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

Sexist Sauces

This advert by Del Monte is definitely not using the right techniques to raise their sales. They are suggesting that women are too simple or weak to open a standard jar, but the new Del Monte design is woman-friendly! This advert has used the technique Jeer Pressure (Pratkanis, 2007), insulting their target audience to try and increase sales. However, they have forgotten one small limitation to this technique... an insult on a specific, previously held belief can result in a boomerang effect (Abelson & Miller, 1967). They have insulted the belief in gender equality which almost all women hold causing a decrease in the effectiveness of the advert. 

In order to make this advert better, one should consider using the technique of flattery instead. Hendrink, Borden, Giesen, Murray and Seyfried (1972) sent 400 participants either a short questionnaire (1 page) or a long questionnaire (7 pages) via mail. Attached with the questionnaire was a cover letter containing adjectives that flattered the respondent and/or the solicitor of the questionnaire, or included no flattery. Thus the ingratiation in the cover letters and the effort of the requests (1 or 7 pages) created a 2x2 factorial experimental design. The number of returns of completed questionnaires served as the dependent variable. 

As illustrated in the table above, in the low effort conditions (1 page questionnaire) ingratiation tactics seemed to have little to no effect. On the other hand, in the high effort conditions (7 page questionnaire) flattery seemed to go a long way. Return rates were lowest when either both tactics (double ingratiation) or neither tactics (no ingratiation) was used. However, the other 2 remaining conditions elicited almost three times more compliance! 

In other words, when wanting someone to do something of high effort, flattery goes far. Although buying a certain brand of sauce over another may not be a high effort task, flattery is definitely a better route than insult! It is not too great a stretch to imagine that if a few nice words can make someone fill out a seven page questionnaire, then the same method might help that person think of the right brands next time they're in the sauce aisle. 


Abelson, R. P., & Miller, J. C. (1967). Negative persuasion via personal insult. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 3, 321-333. 

Hendrick, C., Borden, R., Giesen, M., Murray, E. J., & Seyfried, B. A. (1972). Effectiveness of ingratiation tactics in a cover letter on mail questionnaire response. Psychonomic Science,26, 349-351.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, 17-82.

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