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.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Humor in Brands...

With so many advertisements to increase sales and promote a brand, how on earth can you separate yours from the rest to get potential buyers interested without them being so annoyed that they never want to see it again (hello GoCompare)? Humor has been shown by numerous studies to be an extremely effective method of reaching consumers, and has shown signs of not only reducing but also countering negative responses to advertisements (Eisend, 2009; Skalski, Tamborini, Glazer, & Smith, 2009). However little has been shown on humor and its effect on a brand as opposed to an advertisement!
Strick, Holland, van Baaren, and van Knippenberg (2012), looked at how the use of humor can help prevent the development of negative brand associations through its distracting properties. They conditioned half of the participants to know nothing about the brand owner (control condition), and the other half (resistance condition) to know that the brand owners main goal was money, and that he was willing to use illegitimate means to achieve this e.g. through subliminal messages.
After this, participants were randomly assigned to receive either; 15 humorous texts, 15 non-distracting positive texts, 15 distracting neutral texts (e.g. maths solving), or 15 non-distracting neutral texts (all forms of texts being paired with three brands). They were then given a surprise recognition test.
Results found that; resistance significantly increased negative opinions of a brand, however if the formation of a negative opinion was disrupted by humor, its distracting effect can be seen when associated with non-distracting stimuli. Similarly, the more the humor distracted a persons attention, the better it prevented the development of negative brand associations.
This suggests that humor can influence resistant consumers without their awareness and can decrease their negative interpretations of the brand! This research proposes that the practical implication of humor in ads is useful in enhancing consumer choice and increasing a brand’s positive associations. This research does not however suggest that it can undo pre-existing negative brand associations!


Eisand, M (2009). A meta-analysis of humor in advertising. Journal of the academy of marketing science, 37, 191-203.
Skalski, P., Tamborini, R., Glazer, E., & Smith, S. (2009). Effects of humour on presence & recall of persuasive messages. Communication quarterly, 57, 136-153.
Strick, M., Holland, R., van Baaren, R., & van Knippenberg, A. (2012). Those who laugh are defenseless: how humor breaks resistance to influence. Journal of experimental psychology: applied, 12, 1-11.

Grace Pattison.





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