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, February 6, 2014

KitKat's limited edition campaign

A KitKat marketing campaign in 2012 involved the launch of four limited edition flavours. A previous post explained the persuasive techniques employed in this campaign in terms of scarcity- a product tends to be perceived as more valuable if it is less available.

The author of that post also mentioned the tendency for supermarkets to run out of a particular flavour, which may start a relentless hunt which culminates in stocking up when you finally track it down. Research has indicated that when a great deal of effort goes into obtaining an object, we justify this expenditure by increasing our liking of it. So, the lengths we go to when searching for that bar of KitKat cause us to consider it even tastier, making the whole thing more worthwhile.

An interesting study by Aronson and Mills (1959) illustrates this effect. Participants who engaged in a severe initiation to join what was revealed to be a boring discussion gave a more positive opinion of the discussion than those who engaged in mild or no initiation. Thus, the amount of effort spent on the initiation lead to attitude change in these individuals.

Another aspect of the campaign invited consumers to vote for their favourite flavour on Facebook, and the winning one was to become a permanent product. Firstly, the use of social media works to the brand’s advantage. Media exposure has been shown to positively influence campaign and brand recall (van den Putte, 2009), meaning it’s more likely people will be aware of, and remember, these limited edition flavours as well as KitKat overall. There is no doubt the campaign has enjoyed success on Facebook, with the KitKat page receiving a huge growth in likes and becoming one of the top growing pages of that period.

Having consumers actively vote for their favourite flavour also serves to enhance liking in other ways. For example, people tend to develop their self-concept based on their own actions (Bem, 1972). That is, our actions tell us a lot about our beliefs, values and attitudes, so in voting for our favourite flavour we are reflecting on how much we like the product and inferring that we have a positive attitude towards it. We are also making a commitment for ourselves and others to see, and we are likely to act consistently with this (probably by buying yet more bars).

To demonstrate, a study carried out by Cioffi and Garner (1996) showed that making a decision actively results in more commitment to it than making the same decision passively. Participants indicated whether they were willing to volunteer for an AIDS awareness project on a form in either an active (affirming it on two items) or passive (skipping two items) way. Those who made an active choice took a more extreme position toward their decision, even weeks after, and were more likely to turn up to the project if they had volunteered. In keeping with the self-perception view, the results showed that a more active display of choice lead people to attribute their decision to their own traits, attitudes and tendencies to a larger degree. Therefore, we can see how a simple click on Facebook could increase our liking of the chosen flavour and keep us going back for more long after we’ve made our decision!


Aronson, E., & Mills, J. (1959). The effect of severity of initiation on liking for a group. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 59, 177-181.

Bem, D. J. (1972) Self-perception theory. In L. Berkowitz (ed), Advances in experimental social psychology, 6, 1-62.

Cioffi, D., & Garner, R. (1996). On doing the decision: effects of active versus passive choice on commitment and self-perception, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 133-147.

Van den Putte, B. (2009). What matters most in advertising campaigns? The relative effect of media expenditure and message content, International Journal of Advertising, 28, 669-690. 

Charlotte Chan

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