I picked this topic because I don’t believe there is the best form of advertising, the best advertising depends on the targeted audience. I read a recent study by Juliano Laran where she states that most of the public at large will “automatically activate a defensive system whenever they detect persuasive intent”. There is also this thing called implicit priming, this is a process where one irrelevant word or picture can put behaviors in play that are in some way related to that trigger. A perfect example is, subliminally blinking the Apple logo can “spur study participants to think more creatively, and that presenting a Walmart logo can encourage frugal behavior whereas presenting a Nordstrom logo leads to greater indulgence”. Simply stating, the brands set off a set of relative things that set in motion particular behaviors.
Now brands also, contend that Laran and her colleagues are not the same as other commercial communications in that they’re not automatically apparent as inherently convincing, they are basically identifiers of any specific product, that is the same as speaking the name of the product. Now when it comes to catchphrases, they are clearly persuasive. Maybe individuals respond to these in a reverse-psychology way by obstructing and/or even opposing the typical brand relations.
Researchers have found that when the public look at cost-conscious brand names like Walmart in an unproven remembrance study, and participate in a make-believe shopping task, these individuals had the ability to duplicate the implicit priming effect: individuals were eager to be able to spend much less on a product than if they had seen extravagant-brand logos. Now when individuals were shown slogans in its place of the brand names, there was a reverse priming effect: in this case, the luxury brand slogans set off a more tightfisted behavior than the economy-brand slogans.
The reverse-psychology effect seems to center on perceiving the persuasive goal of the message. But in another type of the research, where individuals were asked to focus on how creative the slogans are, while hiding the true intent of the slogan, the reverse effect disappeared, and they went back to the brand names effect; meaning, the economy-brand slogans went back to the less spending slogan rather than the luxury brands slogans. In addition, if the persuasive nature of brands was emphasized, the brand names set off the reverse priming effect, just as the slogans had before.
The thought process of resisting the lure of persuasion might take a great amount of distrustful consciousness, where you have to knowingly protect yourself from the apparent persuasion. It was my belief that the best defense from the implicit types of persuasion was a more awareness along with critical thinking. But that has been proven not to be the case.
In a creative variation of the same study, some researchers tested to see if the defensive system would be able to be unconsciously activated on by some type of subliminal messaging. The outcome of the research showed that in the “individuals sentences such as Don’t waste your money” or “Always try to impress.” After each sentence, either the word “slogan” or the word “sentence” was flashed too quickly to be seen by the subjects” ( ) ( ). When the sentences had been recognized objectively as “sentence,” the individual spending choices along with the content of the sentences. Once they were acknowledged by the word “slogan,” they showed a reverse priming effect the mere initiation of the construct of slogan whether subliminally or not was enough to send them scurrying in the opposite direction.
The study suggests that advertising messages could, in theory, have very different effects depending on whether their persuasive nature is highlighted. This, incidentally, is the logic behind the recent French decision to ban the uttering of the brand names Facebook and Twitter on broadcast television, a move that had many Americans shaking their heads and mumbling about anti-American sentiment. But the premise is not unreasonable: that uttering a brand name outside of the clearly persuasive context of a commercial doesn’t allow consumers the opportunity to activate their defense shields. The same line of thinking applies to some countries’ decisions not to allow advertising aimed at children because young kids don’t always get that advertising is a form of persuasion.
The study also provides a potential answer to a question that has been in my mind since I first heard about the implicit priming effects with Apple and Walmart logos: could you nudge yourself towards creativity or financial prudence by plastering the appropriate logos around your house or workspace or in your wallet? Perhaps not—you’d always be aware of your intent to persuade yourself. Maybe unconscious persuasion tactics are a bit like tickling: it doesn’t work if you try to do it on yourself.