1 Key Terms and Concepts

Absolute threshold: A term that refers to the smallest (minimal) level of a stimuli (e.g. sound; sight, taste) that can still be detected at least half of the time.Attention: Following “exposure” in the perceptual process, Attention describes the dedicated effort and focus we give to incoming sensory information (e.g. sights, sounds).

Differential threshold (“JND”): The differential threshold – also known as the JND or just noticeable difference – refers to the minimum difference in intensity that can be detected between two objects (e.g. the size of two bags of potato chips or the subtle difference in two logo designs).

Exposure: This term refers to the vast amount of stimuli that surround us and that we come into contact with on a regular basis. In marketing this refers to the massive amount of commercial advertisements, commercials, products, branding, packaging, etc.

Guerilla Marketing: A type of experiential advertising that is highly engaging, unanticipated, unique, unconventional, innovative, and designed with the intent to be memorable and become viral.

Hype: Hype is a form of intense publicity and promotion that helps drive up the value of consumer goods and services. Consumers and resellers use social media platforms to exchange information and discuss products that are rare and sought-after are “hyping up” a good, which often results in a higher resale price.

Interpretation: Following exposure and attention, Interpretation is the third part of the perceptual process and occurs when we give meaning to information and messages that have gained our attention.

Limen: A threshold (like an invisible line) that separates what one can perceive and what one can’t perceive: stimuli (sounds, sights) that fall below the limen are considered “subliminal” (not detectable, or below our own awareness level) and stimuli above the limen we detect and are aware of.

Perception: A term used to describe the process we undergo when we organize and interpret the sensations we experience. Perception gives us the ability to interpret meaning of what our sensory receptors are experiencing.

Perceptual defense: In a marketing context, this occurs when consumers distort or ignore advertising messages that we may feel are personally threatening, uncomfortable, or even culturally unacceptable.

Perceptual filters: When we take new information in, we organize and interpret it based on our prior experiences as well as our cultural norms. Perceptual filters help us make sense of new information and reduce anxiety when faced with the unknown (uncertainties).

Perceptual mapping: A visual and graphic display (e.g. often a grid) that illustrates the perceptions customers have of a group of competing brands.

Perceptual process: A process that begins when our sensory receptors (eyes, ears, tongue, nose, and skin) come in contact with sensory stimuli (sight, sounds, tastes, odours, and textiles) followed by the degree to which we pay attention to these stimuli and the meaning we draw from them (interpretation).

Perceptual system: A system informed by our senses and sensory memories that help us interpret and understand the environment around us.

Perceptual vigilance: In a marketing context, this occurs when consumers pay more attention (committed focus) to advertising messages that are relevant to our current state of being and/or meet our current unmet needs and wants.

Positioning: A strategy developed by marketers to help influence how their target market (consumers) perceives a brand compared to the competition.

Repositioning: This process involves changing the positioning of a brand so that the target market perceives the brand differently than before and anticipates different expectations and experiences compared to the competition.

Salience: A term used to describe objects or stimuli that attract and hold our attention because we find them important relevant, prominent, or coming into our lives in a timely manner.

Schemata: Described as being like “databases” in our memory, the schemata contains stored information based on our past experiences that help us make sense of and interpret new experiences.

Selective attention: A term that describes our focused commitment to only some of the stimuli and senses that we come in contact with, based on what is relevant to our needs and/or interests.

Selective distortion: A term used to describe situations in which people (consumers) interpret messages and information (advertisements/product labeling) in a way that supports their pre-existing beliefs.

Selective exposure: When we deliberately choose to come in contact with information from particular sources (e.g. social media, videos, advertisements, podcasts) we are engaging in selective exposure.

Selective retention: A term used to describe when we forget information, despite it being important for us to retain and interpret (e.g. public service announcements that may help us live a better life, but we do not retain because we are uncomfortable with the idea of confronting our habits and/or behaviours).

Sensation: The awareness we experience when our sensory receptors are engaged with the environment around us.

Sensory adaptation: This terms describes a decreased sensity to stimulus (information/messages) after a long period of constant exposure. For consumers, this may be described as a form of (marketing/advertising) fatigue where they tune out (become less sensitive to) the same stimulus (ad) over time.

Sensory marketing: Sensory marketing involves engaging consumers with one or more of their senses (see, touch, taste, smell, hear) with the intention to capture their attention and store the sensory information for future processing.

Sensory receptors: A term used to encompass our eyes, ears, tongue, nose, and skin which come into contact with sensory stimuli — the environment around us — made up of sights, sounds, tastes, odours, and textiles.

Stimuli: A smell, sound, object or anything else that engages our brain to pay attention and interpret what we have come in contact with in our environment.

Subliminal perception/Subliminal advertising: The belief that “hidden messages” in marketing are effectively influencing consumers to engage in specific decision making behaviour (e.g. secret messages telling consumers to buy certain brands).

Weber’s Law: This law states that the differential threshold (the just noticeable difference) is a constant proportion (or ratio) of the original stimulus.


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