Distance may make the heart grow fonder, but not necessarily your brand

While it may be then that distance does have a series of positive effects, these benefits can only really be realised “in-store” where physical distance is minimal. And it is here, in advertising and offering future promotions, that distance plays its biggest effect.

Consider this; you are offered an exclusive reservation at a top restaurant in London. You have two choices, go to a restaurant with a 14-item menu opening in a week or go to a restaurant with a seven-item menu opening in five months. Which would you choose? Naturally the first option is preferable, you get to go sooner and have a bigger menu. But, Joseph Goodman and Selin Malkoc noted that too much choice actually makes our decisions harder. 

Instead, it is the communication channel which will trigger different responses and interactions between consumers and brands. These determine not only how brand messages are processed, but how distance is perceived. Here is the breakdown of common communication channels you might use and their influence on distance perception.

Radio: Relying heavily on our sense of sound, radio has consistently been shown to invoke the greatest distance. It relies on our own ability to form mental representations of the product, its geography and its value and is doing require cognitive thought above what is usually required. As a result, this method benefits app and online business the most. 

Solution: Provide “nearest-store” locations in advertisements or promote perceptually closer locations such as your website. After all, your website is only a click away.

Newspaper: Having the ability to communicate information via sight (the most relied on sense) the geography, characteristics and USP?s of your product are all distinctly visible, allowing for easy processing. This invokes moderate distance given that we have to form our relationship with a product/service based on branding and packaging. 

Solution: Use interpersonal language to communicate with the customer at a personal level, thus encouraging search behaviours.

TV: Perhaps the best method to decrease distance, one communicates to consumers at a personal level. Involving the use of sound, sight and emotion, TV is akin to ?putting a face to the name. Providing the ability to communicate and illustrate locations, features and the brand in one go, consumers get all the information they need in a short blast.

Solution: Make it clear how you can access the product easily and efficiently while using language and voice tones appropriate to the product and consumer. 

While it may seem that distance can increase your love life, don?t be too sure it does the same for your brand. While it has the power to allow for increases in price, “buy now pay later” schemes can be both risky and unsuitable for smaller products. Remember, consumers like convenience, and so the more accessible you make your product the better. This can be done at a psychological level and so you should develop a strategy that targets people at an emotionally intimate level. 

The best way to do this is via communication and promoting your brand?s value. Value, a driver of purchasing, extends far beyond the USP?s of your products. Make these value drivers applicable to as many consumer groups as possible, indicate how it can improve their lives and you may find consumer ditch distance and feasibility all together. Make your relationship a good one, offer rewards and decrease the costs associated with buying your product! After all, there is nothing worse than a break up!

Steen Tjarks is a lecturer and doctoral candidate at University College London specialising in the psychology behind price promotions and consumer behaviour. Also a director at Steen Tjarks Consultancy, he helps organisations understand their consumers through detailed research initiatives, leveraging each business?s consumers to drive insights and change.

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