A word of warning: once you will have understood the basic aims of some of the techniques used in order to tame consumers, you'll see your own life from a completely different point of view. While you may already have experienced something similar reading master +ORC's famous 'supermarket enslavement' essay (the masterpiece that started all sort of "reality reversing" studies), I know how upsetting this can be, especially once you'll have found yourself in a very peculiar position vis-à-vis almost all your friends and social relations: in fact they will mostly NOT understand the problem at all. See: some of them will have bought and wear colored nice T-shirts carrying advertisements or huge industrial logos on them; some other will have just returned from the mall with a lot of nice colored bags filled with "offers" they just couldn't resist buying; others, while apparently "listening" to you, will have turned the TV set on and happily munch some "crusty choco-bars" or some "chips" (or whatever they had to buy) under its continuous ads' bombarding... in fact the situation may dangerously recall you those science-fiction films of the fifties where everybody but the hero is completely controlled by some little green aliens... no, actually you'll feel even worse: you'r not an hero, you'r just sorta like an ameba that has escaped from underneath the microscope's slide and took a look at the scientific lab. It is NOT always a very nice feeling :-(
So I'll here -as introduction- just list some techniques, and show some examples... you'll be able to check how terribly true they are all by yourself, as you'll see, it's pretty easy to individuate them... once you know where to look.
The purpose of "Consumer Behavior", as a discipline (which is a fairly young branch, with textbooks beginning to show up in the '60s), is to provide "a foundation for marketing management" through the advanced use of psychological, medical, ethical, cultural and historical knowledge on human behavior. In fact in order to allow what they also hypocritically call 'the development of a managerial strategy', these disciplines use (and misuse) theories and concepts from all the behavioral sciences - psychology, social psychology, sociology, anthropology, demography, and economics. In fact the marketing and advertisement 'scientists' -as you will see- act just like those nazi and Japanese doctors of the '40s, that conducted criminal experiments on human prisoners.
The direct result of all these efforts is an almost pavlovian 'branding' of illiterate consumer minds, just to cite a typical, investigated example, when shown logos of children's brands, adult's brands and consumer products, over 51% of children aged 3 to 6 recognized the "Old Joe" camel cigarette logo. I repeat: children between 3 and 6 (!) and a CIGARETTES image! Second came Nike's logo. (source: Fischer "Brand logo recognition by children aged 3 to 5 years," JAMA, December 11, 1991, 3145-3148).
In the following text I'll use my own terminology: the term 'slave masters' is used to denote the unhealthy alliance between 'consumer behaviorists', 'marketing buffs', 'commercial sellers/producers' and politician and media anchormen that defend such a society and profit from it (let's not forget just to make an example, that the Reagan administration purposely reduced funding to many of the agencies responsible for enacting the consumer laws). Clearly the term is vague and imprecise, yet it does the job. The term 'puppets' or 'puppet-models' is used to denote the use of 'celebrities' in advertising and media for mass-control and mass-influencing purposes.
One of the main problems for the slave masters is that consumers have a limited capacity to process information - information overload can impede consumer 'learning' (from their point of view, learning means here being conditioned with the need to buy a determinate product). Since emotions strongly influence how information is processed they are widely used in advertising. In fact Memory processes are influenced by affect and arousal.
A simplified memory model has three components: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory.
'Sensory memory' is a pre-attention stage where a stimulus is briefly analyzed to determine if it will receive additional processing (short-term in duration, usually less than a second), then follows the 'Short-term memory' stage - where information is temporarily stored while processing. If this information is not rehearsed (silently repeated to encode into long term memory) it is lost within 30 seconds. Short-term memory is characterized by limited capacity - Miller's law states people can handle 7 (+ or - 2) bits of information at a time. Information is transferred from short-term to long-term memory when it has been rehearsed with a transfer process known as encoding. Recall will be more difficult if there is clutter or too many stimuli. Example: the plethora of commercials on a Superbowl program make it difficult for the viewer to recall any one specific commercial. Long-term memory stores the meanings of words, symbols along with the associations among various semantic concepts. Here it is important to notice that 1) visual images or pictures tend to be more memorable than their verbal counterparts, especially when there is low-involvement on the part of the consumer; and 2) words that have high-imagery content are superior to words that do not. Example: high imagery words: table or car, low imagery words- future or peace. The slave masters of course concentrate on the storage process into and on the retrieval process from Long-term memory, so consumers will retrieve the conditioning presented with the advertisements when faced with a choice. Retrieval can be enhanced by repetition of a symbol from the advertisement to the package and by attaching a memorable jingle or music to the advertisement. This is 'brand imprinting'.
Brand imprinting consists of a brand 'node' implanted in memory which links a variety of associations (brand name, brand's characteristics, advertisements about the brand, the product category, and emotional reactions to the brand and its advertisements).
Some shrewd techniques are here used to numb the consumer, the most common
one takes advantage of a psychological characteristic of our specie called
the Zeigarnik effect (if a task is interrupted, material relevant to the task
tends to be remembered ).
This is the concept behind all interrupted :15 second commercials. The first :15 presents 'information', is interrupted with a :30 that is different, and then a :15 returns to complete the presentation of the material begun with the first :15. This snaps the Zeigarnik effect: the slave will remember.
Behavioral learning and conditioning
'Behavioral learning' is the nice name that the slave masters have found for 'consumer conditioning'. It is divided in three main sectors: Classical consumer conditioning, Operant consumer conditioning and Vicarious consumer conditioning.
Classical conditioning - behavior is influenced by a stimulus that occurs prior to the behavior and elicits it in a manner that appears to be a reflex. Advertisers try to identify messages, sights or sounds that will elicit positive reactions from consumers to associate their product with a positive stimuli - thus eliciting a positive reaction to the product (half-naked babe on the car roof). The classical conditioning framework was discovered by Ivan Pavlov in his work with dogs and those same principles are ACTIVELY used by the slave masters. You better understand them, at least in their most elementary form.
Another example, all stimuli associated with spending money (credit card
insignias) actually elicite a spending response in shoppers. Yet another example:
Using the symbol of the national flag (a conditioned stimulus) with a product
or service (a previously neutral stimulus). The product or service gains
increased status via higher order conditioning. Note that the conditioned
stimulus should be consistently paired with the unconditioned stimulus. For
example, if the slave masters use a 'celebrity bait' with a product in an
advertisement, the celebrity should be shown in point-of-purchase displays as well.
Operant conditioning - behavior is influenced by the consequences of the behavior. Sales promotion and 'personal selling' involve providing consumers with reinforcers and/or punishments to influence later behavior. Operant conditioning is often used inn order to shape consumer responses - like training animals. Totally new operant behaviors can be created by selectively reinforcing behaviors that successively approximate the desired instrumental response. This happens for example giving consumers a free sample of a product. The reinforcement is the product's performance. The added reinforcement is the enclosed coupon for purchase. In the promotional mix, operant conditioning is particularly applied to personal selling and sales promotion. Sales people attempt to reinforce desired behaviors of clients by reinforcers (compliments, smiles, lunches, Christmas gifts) . Buying behaviors are shaped with sales promotions, discounts, coupons, samples, and contests.
Vicarious conditioning - behavior is influenced by observing the actions of others and by modeling or imitating those actions. Many advertising strategies make use of appealing puppet-models (Jordan, Spice girls, whatever) using a product or experiencing its positive outcomes in the hopes the consumer will imitate the behavior. Effectiveness of the puppet-model increases in the following instances: 1.The puppet is physically attractive. 2. The puppet is "successful". 3. The puppet is shown overcoming difficulties and then succeeding.
Of course, the more dependent, and the lower the self-esteem of the consumer the more prone he/she will be to model the behavior of successful puppets. Note that this also apply, more generally, to the 'celebrities' hype all over the media. The slave masters use vicarious learning for 3 purposes. Puppet's actions can be used to create entirely new types of consumer behaviors. Puppets can be used to decrease the likelihood that an undesired consumer behavior will occur. Puppets can be used to facilitate the occurrence of a previously learned consumer behavior.
Time to examine what the slave masters call 'motivation'.
Motivation refers to an activated state within a consumer that leads to the goal-directed behavior. It consists of drives, urges, wishes, affect or desires that initiate the sequence of events leading to the goal-directed behavior. It begins with a stimulus that is processed by the consumer, going through the information processing stages of exposure, attention, and comprehension. That stimulus can come from inside the consumer or from outside the consumer.
Need activation a discrepancy caused when the stimulus processed causes the actual state of being to diverge from the desired state. Needs can be innate or learned and are never fully satisfied. Needs produce drive states. Affect is the central concept behind the experiential perspective of consumer behavior. Evidence suggests that even low intensity feelings created by advertisements may affect cognition and behavior. Evidence also indicates that consumer responses to advertisements have two emotional dimensions positive and negative affect. The emotion created can activate a consumer and place the consumer into a drive state. There's a bias called 'the fundamental attribution error' which is widely used by the slave masters: people are unfortunately biased to make internal attributions. I.e. they tend wrongly to believe that a person's actions or words are caused by that person's true beliefs and preferences, and that they are not making certain statements about a product influenced by environmental pressures like the company they work for and the money they gain for that. That's another of the reasons behind the use of the celebrities puppets and of 'average people', 'good granny', 'old dentist', 'cooking grand-ma' or various 'peopleonthestreet' interviews and ads.
Psychoanalytic theory and promotional strategy
The slave masters, using Psychoanalytic Theory, use symbols and flights of fantasy to propel consumers to buy their products. All symbols that exist in Psychoanalytic Theory are being used, such as phallic and ovarian symbols, for instance, to release sexual energy or libido.
Products may act as symbols for consumers, expressing a stereotyped "something" about their owners. Of course the lower the self-esteem of the consumer the more he will view his possessions as extensions of himself.
The LOV (list of values) scale used by the slave masters has 3 dimensions:
1.Individual values (selffulfillment, excitement, sense of accomplishment, and selfrespect). 2.Focus on the external world (belonging, being wellrespected, security). 3.Interpersonal orientation (fun and Enjoyment, warm relationships with others).
Halo effects and imaginary attributes
Halo effects occur when consumers assume that because a product is good on one product characteristic it is also good on another product characteristic. Example: if a consumer believes that crest toothpaste is the best cavity fighting toothpaste, he might also belief it has the lowest abrasive qualities.
Directing consumers' attention to an existing (or not existing) attribute
Directing consumers' attention to an attribute, and causing them to allocate cognitive capacity to the attribute increases the perceived importance of the attribute. It doesn't matter in the least if said attribute does not exist. Example: in the 80s, burger king convinced consumers that an important attribute of fast food hamburgers was the particular method of cooking flame broiling . Colgate used for year a non existent additive 'Gardol' (most toothpaste and soap advertisements resort to fantastic chemicalfictionist constructions)
Mere exposure phenomenon and behavior
Mere exposure phenomenon is a method through which positive feelings may be formed through repeated exposures to a stimulus. This is of course not cognitively based, as a matter of fact it has no rational motivation whatever: positive feelings from repeated exposures can occur without the person consciously knowing or perceiving the repetitions or familiarity of the object. The slave masters use mere exposure by developing strategies that ensure that the product, its name, or symbol, are repeatedly encountered by the consumer, e.g., Coke, Budweiser, since behavior formation corresponds to the behavioral influence perspective. In fact behavior results from people engaging in behaviors because of environmental or situational factors. Example: large retail chains design the physical layout of departments within the store to create behavior directly (see +ORC's essay). The entrance to a department store may have high status products directly in front of the door (jewelry, cosmetics) with sensuously appealing options to the right (lingerie). The consumer's first hurdle is to walk past the 'attractive' departments without buying anything there.
Physical layout can induce behaviors through aisle arrangement or then use of textures, smells and lighting. This is called Atmospherics. Atmospherics are "the effort to design buying environments to produce specific emotional effects in the buyer that enhance his/her probability of purchase" this is pure pavlovian conditioning btw.
The Fishbein models
A mathematical model used by the slave masters (Fishbein)
The Fishbein attitudetowardstheobject model relies on an algebraic formula to explain the decision process consumers actually go through.
The formula is:
Ao = bi x ei Ao the overall attitude towards the object. Bi the belief of whether the object "o" has some particular 'magic' attribute or achieves some particular 'lure' goal. Ei the evaluation of the goodness of the attribute to the consumer.Later Fishbein developed another model (BI = w1 (ab) + w2 (SN)) that contains a new construct called the subjective norm which assesses what consumers believe other people think they should do, but we don't need to get into such details here.
Ok, how do the slave masters assess if the promotion was able to influence
attitudes (i.e.: has the slave's behavior changed after being bombarded)?.
Usually the consumer is tied into a lowinvolvement information processing where cognitive responses are less likely to occur. Since the consumer is not considering the pros and cons of the issue, he uses peripheral cues (attractiveness and expertise of the source, the number of arguments presented, positive or negative stimuli in message context, music, etc.) to determine acceptance or rejection of the message. Research has indicated that using peripheral cues, such as the physical attractiveness of a model as an endorser, had great impact on consumers. Companies attempt to create a unit relation between the endorser and the brand (x) by 1. Hiring puppets who are supposed experts (or seen as experts) in using the product, 2.Signing the endorser to longterm, exclusive contracts so that the celebrity puppet is associated only with the same company's brand, 3.Having the puppet consistently wear or use the product when in public to strengthen the association with the product.
Techniques of ingratiation (Lying)
These are selfserving tactics engaged in by one person to make him/herself more attractive to another. As the attractiveness of 1 person increases, the likelihood of another complying with his/her wishes increases, this is a very subtle way of obtaining increased power over another person.
Ingratiation efforts are manipulative and calculating.
Appearing to be similar to the target the ingratiator appraises the target person's attitudes, opinions, and interests and modifies his/her statements to match the perceived beliefs of the other
Conforming to the target's wishes making the target feel important
Offering compliments, and gifts rewards for the target.
Expressing liking the target is likely to return the liking
Asking advice makes the target feel respected.
Ingratiation techniques are used in personal selling situations, yet a problem occurs if the target gets wise to the techniques , since even easy targets feel manipulated if that happens :o)
The foot-inthedoor technique.
To increase the likelihood of a prospect saying yes to a moderate request, a person may ask for a smaller request first. By saying yes to the first, small request, the person may agree to the second request to maintain consistency with selfperception. This technique has been used most frequently to increase response rate to market research surveys.
The 'Istanbul bazaar' technique
This is the opposite of the footinthedoor technique. The initial request is very large large enough that no one could be expected to comply with it. It is then followed by a smaller, more reasonable request. This technique relies on the norm of reciprocity. The norm of reciprocity states if a person does something for you, you should do something in return for that person. Illicitly invoking the norm, the requester makes a large request (although never expecting compliance) then appears to give up something by making a smaller request. The target then feels as though he or she must return the favor
This technique is based on the tendency for people to want to make themselves "look good." Since everyone has a penny, one would look foolish to say no to the request. The target cannot simply give a penny without looking foolish. The target tends to give whatever is appropriate for the situation.
Inherent in all 4 techniques is the attempt by an influencer to manipulate another by engaging in subtle subterfuge. Remember a simple truth: in using the techniques, the influencer is always lying.
Ultimately communications are given to persuade.
Persuasion is a process in which a communication is delivered in order to change beliefs and/or attitudes in a desired manner.
The matchup hypothesis indicates that endorsers who matchup with the product on relevant attributes may be more effective regardless of their likability. Example: Karl Malden played a TV cop for many years. He is an effective spokesperson in explaining the warnings against carrying a lot of cash instead of the American Express card. Yet if they use a source that is perceived as overexposed the audience understands that the source has been bought off.
Fear appeals communicate the message that unfortunate circumstances will result if the consumer fails to use a particular product or service. Fear appeals (Hitler's and all religious fanatics' methods) are effective at producing attitude change when the message contains one or more of the following types of information: Specific instructions on how to cope with and reduce the fear. An indication that following the instructions will solve the problem. Giving a highfear message to an audience that feels highly threatened and vulnerable to the threat. A supposed solution to the problem can be quickly presented. Fear appeals can be effective by creating emotional responses that focus attention on how to cope with a supposed problem giving for acquainted the problem without questioning it.
Primacy and recency effects
Primacy effect occurs when material early in the message has the most influence. Recency effect occurs when material at the end of the message has the most influence. Information in the middle of a message is relatively poorly remembered and has the least impact.
This refers to how much repetition is enough and how much is too much (advertising wearout). Usually the slave masters believe that 3 exposures should be sufficient to dumb the consumer and 4 would be too much. In fact even among the lowest forms of TV-watching drooling beings, counter arguments increase as the number of repetitions increase, causing attitudes toward the ad to become (very slowly) more negative. In order to avoid negative reactions due to boredom, the slave masters try to vary the same ad with each repetition to avoid wearout.
The representativeness heuristic is a rule of thumb in which a person determines the probability that "object a" belongs to "class b" by assessing the degree that object a is similar or stereotypical of class b. "knockoff" brands that have names and packaging similar to leading brands make use of this heuristic. There are at least twenty macaroni producers in Europe that use purposely (almost) the same blue boxes as the universally famous Italian "Pasta Barilla".
Because people tend to discount the psychological value of the future loss and having the good now is so important, a consumer might pay a higher price in the future to have the good in the present the delaypayment effect. If a consumer "just missed" a sale, he will feel more of a loss than if the sale was 6 months prior. Consumer selfcontrol refers to the ability of people to delay gratification and avoid making purchases that provide pleasure in the present but pain in the future.
The frequency heuristic occurs when choice is influenced by the mere number of positive and negative attributes associated with a brand, or by the mere number of dimensions on which one brand outperforms another. Consumers act as though they simply count the number of features on which one brand surpasses another little or no attention paid to the relative importance of the features. The slave masters utilize this heuristic when they provide buyers with a series of extra gifts for a purchase to increase the perceived number of benefits, e.g., fragrance companies that offer a "$60" makeup case with the purchase of a $40 bottle of perfume.
Decision makers' bending
Marketers can sometimes bend the decision maker's frame, e.g., meat that is "75% lean" as opposed to meat that is 25% fat. "Best before" as opposed to 'Do not consume after' and so on...
Purchases made with no cognitive control in an automatic manner. It is the antithesis of rational consumption.
Clear symptom of a successful strategy implemented by the slave masters. It's defined as a buying action undertaken without a problem having been previously recognized or a buying intention formed prior to entering the store a spur of the moment decision based on positive feelings toward an object, it's in reality the effect of some of the techniques used by the slave masters and explained above. There are some defenses against this, the main one being the very old trick of NEVER buying anything that you didn't list on paper before leaving your house... whatever your mind keeps telling you :o)
I won't enter too much in this huge field. Suffice to note that there are two main groups used scientifically for consumer enslaving purposes: Aspiration groups: those sets of people to whom a consumer wishes to belong and Dissociative groups: those sets of people from which the consumer hopes to separate.
To explain this, remember that in a group there are roles and that a "rolerelated" product cluster is a set of products necessary for playing a particular role inside an aspiration group: An example is given by a "business person's" suit, expensive pen, expensive attache case, secretary, etc.
Note also how people that ARE REALLY part of the 'aspiration group' (real rich people, real businessmen, real celebrities etc.) often refuse the 'role-related' product clusters ("real rich" despising any "Lacoste crocodile" (even to the point of sewing it off their T-shirts) or any similar mass-consumer logos, for instance.
One more observation about any "age groups" subdivision: Elder "Mature consumers" group members feel always younger than they actually are, while "teenagers" feel always older than they actually are... the implication is that all slave master's promotional materials focus on portraying both elderly and youngsters at the age they feel not, their chronological age (with clear and dangerous implications: fast cars, cigarettes, booze, etc.).
"Don't waste a second without consuming"
Distribution systems have more and more 'flexibilized' their opening times.
Nowadays you can consume something else in the middle of the night, should you feel that you have not consumed enough during the day. This is also perfectly in line with the increasingly successful struggle of the slave masters in order to destroy any 'Sunday' (intended as the only one day 'without consume') in the name of 'rationalization' and 'globalisation' and 'progress' and 'more flexibility'. In reality the existence of the simple concept of a 'Sunday' (man! a whole day WITHOUT consuming!) is a blasphemy for the slave masters: kids and grown up slaves could eventually come to the idea that consuming is after all NOT so important.
Hence the growing push -everywhere- in order that retail stores can be open weekends and evenings (a trend feebly countered by obsolete churches or almost destroyed worker unions, NOT countered by any mass media or 'opinion leader'). At the same time Mailorder purchasing has increased in "popularity". People are so conditioned that they simply NEED to buy something during those long terrible TV-ads filled Sunday afternoons, and mail-ordering gives them at least the 'good feeling' that they are not condemned to endure a whole day without throwing some more money away :o)
In our society goods are able to carry and communicate "cultural" meanings to individuals.
The transfer of meaning from consumer goods to individuals may take place through various rituals, including possessions, exchange, grooming and divestment rituals.
Certain rituals or symbolic actions link people to material goods ('forced' exchanges at birthdays and 'forced' presents at Christmas).
A typical (negative and alarming) symptom of the decay of the society we live in can easily be seen just examining the evolution of print advertising themes during the last 10 years: Utilitarian themes (where a product's benefits were described in terms of practicality and efficiency) have dramatically decreased and Luxury themes increased dramatically (where having the possession is the end in itself, a destructive activity that leads -and is motivated- by the "cultural" meanings of envy, possessiveness, selfishness and greed).
Trends (the "slave masters' whips", as +ORC called them) have such an importance that apparel companies had to introduce clothing for working women that does not go "out of style" each year. If you observe this kind of clothing you will notice a very interesting series of "no-no-frill" common (functional) characteristics. As a simple rule of thumb, the more of these characteristics carries your own clothing, the less probably it will 'look' obsolete during the next 5-7 years (not that you could care less about that, I know, but nevertheless... :o)