Advertising signals as indicators of advertiser fitness
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A new perspective on consumer behavior is proposed using theoretical predictions developed from behavioral ecology, economics, and evolutionary psychology. These predictions pose the possibility that consumers often make choices based on mental processing heuristics evolved long before the extensive human development of the cerebral cortex, and are therefore automatic, interrelated, and non-conscious. The literature review develops theoretical platforms that suggest consumer choice may be based on signal qualities that are expected to be honest indicators of the quality of the signaler and synthesized into the concept of 'Advertiser Fitness.' The construct of Advertiser Fitness is conceived as integrated perceptions of advertiser creativity (signal style) and perceptions of perceived quality of ad production (signal quality), and is statistically validated across two product categories, cell phone services and auto insurance. In addition, Advertiser Fitness is shown to have statistically significant positive associations with traditional measures of advertising effectiveness, including Attitude Toward the Ad, Attitude Toward the Brand, and Purchase Intent. The interrelated constructs of Perceived Honesty, Perceived Advertiser Status, Self-Relevance, and Potential Word of Mouth are also shown to be have statistically significant positive correlations with the Advertiser Fitness construct and with the traditional measures of advertising effectiveness: Attitude Toward the Ad, Attitude Toward the Brand, and Purchase Intent. These constructs appear to be inter-related and redundant rather than having causal, linear relationships. The results suggest that observable creative dimensions of advertiser signals convey signaler (advertiser) quality. Similarly, impressions of signaler (advertiser) status are important inputs for the formation of positive consumer perceptions and are associated with measures of potential action including purchase intention and predicted word-of-mouth. This work opens a new window into understanding consumer behavior by introducing contemporary observation to evolutionary sources of motivation for behavior, and views consumer markets as dynamic ecosystems which can potentially be illuminated by better understanding and application of phenomena in natural ecosystems for consumer behavior.