Ad Design: Should Price Come Before Product Description?

Thu Jun 25, 2015

Kathy Crosett

If your clients have been in business for a while, they’re familiar with the 4Ps of marketing: price, product,redpricetag place, and promotion. When they are designing ads, have they thought about which detail to show consumers first? A Harvard study published by the Journal of Marketing Research shows that your clients can get the maximum impact from their ad layouts by presenting the most important details first.

Harvard researcher Uma R. Karmarkar, along with two others, tested the brain activity of shoppers to determine whether price or product information had more impact with respect to purchase. The research involved looking at the ‘pattern of activity in the prefrontal cortex.’ All shoppers were told they had $40 to spend on products which were on sale. In the first experiment, young shoppers viewed ads for products that had good emotional appeal – items like apparel or noise-cancelling headphones. The shoppers viewed ads that showed price first and they then viewed ads that showed product details first.  Researchers found there was little connection between details viewed and purchase impulse. Because consumers loved these products, they would buy them regardless of whether price or product description came first.

The outcome was far different when the study focused on ‘utilitarian’ products. Apparently, nobody gets too excited about purchasing items like batteries or water filters. The test subjects were again shown a series of ads which presented either price or product descriptions first.  When consumers viewed images of ads for these kinds of products, they were more likely to make a purchase after viewing ads where price was featured first.

Researchers also detected a couple of other important details. First, consumers showed more willingness to purchase if the price reflected a true discount. Karmarkar noted, “[p]utting the price first just tightens the link between the benefit you get from the price and the benefit you get from the product itself.” At the same time, the ads which featured descriptions of the utilitarian product’s functionality versus form fared better. This finding reinforces the notion that there is little emotional impulse when purchasing these types of products.

Share the results of this study with your clients and ask them how they feature price and product description in their ads.

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About Kathy Crosett

Kathy is the Research Director for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel.

View all posts by Kathy Crosett