The KFC advert shown above shows ordinary people who are eating KFC and then singing/talking with their mouth full of the food. This is meant to represent the idea that the food is so tasty that you can’t control yourself, and don’t want to stop eating just so you can talk without your mouth being full. This advert was one of the most complained about adverts when it was released, and as a result was stopped from airing. Why is that?
The complaints received against the advert were against the fact that it was encouraging children to speak with their mouths full, which is a bad habit to pick up. This is an example of social proofing. People use their environments in order to decide what is correct, or socially acceptable behaviour. When you see other people doing something, due to the phenomenon of social proofing, you assume that it is an acceptable behaviour to do. This is why when children watch this particular advert, and see people speaking with their mouths full, they assume that it is acceptable to do the same. This makes their parent’s angry, causing them to complain against the advert, meaning that they will now view KFC in a negative light. Therefore instead of promoting the KFC brand, this advert is putting people off it as they are modelling negative behaviour.
O’Connor (1972) did a study in which he tried to help withdrawn kids take part in more social interaction, using the method of social proof and modelling. They separated children who had been identified as being withdrawn and isolated, into the control condition (in which they watch a neutral film about dolphins) and the modelling condition (in which they watched a film of a child who was initially playing by themselves, but then joined in with the social interaction with other children, who showed positive behaviour). The children in both groups were then assessed to see whether their level of social interaction had changed after watching the modelling video, or the control video. The figure below shows the results that were obtained:
The graph shows that the children who watched the modelling video were affected by the social proof phenomenon, and their social interaction was significantly higher than before watching the video. However, for the children in the control condition who did not watch the modelling video, their level of social interaction stayed the same. The levels of interaction are also compared to the level of interaction shown by children who were not considered to be isolated. This comparison shows that after the modelling video, the effect of social proof is very strong as it increases the child’s level of social interaction to the same level as a child who was not isolated to start with.
This study shows the reason why after watching this KFC advert, children used social proofing to also talk with their mouths full. This advert could improve by using the social proofing technique to portray positive behaviour rather than negative behaviour. For example, if in the advert the people are just shown to be enjoying the food, then it would socially proof people watching it that they would also enjoy the food. In this way, there would not be any negative behaviours modeled, and so parents would not get angry, and the brand would be seen in a more positive light rather than a negative one.
O'Connor, R. D., (1972). Relative efficacy of modeling, shaping, and the combined procedures for modification of social withdrawal. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 79, 327-334.