Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

No-one wants U 2 give them your album this way

Last year U2 thought it would be a great idea to put their album on everyone's Apple device for free via iCloud. To decision resulted in a large number of Google searches on 'how to remove the U2 album' and comments on social media publicising the band but in a less than desirable light (see image below).
The intended effect of this 'stunt' was not achieved and backfired. They went for an 'opt-out' strategy where an 'opt-in' strategy is normally used. One way they could have improved upon what they did would be to only give their album for free to a select number of people. This would follow the 'scarcity' technique mentioned by Pratkanis. We can see from numerous studies that if a product is more rare its estimated value is greater on average. In a study by Verhallen and Robben (1994) they found that a product that was available to everyone was chosen less and was therefore preferred less compared to products that had limited availability. 
120 female participants completed several ranking tasks on various cookbooks, however only the 'Choice' rank order is relevant here. They were given 3 random cookbooks out of a total of 18 and each participant completed forms in a 'control' period where all the books were described as equally popular, abundantly available, and easily accessible. In the participants' experimental period they were told one book had unlimited availability and that the other 2 books were 1 of four different limited availability conditions. There was limited availability due to accidental circumstances (too few books were ordered by accident), popularity, limited supply or popularity combined with limited supply. 

This figure shows the results of the choice form participants had to fill out.

The figure shows that the LMC condition had a lower choice rating than the UA and LA conditions. This means that when participants were asked to rate the three books they were presented with by preference they would rank them from 1 'most preferred' to 3 'least preferred' and therefore a lower average rank order score showed greater preference. The LMC condition was three of the limited availability conditions combined, the due to popularity, limited supply and popularity combine with limited supply conditions. Books which were described as limited in these ways were preferred to books which were described as having unlimited availability and also limited availiability due to accidental circumstances. 

When looking at the U2 album example, if they had made their album limited either due to popularity (fat chance) or limited supply the album may have been more saught after and less people wanting to get rid of it. They could have achieved limited availability due to limited supply by only putting the album on a few individuals' Apple products, or it only being available for free for a select period of time. However almost 6 months after they put the album on our phones, I still have access to it and occasionally endure a song or two on shuffle. Probably about time I remove it, unless few people have it now in which case I definitely want to keep it. 


Verhallen, T. M., & Robben, H. S. (1994). Scarcity and preference: An experiment on unavailability and product evaluation. Journal of Economic Psychology15, 315-331.

1 comment:

  1. Also invoked reactance -- the song appeared on people's phone without the person's consent thereby taking away their perceived freedom.
    Anthony Pratkanis

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