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.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sneakers Get Dirty

Converse is an American shoe company that bases its advertisement not solely on shoes themselves but on the lifestyle that comes with it. Converse generally targets young adults between the ages of 18-24 years and has a huge appeal for skateboarders and the “alternative scene” whom its advertisements are generally aimed at.

This poster for converse is very much targeted at a distinct group of individuals, portraying the shoes as worn by “gig-goers” and “party-people”. Targeted advertisements work so well as they resonate with characteristics that are viewed as desirable or meaningful to the intended audiences. Research on persuasion has resounded with multiple support that any factor that leads viewers to make judgements of similarity between themselves and the source of the advertising (in this case, the alternative bunch in the poster) enhances positive response to the advertisement (Mackie et al 1990).

Markets often look for meaningful characteristics by which to divide a single heterogeneous market into separate consumer segments that may be courted more effectively (and this is exactly what converse have done). Distinctiveness theory was developed by McGuire in the 1970’s but has only been applied to marketing since the 1990’s. It is based on the idea that people define themselves by traits that are numerically rare in their local environment; in this case, the alternative scene. Research has found that members of these distinct groups attend more to targeted advertisements and favour them more strongly compared to their non-targeted counterparts (Deshpande et al 1994).

By targeting a specific subculture converse has, rather than narrowing their client base, encouraged this already existing social structure to associate the shoes with themselves. Wearing converse is a statement; that you are cool, that you’re a rebel. However therein lies the humour of the whole situation. By buying shoes targeted directly at you for being a rebel, how rebellious are you actually being?

Alice Susan Owen

Deshpand√©, Rohit & Stayman, D. (1994). A Tale of Two Cities: Distinctiveness  Theory and Advertising Effectiveness,  Journal of Marketing Research, 31, 57-64.
Mackie, D. M., Worth, L. T., & Asuncion, A. G. (1990). Processing of persuasive in-group messages. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 812–822.
McGuire, W. J., Padawer, S. A. (1976). Trait salience and the spontaneous self-concept. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33, 743-754.

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