Distal or Proximal? How Senses Affect Purchases

Fast Company: A Brigham Young University study “found that ads highlighting more distal sensory experiences like sight and sound lead people to delay purchasing, while those that emphasize more proximal sensory experiences like touch or taste lead to earlier purchases.”

“In one experiment, study subjects read ad copy for a summer festival taking place either this weekend or next year. One version of the ad copy emphasized taste (‘You will taste the amazing flavors . . .’), and another focused on sound (‘You will listen to the amazing sounds . . .’). Those who read the ad copy about taste had a higher interest in attending a festival this weekend, while those who read ads emphasizing sounds were more likely to have interest in attending the festival next year.”

Ryan Elder, lead author of the study, comments: “Vision and sound, which are more distal sensory experiences, will help sell products and experiences far from where the consumer currently is, or purchases made in the future. They also help in advertising products consumers may buy for a more distant other, like a colleague. In contrast, taste and touch, which are more proximal (closer) sensory experiences, will help sell products or experiences physically close to the consumer, or for purchases made right now. In addition, when advertising products consumers may buy for a close friend, touch and taste will help sell the product better.”

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