Evaluative Conditioning of Established Brands: Implicit Measures Reveal Other Effects Than Explicit Measures

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Evaluative conditioning (EC) effects on established liked and disliked brands were measured via self report, startle reflex modulation (SRM), heart rate (HR), skin conductance (SC), and the Implicit Association Test (IAT). Baseline measures were compared with measures taken after 1, 6, and 16 conditioning procedures. The aim was to determine how the different measures are differently sensitive to EC effects. Although self-report indicated conditioning effects already after 1 conditioning procedure and in both directions, the authors believe this to be an artifact due to a regression to the mean effect and thus reject this finding. Similarly, HR and SC did not show any sensitivity to conditioning effects. However, SRM and the IAT revealed significant conditioning effects, but more than 1 conditioning procedure were needed to cause changes. Most importantly, SRM, the only implicit measure of raw affective processing (subcortical), did show a significant EC effect after six conditioning procedures, but only in case of disliked brands turning into more liked brands. Because implicit measures are assumed to be more sensitive to deep subcortical affective processing it is concluded that this level of affective processing is more easily influenced by evaluative conditioning than higher order (cortical) processing levels. The findings are discussed in terms of different aspects of brand attitude (affective and cognitive) that seem to be differently affected by EC. Implications for marketers and advertisers are suggested.

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