Consumers are increasingly likely to impulse buy when product and brand advertising contains puzzles such riddles or anagrams, a new study claims.
Research published today in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology states that retailers who subtly manipulate their target market's memories could gain an advantage over their competitors by creating 'brand empathy' in consumers.
The study's author conducted a series of experiments that involved giving participants basic anagrams to solve before showing them a series of retail brands and products.
In the majority of cases, if the individual had successfully unscrambled the anagram they created a false sense of recognition and affinity towards the brand, regardless of whether they had encountered it before.
A number of participants also believed that they had known the brand since they were at school after solving the word puzzles.
Antonia Kronlund, the author of the study from the University of Chicago graduate school of business explained: "It's the actual contrast between seeing the anagram in its initial, versus its solved form, that we believe creates this preference effect. That is because the anagram in its initial form appears to be non-fluent, participants have never seen anagrams such as 'ganecy' before.
"Once solved, however, the solution is processed with high fluency. Think of the 'aha' experience one would feel when realising the solution is 'agency'. We believe that this surprising fluency, arising from the disparity, gets misattributed to brand recognition and preference."
With impulse buying being responsible for $4 billion (£2.2 billion) retail spending annually in the US alone, retailers are constantly looking for new advertising angles in which to appeal to consumers.
"Our research demonstrates that certain problem solving techniques, which pose a challenge to the consumer, trigger a response that makes the target brand seem highly fluent, or familiar. This process consistently translates into increased recognition of the brand, and more importantly, higher preference towards the brand over the competition. Such techniques can be used by marketers in magazine layouts, in store displays - the possibilities are endless," added Dr Kronlund.