Later brand reveal in advertisements leads to better sales – study

By our News Team | 2023

Marketers and ad agencies should consider showing the product first and revealing the brand later in TV advertisements.

When it comes to product advertisements, consumers like a bit of mystery, a new international study has found.

The research, led by the University of Otago in New Zealand in partnership with the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science in Australia, has concluded that television advertisements are more successful if they show the product first and the brand later.

Lead author, Dr John Williams of the Department of Marketing at Otago, says researchers examined creative variables in television advertisements and then monitored consumers’ supermarket purchases after they viewed the ads.


Photo by Mizuno K from Pexels

The results contradict standard marketing theory and practice, but retrospectively make sense, Williams says.

Part of the reason for this novel finding is that most advertising research evaluates ‘effectiveness’ by asking consumers whether they would buy the product, or even if they merely like the ad.

In contrast, the New Zealand and Australian researchers used a commercially-relevant and industry-validated measure of sales success, eliminating the so-called ‘intention-behaviour gap’ that plagues much marketing research.

“Usually, television advertisements will start by showing the brand and then repeating it throughout,” Williams explains. “But we discovered marketers should consider showing the product first and revealing the brand later.”

Research into consumer psychology suggests there are a few reasons for this.

Create unresolved tension and attention for greater effectiveness

“If you see an ad that’s relevant to you but you’re not sure what brand it’s for, that creates unresolved tension and attention – the critical first step in advertising effectiveness – which is then resolved, giving a little trickle of dopamine,” Williams states.

“This makes an ad memorable due to the prolonged attention and processing, and also creates positive associations.”

Secondly, people usually already have opinions on brands before seeing their advertisements.

“If the brand is shown first, people either already buy it or buy some other brand that does the same job,” Williams notes.

“In each case, they are more likely to direct their attention elsewhere because they’ve already made up their mind – there is no unresolved mystery that is then resolved.”

The study, published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Market Research, also highlights the importance of using multiple methods to analyse data.

“All statistical methods of analysing data have strengths, weaknesses and caveats, and therefore if you only use one method, you can never be sure whether your results are due to patterns in the data, or some aspect of the method you applied,” says Williams.

“This risk can be mitigated if you use multiple methods and see if they all tell the same story.”

The results have practical implications for brand marketers and people who work in brand agencies, as consumers are not as concerned about brands as they might think.

“Most people want products and services that satisfy their wants and needs, rather than particular brands. Although, there are a lot of exceptions to this general rule,” advises Williams.

You can find out more about the published research here.