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 22, 2015

Bose Noise Reduction Kills

The use of humour in advertising

Who doesn’t enjoy good quality music? In this advertisement for Bose headphones, a man is seemingly unaware that he is about to row his boat towards certain death. The headphones he has on are so good at reducing the outside noise that he doesn’t hear the sound of the looming waterfall, hence the catchphrase “Bose Noise Reduction Kills” at the top right corner of the ad.

Bose ventured a humorous ad in order to catch the attention of the costumers. In fact, humour has been proven to be useful in some instances regarding advertising. Chattopadhyah and Basu (1990) conducted an experiment in which they determined in which ways humour can influence consumer behaviour. 

They hypothesized that an individual’s previous evaluation of the brand would be a mediator in the effectiveness of humour in the persuasive message. In other words, if an individual had a prior positive evaluation of the brand, he would produce more positive cognitive elaborations towards the ad/brand. Similarly, if an individual had a prior negative evaluation of the brand, he would produce proportionately more negative cognitive elaborations towards the ad/brand.
They tested humorous and non-humorous ads, as well as participants with positive and negative prior brand evaluations, to be able to observe the effect of humour. The results coincided with the hypothesis (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Effects of humour and prior brand evaluation on attitude towards the ad and brand attitude

As you can see the participants who had a prior positive evaluation of the ad/brand were much more likely to have a more positive attitude towards the ad/brand after having seen the humourous ad than the participants who had a prior negative evaluation of the ad and brand. It is interesting to notice that in the no humour condition, participants did not differ significantly towards their brand attitude, regardless of prior brand evaluation.

As such, it seems important for companies to ensure that they have an overall positive brand image before publishing humorous adverts. If the costumers see a brand in a positive light, then the use of humour in ads is an effective way to maintain a good customer base.
Fortunately, by being the market leader in many countries and by radiating values of quality and innovation, it is most likely that Bose benefited from this bold use of humour and found yet another way to enhance brand recognition.

Chattopadhyay, A., & Basu, K. (1990). Humor in Advertising: The Moderating Role of Prior Brand Evaluation, Journal of Marketing Research, 27, 4, 466-476.

Norah Cotterall-Debay

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