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 23, 2014

Steal our Wifi and enjoy our food!

Steal our Wifi and enjoy our food!

While the owner of many households, restaurants and shops getting annoyed by ‘Wifi stealers’ and try their best to avoid them, McDonalds in Spain has cleverly used ‘Wifi stealing’ as a marketing strategy. 

‘If the restaurants next door steal our wifi, we’ll steal their clients’, said by the McDonald’s advertising video. The gimmick is basically like this: McDonald stores unlock their Wifi’s restrictions and let people at neighbourhood freely use it. They changed their Wifi names into messages that promotes McDonald’s offers such as Free drink with your MacMenu’. Or simply to tell people that there is a store nearly by : ’This is next door McD’s Wifi signal. Come eat with us’. Apart from being  a brilliant way to attract people’s attention, there are other underlying psychological reasons that contributes McDonald’s successful hijack of customers. 

In Psychology, the rule of reciprocity means when people are given favours, they are keen to return a favour back in the future. It can be explained as individuals who have been given a favour feel obligated to return one (Pratkanis, 2007). Regan’s study (1971) showed that greater compliance was obtained from people who had previously received a favour than from those who did not received one.

This technique can be commonly seen in sales and marketing in the commercial world. From complementary gifts giving, free food and drink tasting to discounted bargains.In my opinion, the triumphant player of this tactics is obviously McDonald’s. When people receive a favour from McDonald’s, they would feel obligated thus more likely to eat there.  

Contact and exposure
Moreover, according the contact effect, we tend to like things that are familiar to us, or that we contact more often (Monahan et al, 2000). Bornstein et al (1987) found that we are more likely to like and be persuaded by someone if that persons face had flashed before the participants eyes at an earlier point. The more flashes, the better the liking and persuasion.With over 276 McDonald’s restaurants in Spain each with a  well-developed Wifi network, that means this has become a powerful media network which brings McDonald’s high exposure to people, and therefore gains higher popularity. 

Instead of changing your Wifi name to malicious ones like ‘my neighbours suck’ or ‘Virus infected Wifi’, there are more constructive ways of manipulation of Wifi. It is definitely a marvellous PR strategy that other companies should imitate. I believe that it will be particularly marketable in a country with somehow crappy 3G network. You don’t even need me to give you an example, do you?


Krosnick, J. A., Betz, A. L., Jussim, L. J., Lynn, A. R., & Stephens, L. (1992). Subliminal conditioning of attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18(2), 152-162.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). The Science of Social Influence. NY& East Sussex: Psychology Press.

Regan, D.T. (1971). Effects of a Favour and Liking on Compliance. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 8,627-639.

Yang Si Qi Regina

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