Professor Kenny Herbst’s Research on Advertisement Disclaimer Speeds Published in the Journal of Consumer Research

6.2.2011 Faculty News, General, News Release

Pulling a Fast One:
Speed of advertisement disclaimer may have effect on consumers’ intent to purchase product

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — You have heard those lightning fast disclaimers at the end of radio and television advertisements. Do they scare you away or just seem like white noise required by regulatory agencies?

Wake Forest University Schools of Business and Northwestern University research reported online in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that fast disclaimers can give consumers the impression that an advertisement is trying to conceal information. However, trusted brands (versus trust-unknown or not-trusted brands) are immune to the adverse effects of fast disclaimers.

“Speak slowly or carry a trusted brand,” said Kenneth Herbst, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Wake Forest University Schools of Business and co-author of the study.

Eli J. Finkel, associate professor of psychology at Northwestern University and another co-author, offers concrete recommendations for marketers: “If you’re promoting a brand consumers don’t know or don’t trust, use a slow disclaimer. Because consumers don’t know whether they can trust you, you have to be careful to avoid seeming sneaky. Fast disclaimers can seem sneaky.”

“In contrast, if you’re promoting a trusted brand, feel free to save time by using a fast disclaimer. Use your precious advertising seconds promoting your product rather than spending them on your disclaimer,” he said.

The research for “On the Dangers of Pulling a Fast One: Advertisement Disclaimer Speed, Brand Trust and Purchase Intention” was conducted by Kenneth C. Herbst, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Wake Forest University Schools of Business and Eli J. Finkel, Associate Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University, along with co-authors David Allan, Associate Professor of Marketing, Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph University, and Gráinne M. Fitzsimons, Associate Professor of Management, Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University.

The study shows that when consumers either lack trust information about an advertised brand or believe that the brand is not trustworthy, fast disclaimers undermine their purchase intention. In contrast, when consumers trust an advertised brand, they appear to be unaffected by the disclaimer speed.

These findings have practical implications for advertisers and policymakers.

According to Herbst, policies that regulate disclaimer content but not disclaimer speed could systematically favor some companies over others.

“On the Dangers of Pulling a Fast One: Advertisement Disclaimer Speed, Brand Trust and Purchase Intention” is now available online and will appear in the February 2012 printed edition of Journal of Consumer Research.

(Source contacts: Kenneth Herbst, herbstk@wfu.edu, mobile: 336.745.5169 and Eli Finkel, finkel@northwestern.edu, mobile: 847.924.5749)

CLICK HERE to read a related story in Canada.com.