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

The trick of Freebies...

How many times have you been persuaded into buying a product because it comes with freebies? This kind of marketing happens all the time in beauty product brands where they offer you a free product if you buy something else. Recently I went to buy some new face cream, and whilst I was browsing, the sales assistant began to tell me about their different products and their prices. Whilst I was choosing which cream I preferred, the assistant informed me that as a special offer, if I bought a particular face cream, it would come with a free mascara and eye cream. This technique persuaded me to buy that face cream even though it was slightly more expensive than the rest. This is called the “that’s not all technique” in which a sales assistant shows you a product, then goes on to improve the deal by offering something for free if you buy the product.

Burger (1986) showed this technique in a study by using cupcakes and cookies. In the “that’s not all condition” participants that walked up to a cupcake stand and asked about the price of a cupcake were initially told it was 75c. After a few moments, whilst the participant deliberated this, the experimenters said that if they bought the cupcake, two cookies are also included for free. In the control condition, the participants were told from the beginning that the price of a cupcake and two cookies is 75c.

Their results showed that the participants in the “that’s not all condition” were more likely to end up buying the cupcake (and cookies) than the participants in the control group. Graph one shows these results:

This means that if the sales assistant had pointed out the face cream with the free mascara and eye cream right at the start, I would have been less likely to buy that cream than if she did it after showing me some creams that did not come with freebies. As the Burger (1986) study demonstrates in their fifth experiment of the same study, this may be because of an anchoring effect in which consumers will compare the price of subsequent items to the item that they initially saw or a price that they were initially given. In this case, since I had seen that the prices for face creams that did not come with a mascara and eye cream were pretty similar to the one that did, I thought that the deal was worth getting as it worked out better compared to the ones I had seen earlier.


Burger, J. M. (1986). Increasing compliance by improving the deal: The that's-not-all technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 277-283

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