As I walked into the library, this poster caught my eye, and actually interested me enough to stop me in my tracks. I’ve met plenty of students at Warwick who only care about extracurricular activities if they will improve their CVs, so this amused me and made me want to find out more. I had to get closer to find out that it was advertising the Central Asia Forum (CAF), and then I had to go online to find out what that was.
This poster is using Reverse Psychology Marketing (RPM) to help the event stand out from the many other student-run events that are advertised outside the library. The organisers seem to know that their event is too niche to attract people through traditional marketing, so have used the main criteria of RPM, outlined in the book Reverse Psychology Marketing (Sinha & Foscht, 2007), to produce interest via honesty, minimalism and brand deflection.
The poster is honest about the event’s faults- it acknowledges that it won’t help you get a job. Traditional advertising aims to compare the brand favourably to its competitors (Goldenberg, Mazursky, & Solomon, 1999). RPM is brutally honest about itself, yet it can be effective for several reasons:
· Customers are largely bored with all the advertising they see (Sinha & Foscht, 2007). The novelty of honesty creates humour and intrigue and makes the advert stand out.
· People have low trust in advertisers; they are wary of their tricks. Therefore they appreciate honesty (Sinha & Foscht, 2007).
· When a seller appears to act against their own interest, they are perceived as more trustworthy (Cialdini, 2009).
· When someone acknowledges their fault, the fault is perceived as less of an issue. For example when a college application acknowledges that its grades aren’t great, people rate the application as better than an identical application that made no acknowledgment (Ward & Brenner, 2006).
· By bringing up the faults, low expectations are created (Sinha & Foscht, 2007). For a brand like the CAF, which most students are unlikely to have heard of, this gives them the opportunity to pleasantly surprise students if they can exceed those expectations.
The poster is minimalist; with only large letters displayed. It has no other information or pictures apart from the small CAF logo. Traditional advertising often uses pictures and text to link the brand to desired characteristics in the viewers’ minds (Goldenberg, Mazursky, & Solomon, 1999). Whilst the brand is the centre of traditional advertising, RPM deflects attention from it (Sinha & Foscht, 2007). CAF could have put information about the event such as speakers and topics. RPM uses minimalism to combat information overload. Most people are bombarded with so many adverts that they just ignore them (Sinha & Foscht, 2007). Restricting the information given, viewers are given the choice to actively seek out more information. It also creates mystery and suspense and makes the advertiser seem unpredictable. As mentioned previously, I had to go online to find out what CAF was. A similar advertising campaign for an unknown jewellery company produced billboards that simply said “I HATE THIS BRAND”, which caused people to search online to find out why people hated that brand, and sales increased (Sinha & Foscht, 2007). Minimalist design also projects an image of scarcity and exclusivity (Sinha & Foscht, 2007) and people are more likely to buy something if they think it is scarce (Aggerwal, Jun & Huh, 2011).
Probably not relevant to your CV
The message itself can engage people for different reasons. It uses the Pique Technique (Santos, Leve, & Pratkanis, 1994) to disrupt the automatic thought process that viewers would have gone through. People tend to walk passed the library posters and ignore them if they’re not of personal relevance, instead this phrase makes them think and engage with the poster. The message could also end up attracting the type of person it is mocking. Students who only care about their CVs could be embarrassed to see their mercenary attitudes called out. When people are embarrassed they are motivated to try and escape embarrassment (Pratkanis, 2007), so these “CV-fillers” may look into CAF to show that they don’t only care about their CV.
Aggarwal, P., Jun, S. Y., & Huh, J. H. (2011). Scarcity messages. Journal of Advertising, 40, 19-30.
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Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. In A. R. Pratkanis (Ed.), The science of social influence: Advances and future progress, (pp. 17-82). Hove, England: Psychology Press.
Santos, M. D., Leve, C., & Pratkanis, A. R. (1994). Hey buddy, can you spare seventeen cents? Mindful persuasion and the pique technique. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 755-764.
Sinha I., Foscht T. (2007) Reverse Psychology Marketing. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Ward, A., & Brenner, L. (2006). Accentuate the negative: The positive effects of negative acknowledgment. Psychological Science, 17, 959-962.