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, February 6, 2014

Eau De McGregor

Hunky heroin junky, giant slaying, dabbler in the force and part-time adorner of magnificent beards- its Ewan McGregor. Probably out to recuperate some of his losses on that effeminate looking scarf, Obi Wan has teamed up with Davidoff to flog a glass bottle seemingly filled with his own piss and pass it off as the scent of adventure- in the context of Bear Gryls’ breath, perhaps that’s accurate. So how did this go down with us the prospective consumer? A big hit! Men were all over this like Renton and Sick Boy over smack and poor Ewan’s bladder is now in meltdown. Looks like Davidoff’s marketing team can pull off a few Jedi mind tricks of their own but what exactly is in play here?

Well the first major tool is staring right at you- no offence Ewan. His fictional on-screen exploits have made him a household name that has become a permanent fixture on the Hollywood A-list and aside from the ‘come to bed’ eyes it’s what ascribes such a degree of influence. Fame and power, albeit not tangible power walk hand in hand and the mere depiction of wee Ewan’s photo-shopped face is enough to convince us that this is a product worth buying. Indeed it has been well reported that ads with celebrity endorsement tend to boost stock values for their respective brands, (Agrawal & Kamakura, 1995) why? Well unless you’re Amish he’s familiar to us and familiarity breeds trust (Gulati, 1995; Monahan et al., 2000) or it may be we get lazy and employ judgmental heuristics to associate (Pratkanis, 2007) Ewan’s accredited high status with the potential quality of the product. However, much like Kerry Katona did nothing to change Iceland’s reputation as being cheap, quick and easy, you may argue that as a mainstream designer company it’s likely that Davidoff’s brand already attracts luxurious connotations regardless of McGregor’s association but then purchase on this basis alone is probably even more close-minded.

Very well, what about the message then? Adventure- to be adventurous, generally speaking this is a desirable trait and the concept of it is largely subjective. There is a subtle insinuation tied to the context that infers the very purchase of this bottle constitutes adventure and we are encouraged to act consistent with the pre-existing adventurous dimension of our self-image (Grubb, 1968). Don’t be fooled, buying a bottle of perfume titled ‘adventure’ will not make you adventurous any-more than it’ll make you smell like an adventurous person- not that you’d want that anyway if you really thought about it.

As the wheel would allude, for Ewan adventure means poncing around the world on a motorcycle with a BBC film crew and a bloke who looks like he spends stationary life in a cardboard box but what does this have to do with perfume exactly? Absolutely nothing; the whole ad is one big juxtaposition. As refreshing as it is to see a perfume ad punt in theory with the rough and ready as opposed to the usual pretentious bollocks we’re forced to endure (I’m looking at you Calvin Klein) it remains nonsensical. When we picture an adventurer we tend not to envisage an immaculate, squeaky clean film-star dressed in brilliant white and rocking a carefully styled hair-do but this is what we respond to. A glowing gold ring hovering above Ewan’s crown may be just out of shot but the halo effect (Lucker et al., 1981) that proposes one’s physical appearance dominates our perception undeniably exists and this makes him an effective communicator (Chaiken, 1979) regardless of context. We may not all be able to look like a film-star but anyone can be, look or even smell adventurous should you so desire without a bottle of cologne but if you do intend on riding off into the sunset on a transnational motorcycle jaunt smelling of roses, first consider this; whilst mosquitos are far more attracted to perfume than girls are, urine makes a half-decent repellent and if indeed that bottle were to contain a potent dose of Ewan’s piss it’d probably be much more practical if you’re a true adventurer- the irony.


Agrawal, J., & Kamagura, W. A. (1995). The economic worth of celebrity endorsers: An event study analysis. Journal of Marketing, 59, 56-62.

Chaiken, S. (1979). Communicator physical attractiveness and persuasion. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 37, 1387-1389.

Grubb, E. L., & Hupp, G. (1968). Perception of self, generalised stereotypes and brand selection. Journal of Marketing Research, 5, 58-63.

Gulati, R. (1995). Does Familiarity breed trust? The implications of repeated ties for contractual choice in alliances. Academy of Management, 38, 85-112.

Lucker, W. G., Beane, W. E., & Helmreich, R. L. (1980). The strength of the halo effect in physical attractiveness research. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 107, 69-75.  

Monahan, J. L., Murphy, S. T., & Zajonc, R. B. (2000). Subliminal mere exposure: Specific, general, and diffuse effects. Psychological Science , 11, 462-466

Pratkanis, A. R. (Ed.). (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. New York: Psychology Press.

Rory MacLeod

1 comment:

  1. Risky, edgy and humorous. Another strong attempt flirting on the line of appropriate vs inappropriate. I like it. Be careful about using sentences that are too long as they can lose the reader.


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