Advertisers grapple with reaching consumers with the right brand messages at the right time even when economic times are good. In an economic downturn, with the need to maximize the impact of marketing dollars, delivering effective advertising is even more critical. While conventional wisdom might suggest that advertisers should try to reach consumers when they have their full faculties available — and not when they are tired and fatigued — new research in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Marketing Research suggests this might not be the case. In particular, during times of the day when consumers are tired or worn out, exposure to advertising can strengthen the confidence consumers have about their attitudes about an advertised brand — and those with positive feelings might be more inclined to make a purchase. According to the researchers, the state of feeling tired or run down when exposed to advertising messages is called "regulatory depletion." In this new research, Derek D. Rucker, associate professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and his co-authors explored whether a state of being depleted might have an effect on the amount of certainty or confidence consumers have in their attitudes toward a particular ad or product. To test their theory, the authors conducted three experiments in which research participants were first put into depleted or non-depleted states, and then asked to carefully attend to advertisements about a cracker snack and toothpaste. Participants noted their attitude and their attitude certainty toward the advertised product, and indicated their decision of whether or not they would buy the product. The researchers found a surprising and previously unknown effect of feeling depleted. While both groups came to similar opinions about an advertised product, the depleted consumers were more certain about their attitudes. Furthermore, those with positive outlooks had an increased desire to buy a product as a result of this increased certainty. "This indicates that consumers might have the perception of having engaged in deeper processing of advertising messages when they are feeling depleted. This has important implications for marketers, as attitude certainty is an important measure of advertising effectiveness," said Rucker. Rucker said this research can be a springboard for real-life marketing practice. For example, marketers with highly engaging messages can benefit from targeting consumers at times of the day when they are likely to feel depleted, such as in the evening or after work, he noted. Source: "The Effect of Regulatory Depletion on Attitude Certainty" conducted by Derek D. Rucker, associate professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, in conjunction with Echo Wen Wan, assistant professor of marketing at the School of Business, University of Hong Kong; Zakary L. Tormala, associate professor of marketing at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University; and Joshua J. Clarkson, post-doctoral fellow at the University of Florida. The full study will be published in 2010 in the Journal of Marketing Research, a publication of the American Marketing Association. Website: www.kellogg.northwestern.edu.