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.

Monday, February 25, 2013



This is a clip form a shopping channel which people tune in to in order to ‘grab a bargain’. In this clip, the presenter is trying to sell a cross-trainer to the viewers. A lot of persuasive techniques are used.

Firstly, they follow the interactive experiment template proposed by Goldenberg et al (1999) which is claimed to be one of the fundamental templates for quality ads. The presenter does this by actively showing the viewer’s how the cross-trainer works by way of a demonstration. This can encourage people to buy the product as it gives them better, more informed knowledge of what they are purchasing as they can effectively ‘see for themselves’ how it works and what it does. 

Secondly, there is only a limited time in which viewers can purchase the product and there are also a limited number of products available to buy, ‘once they have gone they have gone’. Giving the impression that time is running out to get the product at this discounted price makes viewers more inclined to impulse buy as they feel under pressure and may get an adrenaline rush as they can see how many items are selling, how many are left, and how quickly they are being sold. The viewers don’t want to miss their chance to get their hands on the bargain. 

To further this, as the presenter demonstrates the amount of good things that the cross-trainer does, at the same time, the price of the product lowers also creating frenzy with the viewers and creating the impression that they are getting an even better bargain. This persuasive trick creates temptation and encourages the viewers to purchase as they have to make snap, rash decisions as to whether they want the product or not whilst also seeing how good and cheap it is at the same time. 

Finally, by selling the product via a television channel that has nothing to do with the brand of the product itself (i.e. not the company whose product it is) and by the outside company demonstrating how good the product is by using the interactive experiment template as discussed above, makes the consumer have more trust in what the presenter is saying as it creates the impression that they have no financial gains from trying to sell the product to the audience. Pfeffer et al (2006) asked participants to imagine themselves as a senior editor for a book publisher and having to deal with an experienced and very successful author. They had to read excerpts for the negotiation of the publishing of the author’s book. One group read excerpts listing the authors accomplishments from the authors agent whereas the second group read the exact same excerpts but from the author himself. The participants rated the author more highly on every scale (such as likability) when the authors agent ‘sang his praises’ rather than when the author himself ‘bigged himself up’. This demonstrates how a product may be seen as more favourable and attractive when promoted by someone who is not actively involved in the company whose product it is. Essentially when a company is ‘bigging itself up’ via adverts etc., this is not as successful as when an outsider demonstrates how good the product is.

Goldenberg, J., Mazursky, D., Solomon, S. (1999). The fundamental templates of quality ads. Marketing Science, 18, 333-351.

Pfeffer, J, C.T. Fong, R. B. Cialdini & Portnoy, R.R. (2006). Overcoming the self-promotion dilemma: interpersonal attraction and extra help as a consequence of who sing’s ones praises. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 32, 1362-74.  

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