UMSL Business Blog

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Assistant Professor Dan Grossman Discovers Interesting Findings Between Brand Exposure and Preferential Decision Making

Whether you are walking down the street, driving your car, listening to the radio, or watching television, you are being marketed to, you are surrounded by advertisements. Brands have become dominant in our lives as we see logos almost everywhere. Dr. Daniel Grossman, (Assistant Professor of Marketing in the College of Business), and co-authors Dr. Ryan Rahinel (Associate Professor of Marketing – University of Oregon), Dr. Ashley Otto (Associate Professor of Marketing – Baylor University), and Dr. Joshua J. Clarkson (Arthur Beerman Professor of Marketing – University of Cincinnati), deeply investigated how saturated brand environments influence decision-making. They found that brand exposure makes preferential decisions easier and that leads people to be more satisfied with their decisions when brands are present (even when those decisions have nothing to do with the surrounding brands). 


dr. dan grossman umsl

Dr. Daniel Grossman

Dr. Grossman and co-authors used a term called preferential decisions, he defined it as “decisions in which we are trying to decide what we want to consume (e.g., purchase, for instance, after looking at the big cheesecake factory menu, I’ll go with the wagyu burger) or what is it that I prefer (e.g., after checking a dating profile whether deciding to swipe right or left)”. When brands are present, this leads to decision ease in preferential decisions. At first, this seems somewhat intuitive, but Dr. Dan Grossman explains that the effect occurs even when the brands that people are exposed to have nothing to do with the decisions they are asked to make. This has a lot to do with classical conditioning; Dr. Ivan Pavlov’s foundation theory in psychology. Dr. Grossman gave an example of buying chips in a grocery store, “I’m walking down the aisles of Schnucks and I’m making decisions. I’m trying to decide what chips to buy, what food to buy… And over and over again, I’m pairing decisions and brands together…when I remove the decision, and I only have the brand exposure…it enacts that decision readiness and it makes subsequent preferential decisions easier even when they are completely unrelated to the brand exposure. And the fact that people perceive the decision to be easier actually makes them more satisfied with that decision.”


The group conducted seven laboratory experiments to test their hypotheses. Collectively, the experiments provided evidence that brand exposure leads to an increase in decision readiness, and the associated downstream outcomes (i.e., increased decision ease and increased decision satisfaction).


Dr. Grossman has three big key takeaways from the research:

  1. For policy: Commercial displays could lead to potential positive effects for people. This is something that lawmakers need to consider before deciding to ban outdoor advertising as they have in São Paulo, Brazil and several European cities.
  2. The science of decision-making: If preparation is done by individuals beforehand, then it makes decision-making easier and people feel satisfied with the decision that they made. Preparing oneself to make a decision is akin to stretching before exercising in that it takes minor effort and leads to beneficial outcomes.
  3. Brands have a new role in society:  When we think about brands’ role in current society, we usually think about them as being indicators of quality or indicating the bundle of attributes people are going to get with a specific option… and that brands help individuals make preferential decisions for the options to which the brands they are attached to… Dr. Grossman’s research shows that this relationship between brands and preferential decisions spans far wider than we’ve ever really known as brand exposure can even lead to increased decision satisfaction when that decision has nothing to do at all with the brands that someone is being exposed to.


To discover the full spectrum of brand exposure’s effect on decision-making, read the full paper here