"Like and Dislike" Often Tell Us Nothing About Future Behavior

Consumer research always is difficult, but it is more difficult when questions about “value” are asked independently of price and other attributes. Consider the oft-noted observation that people hate ads.  In the abstract, and all other things being equal, that seems true enough.

But “liking or tolerating ads” is something different, if the issue is free content or “free functionality” in exchange for the ads, then people, even when not fond of ads, will tolerate them, within some reasonable bounds.

So people may not like ads, but will tolerate them so long as they see tangible benefits in exchange. That noted, there is a value-price relationship that content providers and advertisers have to be aware of.

Consumers will not tolerate  “excessive” amounts of advertising, or “highly intrusive” forms of advertising, repeated too often.

The point is that asking consumers what they like, and do not like, in the absence of value and cost considerations, will nearly always fail to capture or predict actual behavior.

Asking a typical consumer whether they “like ads” does not provide valuable insight. Behavior depends on the full value-cost relationship. Most consumers will tolerate some advertising to obtain free content or use of apps, with no major issues (think of Facebook, Google or other ad-supported services and apps).

Consumers might also say they prefer “no ads” experiences. But behavior depends on the mix of value obtained and costs paid to have an “ads-free” experience. Perhaps few consumers would choose “no ads” experiences if it meant substantially higher cost to use their favored apps and services.

It is generally true that consumers “hate advertising.” It also is true that those attitudes do not generally matter, when ads support free use of apps and services they value.

Design Element
Users Answering
"Very Negatively"
or "Negatively"
Pops-up in front of your window
95%
Loads slowly
94%
Tries to trick you into clicking on it
94%
Does not have a "Close" button
93%
Covers what you are trying to see
93%
Doesn't say what it is for
92%
Moves content around
92%
Occupies most of the page
90%
Blinks on and off
87%
Floats across the screen
79%
Automatically plays sound
79%

source: Nielsen Norman Group
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