Behaviour Change

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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

2944 Aurora: An affordable spaceship for everyone

An affordable space-ship for everyone? The 2944 Aurora attempts to be just that and much more. Brought to you by Robert Space Industries, this advert promises not only a product with a myriad of customisation options and features, but also a tailored experience perfect just for you.

The narrator of the advert guides you through his experience of ordering an Aurora, combining two marketing techniques in a powerful way. Storytelling and similarity. Not only does storytelling function as an informal, easy-to-understand channel of delivering information, it is also more likely to elicit viewer's response consistent to the content of the story (Pennington, & Hastie, 1992) - in this case ordering the product.

Noticed something special about the narrator? Me neither. He seems to be just like you and me, an everyday guy you could see ordering a drink at your local cafe. This marketing technique is called the communicator-recipient similarity and was first discussed by Brock (1965). Often people are most comfortable buying from those just like them. Having a narrator that you easily associate with creates the illusion of them being the seller of the product - and who could resist buying from an everyday John.

Another interesting technique is the use of questions. Notice that this ad features a surprisingly high number of these. Is the narrator simply that curious? Or has he run out of things to say? Perhaps it is the fact that questions rarely allow us to dispute their content? A biased-enquiry strategy (Ginzel, 1994) is one where the content of the question is presented in a carefully organised way, directing the listener's attention a specific way. Do you ask yourself whether the Aurora really offers an amazing amount of cargo capacity? Of course not, you take that for granted, after all, the question told you so.

But are you really buying a spaceship? The real trick of this advertisment is the fact that the Robert Space Industries is a fictional company and you are buying a virtual ship within a videogame. Cloud Imperium Games (the actual company behind this advert) shifts your point of view, dragging you right into the simulated environment to consider the purchase. Not only does the shift of perspective influence your decisionmaking capabilities (Iyengar, 1991), it also implicitly suggests you have already purchased the product.

While most entertainment companies struggle, Cloud Imperium Games are developing Star Citizen, to this date the most popular crowd-funded videogame on the market, so far generating over 37 million dollars (and the game has not even been released yet). It is impossible to purchase the game on its own, all of the purchases consist of buying one of the in-game spaceships, most of which have advertisements just like this one.

Creating a straight-forward advertisement is so last year, if you want to profit, go inception-style!


Brock, T. C. (1965). Communicator-recipient similarity and decision change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1(6), 650.

Ginzel, L. E. (1994). The impact of biased inquiry strategies on performance judgments. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 57(3), 411-429.

Iyengar, S. (1991). Is Anyone Responsible? How Television Frames Political Issues. Chicago: Univ.

Pennington, N., & Hastie, R. (1992). Explaining the evidence: Tests of the Story Model for juror decision making. Journal of personality and social psychology, 62(2), 189.

article by Tomas Engelthlaer


  1. I have been reading this blog for a while, but this is the best article so far!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.