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

If you’re a true ketchup fan, say no to the brands!

If you’re a true ketchup fan, say no to the brands!

By revisiting and re-assessing this advert, a few more of the persuasive techniques we have been analysing in class, can be identified.

Tomato ketchup - It goes with almost everything!

A welcome dip for the crispy oven-cooked chip, a much-needed accompaniment to the bacon sarnie or a sneaky tactic for making mums overcooked pie edible? It doesn’t matter!

Tomato ketchup is a highly popular and well-known product, available in numerous supermarkets around the world. But what is the traditional brand you associate with this well-known product? Heinz of course! Heinz accounts for 60% of tomato ketchup sales, selling 650 million bottles annually, as the Heinz Facebook page states, "Heinz is ketchup."

However, ever considered that you are being brainwashed by the brand name? Are you under false pretenses that  “No other tomato ketchup tastes quite like it.” This Aldi advert certainly seems to think so.

The advert attempts to simplistically demonstrate that if you like tomato ketchup, you will like both Heinz and Aldi’s own brand.

So, what techniques does it use to do so?

One particular technique used in this advert is the use of social proof, a technique introduced by Cialdini to explain certain consumerist behaviors e.g. group mentalities/ ‘jumping on the bandwagon’. It is employed by attempting to bring the consumer round to the notion that if a small child can come to such an obvious conclusion then surely everyone else can? If “95% of us are imitators”, if we look to others to dictate behavior, then here’s a pretty clear example of an idea that everyone should catch on to.

Another subtle technique used in this advert is the use of shock. Not in your face, eyes popping out of your socket shock – but a divisive use of subtle shock to startle it audience into a realisation. A realisation that perhaps the common conception is a misconception – the branded products are in fact no better than the own branded ones - and once more they’re three times the price.

 It could also be argued that this advert uses the contrast principle in creating its desired effect. The principle dictates that when we see two things in succession, which differ from one another, we tend to make assumptions about how different they really are, the gulf between the two things becomes exaggerated (Cialdini, 2001). Heinz is a brand we trust and associate with quality, in fact, there are some who would make the claim that “Heinz is synonymous with tomato sauce.”  Putting that next to a regular bottle of own brand Aldi ketchup – makes the former seem superior and much preferable. This contrast then makes the following ‘discovery’ more startling.  By creating a contrast, you are already exaggerating the superiority of the Heinz product, and then, you deliver the bombshell - the two taste exactly the same. There really is no underlying difference in quality – the only significance being that one is half the price of the other - surely making it a ‘no-brainer?’ (At least in the eyes of the advertiser)

By these subtle techniques, Aldi has created a convincing and persuasive argument for reaching for their product next time you’re in the super market rather than instinctively searching for that bottle of Heinz.

As a side note, Heinz actually finished bottom in a recent taste test of tomato ketchups - so if you’re a true ketchup fan, say no to the brands!

By Clementine Parker


Cialdini, R. B. (1993). Influence: Science and practice

Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Harnessing the science of persuasion

Javed, M.B., & Zeb, H. (2011). Good shock: what impact shock advertisements are creating on the mind of viewers.

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