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, January 24, 2013

Ritual Coffee treats you like an ...

[note: text edited after submission is in RED]

Ritual Coffee focus their brand on “revolutionising the daily routine” and play with “all sorts of provocative lines that stimulate a response - even first thing in the morning” (Shaw, 2012). 

The Ad’s idea is to pressure the viewer to “repair a self tarnished by the attack” and “avoid ridicule” (Pratkanis, 2007). As demonstrated by an experiment conducted by Steele (1975), name-calling can increase the compliance for a request. However, this experiment was conducted upon individuals who had to complete a survey - a completely different experience than going for a coffee.

Steele's study is divided into two experiments. Firstly, a person claiming to be a pollster engaged into a conversation with housewives (221 in total) who either insulted, praised or remained neural in the course of the discussion. Two days later, another caller contacted each targeted person to ask for help for a community project. Regardless of the relevance of the threat, 93% of the insulted housewives agreed to help. 65% of flattered housewives responded positively and only 45% of those with a non-effected self.

The Ad is eye-catching, especially because of the absence of a conclusive message, use of bright colour contrast and unbalanced text layout. The Californian coffee house may enjoy an increase in brand awareness, but may have difficulties increasing brand loyalty by insulting its target consumer. The insult and absence of explicit message conclusion can therefore play against the seller (Fine, 1957; Abelson and Miller, 1967). 

  • In Fine (1957) experiments, opinion change is observed according to whether experimental groups read Explicit/Non-Explicit statements of conclusion from a Credible/Non-Credible source of information. Those who were not affected by any communications form the Control Group. The results [Fig.1] show a greater opinion change for Explicit statements of conclusion and no significant change for the Credibility of the source.

Fig.1: Fine 1957 experiment results

  • Abelson and Miller (1967) experiment consisted of engaging into debates with ordinary citizens in parks and taking note of their opinions before and after the debate. The target groups were either insulted or not during the discussion. The results [Fig.2] show a 'boomerang effect' for the Insulted group, meaning that not only the speaker failed to convince his audience - but also drove their attitude further away from his position.

Fig.2: Abelson and Miller (1967) experiment results

In other words: if you go to Ritual Coffee, you’ll be treated like an “a******” rather than a guest. 

Abelson and Miller (1967). Negative persuasion via personal insult. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 3, 321-333.

Fine (1957). Conclusion-drawing, communicator credibility, and anxiety as factors in opinion change. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology58, 359-366.

Pratkanis (2007). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. Psychology Press.

Shaw (2012). Copywriting: Successful writing for design, advertising and marketing. Laurence King.

Steele (1975). Name-calling and compliance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 361-369.


  1. Very interesting advertisement. Can you explain how the Steele study used name-calling and how this led to increased compliance?

  2. Thank you for your feedback Sir: text that I editing after submission is coloured in red.


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