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

I'm in love with the coco-nut oil

The purpose of this advert is to persuade people to buy coconut oil and make the most of its multiple purposes, from moisturising skin to cooking food in it, as it has been found to have many health benefits. To encourage people to do this a number of techniques have been employed.

Firstly, the advert uses a rhetorical question to persuade people to use coconut oil. Rhetorical questions are asked with no expectation of an answer, but research shows that they influence people to think more deeply about the argument in order to covertly answer the question (Ahluwalia & Burnkrant, 2004). In this way, rhetorical questions elicit readers to make a judgement about the issues being presented (Howard, 1990). Petty, Cacioppo and Heesacker (1984) found that rhetorical questions increased participants thinking about the information compared to a declarative statement. Due to this, participants were more likely to realise the positive aspects of a strong message and the flaws in a weak one. This advert portrays a strong message for using coconut oil as the audience is presented with multiple advantages of using it. Therefore, after reading the rhetorical question the audience should wonder why they aren’t already using coconut oil, think more deeply about its benefits and make a judgement about whether or not they want to buy it.

The second persuasive strategy used in this advert is the ‘that’s-not-all’ technique which is typically used when trying to sell a product, to make the offer seem more attractive. The effect has been shown by Burger (1986) who found that more cupcakes were sold when customers were told that the price of one was 75¢ “but that’s-not-all” it also came with two cookies, compared to when they were told the price of all the products at the same time. 

Whang (2012) reported that this effect is due to the norm of reciprocity and suggested that the recipient feels obliged to meet the requester halfway by agreeing to the the new offer containing the bonus items. This advert enrolls the ‘that’s-not-all’ technique to persuade consumers to use coconut oil by highlighting the fact that in addition to multiple beauty related advantages, it also provides important health benefits. This could encourage consumers to purchase coconut oil if they were originally going to dismiss the beauty benefits.

A third technique used in this advert is the bandwagon effect. This occurs when an individual’s desire for a particular good is increased when they see others using it (Biddle, 1991). This effect could occur when consumers view this advert as they may believe that everyone is using coconut oil and they are missing out.

Nadeau, Cloutier and Guay’s (1993) conducted a study showing how the bandwagon effect can explain opinion formation. Their participants were showed opinion polls indicating either a positive or negative direction (e.g. according to recent polls most people would like abortion to be more/less acceptable) and then were asked to give their opinion. Researchers found a significant bandwagon effect of participants answering in line with the polls, regardless of their direction. This could suggest that after hearing how many people use coconut oil, consumers may form a positive opinion of it and therefore be more influenced to purchase the oil. 

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.

Biddle, J. (1991). A bandwagon effect in personalized license plates?.Economic Inquiry, 29(2), 375-388.

Burger, J. M. (1986). Increasing compliance by improving the deal: The that's-not-all technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(2), 277-283.

Howard, D. J. (1990). Rhetorical question effects on message processing and persuasion: The role of information availability and the elicitation of judgment. Journal of experimental social psychology, 26(3), 217-239.

Nadeau, R., Cloutier, E., & Guay, J. H. (1993). New evidence about the existence of a bandwagon effect in the opinion formation process.International Political Science Review, 14(2), 203-213.

Petty, R. E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Heesacker, M. (1981). Effects of rhetorical questions on persuasion: A cognitive response analysis. Journal of personality and social psychology, 40(3), 432.

Whang, Y. O. (2012). When And Why Does The That's-Not-All Compliance Technique Work?. Journal of Business & Economics Research (Online),10(3), 171.

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