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.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Thank You Mom!

Once every two years, the media explodes with the phenomenon that is the Olympics. Whether it is the Summer or Winter Olympics, our televisions are bombarded with coverage of the events and standings. Retailers are not ones to miss out on an opportunity and take advantage of the Olympics to promote their products. Instead of taking the traditional route of athlete endorsements, P&G took a different approach with their London 2012 Olympic Games commercial by focusing on the families of athletes.  P&G created a commercial that focused on the role that mothers play in an athlete’s life from childhood to adulthood. The advertisement focused on the daily things that mothers do for their children and despite the sweet message, P&G was also using a several forms of persuasion to manipulate consumers into purchasing their products.

One of the main persuasive techniques that is used in this advertisement is similarity. P&G strives to ensure that every person can identify with the mothers in the commercial. Research has shown that individuals easily persuade us when we deem them to be similar to ourselves (Burger et al, 2004). According to a study conducted by Aunel and Basil (1994), individuals gave twice as much to a charity when the person requesting the donation was similar to them in appearance, mannerisms or personality. The P&G commercial featured a wide range of mothers from all over the world, with different backgrounds, ethnicities and ways of life. They worked to ensure that every individual could relate to these mothers and the tasks they performed for their children on a daily basis. Regardless of your upbringing, you couldn’t help but think about your own mother. These similarities to our own home lives make us more likely to purchase P&G products.

Another persuasive technique featured in the commercial was the use of authority. It has been proven that we are more likely to be influenced by individuals who we see as authority figures such as experts or important figures (Milgram, 1974). While we usually think of a doctor, scientist or law enforcement official when we think of expert or authority figures, you can’t deny that moms are definitely an authority figure throughout childhood and adolescence (or longer!). P&G attempts to persuade us that if moms use these products, we should be using them as well as mothers have good judgment and opinions that can be trusted.

A very discrete technique was also used in the form of reciprocity. Reciprocity is the idea that we are more likely to purchase a product if we have received something previously (Regan, 1971). A study conducted by Regan (1971) found that people were more likely to buy a raffle tickets from an individual if they were given a free bottle of coke beforehand. The P&G advertisement uses the slogan “Proud Sponsor of Moms” to insinuate that their company helps moms in all of their daily tasks. A subtle message provided throughout the ad is that mothers help their children and P&G helps mothers to do this. Using this logic, since P&G has helped our own mothers in our lives, we feel a sense of obligation to purchase P&G products, as a form of reciprocity.

Despite the fact that this is a company that is advertising their products, the overall message of the commercial is still important. So thank you mom, for everything that you do!

Emily Winters


Aunel, R. K., &Basil, M. D. (1994). A Relational Obligations Approach to the FootIn
TheMouth Effect. Journal of Applied Social Psychology24(6),546-556.

Burger, J. M., Messian, N., Patel, S., del Prado, A., & Anderson, C. (2004). What a
coincidence! The effects of incidental similarity on compliance.Personality and Social 
Psychology Bulletin30(1), 35-43.

Milgram, S. (1974). Obedience to authority: An experimental view. New York: Harper & Row.

Regan, D. T. (1971). Effects of a favor and liking on compliance. Journal of Experimental Social 
          Psychology7(6), 627-639.

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