|Figure 1 - Alexsandr's popularity on twitter https://twitter.com/Aleksandr_Orlov?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor|
1. Animated characters
The effectiveness of animated characters has been shown through studies such as that comparing the relative effectiveness of celebrity endorsed adverts to animated character endorsements for purchase intention (Sandip, & Bhagyashree, 2016). Participants were shown adverts for various cereal and had to evaluate their liking for and preferences between products. It was found that participants preferred adverts and were more likely to purchase them when they were endorsed by cartoon characters. Therefore, merely the use of cartoon characters is effective in eliciting persuasion.
The results from the study discussed above, and the effectiveness of the meerkat advert can be explained through two mechanisms. The use of a loveable, furry meerkat which serves as an attractive source given its cuteness and secondly anthropomorphism. The use of cute sources is likely to be successful because it prompts individuals to use the peripheral route in the elaboration-likelihood model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1979). When taking this pathway to persuasion, viewers are not persuaded through scrutiny of the message but rather by a simple cue, in this case a form of attractiveness.
The method of attractiveness being used as a method to persuasion has been shown to be effective through numerous studies. Although few studies have assessed the specific form of cuteness, many studies have found a more general effect of attractiveness. Indeed, Snyder and Rohtbart (1971) presented persuasive communication to participants along with either an attractive photo, an unattractive photo or no photo. It was found that attractive communicators were more persuasive than unattractive ones or those without a picture. This suggests that the use of cute characters will be effective because cuteness is a form of attractiveness, with beauty being the other (Rhodes, 2006). This assumption was investigated through a study conducted by Phillips and Stanton (2004). In their study, different aged participants rate adverts and both their recall for and persuasion by particular methods was assessed. In adult consumers, it was found that cute/adorable features increased recall, although they did not increase persuasion.
Furthermore, anthropomorphism is an effective persuasive technique as shown by Nan et al. (2006). Participants were exposed to persuasive messages on a website regarding a brand of water in the presence or absence of an anthropomorphic agent. They found that the presence of an agent resulted in positive emotional responses towards the website and hence positive attitudes, thus suggesting people may be more likely to buy a product from the website. Another study utilising anthropomorphic characters involved a systematic review of research on their use in children’s diet related cognitive, behavioural and health outcomes (Kraak, & Story, 2014). It was found that the use of cartoon characters increased children’s fruit or vegetable intake, hence suggesting anthropomorphism is an effective way to induce behaviour change.
The meerkat adverts involve substantial humorous events, which as with the use of attractiveness, results in the use of the peripheral route to persuasion. In a literature review, Weinberger and Gulas (1992) conclude that humour enhanced liking, which in turn may facilitate persuasion. Furthermore, in a field study, Scott, Klein and Bryant (1990) promoted business and social events using humorous, non-humorous and control formats. It was found that humorous promotions increased attendance at social events.
3. Celebrity involvement
In some video advertisements, comparethemarket included Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nicole Kidman. This use of a celebrity endorsement is yet another effective persuasive technique utilised by the company. In one study, participants were presented with a fictitious advertisement for Edge razors which featured either a celebrity or an average citizen endorser (Petty, Cacioppo & Schumann, 1983). Participants were either in a high
|Figure 3 - Attitude scores in response to celebrity and|
non-celebrity endorses (Petty et al., 1983)
4. Limited edition toys
|Figure 4 - Worchel et al. (1975)|
Above we have seen that the compare the meerkat ‘technique’ has proved extremely successful for comparethemarket due to a variety of methods ranging from attractiveness through to scarcity. When considering the advertisements from a psychological point of view it is therefore not surprising that profits have rocketed.
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