Public Release: 

Older consumers prefer emotional appeals

University of Chicago Press Journals

A growing body of research on older consumers reveals that as we grow older we become more emotional. This emotion often causes susceptibility to misleading advertising. But in a forthcoming article in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California--Los Angeles explore age-based reactions to advertising appeals and found that, in many cases, age is less of a factor than motivational states and goals.

In two experiments, the researchers sought to better understand how "time horizon" affects a consumer's interpretation of a marketing message.

"We find that older adults generally prefer and have better memory for emotional appeals. In contrast, younger adults tend to prefer and have better memory for more rational appeals. However, when time horizon perspectives are manipulated to be short, all participants prefer emotional appeals, regardless of age. Similarly, when time horizon perspectives are manipulated to be long, all prefer rational appeals, regardless of age," explain Patti Williams (UPenn) and Aimee Drolet (UCLA).

The research is exceptionally important due to a burgeoning older population of consumers, who comprise a major market segment. As the researchers write: "Understanding the goals of older adults' consumption activities is key for marketers seeking to create products and services relevant to them."


Williams, Patti and Aimee Drolet. "Age-Related Differences in Responses to Emotional Advertisements." Journal of Consumer Research, Dec 2005.

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