Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Friday, January 25, 2013

TOMS: Sleep Better Tonight



This ad by TOMS employs the emotional tactic of guilt. The ad displays a single shoe with small print writing underneath that says, “Our shoes won’t make you run faster or jump higher, but they might help you sleep better.” The main statement that the ad implies is that anyone who doesn’t support this type of charitable behavior feels a type of guilt, causing them to lose sleep at night.

If one was not feeling this way before seeing this ad, the ad definitely brings the idea into consciousness. By not taking action to help others you should feel guilty. While the viewer of the ad is not directly responsible for the guilt they are feeling, most people hold a self image that holds the idea that they care about the well being of others and are willing to support charities that help those in need.


The image looks to be printed on a canvas looking material, which could be symbolic for the type of people you will be helping. Those that will benefit from the purchase are not living a life of luxury, as canvas material is a fabric that is made to withstand a lot and last for a long time. The communicator, TOMS shoes, asks people to look beyond the fact that the product they are selling will not do anything to help them physically, but instead will help a third party in need. The person in need is not the one asking for help or displayed in the ad at all, the consumer is just made to imagine a person in some far off country that is shoeless, causing guilt. 

At the very bottom of the ad in even smaller print, is writing that says “For every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of shoes to a child in need. Since 2006 we gave given over 140,000 shoes to 280,000 little feet. We call it “one for one’ and we think it’s the best possible fashion statement you can make.” This statement at the bottom of the ad also plays into the guiltiness that the viewer of this ad is seeing because the general public would agree that they are in support giving to those in need, especially children. I found it interesting that the ad chose to say children instead of person in need, because it is not only young children that are in need of shoes. This statement also goes back to the first by sort of downplaying their product but bringing it back up by reminding the consumer of all the good things the company has done. The shoes are great for playing sports, or even very fashionable, but they do help people! Just not the person actually making the purchase. 

A study conducted by Hibbert, Smith, Davies and Ireland found that advertisements made by charities that induce guilt are positively related to donation intention, though  knowledge on persuasion did impact the effect of the guilt aroused. Participants of this study were measured on their intention to donate after being exposed to an advertisement, the level of guilt felt after viewing the ad, various aspects of persuasion knowledge as well as agent knowledge.Participants were recruited through their workplace and the data was gathered through questionnaires. The results concluded that the participant’s skepticism and the manipulative intent of the guilt appeal were negatively related to guilt arousal. The research also found that a person’s affective evaluation and beliefs about the charity employing the guilt appeals to raise awareness or funds was positively related to the feelings of guilt experienced. The finding from this study that I found most interesting was the positive relationship between perceive manipulative intent and a person’s intentions to donate, because even though a viewer could perceive the manipulative approach of the message, their intentions to donate were still swayed positively. Overall, this study confirmed that charities' use of emotion inducing messages are efficient to get viewers to perceive the message while at the same time be persuaded by either their guilt or perceived belief about what the ad is trying to accomplish, and in the end be persuaded by the image.

Hibbert, S., Smith, A., Davies, A. and Ireland, F., 2007. Guilt appeals: Persuasion knowledge and charitable giving.Psychology & Marketing, 24(8), pp. 723-742.

1 comment:

  1. Your description of the research seems very thorough. Thanks for the excellent contribution.

    ReplyDelete

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