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.

Friday, January 30, 2015

“You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation”

“You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation” 

Patek Philippe, considered by many as the most prestigious watch manufacturer in the world, uses this slogan extensively in their advertising campaign. Here in this intriguing advertisement, Patek is selling a £50000+ watch with horological complications and the highest level of craftsmanship. However, not a single word is mentioned on the watch itself, so what is Patek selling here?

A persuasion technique: Altercasting is used in this advertisement. Through altercasting, tactics are used to impose situated identities and roles on others as if they already have them; these identities and roles are usually positive and also beneficial to us (Ward, 2006). In this advertisement, the slogan: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation”, along with the father and son portrait, perfectly translates the timeless and prestigious character of the brand. Here Patek is imposing the identities and roles of the brand on customers: They are not just buying a watch, but something timeless that could outlast them and be passed on to their sons. Patek is selling this emotional proposition of inheritance and tradition, instead of the watch itself.

The use of altercasting was demonstrated in Guadagno & Burger’s (2007) study. In Experiment 1, when high helpful self-concept clarity participants received false feedback, they were more likely to stop and help a confederate who has accidentally dropped a stack of pamphlets, than when they didn’t receive any false feedback. The false feedback they received was a form of altercasting manipulation, which told participants that they are helpful and kind. Only participants with high helpful self-concept clarity, but not those with low helpful self-concept clarity, showed an increased percentage of helping the confederate after receiving false feedback (altercasting manipulation), as shown in Figure 1. Guadagno & Burger (2007) suggested that people with a well-articulated and clear self-concept rely more on self-information to guide their behaviour, hence are more prone to altercasting manipulation.

Figure 1

High-end customers who held sophisticated and traditional values are therefore susceptible to being influenced by Patek Philippe’s altercasting message. A watch being sold as a heirloom that can be passed on generation after generation is ultimately appealing to these targeted customers. After all, when a £5 Casio watch is telling time as accurately as the £50000+ Patek Philippe, people want to know they are paying for more than just a watch that tells time.


Turner, M. M., Banas, J. A., Rains, S. A., Jang, S., Moore, J. L., & Morrison, D. (2010). The effects of altercasting and counterattitudinal behaviour on compliance: A lost letter technique investigation. Communication Reports23(1), 1-13.

Ward, A. (2006). Handbook of social psychology (pp. 157-158). J. D. DeLamater (Ed.). Springer.

-Conan Wan

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