Multitasking, Distraction & Consumer Behavior

“The content of the ad was kept completely constant so that consumers would draw these conclusions about the brands based on their mental experience of being distracted or not, regardless of the content of the ad,” said Zane.

The study “The Meaning of Distraction: How Metacognitive Inferences from Distraction during Multitasking Affect Brand Evaluations” appears in Consumer Research Journal, and reports on the team’s finding that participants who felt distracted by the background ad reported greater interest in the advertised brand and were likely to be engaging with that brand on social media.

This study is the first to focus on multitasking in the customer space with an emphasis on advertising. Both marketers and consumers can benefit from this research as the results provide insight into how marketers can generate consumer interest and better understand the mental process that drives their interest and purchase decisions.

“The good news for marketers is that in a world where their advertising sometimes stays in the background, all is not lost,” said Zane. “Consumers can still respond positively to a brand simply because of their internal experience of their attention shifting from what they’re focusing on to the ad.”

Zane warns that it is not that easy for marketers to make ads as distracting as possible. There are limitations.

For consumers, the distraction of an ad can translate into a positive brand review, but they should keep in mind that just because they’re distracted doesn’t mean they really care and should buy the product, he adds.

“What if you get distracted from the ad just because multitasking is nearly impossible, or because it’s late at night after a long day at work and you just can’t get your attention to one place? In our society, where we are all multitasking all the time, it pays to think about such questions to make sure our opinions about brands and consumer choices are authentic, ”says Zane.

Daniel Zane studies consumer behavior and his research interests include inference formation, self-awareness, and ethical decision-making. He received his Ph.D. from Ohio State University and previously worked as a marketing analyst for Harte-Hanks.

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