Great Super Bowl commercials engage us with wonderful stories and some humor as well. Is there more to it than that though? Could we use cognitive science to understand why some ads have a bigger impact than others? Ad Age magazine sat down with Carey Morewedge, associate professor of marketing at Boston University. Professor Morewedge explained how certain principles from the research on cognitive biases help us explain the power of certain very memorable commercials. First, Morewedge points to the legendary "1984" ad from Apple as well as last year's BMW Super Bowl commercial. In both cases, the representativeness heuristic is at work. Ad Age's Michele Fabrizi explains:
"Analogies transfer positive associations with a good, old idea to the new idea. In scenes evoking the well-known novel "1984," the hammer-wielding young heroine smashing the existing norm heralds the societal sea change promised by the introduction of Apple's Macintosh. We see the same principle effectively used again -- albeit with ironic humor -- in last year's BMW "New Fangled Idea" (No. 23 on Ad Age's list). Here a look back at Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel's failure to initially recognize the massive future impact of the internet is juxtaposed against their confused first response to an electric car."
Morewedge also points to the principle of loss framing as a mechanism by some commercials have a powerful impact on us. Fabrizi explains: "Loss framing offers an approach to elevate the importance of a brand's benefits. This principle tells us that the pain of losing a thing we own is about twice as powerful as the pleasure we would feel acquiring it." FedEx ran an ad called "We Apologize" that took advantage of loss framing. It didn't focus on the benefits of FedEx's timely service. Instead, it showcased (with humor) the dangers of bad service and delayed deliveries.