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.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Yoohoo! It's Boohoo and all their persuasive gold

Mere exposure

This is the idea that people develop a preference to things that they are familiar with (Zajonc, 1968), so by frequently being exposed to Boohoo, potential customers become familiar with, and ultimately prefer Boohoo to other sites. One way that mere exposure may work is as a result of the availability heuristic, this is the notion that when someone needs to make a decision they may rely on immediate examples that come to mind, as a way of time saving and using a mental short cut. The more available Boohoo is, and the more present it is within someones everyday life, the more likely they may be to turn to it when looking to shop online. Furthermore, Boohoo adverts appear on multiple platforms: websites and social media via laptops and phones and a 2014 tribune company study found that consumers are 75% more likely to engage with adverts if viewed on.

Social Modelling Theory 

The first advert I saw for Boohoo was on Facebook, and it was encouraging me to 'like' their Facebook page.  I could see that 50 of my Facebook friends had liked it, Facebook friends are part of an 'ingroup' (a social group which I psychologically identify as a part of), it's common for individuals to follow ingroup social norms, in an attempt to adhere to 'appropriate' behaviour. In this sense Boohoo is implementing a type of conformity in their advertising campaign, by relying on what can be termed a 'decision heuristic' - a short cut for making decisions. Furthermore, when continuing onto the actual page I can see a total page liking of 2.6 million, which showcases Boohoo as a popular online brand, and again displays social proof. 

Zendaya is an American actress and is featured on their website, by using her to promote the brand, Boohoo are implementing social modelling. The social modelling theory (Bandura, 1986) is the idea that people learn by imitation and observation of models, in this case, if people see Zendaya sporting Boohoo clothing they may feel inclined to do the same. Indeed, celebrity endorsement has been found to be more effective than regular endorsement (Muda, Musa, Mohamed, & Borhan, 2013).
Furthermore, Boohoo's website is full of beautiful men and women showing off the clothes they offer, we immediately attend to people we find attractive, and the persuasive technique called Physically Attractive - Admirer Altercast encapsulates this phenomena. Attractive people are seen as more intelligent, popular and of a higher status, (Anderson, John, Keltner, & Kring, 2001) these desirable traits are what many of us aim for, making us a lot more susceptible to persuasion from such people, in a desperate attempt to be more like them. 


When arriving onto Boohoos website the banner is full of last minute deals and offers. 'Hurry ends soon!', this scarcity technique can lead the consumer into a sense of panic. Due to the urgent nature of the claim, when in a panicked state, costumers may overlook the the cost-benefit analysis (Rook, 1987). Furthermore, the principle of scarcity has been found to increase an individual's desire for a product (Cialdini, 2007). Scarcity of both time and quantity are found to be effective, and Boohoo implements both techniques.  

Additionally, sale products are frequently displayed, showing reduction in prices. The perceptual contrast effect suggests that if two offers are shown one after the other, the latter will appear more different from the first than it actually is (Cialdini, 2007), so by putting the previously more expensive price before the current, cheaper price, buyers are lead to believe that this difference in price is more dramatic than it actually is. Therefore securing the notion of it being a great deal. 

Foot in the door, commitment, and consistency

Boohoo is not short of foot in the door techniques, this technique is found in clicking the 'like button', joining the 'news letter', and in an offer of '£1 next day delivery for a limited time only'. All of these encourage a small level of engagement and commitment, once an initial small ask has been met, Boohoo are more likely to achieve a larger ask. This is the foot in the door phenomena (Freedman & Fraser, 1966)

The reason this foot in the door technique is so successful is because people like to be consistent in their beliefs and actions. If someone is a member of the news letter or likes the Facebook page, this is suggestive of a positive commitment towards the company. To withhold this commitment, and maintain consistency, the 'correct' future action that aligns with these previous actions, is to make purchases from Boohoo. This 'justifies' and maintains the customers previous behaviour, avoiding any cognitive dissonance, which is an uncomfortable sensation. 

Personalisation and customer engagement

Boohoo can use items you have either purchased or viewed to make personalised future suggestions, this is likely to enhance sales as the target audience (you) clearly has an interest in this sort of product. Further, by connecting with the target market on a personal level, sales are increased by the use of emotion as opposed to 'need'. 'Loving' something is an emotional benefit of the product, which elevates the product from a basic level of necessity to a more emotional tie, enhancing the customers desire. 

Furthermore the active engagement with customers via social media may tap into the idea of reciprocity. If someone does something which is beneficial to us, we feel obliged to return this favour (Hoffman, McCabe, & Smith, 1998). For example, if Boohoo actively finds a product you may have an interest in, and specifically approaches you, this may be seen as a 'favour' of sorts, and in turn you may feel obliged to reciprocate by buying said product. 
Finally, being acknowledged and responded to from such a large organisation will make individuals feel valued, and like their opinions matter. Being able to make your target audience feel special and listened to, demonstrates Boohoo as an active and customer caring company. These are desirable features that are likely to lead customers to form positive attributions towards the brand. 

Building anticipation

The countdown to the launch of Zendaya's clothing line for Boohoo, creates a sense of some sort of revolution, something 'worth waiting for'. The aim of this is to create excitement and anticipation within the customers, people intrinsically seek conclusions, and so may get hooked on finding out exactly what 'Zendaya's range' is. As mentioned previously emotional investment is a power tool in advertising, if a company can get a customer to anticipate something, then they have secured an emotional commitment to the company, which will ultimately increase interest and sales for the company.

Boohoo use a lot of effective psychological marketing techniques, which would explain the global success of the company! Alongside the techniques mentioned, are so many other chunks of beautifully crafted marketing gold. Even the name Boohoo sounds a bit like 'yoohoo', an attention grabbing name which appeals to the peripheral route of persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Well done Boohoo for such a successful site!

Anderson, C., John, O. P., Keltner, D., & Kring, A. M. (2001). Who attains social status? Effects of personality and physical attractiveness in social groups. Journal of personality and social psychology81(1), 116.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Cialdini, R. B., & Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion (pp. 173-174). New York: Collins.

Freedman, J. L., & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: the foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of personality and social psychology4(2), 195.

Hoffman, E., McCabe, K. A., & Smith, V. L. (1998). Behavioral foundations of reciprocity: Experimental economics and evolutionary psychology. Economic Inquiry36(3), 335-352.

Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In Communication and persuasion (pp. 1-24). Springer New York.

Rook, D. W. (1987). The buying impulse. Journal of consumer research14(2), 189-199.

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of personality and social psychology9(2p2), 1.

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