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.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Give up yer aul sins


Famously founded in Dublin in 1759 by Arthur Guinness, Guinness has been a brand synonymous with leading marketing campaigns since their first ad proclaiming the health benefits of drinking ‘the black stuff’ in 1929. This is the latest offering from the beverage giant, and they use a number of persuasive techniques to get their message across.

Phones down, please.

In this proclamation, the ad gurus working at Guinness have picked up on a growing societal sentiment that we spend too much time interacting with our screens and not with our friends.

Guinness has targeted this phenomenon of Android/Apple alienation, and implores consumers to put down their phones to pay attention to those in the immediate vicinity, and to presumably spend more time at the bar buying pints.

To achieve this aim they have employed the Replacement Version of the Pictorial Analogy Template, which Goldenburg, Mazursky and Solomon (1999) found to be a highly successful ad concept. The phones stacked on top of each other (such that no one can access their own) clearly resemble a pint of Guinness, and is a clever way of linking modern technological trends with the iconic pint symbol that is such a valuable asset to Guinness.

But wait, there’s more

Aside from the clever pictorial analogy, there are more subtle factors at play here that make this an effective ad. Guinness knows that imaging the desired course of action increases the probability that the desired course of action is taken (Gregory, Cialdini, & Carpenter, 1982).

Another persuasive technique successfully deployed here is the use of social proof, or bandwagon effect. The ad aims to achieve its aims by supplying the consumer with information about how to behave in a social setting: “if my friends aren’t preoccupied with their phones then I shouldn’t be either”. There is also the fact that there are 16 phones in this (presumably rather wobbly) stack. This imagery in itself provides a strong cue for desired behaviour, and is an example of a normative influence, where the individual complies in order to avoid exclusion from the group (Williams, 2001).

So whatcha gonna do

This ad is very direct in how it goes about achieving its aims. Apart from the commanding language used in the tagline, this ad seeks to embarrass the target of influence in order to make the viewer feel like they have violated socially acceptable behaviour, and should comply in order to repair self-image, i.e., get off BBC sport and get another round in (Pratkanis, 2007).

Once the target has been suitably embarrassed, there is an implicit question to be answered: well, what will I do next time I’m in the pub? If a self-prediction is made about intention to carry out a certain type of behaviour, you are more likely to behave in that way. This is believed to occur via two pathways; cognitive dissonance arousal – where the target seeks to align what was predicted with their own behaviour, and by providing a cognitive script – you don’t have to think about what to do because you have already given yourself the answer (Pratkanis 2007; Spangenberg, Sprott, Grohmann, & Smith, 2003; Williams, Block, & Fitzgerald, 2006). This is known as the question behaviour effect.

Guinness the Luddite

By utilizing these persuasive techniques, Guinness has gone for an unusual message. Being such a huge brand already, they probably aren’t hugely concerned with directly increasing sales by extolling the qualities of their product. Rather they have sought to draw cultural battle lines, establishing itself as a traditional thinking man’s drink, and benefitting from the publicity surround the smartphone backlash.


Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., & Solomon, S. (1999). Creative sparks.Science, 285(5433), 1495-1496.

Gregory, W. L., Cialdini, R. B., & Carpenter, K. M. (1982). Self-relevant scenarios as mediators of likelihood estimates and compliance: Does imagining make it so?. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43(1), 89.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, 17-82.

Spangenberg, E. R., Sprott, D. E., Grohmann, B., & Smith, R. J. (2003). Mass-communicated prediction requests: Practical application and a cognitive dissonance explanation for self-prophecy. Journal of Marketing, 47-62.

Williams, K. D. (2001). Ostracism: The Power of Silence: New York.

Williams, P., Block, L. G., & Fitzgerald, G. J. (2006). Simply asking questions about health behaviors increases both healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Social Influence, 1.  

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