Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Inner Psych Geek (Boring Post Alert)

In response to my last post on the Olympics ages ago, social psychology class online discussions have churned out more interesting snippets:

In an often-cited study about counterfactuals, Medvec, Madey, and Gilovich (1995) found that bronze medalists appeared happier than silver medalists in television coverage of the 1992 Summer Olympics. Medvec et al. argued that bronze medalists compared themselves to 4th place finishers, whereas silver medalists compared themselves to gold medalists. These counterfactuals were the most salient because they were either qualitatively different (gold vs. silver) or categorically different (medal vs. no medal) from what actually occurred. Drawing on archival data and experimental studies, we show that Olympic athletes (among others) are more likely to make counterfactual comparisons based on their prior expectations, consistent with decision affect theory. Silver medalists are more likely to be disappointed because their personal expectations are higher than those of bronze medalists. We provide a testbetween expectancy-based versus category-based processing and discuss circumstances that trigger each type of processing.

And I recently had this to say about marketing and schemas (mental associations - for example, when I think of the word 'firefighter', I think of words like alarm, red, ladder, hose etc, words within the schema of 'firefighter'):

When it comes to modern marketing, the underlying principle is simple: Sell the value, not the product. And in doing so, utilising schemas is one of the most potent ways to get about it.

As the article posted by Isaac says, why bother getting something new when you can already use what's there? It's kinda like debating with somebody and using what he says against himself. When you tap into the recesses of the human mind through advertising, you are capitalising on strong beliefs and principles of the consumer, and when you can grasp it, you have the consumer at your beck and call.

This is evident when one observes, for example, the types of logos that strong, established brands use. Nike did a fantastic job, using the universally recognisable tick sign, which has a myriad of positive schemas attached to it. When you can't fare as well as that, create the values around it, like Coca-Cola does, and make the associations easy. Did you know that before Coca-Cola, Santa Claus in a red and white suit never existed? The image of Santa Claus chugging down a glass bottle of Coca-Cola is one of the most iconic images in history, and that's why they're still trashing Pepsi in the cola wars in terms of marketability til date. Capture the most basic desires, as Starbucks does with its image of lifestyle, and package it back the people for a price so that when people think of a lazy afternoon of coffee and a good book, Starbucks is right off the top of your head.

In a marketing module I once took, the professor mentioned that some company (it's a pity I really can't remember - it was really interesting) even tried to patent the word 'Okay' under their brand. One can see the level of intrusive pervasiveness when one realises the kinds of intent marketers are up to when it comes to capturing schemas and associations that we might hold dear.

The ethics of advertising is always heavily contested because of it is so hard to pin down what companies are really doing with their marketing campaigns. It's not any easier when people are increasingly conditioned to desire material things in an evergrowing market democracy world. And it is no wonder when people get more disillusioned when the basic values of their lives have a price attached to them in the form of consumer goods.

Audio Candy:
AFI - This Celluloid Dream

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