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, February 13, 2015

Overly-Keen Wannabe Rock Stars


Ah, the delights of being super keen but blissfully ignorant of how annoying you are. My band Feralsect began receiving more and more gig offers in our second year at university, and we were extremely keen to make sure everyone in Leamington Spa and Coventry knew the gigs were happening, so we turned to everyone’s best friend in advertising: social media. We posted countless status updates, shared the Facebook event in every group possible and ranted to our friends about how badass we were going to be. Needless to say, attendance at the gigs was pretty poor.

Repetition is a key persuasive technique used in many advertising campaigns. Repeating a message, (i.e. “buy our merchandise”) over and over to the same audience elicits liking of the message. This is the basis of Zajonc’s (1968) ‘mere exposure’ effect. However, using this technique too much can in fact be detrimental to your campaign. As the target audience becomes more familiar with the message, the message becomes tedious and the quality of the message that was present when it was originally conveyed is lost. This is called ‘wear out’ (Appel 1971).

There are ways to combat this. Burnkrant and Unnava (1987) investigated the technique of varying how the same message was presented. 74 participants sat in one of four conditions, in which they encountered a 25-slide presentation, with different beverages being advertised on different slides. One specific brand of scotch, Delwar’s White Label Scotch, was featured in the critical ads. In each condition, it was featured on 3 slides. The scotch had 3 versions of its ad, ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’, each only differing in the character depicted in the ad. Condition 1 presented only version A, condition 2 presented only version B, condition 3 presented only version C and condition 4 presented each version once.

Participants were then tested on their recall of the brand names in a questionnaire. As stated in Table 1, participants performed better in both unaided (89% recall in the 4th condition compared to a peak of 63% in condition 2) and aided recall conditions (89% recall compared to a peak of 67% in condition 3).

Burnkrant and Unnava’s (1987) findings demonstrate that one can prevent the persuasive effects of a repeated message from wearing out when the message features variation in the way it is conveyed to the target audience, leading to the audience paying more attention to the message.

Safe to say, my band mates and I have learned from the errors of our Facebook-spamming ways and now post less frequently and when we do, our status updates tease different details about upcoming gigs and feature different photos and posters relevant to the event. We are still keen wannabe rock stars, we’re just a bit more subtle about it.

Appel, V. (1971). ADVERTISING WEAR OUT. Journal of Advertising Research, 11(1), 11-13.

Burnkrant, R. E., & Unnava, H. R. (1987). Effects of variation in message execution on the learning of repeated brand information. Advances in Consumer Research, 14(1), 173-176.

Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of personality and social psychology, 9(2p2), 1.

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