The holidays are comin’!

Guys, you guessed it, this blog is all about Christmas and the Coca-Cola advert. I believe it was first spotted in a X Factor break a few Saturday’s ago, and since then I have felt that it is completely acceptable to jump on the Christmas-hype bandwagon. The Coca-Cola advert is so much more than an advert; it’s the launch of the countdown to Christmas; symbolizes the start of the festive season; the start of winter (although it arrived way before the advert, this year!); and overall jolly-ness.

Last year we took a road trip to Manchester and the Christmas Market where we over indulged in the foods and beverages available, shopped until we could not carry anymore, and we didn’t forget to visit the Coca-Cola truck – yes, the actual truck that tours! When I saw the advert this year I could not help but think about the chilly but heart-warming day I spent in Manchester last year, and got excited about this years festivities. There are three key psychological relevance’s here; nostalgia, anticipation and classical conditioning. Let’s take a look at the advert:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVJvg3DJgpk

Gorn (1982)  concluded that classical conditioning occurs when a positive attitude to a specific stimulus is developed through an association that has already created positive reactions. A popular example of classical conditioning is Pavlov and the salivating dogs whereby food and a ringing bell were paired. Over time the dogs began to salivate at the sound of the ringing bell, even when the food was not present. Classical conditioning can be shown in the Coca-Cola advert, and this conditioning is clearly shown via media and virtual networking sites. Coca-cola is now no longer an advert based on a carbonated drink, it symbolising key events of the such as Christmas. Around the beginning of December children (and adults a-like) are watching the adverts, eagerly waiting for the red truck to come onto the screen so the Christmas festivities can begin. Therefore, we have been conditioned to associate Coca-cola and Christmas (two completely independent things).

Nostalgia can be defined as the “sentimental longing for the past”. I think it’s fair to say we all experience different levels of nostalgia but there are some common yearly occasions that make us feel nostalgic, and for me Christmas is one of these events! Christmas is an occasion which can focus on children (and their happiness) entirely, and who wouldn’t want to go back to those care-free days? The Coca-cola advert shows the excitement on people’s faces, as well as the magic of Christmas and Father Christmas, making us all want to turn back time.

Finally, the anticipation which the Coca-cola advert brings is enough to excite the whole country. As we have already established, the Coca-cola truck advert symbolises the beginning of the festive period for many people across the county, and it is at this time we begin to feel that warm fuzzy feeling  that Christmas is just around the corner; a time for relaxing, being with loved ones and over indulging. After watching the advert for the first time we are left to anticipate what the present festive season will bring, from the gifts we will give and receive to the food we will consume.

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To conclude, there are many psychological aspects to the Coca-cola advert, which is on TV at Christmas, to make us all excited for the festive season. Whether you feel nostalgic, automatically conditioned to festive excitement, or light-headed with excitement, may this Christmas be a jolly one!

You’ve got the power!

Statistics and numbers may make you cringe and break out in a sweat, but, let’s be realistic, using numbers in adverts draw in consumers. For example, when companies advertise cosmetics it is not unusual to see a statistic thrown in like ‘9 out of 10 women would recommend this product’.

http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa8lhEyIuQM

This Olay advert is a perfect example of how statistics is used in marketing a product. After a mere 20 seconds Olay have persuaded you, the consumer, to purchase their products as 82% (although, it says 83% on the advert?!) of users believe it is as good as any other highly-priced prestige product.

Statistics are also used in adverts to grab the consumer’s attention (subconsciously), especially when companies are trying to engage the consumer, and ultimately get them to spend money. For example the urgent appeal from WaterAid:

http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bm8l82OX6Ek

I think the majority of you will agree that this had a pull on the heart strings, which is what WaterAid want to achieve. Throughout their commercial they use the word ‘choice’ which has a huge effect on the person observing the advert. As well as using words to draw in the viewer they also use statistics – which are powerful, alone. Everyday 4000 children die because of poor sanitation and from drinking water is unsafe, which amounts to approximately 14 and a half million children every year, and to think we can prevent this from happening gives us, residents of a developed world, a huge amount of power.

Adverts such as the one above by WaterAid and others a-like use many psychological theories to make them effective. The technique known as the drop-in-the-bucket effect is used well in the above advert: drop-in-the-bucket simply means the advert focuses on you, the viewer. The advert allows your contribution to make a change by saying ‘you have the choice’ and by making a contribution of £2 a month ‘you’ can make a difference – moving the focus off the children and on to the viewer. This technique allows exactly the same advert to become personalised to each viewer. Clever, huh?  The drop-in-the-bucket effect is linked closely to the victimization effect or the identifiable effect; when the person in the advert is identifiable (Small, Loewenstein, Slovic, 2007). Small et al., have found that when people can identify where their donation is going, they are more likely to donate. For example, in the WaterAid advert Jaun is an identified person who will benefit from the £2 a month appeal, so people are more likely to donate once they know who Jaun is, as opposed to just hearing the statistics. Research shows that when viewers feel that they have more involvement we are more likely to make a charitable donation, especially when accompanied by our evolutionary desire to help others.

To conclude, in my opinion, WaterAid have created a very good advert, which includes many different psychological techniques, including the drop-in-the-bucket effect and identifiable effect, in order to capture the viewers’ attention, and then get them involved. Personally, I feel that the technique(s) used by charities, and other organisations, to entice viewers to make a donation is fascinating.

Louboutin’s, Ferrari’s, roses; it’s a sexy but dangerous world.

This week I have been planning to go away after my masters and it made me think about the time I spent in Monaco and Monte Carlo two years ago. The lifestyle was fantastic, and Ferrari’s are definitely the way to my heart, as well as roses and Christian Louboutin shoes.

In today’s society it is a norm for women to wear high-heeled shoes, at any occasion. Women wear heels to work, to lunch, to pick their children up from school, and the list goes on; research has suggested that women wear their heels for many reasons including to increase attractiveness, especially of the legs (smith, 1999). However, it is not all good news for women in heels; Esenyel et al., (2003) looked at the risks women are under when they wear high-heeled shoes, and some of the risks do include the kinetic function of the foot. If the health risks of wearing high-heeled shoes are so high, why do women wear them? Why do women spend hundreds of pounds on shoes which are injuring them? And, maybe a more relevant question, why do we dream of owning our very own pair of Louboutins?

From 1992 Christian Louboutin have ensured that every pair of their shoes had a trademark red sole, which soon became a ‘badge of honour’ for fashionista’s and celebrities alike. Carrie Bradshaw, Sex & The City’s shoe-obsessed heroine, made Louboutin’s a household name, but added much more meaning to these shoes; they mean wealth and glamour, and are a recognisable fashion accessory. 

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Ferrari is an Italian based company, whose racing colour is red; hence the red Ferrari (Doodson, 2011). However, I personally feel the red Ferrari is much more than a racing colour, it is a universal trademark for the company.

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I feel that all the materialistic things I love in life have one thing in common; the colour red. What is about the use of red in advertising which draws people, like me, in?  The colour red can have subtle environmental cues that have influences on our behaviour (Elliot, Maier, Moller, Friendman & Meinhardt, 2007), and can elicit certain feelings when seen; for example, love (Kreitler and Kreitler, 1972) and arousal (Grossman & Weisenblit, 1999).  

Connotations of the colour red seem to impact significantly on consumers, and Allan (2009) suggested that the colour red elicits feelings such as danger.  As a society we have connotations with the colour, especially when you think about phrases like ‘on the red-carpet’ or ‘that is red-hot’, which can potentially mean advertising using red is more desirable and attractive to the western world, perhaps. The connotations we have with the colour red seem to fit in nicely with materialistic goods we can purchase. For example, Louboutins seem to only fit into an A-lists wardrobe, only suitable for those on the red-carpet.

As a western society we have so many different connections and connotations with the colour red is it really surprising that companies use red in advertisement, especially when some of the world-leading companies are doing it. Is the red sole of a Louboutin shoe really desirable and would it be as ‘wanted’ if it was a blue-sole? Does the red Ferarri symbolise danger and power or wealth? Is the Special K cereal advert using red on purpose? Take a look around your surroundings, red can mean danger, romance, fear, confidence and happiness. 

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Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!

This weekend the clocks go back and it’s officially winter, which means plenty of seasonal events to look forward to. Next Wednesday is Halloween, or Hallows’ Evening, and it’s pretty much hard to not know about it. The shops have gone crazy publicizing the event.

Halloween is a worldwide event, always on the 31st October and enables companies to really sell their products which are Halloween related. You can buy costumes, apples, treats, decorations, cakes, to name but a few things you can purchase form the shops. Buy why, I may ask? Why do we, as a nation of all ages, invest time and money into this event? BIGinsight (2012) have conducted a survey and found 71.5% of people will get in to the ‘Halloween mood’ and there will be a 10% increase in sales, this year.

Children engage in ‘Trick or Treating’ while adults (including students!) often engage in drinking, socializing and even the odd carving of a pumpkin. Adults are thought to engage in Halloween as a way of ensuring quality time is spent with their children. Diranian (2011) presented research that suggests children who have parents who play an active role in their life are more likely to do better in school. Just having a parent active in a child’s life can lead to significant results and as Halloween is a worldwide event (and an excuse for everyone to dress up), then it seems perfectly acceptable for adults to dress up too, right? This makes families a prime target for brands and companies to target – everyone will need things to go trick or treating with, along with costumes, face paint, and pumpkins.

For those of us who don’t have families to go trick or treating with, there is always nostalgia to fall back on. Shaikh and Deschamps (2006) reported how student life can bring financial difficulties as well as the stress from living away from home and how this can bring about nostalgia. 

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We see items like the Screme Egg in Morrisons  and it instantly brings back memories of trick or treating. Or maybe what about this deal? Image

 

Both seem like an irresistible buy to me! Tesco have nothing to lose, in my eyes; they have students who are instantly attracted to the cheap pumpkins so they can bring back childhood memories just before Halloween, and families can purchases reasonably priced pumpkins for everyone to enjoy carving.

In Bangor, nightclubs and bars are putting on events for students which involves fancy dress and all things spooky. Does this mean we, as students, buy into the Halloween event? I think so. We will (probably) buy/make costumes, buy some sort of beverage to have during the evening, pumpkins etc. Whether this is due to nostalgia or not, we are feeding the companies over-commercialization of the event.

Finally, another reason why adults engage in fancy dress at Halloween may be due to the symbolic meaning and social values of clothing (Solomon, 1983). Fancy dress acts as a transformation device that allows the individual to change his or her own identity (Dichter, 1964) and to scare friends, colleagues and acquaintances.  The costume allows the chooser (who, in this research, may not be the wearer) a form of creativity and self-expression (Stacey et al., 1992). This can bring individuality and a unique identity within a group of people. Maybe this is a plausible reason to why people in their twenties still engage in fancy dress at Halloween.

To conclude, Halloween is a worldwide event where people of all ages engage in pumpkin carving and fancy dress. It is very much a family event, but also a social event for those who don’t have children or families. There are many suggestions to why everyone engages in Halloween and, personally, I think every suggestion is plausible. Either way, we all invest time and money into the 31st October!

Hope you all have a great Halloween!

Last week I blogged about Twitter and how its design is aimed at businesses and branding, with some focus on e-WOM. This week I aim to continue on the theme of Twitter, social media and consumer psychology but focusing on the brand-consumer relationship between the users of Twitter and how brands and businesses go about attracting wider audiences.

Following on from a comment left by kfpsych on my blog last week, I am intrigued to find out more about the virtual relationships companies hold with potential consumers. Research suggests that depending on how you want your business to develop depends on which social network (Facebook or Twitter) you should target, as different age groups use different social networks (Aronsson, 2010). Thirteen-17 year olds are the peak age group of Facebook users, whereas, 18-34 year olds are the peak age group of Twitter users. All age groups 35+ have a moderately low representation on social networks, in comparison (Aronsson, 2010).  With a significant difference in the peak age group of users on different social networking sites it is understandable that companies what to ensure they target the right network, in order to attract the correct audience (and hopefully the most consumers!). Trustov et al., (2008) found that branded social media only tends to attract individuals who have previously encountered the brand and like it. The study concluded that there is potentially only a small audience attracted. These findings made me question what are the brands aims? Do they want to target a specific audience, or are they aiming to target all Twitter users?

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Even though an intimate virtual relationship is formed between brands and ‘followers’ on Twitter (Braunitzer, 2011), there is a possible reason to how companies and brands can get around only targeting a specific audience; ‘re-tweeting’.  Boyd, Golder and Lotan (2010) described re-tweeting to have similar effects to the forwarding of an email – essentially, the message gets broadcast to a wider audience. Boyd et al., (2010) present the idea that marketers, politicians and celebrities use the re-tweet syntax to engage in new audiences and interlocutors. As a Twitter user, I had not really considered this before reading Boyd and colleagues research; I will quite happily re-tweet something on my thread to my followers if I find it funny, informative or to show my support in any way without any genuine reason other than to show my followers, but the theory behind it now makes everything clearer. I’m no celebrity or marketer, but I re-tweet their tweets and a lot of the people I follow also do, thus, the message does reach new users and help to validate the message (Boyd et al., 2010), potentially attracting new consumers. Personally, I now think re-tweeting is an effective tool on Twitter to help the business world develop.

Image(This is the re-tweet logo on Twitter)

Ego-retweeting is a new theory research has presented Twitter users with; it is the theory that using re-tweets is for your own ego, even when you are re-tweeting what someone else has posted (Boyd et al., 2010). For example, ‘@USERB: I’m glad you enjoyed! RT: @USERA Thank you for the tasty chocolate, @USERB. It was too kind.’ The research suggests that @USERB is re-tweeting and adding to what @USERA said to enhance her virtual image to her followers; she has done a kind thing and wants her followers to understand that she is a kind and generous person, as well as wanting to reply to her friend.  To try and investigate this theory I have just tried typing into Google various key terms to see what it churned out, and it turns out this is a popular thing to do. There are all sorts of anecdotal sites out there giving readers hints and tips on ways of boosting their ego on social networking sites. Personally, I find the psychology behind the ego re-tweeting theory fascinating, and I’m sure you do too, especially if you are a Twitter user like me!

To conclude, after diving a little deeper into the psychology behind Twitter’s tools and how they can be used in a business and consumer would, I don’t think I will ever tweet and re-tweet in the same way again. Such a simple thing can be so effective in strengthening and broadening virtual relationships between brands and consumers.

Virtual relationships

Chirping about Twitter

I have no idea whether this will work, I am new to blogging and consumer psychology so I am on a steep learning curve(!). The consumer world has blown my mind, and picking a topic to write my first blog took some time. I used social media and the internet to look for inspiration, so, here we go;

Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Skype etc. have grabbed the attention of the world, but why? And how? Do people really spend much time communicating virtually and using social networking sites? Answer: apparently so. Eighty-five percent of internet users claim to use Facebook and 49% use Twitter.

With a 949% increase in users since 2008, Twitter has become a vital part in the business world (Bulearca, & Bulearca, 2010). I guess it makes sense really; 140 million users on one site makes for prime marketing, surely? The company Dell use Twitter to capture the consumer, and reported to have gained approximately £1.9 million from cost savings and sales in 2009 (Davidson, 2009). Thus, with statistics like this it makes Twitter and other social media sites financially beneficial for companies.

In recent months Twitter has updated their profile settings to allow businesses to promote their company name and branding. This new development by Twitter has attracted all groups of people; the public can now upload photos of friends, family, pretty things etc. and set it as their background; whereas, companies can upload anything they want to promote. This really enhances the company’s virtual image, and draws the consumer in. Everyone is a consumer of the new change in Twitter’s settings and it has definitely helped companies to draw in their own consumers. At present, 300’000 new Twitter accounts are made each day, so someone or something is doing something good out there. Below is a screen shot of Bangor University’s Twitter page, and as you can see they use the same background online as what they have done in their prospectus. It’s definitely a photo Bangor students should find familiar! Their ‘profile photo’ is also the crest for the University. I feel this could be classed as ‘branding’ and helping the University to get familiar images out on to the internet. 

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Research suggests that Twitter, Facebook and blogging are forms of e-WOM (electronic word of mouth) which is an advantageous technique of marketing for companies, as it is reported to have more of an impact (visually as well as being able to see the message) on a much broader scale, as the internet is worldwide (Jansen, Zhang, & Sobel, 2009).  Research suggests that e-WOM doesn’t have to go directly to the consumer, as the speed of which the information can travel at can reach its target audience in minutes (Godes, & Mayzlin, 2004). Jansen, et al. (2009) found 19% of tweets to mention a brand, with more than 50% of these tweets to contain positive messages about the said brand. These conclusions indicate consumers do use social media, like Twitter, to look at companies and brands they are interested in.

Personally, I think Twitter is a great way of targeting consumers; browsing ‘tweets’ on your phone/laptop at any time of day to check out what friends are doing and see what deals companies have to offer. If I see a particular shop or company saying they have deals, sales or new items available to view I am straight on to it, and as some of you will think I have fallen in to the trap, many more of you will sit there in agreement, I am sure.

If you’re interested in what Twitter have published here is the link: http://advertising.twitter.com/2012/09/new-twitter-profile-pages-richer-way-to.html