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, March 3, 2016

Do you drink enough water??

The aim of the infographic below is to encourage people to drink more water. We all know how important it is to drink water in order to live a healthy life, but often we don’t take general healthy lifestyle advice seriously, or we don’t understand the real benefits to these choices. By using several persuasive techniques, the advert aims to educate audiences about genuine benefits to drinking water, whilst also convincing them that they really want to begin drinking more (perhaps to look nice, to reap the health benefits or even just to mimic the celebrities quoted at the bottom).

The advert begins with a rhetorical question, which according to Ahluwalia & Burnkrant (2004) can direct the reader’s attention to the arguments in the advert. When the argument presented is strong, which I believe this one is, it encourages the reader to elaborate on the content and increase persuasion. In this case, the reader may consider the question, read the following argument on the benefits of water, consider the question again and decide they do not drink enough water and will begin to do so based on the information they have received. Next, the reader is presented with an incentive for drinking more water – being healthy and looking good – as well as a general positive feel to the advert. The advert talks about the benefits of drinking water and why it is good, rather than the dangers of not drinking enough. The combination of positive feel and incentive has been used because Xie, Donthu, Lohtia & Osmonbejov (2004) demonstrated that a positive emotional appeal paired with an incentive is much more effective than other approaches.

The middle section of the infographic advert makes use of source credibility and social comparison. The Institute of Medicine is a well-established organisation and would be seen to have a high level of expertise and therefore, high source credibility. Research shows information coming from a credible source is more persuasive than an unreliable, or low-expertise source (Hovland & Weiss, 1951). Social comparison is utilized by the image of an attractive, fit woman with the phrase “you could look like this”. Festinger (1954) states that we compare ourselves to others seen in adverts, and are often fuelled by the desire to be like the person in the advert. This is turn can lead to the reader makes suggested changes in order to achieve this desire (e.g. this advert says I’ll look like her if I drink more water. I want to look like her, so I’ll drink more water).

The final section focuses on the technique of celebrity endorsement. This persuasive technique often works by associating the message being conveyed with a popular, attractive or ‘expert’ celebrity. For example, a famous sportsman may feature on an advert for sports clothing as they would be considered an expert in the area. As there is no famous ‘expert’ on water, choosing attractive and healthy celebrities (clear skin, slim etc.) such as the ones in this advert is more likely to persuade readers to do as they are doing. Additionally, attractive celebrities often increase a reader’s confidence in the message being portrayed (Chan, Ng & Luk, 2013) and therefore make it more likely that they will trust and believe the information, and try it for themselves.

Ahluwalia, R., & Burnkrant, R. E. (2004). Answering questions about question: A persuasion knowledge perspective for understanding the effects of rhetorical questions. Journal of Consumer Research, 31, 26-42.
Chan, K., Ng, Y. L., & Luk, E. K. (2013). Impact of celebrity endorsement in advertising on brand image among Chinese adolescents. Young Consumers, 14, 167-179.
Festinger, L. (1954) A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117-140.
Hovland, C. I., & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication effectiveness. Public Opinion Quarterly, 15, 635-650.
Xie, T., Donthu, N., Lohtia, R., & Osmonbekov, T. (2004). Emotional appeal and incentive offering in banner advertisments. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 4, 30-37.

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