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, December 1, 2016

You're Not You When You're Hungry

The Snickers chocolate bar advertisement campaign is well-known. You have probably seen television or poster advertisements online and in public areas.
Why is it so successful?

The consistent repetition of the simple phrase; 'you're not you when you're hungry' acts as a constant reminder of the branding that Snickers aims to create. Suggesting that Snickers 'satisfies'. This makes the message easier to remember and therefore recall at a later date. The availability heuristic suggests that this may make individuals place more importance on the message and therefore the Snickers brand because they are using this ease of retrieval as an indicator of its overall importance. Previous research has found evidence to support this availability heuristic in many different topic areas. For example, do you think there are more words that start with the letter 'K' or have the letter 'K' as the third letter?

Most of you probably opted for the first choice and thought that more words start with 'K'. This is because these words come to mind more readily and therefore you think there are more of them. When in fact, the latter option is the correct one. However, these words are often harder to think of and so you place less importance on them and think there are fewer (Tversky & Kahneman, 1973). This is an example of the availability heuristic and can be applied to many advertisement campaigns, such as with Snickers.

The agenda setting theory develops this idea further. Studies have found that when a form of the availability heuristic is applied to other settings, such as the news, people perceive the importance of issues by how much they are repeated or emphasised (Scheufele & Tewksbury, 2007). When items and ideas easily come to mind, due to them being repeated and emphasised persistently, we think they are more important or true! In this case, because the Snickers slogan easily comes to mind we place more emphasis on it and believe it to be true, making us more likely to invest in the advertisement idea and ultimately buy the chocolate bar. In summary, you are what you expose yourself to. According to this theory, the more you expose yourself to the Snickers adverts, ultimately the more likely you are to buy the chocolate bar.

The mere exposure effect (Zajonc, 1968) suggests that this frequent repetition is effective advertising because those items which we are exposed to more frequently we will later deem to be more favourable or desirable. This is the power of familiarity and suggests that the more familiar and frequently seen the advertisements and Snicker chocolate bar are, the more popular and desirable they will become.

The television video advertisements above demonstrate an individual in each acting negatively out of character, who then returns to normal after eating a Snickers. The positive change and outcome in behaviour demonstrated by these individuals is desirable for others to also want to achieve. From a behaviourism perspective, Skinner (1958) may have suggested that this is a form of reinforcement of the behaviour created by eating the Snickers. This type of reinforcement makes the behaviour more likely to be repeated by others following observation, through operant conditioning.
Bandura, Ross and Ross (1986) demonstrated the behaviourism perspective through social learning theory with their bobo doll experiment. Children who observed an adult displaying aggressive behaviour were then more likely to display an increased amount of aggressive behaviour, when they became frustrated, whilst interacting with the bobo doll. Ultimately this implies that people learn by observing others. Similar results were found when children watched a real-life model or a film-mediated model (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1963). The same can therefore be applied to advertisements. People here are learning that these individuals behaviour and outcomes are preferable once they have eaten the Snickers chocolate bar. This vicarious reinforcement makes other individuals watching the advertisement want to emulate and reproduce the behaviour and success the have observed by buying and eating the Snickers chocolate bar.

Social Cognitive Theory

The diagram above demonstrating the social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986) provides insight into the behaviours. According to the theory behaviour that is observed creates an environment. The person observes other individuals abilities to perform certain behaviours and so they believe that they are also able to complete these behaviour and tasks. For example, eat a Snickers chocolate bar and improve their behaviour. This is referred to as self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977). Together the vertices of the triangle influence one another and the behaviour of eating a Snickers becomes more likely due to the advertisements in their environment. 

Both advertisement videos above depict an individual who is struggling to fit into their ingroup. They eventually manage to be accepted and adapt their behaviour once they have eaten a Snickers bar. This implies that the Snickers bar has enabled them to fit into their ingroup and identify with them once more. According to the social identity theory (Tajfel, 1981) individuals have a desire to obtain membership within their ingroup and associate with the group by adopting group norms. These videos therefore indicate that the Snicker bar helps individuals achieve this and so promotes the bar to the audience.

These advertisements also incorporate a degree of humour. This humour helps engage attention and ensures that the message portrayed is memorable. Using humour has been found to improve memory of  the  advertisement and the product and also improve that attitude towards the product (Chung & Zhao, 2003). Lammers et al., (1983) found humorous advertisements to be more persuasive than serious alternatives. This is particularly true for males, which encapsulates a main audience of Snickers bars. This will therefore feed into the consequent attitude change towards and desire of obtaining the product.  

When watching the two YouTube video advertisements above, consider; 'Who says what, by what means, to whom?' These are important principles when analysing advertisements and the embedded persuasion to purchase the product within them. The Yale Attitude Change Approach (Hovland, 1953) suggests that persuasion is influenced by 3 factors:

The source (Who) - Within these videos well known figures, such as Mr Bean, played by Rowan Atkinson, are used. These celebrities represent individuals that people recognise, associate with and want to be like. This alters subjective norms and therefore individuals intention for their behaviour. This is according to the theory of planned behaviour (Ajzen, 1991). Also, they are portrayed in ways that make them similar and relatable. This makes the source and overall advertisement have a greater impact and persuading influence on consumers to buy the Snickers chocolate bar. Friedman, Termini & Washington, (1977) found the use of celebrity endorsement within a factitious wine advertisement had a positive effect on the probable taste and intent to purchase the product, in comparison to when non-celebrities were used (such as a student) in an identical advertisement.

The Message (What it is) - According the primacy-recency effect (Murdock, 1962), the messages presented at the beginning and end are most likely to be remembered. The messages in the middle are most likely to be displaced and forgotten. This is often known as the serial position effect. Murdock (1962) asked participants to recall word lists consisting of 20 words. Murdock found that words were more often remembered if they appeared near the start or end of the word list, as displayed in the graph below.

The most important message within the video advertisement is displayed at the end. This shows the Snicker chocolate bar, the slogan and the positive effects eating the bar has. According to this theory these are most likely to be remembered. 
As previously mentioned repetition amongst the whole Snickers advertising campaign for the key message is used. For example, the slogan 'you're not you when you're hungry' is repeated throughout. Hitler has said that a good propagandist technique 'must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over again'. The campaign attempts to achieve this and ultimately increase liking and validity of the messages.  

The Audience (To whom) - The advertisements require limited prior knowledge and can therefore be understood easily by a wide audience. 
This encourages the audience to use the peripheral route to persuasion by paying limited attention, according to the Elaboration-Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986).  
The Elaboration-Likelihood Model

Alternatively, showing role-models achieve desired behaviour caused by eating the Snickers increases the audiences self-esteem and belief that they can also achieve this by eating the chocolate bar.

Other advertisements, such as this image above, encourage people to use the peripheral route of persuasion. This is an advert containing an attractive person and the message is associated with positive 'rewards', such as those with sexual connotations. This is presented in such an eye-catching way that the audience will be unable to defend themselves from making these associations. This means that the audience is unlikely to process the information through thoughtful or careful thinking via the central route. Instead, they will use the cues present in the advertisement and work on general impressions of the product. This is also due to the message of chocolate bars being relatively unimportant and so individuals will become cognitive misers, reducing cognitive effort by not elaborating or thinking in depth about the message. They are using system 1 or heuristic processing, which is fast, implicit and associative according to the heuristic-systematic model (Chaiken et al., 1989).  

Other clever advertisement messages have also been created for the Snickers chocolate bar, such as by incorporating visual manifestation of hyperbole and metaphor. Goldenberg et al., (1999) identified some patterns of structuring and organising information incorporated within advertisements. These are referred to as 'creativity templates'. For example, the image below provides a competition template, where Snickers is wrapped up using other chocolate bar wrappers. Here, they are implying that the product is being compared to other products that are in a different class.  Below, we have the wrapper of the Bounty bar on the left and the Twix bar on the right. This helps to highlight the superiority of the Snickers bar by challenging the worth of the other chocolate bars.

Extreme situation template has also been used. Below this is displayed showing a Zebra chasing a Lion. This represents a situation that is unrealistic in order to bring attention to the product and its implications within the advertisement. The product is exaggerated to unfeasible proportions in order to emphasise the key message. This is a zebra behaving out of character, demonstrating the slogan 'You're not you when you're hungry.'

To briefly conclude, successful advertisements and their underlying persuasion and influence on the audience are rather more complex then they first appear!


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