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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Subscription leaflets don't work, they lack imagination

How many leaflets do we get through the door or see in magazines/newspapers telling us about the latest broadband deals and subscription offers. How many of us when we read these are persuaded to actually ring up one of these companies and subscribe. Not very many. These leaflets have many aspects that have the potential to make it a successful persuasion tool, including providing information on the benefits of choosing that specific broadband company and deal in a way that is quick and easy to read. People can then make an informed decision about whether they think this deal is right for them. However, not many do as they lack one persuasive technique that would significantly increase the number of people who signed up; imagery.

If these companies really want people to sign up to their products they need to find a way of getting their potential customers to imagine the benefits of the deal.

Gregory, Cialdini and Carpenter (1982) demonstrated how getting people to imagine the benefits of a product led to an increase in buying the product than just having information about the benefits alone. In their study, the sent a salesperson door-to-door to sell cable TV subscriptions. Some customers were simply told about the benefits of cable TV whilst others were asked by the salesperson to imagine how they would enjoy all of the benefits of cable TV.

Table 1: Amount of people engaging in compliance behaviours in each condition

As the results in Table 1 show, those who were asked to imagine the benefits of cable TV were more likely to accept a free weekly trial and go on the make a subscription than those who were just given the information.

These results show just how much difference getting people to imagine the impact a product will make on their lives has in increasing the behaviour of buying the product. Therefore, instead of leaflets, these companies would benefit from sending salespeople door-to-door (or in public places which is becoming more common) and not only informing them of the benefits to their deal but asking them to imagine just how good their deal is.


Gregory, W. L., Cialdini, R. B., & Carpenter, K. M. (1982). Self-relevant scenarios as mediators of likelihood estimates and compliance: Does imagining make it so? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43(1), 89-99.

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