adjectives (Mproduct = 3.15
versus Mlifestyle = 4.00), F(1, 198) = 6.642, p
=.012, and more verbs (Mproduct = 1.34 ver-
sus Mlifestyle = 1.70), F(1, 198) = 5.879, p =
.016, than did respondents in the product-
centered advertisement condition. Given
that adjectives and verbs indicate higher
construal levels (Fujita, Henderson, et al.,
2006; Semin and Fiedler, 1988), this evi-
dence provides additional support that
positively aligns with the results of the
previous analyses.
Finally, the results from PANAS,
administered to account for the potential
effects of mood, confirm the two-factor
structure of the PANAS (as in Watson et
al., 1988; positive mood, Cronbach’s =α
.88; negative mood, Cronbach’s = .90).α
The results showed no significant dif-
ferences in positive, F(1, 198) = 0.692, p
=.406, or negative, F(1, 198) = 0.320, p
=.572, mood among respondents who
viewed lifestyle and product-based adver-
tisements. Mood neither directly affected
construal level (positive mood, B = 0.15, p
=.227; negative mood, B = 0.15, p = .443)
nor moderated the relationship between
advertisement style and construal level
(positive mood, B = 0.06, p = .667; nega-
tive mood, B = 0.02, p = .927), which thus
rules out mood as an alternative explana-
tion for the findings. This evidence also
aligns with that of previous researchers
(Fujita, Trope, et al., 2006) regarding the
influence of mood on construal levels and
construal-induced reactions.
Lifestyle advertising has received con-
siderable attention in marketing practice,
but only a few studies have investigated
the relationship between advertising style
and WTP. In the current research, the
authors have attempted to advance
scholarly knowledge in several directions.
First, they disentangled advertising style
(lifestyle- versus product-centered con-
tent) from the language used to convey
the message.
Second, although WTP has been stud-
ied extensively, the concreteness or
Can Your Advertisement Go Abstract Without Affecting Willingness to Pay?
welcome future studies that include more
brands and categories, in particular those
that address unknown brands, consider
less mechanical ways than the noun-to-
adjective ratio to capture feelings of
abstractness of the features used to convey
a lifestyle- or product-centered message has
not been addressed previously as a trigger
of WTP for a brand. The authors
investigated the role of lifestyle advertis-ing
in shaping WTP and proposed a differ-ent
theoretical perspective to interpret the
effects of advertising on WTP. Through the
lens of construal level theory, the authors
reread the link between higher advertise-
ment abstractness and higher WTP.
In particular, they conceptualized WTP as
stemming from the distance individu-als
perceive between themselves and the brand
that is advertised. The authors there-fore
proposed higher or lower perceived
distance as a possible outcome of different
advertising styles and wordings. They thus
advanced and empirically validated con-
strual level as a full mediator in the adver-
tising style–WTP relationship and showed
that the construal level, not the advertising
style per se, triggers variations in consum-
ers’ WTP for the advertised brand. The
authors showed that lifestyle advertising is
more consistent with abstract language and
that product-centered advertising is more
consistent with concrete language. The
advertising style per se does not trigger
construal levels but rather the language
used in the advertisement.
The proposed theoretical interpretation of
lifestyle- and product-based branding
strategies fully adheres to previous find-
ings that a lifestyle branding strategy can
result in reduced opportunities for differ-
entiation (Chernev et al., 2011). The study’s
theorization helps to explain at least some of
the contradictory findings in previ-ous
literature on WTP and advertising, in which
only the direct effect of advertising was
explored and construal level neither
was measured nor was taken into
account. The authors have shown instead
that the link between advertising style
and WTP consistently can be explained
when con-strual level is accounted for,
and they have offered a new and more
solid explanation of the phenomenon.
Limitations and Future Research
The brand concept and identity of Louis
Vuitton are well developed in terms of
product representations, imagination, and
symbolism. The authors thus could
manipulate the brand to represent both
lifestyle- and product-centered advertise-
ments. Referring to a single brand might
have limited the scope of the analysis,
Another limitation stems from manip-
ulating abstractness only linguistically.
Lifestyle positioning usually takes advan-
tage of much richer emotional evocation
through visuals, symbols, and music. The
authors recommend that additional multi-
sensory manipulations be tested. Showing
the same product in every advertisement
might have reduced the perceived differ-
entiation between the advertising styles.
Finally, the framework of this study
was in the context of print advertising
only. There are thousands of examples of
suc-cessful television lifestyle campaigns
for luxury goods, such as perfume, autos,
and jewelry. This may be because
television and other media have greater
potential than print advertising to stir
emotion when telling a lifestyle story.
Despite these limitations, the authors
have confidence in the findings, and both
a field study and a follow-up study on
real advertisements provided results
coherent with the model. The authors
abstractness, and address television- and
video-based advertisements.
Implications for Practice
Jumping on the bandwagon of lifestyle
advertising may not be advisable always for
brands. Lifestyle print advertising
sometimes may be weaker than product-
centered print advertising, may hinder the
opportunity to impose a premium price, and
may curb the overall development of brand
equity. Practitioners should be cau-tious in
pursuing a lifestyle-positioning strategy
with print advertisements.
The way that consumers envision the
brand (their construal level) mediates the
relationship between advertising type
and consumers’ WTP. Low construal lev-
els are key to sustaining a premium price
for the brand. Practitioners thus should
consider which construal levels they are
inducing, because construal levels can be
induced in practice.
The authors have proposed an easy yet
effective way to manipulate advertisement
abstractness that is in line with and based
on established linguistic models but is sig-
nificantly easier to implement because it is
based on the adjective-to-noun ratio. This
method could be applied effectively in the
wording of printed advertising to affect
construal level. High adjective-to-noun
ratios (e.g., 1:3) lead to high construal, and
low adjective-to-noun ratios (e.g., 1:11) lead
to low construal.
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Appendix A
Language Abstractness
In the following stimulus examples,
adjec-tives are underlined, verbs are in
italics, and nouns are in boldface.
(Respondents saw them all in plain text;
adjectives, nouns, and verbs are
highlighted here for easier counting.)
Stimulus example: Lifestyle Advertisement
(suggesting a way to experience the brand) ×
High Abstractness
Language Abstractness: Adjective-to-noun
ratio of approximately 1:3 (9 adjectives, 16
verbs, 29 nouns in the manipulated text)
The product that you see depicted below is a
Louis Vuitton travel bag. This product is
generally appealing to all (both male and
female) and has been designed to strictly
adhere to the precise style of the person who
uses it which is inspired by traveling and
which enhances the absolute meaning and
importance of the trip. In accordance with
the Vuitton style, unmis-takable and
recognized throughout the world, life itself is
a journey, a wonderful process of self-
discovery. Today, Louis Vuitton is
considered to be among the most
exclusive luxury brands in the world; all
the products follow the unique style of the
house, a distinctive style that can give the
products exceptional value.
Stimulus example: Product-Centered Adver-
tisement (focused on product features) × Low
Language Abstractness: Adjective-to-noun
ratio of approximately 1:10 (3 adjectives, 13
verbs, 36 nouns in the manipulated text)
The product that you see depicted below is
a “Louis Vuittontravel bag. This prod-
uct is generally appealing to all (both male
and female) and has been designed to strictly
Liking and Persuasiveness (on a 7-Point Likert Scale) of
the Advertising Styles
Advertising Style Liking Persuasiveness
Lifestyle 3.76 (1.49) 4.96 (1.15)
Product-centered 3.98 (1.49) 4.85 (1.31)
Note: Values are means, with standard deviations in parentheses.
adhere to the style of the house based on
the idea of Louis Vuitton Malletier, who
began his career as a baggage packer for
Napoleon III’s wife Eugenie de Montijo,
the Empress of France. His job was to give
a meaning to travels and trips. Today, all
Vuitton products, from clothing to acces-
sories (handbags, suitcases) are handmade
by artisans of the fashion house who use
Can Your Advertisement Go Abstract Without Affecting Willingness to Pay?
the finest materials to create products of
exceptional value.
Stimulus example: Lifestyle Advertisement
(suggesting a way to experience the brand) ×
Moderate Abstractness
Language Abstractness: Adjective-to-noun
ratio of approximately 1:6 (4 adjectives, 16
verbs, 26 nouns in the manipulated text)
The product that you see depicted below is a
Louis Vuitton” travel bag. This product
is generally appealing to all (both male and
female) and has been designed to strictly adhere
to the style of the person who uses it, which is
inspired by traveling and which enhances the
meaning of the trip. In accordance with the
Vuitton style, unmistakable and recognized
throughout the world, life itself is a journey.
Today, Louis Vuitton is considered to be among
the most exclusive luxury brands in the world;
all the products follow the style of the house, a
distinctive style that can give the products
exceptional value.Figure A1 Picture Shown
in Main Study
Appendix B
Field Study
Ad copy: “A Tiffany pearl is a lustrous treasure of the ocean. Our
jewelers follow exacting standards of quality in the careful
selection of these natural gems” Adjective/noun ratio = 0.44
Ad copy: “She’s sporty. She’s sexy. She’s
glam.” Adjective/noun ratio = 1.00
Figure A2 Example of a Real Advertisement Figure A3 Example of a Real Advertisement
Used in the Field Study, Classified as Product- Used in the Field Study, Classified as Lifestyle-
Centered Centered
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... Scrutiny of brand personalities helps luxury brands progress at national and international levels, and thus Eswatini organizations should be mindful of luxury brand personalities. Massara et al. (2020) posited that brands connect to customers more personally by stressing their nature and acting like friends. Combining these perspectives on brand personality makes it possible to connect with luxury brands to achieve their goals. ...
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... The growth strategies of luxury brands have been focused on in a few recent studies (Keller, 2017). These studies especially focused on acquisitions and mergers (Strach & Everett, 2006), brand equity and performance (Guzman & Paswan, 2009), and marketing communication (Massara, Scarpi, & Porcheddu, 2020) in different country contexts. In terms of luxury brand product categories, watches (Donze, 2020), luxury automobiles (Tournois & Chanaron, 2018), wines and spirits (Taplin, 2016), and fashion (Skorobogatykh, Saginova, & Musatova, 2014) were mainly focused in previous studies. ...
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... First, we contribute to the growing body of literature that builds on the intersection between psychology, marketing and linguistics (e.g.,Aleti et al., 2019;Berger et al., 2020;Netzer et al., 2019;Packard & Berger, 2019;Labrecque et al., 2020). This stream of literature suggests that a text reflects and indicates something about its author and impacts the audience (e.g.,Berman et al., 2019;Cruz et al., 2017;Labrecque et al., 2020;Massara et al., 2020;Van Laer et al., 2019). However, this academic debate overlooks the role of privacy concerns and conspiracy theories, so far. ...
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... Additionally, the message strategy represented in CRM ads generates a more persuasive impact when the message strategy corresponds to the construal level primed by the cause proximity. In the context of print advertising for luxury brands, abstract advertising language was found to lead to a higher level of construal while concrete advertising language was found to lead to a lower level of construal [31]. From the perspective of construal level theory, their research provides implications that branding strategies based on product-centered vs. lifestyle can function as expressions of low-and high-level positioning strategies. ...
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In recent studies of the structure of affect, positive and negative affect have consistently emerged as two dominant and relatively independent dimensions. A number of mood scales have been created to measure these factors; however, many existing measures are inadequate, showing low reliability or poor convergent or discriminant validity. To fill the need for reliable and valid Positive Affect and Negative Affect scales that are also brief and easy to administer, we developed two 10-item mood scales that comprise the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). The scales are shown to be highly internally consistent, largely uncorrelated, and stable at appropriate levels over a 2-month time period. Normative data and factorial and external evidence of convergent and discriminant validity for the scales are also presented. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)
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Three studies examined the cognitive implications of linguistic categories in the interpersonal domain. On the basis of conceptual and linguistic criteria, we advance a four-level classification that distinguishes between verbs and adjectives in the interpersonal domain. These four levels (in terms of increasing abstractness) are descriptive action verbs, interpretive action verbs, state verbs, and adjectives. Results from the first two studies reveal a systematic relation between the respective linguistic category and the temporal stability of the quality expressed in the sentence, the sentence's informativeness about the subject, the sentence's verifiability and disputability, and the sentence's informativeness about a specific situation. Results from the last study support the four-level linguistic classification and its differential cognitive functions. Implications for social cognition and personality research are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
To practitioner and researcher alike, consumer values play an important role in understanding behavior in the marketplace. This paper presents a model linking perceived product attributes to values.
Marketing communications (e.g., advertising, packaging) can be either colorful or black and white. This research investigates how presence or absence of color affects consumer information processing. Drawing from construal-level and visual perception theory, five experiments test the hypothesis that black-and-white (BW) versus color imagery is cognitively associated with high-level versus low-level construal, respectively. Experiment 1 establishes this association via an Implicit Association Test. On the basis of this association, experiments 2 and 3 show that BW (vs. color) imagery promotes high-level (vs. low-level) construal, leading to sorting objects on the basis of high-level (vs. low-level) features, segmenting behaviors into broader (vs. narrower) units, and interpreting actions as ends (vs. means). Extending this effect into consumer decision making, experiments 4 and 5 further show that consumers presented with BW (vs. color) product pictures weight primary and essential (vs. secondary and superficial) product features more and prefer an option that excels on those features.
Psychological distance and abstractness primes have been shown to increase one’s level of construal. We tested the idea that auditory cues which are related to distance and abstractness (vs. proximity and concreteness) trigger abstract (vs. concrete) construal. Participants listened to musical sounds that varied in reverberation, novelty of harmonic modulation, and metrical segmentation. In line with the hypothesis, distance/abstractness cues in the sounds instigated the formation of broader categories, increased the preference for global as compared to local aspects of visual patterns, and caused participants to put more weight on aggregated than on individualized product evaluations. The relative influence of distance/abstractness cues in sounds, as well as broader implications of the findings for basic research and applied settings are discussed.
Drawing on construal level theory, this research proposes that consumers’ reliance on price (vs. feature-specific product attributes) for making quality inferences will be enhanced when the judgment is psychologically distant (vs. close). For example, the impact of price (attributes) on quality inferences should increase (decrease) when these inferences are made with regard to another person rather than oneself. A series of experiments provides support for this thesis. In addition, we (a) document a theoretically derived reversal of the core pattern, (b) reconcile the current findings with seemingly opposed results in the construal literature, and (c) rule out several alternative explanations for the obtained effects. The insights obtained in this work enrich our understanding of three different areas of research: the price-quality link, construal level theory, and the self-other distinction.
A better understanding of the Chinese consumption of luxury fashion brands may assist the fashion industry when targeting China as the soon-to-be largest consumer market. This study aims to examine Chinese consumers' willingness to pay for luxury fashion brands related to their fashion lifestyle and perceived value. Practicality fashion lifestyle, perceived social/emotional value, perceived utilitarian value, and perceived economic value were found to have a significant influence on the willingness of Chinese consumers to pay for luxury fashion brands in a multiple regression model (n=480). This research also examines the different effects of fashion lifestyles and perceived value on willingness to pay among four groups characterized by different previous genuine and counterfeit purchasing experiences. This study deepens understanding of consumer perceptions and behaviors relating to luxury fashion brands in China.