The impact of advertising message strategy ‐ fair labour v. sexual appeal ‐ upon Gen Y consumers' intent to patronize an apparel retailer
Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to examine Gen Y consumers' responses to American Apparel's use of two advertising message strategies – fair labour and sex appeal, using the theory of reasoned action to predict intent to patronize American Apparel and comparing the utility of the classic reasoned action model with an extended model that included variables external to the theory. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A questionnaire was administered to 425 consumers, who were randomly assigned to one of four advertisement exposure groups. Group 1 evaluated an American Apparel ad (Ad No. 1) that promoted fair labour practices. Groups 2, 3, and 4 evaluated Ad No. 1 as well as one of three additional ads that featured messages employing sex appeal of varied intensities. Findings ‐ Participants' attitudes toward American Apparel were more positive when they were exposed to the fair labour message, only, than when they were exposed to the fair labour message in conjunction with one of the three sex appeal messages. In the classic reasoned action models, intent to patronize American Apparel was consistently predicted by attitude toward the retailer. Extending the models increased the explained variance for Groups 1, 2, and 3, with several variables adding predictive utility. Research limitations/implications ‐ A fair labour message may contribute to positive evaluations of apparel advertisements and may build positive attitudes toward apparel retailers. Thus, when appropriate, apparel retailers might consider using a fair labour message strategy, rather than a sex appeal message strategy. Originality/value ‐ The study explores consumer responses to two distinct advertising message strategies not often used simultaneously by a single company within the contemporary marketplace and examines the influence of these responses and other variables on patronage intention.