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, March 3, 2016

A balanced diet is a piece of chocolate in both hands!

The advert shown above aims to promote the health benefits of dark chocolate and convince consumers to eat more of it in aid of a healthier lifestyle. This advert implements a couple of different but effective persuasive techniques to convince and entice the consumers viewing it.

The first type of persuasive technique used is a type of social proof called celebrity testimonials. As Cialdini (1993) explains, we rely on others to know and understand how to behave in particular situations that we are unsure of, therefore seeing others behaving in a specific way or doing a certain thing, we are more likely to follow the same path. People are more likely to follow in the footsteps of someone that they admire, such as celebrities and will desire what their idols have. As demonstrated in a study by Balakrishnan and Kumar in 2011 about the effect of celebrity advertisements on purchase attitudes; by showing prospective consumers that others, in particular a celebrity, supports the product, reinforces the product’s credibility, and consequently leads to more product purchase. In this way, celebrity testimonials, such as the one given by Ariana Grande in the advertisement mentioning the benefits of chocolate, are used as an indication of product quality (Khatri, 2006).

The second persuasive technique used is based on the authority principle. This principle relies on the fact that people have a very strong urge to obey an authority figure. People see authority figures such as experts and researchers as having better knowledge of particular subjects as well as having access to more information due to their superior status (Cialdini, 1993). Milgram (1963) was one of, if not the most, influential researchers into the obedience of authority. He was able to show, in his famous electric shock experiment, that participants were willing to give another person severe and dangerous electric shocks just because they were following orders given by someone they perceived to be in authority. In this particular advertisement, the picture of a man in a lab coat, signifying high authority, should influence consumers and persuade them to change their behaviour and comply with what they are saying (Sigelman & Sigleman, 1976).

The final use of persuasive techniques is in the form of rhetorical questions. By using a rhetorical question, the advertisement is able to focus the reader’s attention to the message and therefore increasing the effect of persuasion (Ahluwalia & Burnkrant, 2004), as well as enticing the recipient to read about the contents of the advertisement.

In advertising, companies are constantly trying to entice their consumers by using persuasive techniques like the ones mentioned. Although the persuasion is occurring subconsciously, individual’s behaviour can in fact be changed and manipulated in strong and effective ways.

Ahluwalia, R., & Burnkrant, R. E. (2004). Answering questions about questions: A persuasion knowledge perspective for understanding the effects of rhetorical questions. Journal of Consumer Research31(1), 26-42.

Balakrishnan, L., & Kumar, C. S. (2011). Effect of Celebrity Based Advertisements on the Purchase Attitude of Consumers towards Durable Products (A study with reference to the city of Chennai). World review of business research1(2), 98-112.

Buijsse, B., Feskens, E. J., Kok, F. J., & Kromhout, D. (2006). Cocoa intake, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality: The Zutphen Elderly Study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 166 (4), 411-417.

Cialdini, R. B. (1993). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: William Morrow & Company Inc.

Khatri, P. (2006). Celebrity Endorsement: A strategic promotion perspective. Indian Media Studies Journal1(1), 25-37.

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioural study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, 371-378.

Sigelman, C. K., & Sigelman, L. (1976). Authority and conformity: Violation of a traffic regulation. The Journal of Social Psychology100(1), 35-43.

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