Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Robert J. Fisher

Second Advisor

Dr. Mark Vandenbosch

Third Advisor

Dr. Kersi D. Antia


There has been growing interest in advertising message content and its effects on brand performance. While advertising message cues influence performance, long-term strategies to manage the content of advertising messages and the impact of such strategies on the brand’s market performance are unclear. Given the crucial role played by strategically appropriate message content in determining the success of a brand, the paucity of systematic research on the long-term effects of advertising message content is rather surprising. Research on advertising effectiveness may be categorized into two mostly disparate streams - econometric studies that look at advertising over time, and behavioral studies of advertising content. While econometric studies have explored the effects of advertising on actual market performance, they have primarily focused on advertising intensity - the amount of advertising for the brand. In contrast, behavioral studies investigate the effects of advertising content on behavioral intentions, not market outcomes, and are mostly cross-sectional and laboratory-based. I examine the role of advertising message content in brand development. The present study is the first, to the best of my knowledge, to assess the impact of three critical elements of advertising message content - temporal consistency, focus, and differentiation - on brands’ realized sales outcomes over an extended window of observation. Temporal consistency of advertising messages is the extent to which the

brand’s advertising messages are uniform over time. Message focus is the extent to which the brand’s advertising messages convey a single benefit. Advertising message differentiation is the extent to which the advertising message(s) of the focal brand differ from those of its competitors. In particular, the present study also sheds light on whom to differentiate from. Integrating insights from the literatures on consumer knowledge and signaling theory, I look at the effects of these three advertising content-related elements on brand sales over the life of a product category. Focused, differentiated, and consistent ads increase the clarity and credibility of the firm’s advertising signals and also increase consumers’ knowledge which, in turn, improve the sales performance of the brand. I also contend that the importance of signaling is most pronounced in young markets and consumers’ knowledge is higher in mature categories, so advertising content strategies may need to differ between young and mature markets. I test my hypotheses in the context of US minivan sales, creating a unique dataset from four different sources: (1) monthly sales, price, and distribution intensity for all brands from Ward’s Automotive Yearbook, (2) ad content ratings of approximately 2,000 print advertisements from a census of minivan ads from 7 leading magazines, (3) quality ratings for each brand from Consumer Reports, and (4) monthly advertising budgets for each brand from Competitive Media Reporting over a 21-year period from category inception. I specify a piecewise random-effects regression model that accounts for

unobserved heterogeneity, the endogeneity of marketing mix decisions, and varying effects by stage of category life cycle. The results indicate that brand managers should use consistent and focused advertising messages in a young market. Also, advertising messages that are differentiated from the market leader increase sales in a young market. In contrast, in mature markets, advertising messages should be differentiated from other competitors. In addition, brand managers have more leeway to refresh and change advertising content and use more disperse ads as the category ages.



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