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.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Drinking just tea!?

Many of you may have already heard of a craze not so long ago for 'Teatox' - a special blend of herbs that, when brewed, could magically make you skinnier. No exercise, no dieting, no change to your daily activities... but to drink tea three times a day. Losing weight this way seems not just impossible, but ridiculous, yet I know girls who are slowly sipping their way to poverty. So how have these companies duped so many of us into forking out 50 times what we would normally spend on tea? They employ the 'Just Plain Folks' technique (Pratkanis, 2007). Like the photo above, companies get normal, average looking women to take photos of themselves before and after they've 'lost weight' drinking only their miracle-tea. Using relatable women in their campaigns demonstrates source-recipient similarity which in turn increases compliance. Festinger (1954) says this is due to the social comparison process: people have a tendency to turn to similar others as referents for their opinions on specific issues. Hence, if potential customers see the campaign girls as being 'one of us', they will be more inclined to think of the tea in a positive light, and more likely to part with their cash.
The evidence for this technique comes from a field experiment conducted by Brock (1965). In his experiment he asked salesmen to try to encourage shoppers to buy paint that was different in price (higher or lower) to their original choice. Salesmen did this by either portraying similarity or dissimilarity with the customer, specifically with respect to the salesman's prior magnitude of paint consumption. Thus the independent variables were the salesman's similarity to the customer and the direction of change in price level. The dependent variable was the level of compliance of the customers.
As the above table shows, they were very successful. When there was a perceived similarity between the salesman and the customer there was 11% more compliance than in the dissimilar condition. Essentially, people can be induced to buy not just cheaper paint, but more expensive paint due to a similarity in something as trivial as prior paint consumption. If so, it is more than possible that girls will use the average Jane up on the wall as a referent and think "If it works on her; it works on me", however daft the concept!

Brock, T. C. (1965). Communicator-recipient similarity and decision change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1, 650-654.
Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117-140.
Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, 17-82.

Whatever Happens, You'll Get Your Money

If extraterrestrial beings were attacking the planet, destroying cities and causing terror, those who were clients of the Peruvian bank Banco Financiero would still receive returns from the 8.5% interest rate. This advertisement is an example of an "extreme situation" template based on the research of Goldenberg, Mazursky, and Solomon (1999) on creativity templates. Creativity templates represent "patterns of creativity" that can often be found in successful advertisements. An extreme situation template presents the product within the context of an unrealistic situation, thereby emphasizing the quality of the product. Here the bank is attempting to emphasize a guaranteed 8.5% interest rate:  The conditions may be incredibly dire, but customers will still receive the same interest rate as before.

In a study within Goldenberg, Mazursky, and Solomon's paper, advertisements using the extreme situation template, among other creativity templates, proved to be of higher quality than advertisements without these techniques, according to judgment outcomes. Three groups of 20 participants each produced ideas for three product designs. One group received no training on creativity templates, a second group received an alternate type of creativity training (the "free association method"), and a third group were trained in a creativity template, one of which was the extreme situation template. Their initial product designs were rated by a creative director blind to the study purpose. The top 15 designs were then presented to a second group of 36 participants, who rated the ideas on five different scales which measured perceived creativity level, brand attractiveness, and levels of humour, emotion, and annoyance that would be induced in the viewer.

The group who received training in templates generated ideas that were rated significantly higher than the other two groups in creativity and brand attractiveness, as well as the humour level (refer to Table 1). Because creativity and brand attractiveness are both measures of advertisement quality, the extreme situation template applied here by Banco Financiero is a valuable advertising strategy. In line with the study findings on humour in extreme situation templates, the advertisement also looks comical due to the absurdity of the situation, which would attract viewer attention.

Table 1. Mean Judgements of Ideas by Training Type

Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., Solomon, S. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing Science, 18, 333-351.

Yida Liao