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The Power of the Halo Effect in Marketing

The halo effect can drastically improve brand perception and drive customer loyalty. Learn what it is and how this can be applied in your marketing campaigns.

Meredith Cunningham Published: July 27, 2023
The Power of the Halo Effect in Marketing image

Here’s a fun fact for the day. No doubt, you’ve heard the term guilty by association. But did you know the saying has an opposite? It’s “honor by association.” In marketing, this term is better known as “the halo effect” and can lead to powerful brand affinity that helps attract new and loyal customers, all improving your brand’s bottom line.

How? Let’s jump right in.

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What is the Halo Effect?

First introduced by Psychologist Edward Thorndike in 1920, the halo effect is a cognitive bias, or a form of stereotyping, where a person will assume certain traits about someone based on first impressions. For example, you might assume that someone smiling is happy, some crying is sad, and someone yelling is mad. We know from real-world experience that someone smiling may be hiding their sadness, crying can be an act of happiness, and not all yelling is done out of anger.

In the context of marketing and advertising, the halo effect refers to a consumer’s positive sentiment toward certain brands, products, and services based on a few factors:

  • The consumer’s experience with the brand
  • An experience from another consumer with the brand (reviews, testimonials, word-of-mouth recommendations, social media presence)
  • An experience with the brand’s partners (a company it collaborated with, the channel in which it advertises

The word halo itself has positive connotations, referring to the circle of light around the head of angels, saints, and other religious figures. On the other side, there’s also the “horns effect,” in which consumers have a negative sentiment towards a brand for the aforementioned reasons.

How the Halo Effect Works

The halo effect is something all brands should want to achieve. Not only does it help put your brand in a favorable place in a consumer’s mind, but it’s a sentiment that can last years.

For example, just one positive experience with a product – let’s say sipping ice-cold water from a Hydro Flask water bottle on the summer’s hottest day of the year – will lead to positive views of its other products you’ve never bought 

But you will. After that ice-cold water relieves you from that 100+ degree day in the summer, you believe a Hydro Flask coffee mug will warm you up in the middle of winter too.

Or, let’s say this Hydro Flask scenario happened to a friend, and they’re telling you all about it. Your friend’s positive association with the brand translates into your positive association with the brand.

The Halo Effect & Local News

Brands of all shapes and sizes can also benefit from the halo effect in where and how they advertise.

Trust is crucial, and TVB found that local broadcast news is the most trusted platform among viewers. For advertisers, that halo extends to brands that advertise local news. In fact, studies show that consumers are more likely to trust – and buy from – brands that advertise alongside sources of information they trust, such as local TV news stations.

Take the Olympics, for example. The Olympic Games represent millions of Americans’ everyday values: hard work and dedication, teamwork and unity, heartbreak and loss, triumph and victory. By associating their brands with these values, studies show that Olympic sponsors see more than a 117% increase in positive association among Olympic fans.

“Historically, brands connected and showcased during the Olympics have seen significant ROI generated and elevated their brands to new heights,” says TEGNA’s Matt Ginn, Director of Enterprise. “It’s an invaluable and unique opportunity to have a direct, meaningful, and emotional connection with their existing and prospective customers.”

Extending that positive association with viewers, local journalists like Chris Egan at KING 5 in Seattle and Cheryl Preheim at 11Alive in Atlanta have cultivated meaningful relationships with their Olympic athletes, such as basketball star Sue Bird and swimmer Missy Franklin respectively. The athletes trust the journalists with their stories. Therefore, the viewers trust the journalists. The halo effect means that associated brands win by having these positive relationships with feel-good, trusted, and noteworthy content.

“It’s the connection with our local communities that allows TEGNA to set the standard of journalistic excellence versus other platforms,” says Ginn. “And the brands that we partner with get to reap the benefits of that halo as well.”

The Advantages of the Halo Effect

By creating positive brand associations due to the halo effect, brands have a cost-effective way to reap and sow several benefits and advantages in marketing and advertising campaigns.

Improvement in Brand Perception

Now more than ever, today’s consumers are passionate about aligning their values with the products they buy. No matter the brand, the halo effect is hard at work when brands get behind a worthy cause: fighting climate change, honoring our veterans, or collecting Toys for Tots are just a few ideas to improve brand perception and affinity. There are also numbers to back this idea up.

  • Porter Novelli found that 72% of consumers say it’s “more important than ever” to purchase from companies that reflect their values.
  • Blackhawk Network found that 60% of consumers want to buy from companies that give back to charitable causes. Additionally, 68% say they will purchase gift cards that benefit philanthropic endeavors.
  • Integer Group says that 57% will support brands that give back to local communities rather than supporting global or national causes.

Loyal Customers

InMoment found 80% of customers gain loyalty to a brand gradually due to experiences with excellent products, service, reviews, and advice. And it’s not just a number. Apple is a textbook example of how the halo effect helped create loyal customers. In 2005 the company put most of its marketing budget behind the iPod. Remember those? Consumers loved iPods, so much so this affinity led to increased sales of Apple’s Mac laptops. Because everyone loved their iPod, they knew they would also love their Mac laptops. Simple as that.

More Brand Awareness through Word of Mouth

Positive brand experiences that cause the halo effect also lead to increased positive reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations. Encouraging stats collected by HubSpot show:

  • American consumers share positive brand experiences with 11 people (American Express).
  • 81% of consumers trust family and friend recommendations more than company recommendations (HubSpot Research).
  • Emotional relationships with a brand lead customers to a 306% higher lifetime value. These consumers will then recommend a brand or company to others at a rate of 71%, compared to the average rate of 45% (Motista).

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How the Halo Effect Can Be Used in Campaigns

There are several ways can create a positive halo effect using marketing and advertising. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

Local News Sponsorships

Home service companies, like iRestore in St. Louis, can also attest to the halo effect with local TV broadcast news advertising. “Since partnering with KSDK, we’ve seen tremendous success. We’ve seen our stock rise in the local community regarding recognition. Customers feel a little more at ease when dealing with somebody they’ve recognized and seen on TV,” says Kirk Kupsky, owner of iRestore.

That’s because Kupsky has been a fixture on KSDK’s Show Me St. Louis, the station’s lifestyle show, and has run ads alongside news content, including severe weather alerts, on both linear and streaming platforms.

Influencer Marketing

For decades, brands have relied on celebrity endorsements and now influencer marketing to create the halo effect. Perhaps you’ve seen Subway’s latest campaign featuring popular athletes endorsing its sandwiches. The idea is, “If Subway is healthy enough for Peyton Manning and Steph Curry, then it’s healthy enough for me.” But, as Subway can speak to, be careful who endorses your product, as the halo effect can quickly turn into the horns effect.

Big Screen, Big Effect

How often has a commercial jingle gotten stuck in your head? How often has a Super Bowl commercial made you cry? By nature, TV ads are both an audio and visual medium. Because of this, audiences can connect to the content better emotionally. TV also allows audiences to visualize how a product or service can be used in real life.

Align with Live Events

Dynata found that with Super Bowl ads, there is “significant support to the idea that people who are more invested in the outcomes of live competitive content carry that engagement over to the advertisements that accompany it. Heavily invested NFL fans were more likely to recall seeing the ad, to like the ad, to be favorable to the brand advertised, to consider using that brand in the future, and to be positive about the ad creative.”

Align Your Campaigns With the Values Being Promoted

“We know that the environment is very important to our members and employees,” says Tory McVay, Chief Retail Officer & Marketing Executive at OnPoint Community Credit Union. “It often takes small steps to create a big impact as we work together to help build a greener future. The collaboration of the KGW Good Energy campaign and our Green Horizons initiative has been a great success. We have seen an incredible amount of interest in switching to electric and hybrid vehicles from our members and the community, and we are thrilled to continue to help members save money while positively impacting the environment.”

Examples of the Halo Effect in Local News

WUSA 9 & Toyota Make Environmental History with First-of-it’s-Kind News Truck

Benefiting from the positive news halo of WUSA9, Toyota’s sponsorship of ECO9 – which includes on-air, on-site community environmental events, OTT, and digital elements throughout the year – is broadcast to a large audience hungry for environmental stories. 

“We received information from our marketing department that our viewers really wanted to see more environmental stories on clean energy and how to lower their carbon footprint,” says Kareem Young, a Senior Account Executive at WUSA9. “When putting this sponsorship opportunity together, we wanted to partner with someone with a green initiative while extending their brand – and Toyota was the perfect fit.” 

Serving Results with Meals on Wheels People

Not only did Meals on Wheels People benefit from the local news halo with KGW, it also benefited from the Olympic halo, bringing in new audiences and increasing donations for its vision that no senior goes hungry or experiences social isolation. The creative produced has even won an Emmy!

Become a Part of TEGNA’s Halo Effect

Public trust, truth, and transparency have enormous value, and Team TEGNA continually showcases its commitment to providing trustworthy journalism and dedication to community service. What does that mean for brands advertising with the station and TEGNA affiliates? Contact us today to learn more about the news-trust halo and how it can extend to your brand. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Does the Halo Effect Impact Consumer Behavior?

In the context of marketing and advertising, the halo effect refers to a consumer’s positive sentiment toward certain brands, products, and services based on the consumer’s experience with the brand, an experience from another consumer with the brand (reviews, testimonials, word-of-mouth recommendations, social media presence), or an experience with the brand’s partners (a company it collaborated with, the channel in which it advertises).

What is the Horns Effect?

While the halo effect refers to a consumer’s positive sentiment toward certain brands, products, and services, the “horns effect” refers to a consumer’s negative sentiment towards a brand based on things like personal experience, the experience of friends or family, or negative reviews.

What is the Reverse Halo Effect?

Also known as the horns effect, the reverse halo effect refers to a consumer’s negative sentiment toward a brand, decreasing the chances a consumer will purchase.

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