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 13, 2015

Pearl Izumi's bad, bad choice.

Run until you kill your dog?

This advert was released by Pearl Izumi to show off their latest line of running shoes. According to this ad, the shoes are so wonderful for the feet that the customer buying them would always want (or never stop) to run. In fact, the customer will like these shoes so much that he will run with his dog, until the poor dog dies of exhaustion.

What Pearl Izumi’s marketing team maybe forgot at the time is that liking and perceived similarity are important mediators of persuasion
In 1968, Jellison and Mills investigated the effect of perceived similarity on persuasion. They wanted to see whether an audience’s level of agreement would differ if they thought the speaker felt somewhat similar to them or not. The participants were 218 college students, and all had performed the same tasks. The first task was to read a speech favouring general education. There were four experimental conditions to this task. In the first condition, the speaker was described as a musician and the audience members as music students (musician-musician). In the second condition, the speaker was an engineer and the audience members were music students (engineer-musician). In the third condition, the speaker was an engineer and the audience members engineering students (engineer-engineer). In the last condition, the speaker was a musician, and the audience members engineering students (musician-engineer). The participants then had to rate the speaker according to different characteristics, and complete a memory test. Finally, participants were asked to rate statements about general education depending on their level of agreement (the higher the score, the more favourable the participant was towards general education).

The experimenters predicted that there would be a higher level of favourability for general education among the musician-musician and engineer-engineer conditions.

Table 1. Means for the measure of agreement with the communicator’s position.

The results in Table 1 confirm their hypothesis. Participants in congruent conditions (musician-musican and engineer-engineer) showed significantly higher levels of favourability towards general education than the others. 

In other words, people tend to agree more with somebody if they think the person feels similar to them. This is why, in my opinion, Pearl Izumi failed to convey a persuasive message in their above ad. Not only did they choose to put a dead dog on their ad (which is an animal usually adored by their owners), but more importantly, who would agree with someone who thinks that people should exhaust their dog to death? Who would ever admit to feeling similar to someone like that?


Mills, J. & Jellison, J. (1968). Effect on opinion change of similarity between the communicator and the audience he addressed. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 2, 153-156.

Norah Cotterall-Debay

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