Romance Can Wreck Retail

Romantic imagery in advertising can actually hurt sales, according to Lisa Cavanaugh, assistant professor at the USC Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles.
Romance Can Wreck Retail

Although images of couples holding hands or sharing kisses might resonate with those in relationships, they can turn off those who are single.

Cavanaugh conducted seven experiments, including one the week before Valentine’s Day. Participants viewed electronic greeting cards— some viewed cards depicting romantic relationships, while others viewed cards depicting platonic ones.

Next, they were asked to shop among economy, mid-range, or high-end brands of beauty products. Finally, they indicated their current relationship status. Single individuals who viewed romantic cards chose fewer high-end products than those in relationships, while those who viewed platonic cards purchased just as many high-end products as their coupled counterparts.

By reminding single consumers of what they don’t have, “marketers inadvertently make consumers feel undeserving—less worthy of treating and rewarding themselves,” says Cavanaugh. “Marketers may need to rethink the prevalent practice of using images of idealized relationships to sell everything from cookies to cameras.”

“Because I (don’t) deserve it: how relationship reminders and deservingness influence consumer indulgence” is forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing Research.