Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Gruop Conformity and Peer Pressure: Herd Behaviour in Advertising

In action, opinion and even feelings, people are natural followers of the particular group they belong to. Even in the most extreme situations, group-think tends to overcome individualism

Harvard psychologist, Herbert Kelman identified three major types of social influence (Kelman):
  • Compliance is public conformity, while possibly keeping one's own private beliefs.
  • Identification is conforming to someone who is liked and respected, such as a celebrity or a favorite uncle.
  • Internalization is accepting the belief or behavior and conforming both publicly and privately.

Peer pressure refers to the influence exerted by a peer group in encouraging a person to change his or her attitudes, values, or behavior in order to conform to group norms (Epley).

It could be dissociative when the person subject to the pressure doesn't want to belong to a group and behaves adversely concerning that group's behaviors.

Usually peer pressure is associative, especially among kids who feel the need to look "cool" in front of friends: lack of maturity and large amounts of time spent in fixed group can prevent them from handling the pressure of peers leading sometimes to harmful behaviours like drinking and smoking (Kidshealth).

The natural tendency to conformity due to the social life of individuals is a poweful tool in the hands of advertisers but at the same times it is extremely difficoult to use.
Being generally perceived as negative tendencies, conformity and peer pressure must be used carefully in advertising to avoid ineffective campaigns such as the following two.

Group Conformity and Peer Pressure in Advertising

Visa Check Card

In 1985 Terry Gilliam directed the cult science-fiction/comedy film "Brazil".

Set in a Dystopian World in which burocracy is overwhelming, the film centres on Sam Lowry, a man trying to find a woman who appears in his dreams while he is working in a mind-numbing job at the Ministry of Information: there, organization and productivity reach the highest peak...at least so it appears!

One of the most brilliant things about the movie is the soundtrack: a famous Samba song, Aquarela do Brazil, is used to underscore the dance of busy cubicle-drone infoworkers. It’s also the song the main character hears in his dreams, hinting at far-away paradisical lands. 
The Brazil song was meant to symbolize an happy existance through productivity...with a strong dose of irony.

Visa Marketers, probably without getting the irony, used the same tune for a similar situation of omologation. In the Visa Check commercial everyone is acting like they're playing in a team: they do the same actions, they buy the same things and, above all, the pay with Visa making the transactions quick and fluid.
The perfect "assembly line" is broken by a woman paying by check.

The woman paying by check doesn't adhere to the common compliance. This behaviour causes a reaction among the other customers (the peers) which will probably induce her (and the watchers) to switch to Visa.

In my opinion the commercial doesn't work:
firstly because i've seen "Brazil" which is extemely ironical and critical towards conformity,
secondly because, in my personal experience, credit cards are not so fast as the commercial tries to make us believe.

Motorola Xoom

Motorola is promoting the Xoom tablet, a competitor to Apple’s iPad, with “Empower The People”, a television advertising campaign spinning off Apple’s 1984 campaign.

In 1984 Apple lounched the revolutionary Macinosh 128k through an historic commercial named "1984".
These images were an allusion to George Orwell's noted novel Nineteen Eighty-Four which described a dystopian future ruled by a televised "Big Brother".

The commercial used an unnamed heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh as a means of saving humanity from "conformity" (IBM and Microsoft).
The runner, hurls the hammer towards the screen, right at the moment Big Brother announces, "we shall prevail!" In a flurry of light and smoke, the screen is destroyed, shocking the people watching.

The Motorola Xoom commercial, developed by Anomaly New York, is set in a world in which technologies and their users are limited.
The Motorola Xoom appears as the tablet that will make the world a better place, bringing optimism, openness, freedom and empowerment.
This commercial i s a good example of dissociative pressure.

In this commercial Motorola is assuming that they're offering a breakthrough product.
The Macintosh PC was really revolutionary thanks to ts brand new graphical user interface, can we really compare this tablet to any true breakthrough?
In what way does it empower people more than they already are?
In what way has Motorola changed the way we use a tablet?

Motorola has been too presumtuous in this case and in my opinion the commercial doesn't work.

See you soon Hitchhickers and...keep on feeding your Babel Fish!


>Epley, N., & Gilovich, T. (1999). "Just going along: Nonconscious priming and conformity to social pressure". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 35: 578-589.
>Kelman, H. (1958). "Compliance, identification, and internalization: Three processes of attitude change". Journal of Conflict Resolution 1: 51–60.

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