The effects of product knowledge on product memory and evaluation in competitive versus non-competitive ad context: with the item-specific and relational processing framework
Research evidence suggests that the combined presence of item-specific (target brand information) and relational (competing brand information) encoding is necessary to induce higher memory performance and a more favorable evaluation of the target brand. This elaborative processing, however, necessarily requires cognitive capacity enough to render both types of encoding. Product knowledge is an important cognitive factor which affects how consumers understand and organize incoming product information, ultimately influencing purchase decisions. This research is proposed to investigate how consumer knowledge affects product memory, cognitive responses, evaluations, and confidence in evaluation in consideration of competitive and non-competitive ad contexts with 11 specific research hypotheses outlined. It hypothesizes that high knowledge (HK) individuals perform well in both competitive and non- competitive ad contexts whereas LK individuals perform worse in the non- competitive than competitive ad context. The findings suggest that product knowledge serves as a resource for elaborating on target brand information. HK individuals are able to elaborate on target brand messages regardless of whether competitive (relational) brand information is explicitly presented or not. They retrieve same amount of target attributes, elicit high elaboration thoughts (target attribute thoughts), evaluate the target brand favorably, and feel confident in evaluation in both competitive and non-competitive ad contexts. In contrast, LK individuals recall less target attributes, evaluate the target brand less favorably, and feel less confident in evaluation in the non-competitive than the competitive ad context. That is, competitive ad context (where both item-specific and relational processing are readily available) could benefit LK individuals but not HK individuals. This study extends previous research on item-specifi-crelational framework in consideration of competitive advertising contexts by demonstrating that LK individuals lacking in relational information can perform better in product memory and evaluation if provided with competitive brand information appropriately. This study also adds to the growing body of literature on competitive ad context by illustrating that its positive effect is not manifested in a uniform manner for all consumers and that product knowledge is a possible factor which guides its valence.