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 29, 2015

The Fait Accompli Effect in Advertising

The advertisement above was produced by the supermarket chain Aldi and was part of a chain of commercials following the same pattern of highlighting the difference in price between Aldi products and common well-known brands (the above case involving 'Jaffa Cakes') while emphasising the fact that they are practically the same thing, often in a humorous manner.

Despite being only 20 seconds long, a couple of powerful persuasion techniques are incorporated alongside the humour which is itself also a particularly persuasive method, with it being found that "humour prevents the development of negative brand associations more than nondistracting positive stimuli and neutral stimuli" (Strick et al, 2012). So just by framing the advertisement in a light-hearted and funny way, the chances of us forming a negative impression of the Aldi product (and the general message that we should buy Aldi alternatives because they are cheaper) is reduced.

Another tactic used is the establishment of a favourable comparison point (Pratkanis, 2007), specifically the comparative difference in price between the standard Jaffa Cake brand and the Aldi version. It is intuitive to believe that most people consider price to be quite important in purchase-decisions and the advert takes advantage of this intuition by giving an 'in-your-face' comparison of the price between the two items which makes the Aldi product more favourable in virtue of its lesser cost.

This comparison leads to the final tactic employed by the commercial and the one that I will be focussing on, the creating of the sense that the Aldi product is just simply better, a fait accompli effect. The final message of the advert is: "Like brands, only cheaper", which promotes the idea that in terms of everything but price, the two options available to the consumer are the same, and given that the two are identical, it is therefore inevitable that you should buy the Aldi product since - as stated before - its costs less.

The table above is constructed from the findings of Brehm (1959) where he looked at the change in liking experienced by children placed in two experimental conditions. In the first - the low consequence condition - the child was told to fill out a questionnaire regarding their likes and dislikes of food etc. and then given a vegetable, which they stated they disliked, to eat. After the child had finished eating, the questionnaire was then given again with the experimenter highlighting that people sometimes changed their opinion. The second - high consequence - condition was exactly the same except that the impression that the child would have to eat the vegetable in the future was provided by a remark from the experimenter, this can be considered to be a fait accompli, as the child has the sense that they will inevitably be eating the vegetable in the future and as can be seen from the table this consequently made them like the vegetable more than those exposed to the low consequence condition that lacked the fait accompli.

How does this pertain to the Aldi advert? By creating the sense of inevitably that their product is just better, regardless of what we may have initially thought of Aldi or its products we will move on from the advert at the very least more positively inclined to their products than before we had seen it. This, along with the other methods of persuasion employed (which have been discussed) makes this commercial a particularly good marketing and promotional tool.


Brehm, J. W. (1959). Increasing cognitive dissonance by a fait accompli. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58(3), 379.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, 17-82.

Strick, M., Holland, R. W., van Baaren, R. B., & van Knippenberg, A. (2012). Those who laugh are defenseless: How humor breaks resistance to influence.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 18(2), 213.

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