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.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Victoria's Secret: Association Technique

I went to London this weekend and one of the first things I did was to of course go to Victoria's Secret, which for those who have not heard of it, is originally an American, but now an international retail brand of lingerie and beauty products. From outside their store in London, one can see mannequins inside the windows, wearing lingerie set up for passersby to see, which usually have something to do with their so called Victoria's Secret Angels, which are the models representing the brand. Yearly Victoria's Secret Fashion Shows take place, shown on TV, to promote and market their goods, in high-profile settings, in which these angels perform.

The message Victoria's Secret puts forward is that ordinary people, can feel like a Victoria's Secret Angel, by buying their products, which have often been worn by the angels themselves in their Fashion show. For example, in the photo below, one can see Candice, one of the most famous Victoria's Secret angels, wearing the exact same lingerie, people on the street can buy, on the runway. 

The persuasion technique that they use for consumers to buy their products, is Association. Association is the linking of an issue, idea or cause, with something already liked or desired by the target audience (for example fun, pleasure, wealth, security etc) to transfer the meaning from the second to the first. Thus, Victoria's Secret takes beautiful lingerie, and links with the brand and the Angels, which are synonymous with beauty, confidence and happiness. This cements the idea in consumers mind, that if they become consumers of this product, they become the closest thing to these angels, and can be a part of the extravaganza. Therefore, the Victoria's Secret weapon can be seen as not the products they sell, but the models. This is also another technique, with in the Association technique as seen by Victoria's Secret, called Beautiful People, which uses good-looking models to attract attention. Victoria's Secret would definitely not do as well, if the association between the lingerie and the models, glitter and glamour was not there, and especially if it was not there right in people's faces as they pass by the store. 

Research supporting this Association effect, has been shown by Staats and Staats (1958) who conducted two experiments, to test the hypothesis that attitude responses elicited by a word can be conditioned to a continuously presented significant verbal stimulus. In the first experiment, one national name was paired with a positive evaluative meaning, while another one was paired with negative evaluative meaning. In the second experiment, familiar masculine names were used. In both experiments, the meaning responses had been successfully conditioned to the names without the subject's awareness. Table 1 shows the results from the experiment, in table format where the second table shows an analysis of the data for both parts, indicating that the conditioning took place in both places, significant at the .05 level. Overall, it suggests that attitude formation or change through communication takes place according to conditioning. As an example, the sentence "Dutch people are honest" would condition the positive attitude elicited by "honest" to "Dutch" and therefore, to any person called "Dutch."
Therefore, the advertisement Victoria's Secret carries out, creates a strong emotional transfer, where there is the desire to feel like the models representing the brand. The only thing you need to do, to feel like the models or in this case the angels and look as good as them, is to buy the products!

Staats, A.W., & Staats, C.K. (1958). Attitudes established by classical conditioning, The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 57(1), 37-40. 

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