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.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

It pays to be beautiful

So you’ve finally given in to the endless peer pressure and joined Instagram. Great! You now have unlimited access to photos of people’s lunch, pugs in clothes, and Kylie Jenner's endless pouting face. But as you go trawl through Khloe, Kylie and Kourtney’s snaps, you notice something they all have in common, (no, not the endless pouting)- their incessant raving about a new weight loss product “FitTea”.

But Khloe, I can’t see beyond your gym selfies! Don’t you work out every day? Why do you need to lose weight?! You are right to be suspicious- because these beautiful, pouting, slim celebrities are not sympathizing with you and your post-Christmas weight gain, they are in fact using their Instagram following and loyal fan base as a platform for advertisement, taking celebrity endorsement to a whole new level.

Thanks to social media and the internet, both adverts and celebrities are no longer restricted to TV, the radio, or the sides of buses- they are more accessible than ever, and we see an increasing number of celebrity endorsements across all social media platforms, as marketers discover the value of celebrity endorsement, as exhibited by Malik & Guptha, (2014) in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Celebrities on Instagram are endlessly snapping and sharing images of their perfect bodies, faces and lives for us to imitate and envy. Their snaps provide their millions of fans with an insight into their rich, successful and desirable lives, where they have access to only the best products available and this is what makes them such effective endorsements.

FitTea has recognized the persuasive power and influence celebrities hold over us mere mortals, the way we follow their every move online, and gone a step further to ensure their endorsers are not just rich and successful celebrities, but that they are also VERY physically attractive, and considered beautiful. 

A study by  Chaiken, (1979), sheds some light on this phenomena. Chaiken, (1979)  had physically attractive and physically unattractive individuals deliver a persuasive message to undergraduates at university. The undergraduates then indicated the extent to which they agreed with the message, and were later asked to sign a petition agreeing or disagreeing with the persuasive message.

Figure 2

Results indicated that the attractive communicators induced significantly greater persuasion on a verbal and behavioral measure of agreement, in short, more undergraduates agreed with the persuasive message and signed the petition when the individual was attractive, see Figure 2.

With results demonstrating the superior persuasive power of attractive individuals, over un-attractive individuals, when it comes to influencing our choices, it is no wonder we are bombarded by images of beautiful and sculpted athletes endorsing weight loss products they do not even appear to actually need. Although it would make more sense to endorse the rounder and heavier individuals you typically assume to use and benefit from weight loss products, science shows that this just doesn't sell. 


Chaiken, S. (1979). Communicator physical attractiveness and persuasion. Journal of Personality and social Psychology, 37(8), 1387.

Malik, G., & Guptha, A. (2014). Impact of celebrity endorsements and brand mascots on consumer buying behavior. Journal of Global Marketing, 27(2), 128-143.

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