Content and manner
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A visual image is characterized by two key components: 1) content (what is depicted) and 2) manner (how it is depicted). This dissertation proposes that when the content is made salient to consumers, the image is processed analytically as a product-relevant illustration, but when the manner is made salient, the image is processed heuristically as an aesthetic stimulus. Further, these two styles of processing have a differential influence on consumer attitude toward the brand associated with the image depending on a) the contextual fit between the content of the image and the product category of the brand and b) the extent to which consumers perceive the use of the art image to be special versus ordinary. Specifically, this research finds that high (low) contextual fit between the image and the product category results in a more (less) favorable brand attitude in a content-based evaluation but has no effect in a manner-based evaluation. Further, the degree to which the use of the art image is perceived as ordinary moderates the influence of the art image on brand attitude in a manner-based evaluation but has no effect in a content-based evaluation. With a field study and four experiments, this dissertation investigates these influences of content and manner of art images used in product design and in advertisements. In studies 1-3, the content of the visual image has a high or low fit with the relevant product category, and content versus manner is made salient. Study 1 is a real-world study in which a content-based (manner-based) evaluation is induced by explicitly highlighting the content (manner) of the visual image to each participant. Studies 2 and 3 are laboratory experiments that induce a content-based versus manner-based evaluation by manipulating the mindset of the respondent to be either concrete or abstract (Study 2) or by manipulating an analytic versus heuristic processing style (Study 3). Across the three studies, high (low) fit between the image content and the product category leads to more (less) favorable brand attitude, but only when the content is made salient or when analytical processing is encouraged. Study 4 further supports, via a manipulation of the availability of cognitive resources, the hypothesized analytic versus heuristic processing for the content and manner of visual images. Study 5 manipulates the degree to which the art images are perceived as ordinary. As theorized, ordinization diminishes the favorable influence of manner, but has no effect on the influence of content, on brand attitude.