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 24, 2014

Fear No Susan Glenn

If we only knew twenty years ago what we know today, we would “Fear No Susan Glenn.” Axe Body Spray’s new television advert introduces viewers to Susan Glenn, not just “a” girl, but “the” girl who narrator Keifer Sutherland remembers with a mix of longing and regret. The commercial ends with an older, wiser Sutherland professing that if he could go back in time, he would do things differently. He would use Axe.

The premise of the campaign is based on the persuasive technique of similarity. Although Keifer Sutherland is a far cry from the average guy (I mean he’s Jack Bauer!), men who have been in a similar situation with their own versions of “Susan Glenn” can easily relate to what the actor is experiencing. Like Sutherland, the girl of their dreams is not only out of reach, but the very thought of approaching Susan Glenn puts fear in their hearts. In Sutherland’s mind, he was “the peasant before the queen,” meaning that not only was he unworthy, but that Susan Glenn was out of his league. Hence, “Susan Glenn and I were never a thing.”

As research shows, this technique of association and similarity has proven to be extremely persuasive in advertising. According to Aune and Basil (1994), donations made to a charity more than doubled when the person making the request appeared to be similar to the donor. The Axe advert does a good job of aligning Sutherland with the product’s consumers, who consist primarily of young, libidinous males. The time and place are also settings in which most people can relate – in this case, high school. Everyone has memories, good and bad, of their high school days. Sutherland’s reminiscence takes us back to a time in our lives when we were unsure of ourselves and were easily influenced – and frequently intimidated – by others. This uncovers another strategy used by Axe in persuading sales: the actions of others often dictate how we behave. The slogan “Fear no Susan Glenn” illustrates this very clearly by suggesting that consumers who don’t heed Sutherland’s advice will suffer the same outcome as he.

Susan Glenn possesses every desirable quality to man, and it is certainly no surprise that one of those qualities is supermodel good looks. In the words of Sutherland, “she made everything beautiful.” According to Joseph (1982), attractive individuals have an increased persuasive effect on others. Also, a study by Chaiken in 1979 demonstrated that attractive people are more persuasive in altering the opinions of others. Hence, the inference that Susan Glenn might have taken a second look at Keifer Sutherland if he had used Axe Body Spray means that others might experience success with their “Susan Glenns” if they use the product. They don’t have to succumb to Sutherland’s fate. The advert closes on Sutherland’s unhappy face. Life could have been different (read “better”) if he had only made different choices (read “used Axe”).

Axe Body Spray … it’s yours for the Axing.

Chloe Jadon

Aunel, R.K., & Basil, M. D. (1994) A Relational Obligations Approach to the Foot-In-The-Mouth 
Effect. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24(6), 546–556.

Chaiken, S. (1979). Communicator Physical Attractiveness and Persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(8), 1387-1397.

Joseph,W.B. (1982),"The Credibility of Physically Attractive  Communicators: A Review,"Journal of Advertising, 11(3), 15-24.

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