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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

"The Simpsons" 's Secret : Coca Cola

In this happy Coca Cola commercial are being used several and different techniques of influence
We can identify the Elaboration Likehood Moodel (ELM, Petty & Cacioppo, 1981) at the basis of the techniques, and its central theme of “involvement degree of the consumer”. (Giles, 2010). By using the “Peripheral Route”, the advertisement arrives to audience shaped with additional features to the central message than can help to make a change in the audience.

The “Liking” strategy can be observed. Offering people what they want, by using people they like, seems a basic norm in marketing. Remember Joe Girard, the man who received “The best salesman” Chevrolet dealership and his ability to make people feel comfortable with what they were seeing and being told. (Cialdini (1993), pp. 139-140). The Commercial tries to introduce the spectators into a parallel story of a TV show, that makes them even ignore the product which is being sold until the end of the advertisement. This is known as “Product placement”, a theory that “describes the inclusion of branded goods or services into media that is not recognized as an advertisement” (Macmillan 2011; Brewer, 2011, pp.68). Despite its undeniable influence, the Liking strategy entails the risk of distancing from the main issue of the commercial. (Brewer, 2011, pp. 65-67).

A certain kind of “Priming” plays a role here.  Who has never watched or, at least, heard about “The Simpsons”? The famous show is an example of what Cialdini calls “Contact and cooperation strategy” (Cialdini, pp. 145-154). The technique is commonly known as the “Mere exposure effect” or “Familiarity effect”. In the first experiment conducted by Zajonc and colleagues, used two groups of fertile chicken eggs and played two different tones, one to each group. The tones were played again to the already born chicks, demonstrating that they showed preference for the tone they had listened to before. “We like things that are similar to us” (Zajonc, 1968). ; Bornstein, Leone & Galley, 1987); Of course, if we have been involved in the Springfield stories for awhile, we will pay attention at what they have to say or what they do.

Classical Conditioning , developed by Ivan Pavlov, is reflected in the way that stimuli are presented, which consisted originally on the association of an independent stimulus to food with dog’s salivation.  The TV series “The Simpsons” would play the role of Unconditioned Stimulus, which is associated with good feelings provoked by its humor, charisma and cartoon format (the “Unconditioned Response”, if we consider that we freely choose watching it). All this leads us to associate those feelings (now the Conditioned Response) with the product that The Simpsons’ characters (UCS) were selling us, this is, Coca Cola, now playing the role of Conditioned Stimulus.

The creators of the commercial also take into account and control the type of audience it is directed to. Especially young people and middle aged adults watch this TV show, and also those who typically drink Coca Cola. This way they increase the consumers within this age range.

Finally, emotions are also used to convince people that they really need and want to buy this product. The use of humor related to the characters and the drama scene of the advertisement create in the spectators the feeling that Coca Cola produces real and permanent happiness, and that it enables you even to make friends and create satisfactory social interaction.


-      Cialdini, R. B. (1993) Influence. Science and practice. (3rd Edition). Arizona State University, USA.
-     Giles, D. (2011) Psychology of the Media. (Ch. 2, pp. 54-69). Great Britain, UK.
-     Brewer, G. (2011) Media Psychology. (Ch. 4, pp. 63-77). UK
-    Lakhani, D. (2008) Subliminal Persuasion. Influence & Marketing: Secrets they don’t want you to know. New Jersey, USA

1 comment:

  1. Interesting advertisement and I like the fact that you cover a number of really basic principles. I think the chick experiment you refer to is Rajecki (1974), not Zajonc (which you may want to provide a reference for). Though, Zajonc 1968 is about familiarity and preference -- so please check on all of this.


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