Marketers use psychological techniques in adverts to manipulate consumer purchasing and subliminally shift social norms to benefit their profit. The purpose of psychological marketing techniques used in advertisement can have both a positive and negative impact on the male and female consumer. An advert with the feature of social awareness can achieve a great impact on shifting social norms. However, interpreting such techniques with an alternative motive such as only to gain profit, can lead to an increase in insecurities therefore corrupting the socio-culture. Initially, an analysation will be conducted of the use of multiple psychological needs of male and female consumers which marketers meet cautioning that both consumers are targeted differently based on gender stereotypes. Further, it will be explained with examples of how psychological techniques can be effectively distributed/used in adverts to both benefit the consumer and the marketer including the Gillette-The Best Man Can Be,(2019) and the Nike-Dream Crazier,(2019) which brought awareness to breaking toxic social norms. In contrast, lack of awareness of the negative consequences of an advert, including selling insecurities to female consumers to gain profit and leaving toxic masculine messages to male viewers leaves a lasting self-destructive cycle of purchasing to lose the insecurities such as the advert Protein world- Are You Beach Body Ready?,(2015) and Girl's shampoo isn't made for real men!, (2014)- will be examined. Finally, the amount and type of psychological techniques pressed onto consumers will be discussed and highlighted to demonstrate how adverts use these techniques in creating an illusion for the consumer to buy.
Negative Female Consumerism
Psychological techniques can be used on adverts to both positively and negatively impact its female consumer. In a materialistic and insecurity induced socio-culture, woman are known to be the main object of sexualisation just based on their physical body features. As a result this has pushed woman to internally digest another parties assessment of their body as a credible main source of basing one’s value of their self-image also known as the Objectification theory Fredrickson and Roberts, (1997). Similarly, advertisers use it to their advantage as a form of psychological techniques to drive sales through insecurity stimulated adverts. For example, the ‘perfect body’ Victoria Secret Lingerie advert (The Huffington Post, 2014) was gaining nothing but body-shaming woman who could not be able to relate to their unrealistic body shapes which Victoria Secret tried to portray as the ‘perfect body’.
Image 1. Victoria Secret Advert from 2014
In particular, one of the psychological techniques advertisers had interpreted was ‘God terms’ (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.134) which uses specific words such as; healthy, control, discover, save, better, to make a positive feel good effect on a consumers brain to purchase the product. However, the words used in the advert of ‘perfect fit’, ‘perfect body’ and ‘perfect shape’ only enforced unhealthy perceptions for woman to base their bodies on. Although, the advert did spark up over 32,000 signatures on Change.org (Apologise for, and amend the irresponsible marketing of your new bra range 'Body', 2015) which enforced Victoria Secret to change their Lingerie line name to ‘ A body for every body’. As a result it also empowered and sparked a line of company’s and campaigns in positively recreating the advert, resulting in the original VS advert being a drive of promoting body-positivity. ‘Because women feel their bodies fail the beauty test, American industry benefits enormously’ Hesse-Biber,(1996). This unfair social norm is the drive for a toxic cycle of buying and making female consumers unsatisfied with the results which then pushes the consumer to buy more of the company’s products to feel better. Similarly, another advert which promoted body-shaming and body comparisons was weight loss ‘Are you beach body
ready?’ advert Flickr- Are you beach body ready, (2015).
Image 2. Protein World- Are you beach body ready? Advert from 2015
This advert shows a sense of power with the model standing with her barbie like flat stomach in an abnormal pose whilst promoting an unrealistic bikini line next to a bottle of weight loss tablets shows signs of pride with her head slowly tinted upwards. In terms of techniques that were included, Attractiveness (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.62) is a universal feature that has been implemented in media such as magazines, films and adverts to be a main drive for sales by giving the illusion of ‘goodness’ creating a ‘Halo Effect’ that instantly transfers its reputation to the product. In contrast, the quote ‘Bodily self-control was their primary means to exert control in the social world’ (Goodman,2002,p.722) , shows that having the ideal body gives one’s value in society which gives the feeling of power. Likewise, studying and knowing the consumers unconscious traits using psychoanalysis such as their desires, feelings and unconscious thoughts means that the advertisement can give them exactly what they want to achieve Fromm, (1966). In particular, using their social needs such as making consumers feel socially included, being in trends and or using their self-needs to make an illusion of being one step closer to having a worry-free safe future if they bought their product (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.13,14). Consequently, this form of customer satisfaction is fabricated and in the long-term toxic to their health and self-esteem risking the chances of eating disorders.
Positive female advertisement
However, more advertisers have started to seek in using empowerment to promote their products instead- highlighting their brand values. For example, the advert Nike- Dream Crazier(2019) highlights some of the main struggles that women face in result, making the consumer feel a power rush and getting the brand more relatable to their female targeted consumers Nike, (2019). This can be illustrated by how Nike has used a Simulation method (Gupta, Singh and Dr.Rajesh Verma, 2010) to imitate and express complex issues and emotions their woman audience may experience which otherwise cannot be simplified in order to explain. Instead of depicting woman for what they don’t have or don’t look like, (Nike, 2019) has disrupted the unhealthy cycle and instead listened to its consumers. With more brands listening to their customers and writing down their desired resulting emotions of buying their product, advertisers have the opportunity of being more credible, therefore being more able to mimic their customer’s values. As a result,the use of social media brands becoming more customer-led has started leaving the power of the message to the consumer. This creates a more loyal and trustworthy brand look (Mitchell, 2018). Just like how Marxism contradicted Spenoza, being working class aware and representing it through an erudite manner online is a revolution in becoming more consumer unplugged (Fromm, 1966). Finally customers have started to take back the power. Nevertheless, another technique Nike, (2019) also did use was the ‘ Promised Land’ (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.36) which creates the effect that if you bought their product, you will achieve their implied result psychologically transporting you to a time of realisation and revaluation. In this instance, the promised land is the independency for woman to be away from giving emotional labour, to be validated and respected for their work ethics and not to be depicted on an emotional level. The positives of this technique is that it drives sales in consumers because the desired achievement is unrealistic, so therefore by buying the product the consumer can be one step closer to having diversity and equal respect. The negative side is the unfortunate reality of this paradox not existing resulting in woman having to desire this type of respect and equality leaving brands such as Nike taking advantage of these emotional needs and making profit.
Positive male advertisement
Notwithstanding, Psychological techniques can be used to also shift social awareness. When coming into the 21st century, full of media exposure enabling people to express their struggles and concerns through different platforms to create social media movements such as the me too. Movement, (2019), it demonstrates an increase of social awareness in adverts. ‘The Best Man Can be’ Gillette,(2019) is an advert that acknowledged and tackled issues
such as harassment, bullying and toxic masculinity at a time when it was most talked about. In particular one psychological technique Gillette used was Anchoring. ‘New judgements are always compared internally to existing information and are then adjusted towards or away from their standard’ (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.94). This demonstrates Gillette acknowledging and referencing back to the male gaze (Mulvey, 1999), with it being a main feature of a film to openly use Voyaging. In contrast, Gillette took the old information to create a new approach in their advert as they presented and tackled a situation in their advert where a man is about to harass a woman in public but then gets stopped by a man pulling him back. Of course, this doesn’t happen on a daily basis and it isn’t based on every type of man but it does shed light on the many unshared stories of harassment that occur without being questioned or acknowledged. In relation, the advert also used the DSR techniques (Disrupt then reframe) also known as the crowbar - “ Disrupting attention gives advertisers an opportunity to reframe and resell an already dismissed proposal’(Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.114). In relation to Anchoring, DSR method plays an important part to compare but also disrupt previous chains of thought through introducing an unexpected perception of real life situations, capturing its viewers attention as they temporarily stop any critical thoughts therefore enabling the viewer to have a more open mind to the subject and comply. This techniques is exercised when showing negative behaviour followed by a new positive outlook. This can be demonstrated by, (Gillette,2019) showing one father pulling his son through a crowd so that he could break up a fight between a group of boys and show a positive example. Importantly, the advert has been getting a lot of appraisal for the diversity of masculine representation (Gillette #MeToo razors ad on 'toxic masculinity' gets praise – and abuse, 2019). Nevertheless, in contrast there has also been a lot of negative responses of how Gillete had alienated its target audience (Gillette faces backlash and boycott over '#MeToo advert', 2019) which I could agree with baring in mind that the advert looks more appealing to women viewers, which Gillette doesn’t have as a target audience. Likewise, Gillette had also used the social comparison Leon Festinger, (1954) to drive and make individuals particularly men compare themselves, find flaws and therefore want to improve. Although it has brought light to some toxic actions, it has also used insecurity induced techniques in order to sell their product as a solution to an individual's actions.
Negative male advertisement
It is also important to highlight that, their shavers for men and women are near enough the same product, and even then the price for a womans shaver is largely higher, fuelling patriarchy, and at the same time trying to promote healthier masculinity which do not go
hand in hand. Similarly, When Gillette used DSR (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.114) of recreating its original proposal of their brand values, they overwrote their older advert version (Gillette Fusion, 2014) which would include a man walking around a pool party with very attractive woman asking around what each woman preferred as a percentage of hair on a man's body. This key Gillette insecurity driving technique goes by the term Social Proof, which makes consumers copy and or inherit other people’s behaviours or looks who have similar opinions or outlooks as them (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.50). This not only drives men to question whether they have similar body hair types to what the three woman in the advert preferred, but it also induces the idea that Gillette reversed the Objectification theory Fredrickson and Roberts, (1997). Nevertheless making women's preferences the primal source of men’s self-image beliefs which being used in either genders can have a negative impact on one’s self- image Fredrickson and Roberts, (1997). Again, another mens product brand had a trial at using social comparison (Leon Festinger,1954) to try and sell their Dove men’s shampoo and differentiate it from their womens product range (Girl's shampoo isn't made for real men!, 2014). To demonstrate, the techniques Dove used to enlighten their audience attention would be by using humour (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.71) . This presented to their male audience what happens when they use their womans shampoo range resulting in them getting luscious long ‘feminine’ hair. This technique does not only increase liking for a brands reputation but also pushes impulsive buying, which is a win for any company. Similarly, following with the otherness theory (Sarukkai, 1997), comparing yourself to another only enables you to create a more valid self-image giving you a better understanding of your identity through making you ask yourself, who is on that advert? And what do they have compared to me?. So, in theory adverts can only help shape a better picture of yourself. Furthermore in contrast, the advert did serve its purpose for successfully targeting its male consumers only, but it also marginalised its male consumers. To Dove, having long hair is portrayed as a feminine feature but also one that a man shouldn’t be proud of having due to it being a technique to drive their sales through humouring their audience. It also plays on the Anchoring technique of, comparing one’s product to another, which in some cases can have an opposite effect and decrease the value of the compared product. In this case its being a female’s product line resulting to women disliking the adverts targeting. This advert also played on the toxic masculinity pushing men to feel more insecure if they associate themselves with the more ‘feminine’ side of the advert, making them portray having long hair as a reference to being lesser of a man.
In conclusion, psychological techniques can have a very positive effect on its male and female consumers. For women, as from the Nike-Dream Crazier,(2019), It can give them real-life scenarios and create an alternative fabricated situation where the advert can promise the consumer independence, respect and power which can have a positive impact if the consumer buys the product. An advert can also on the other hand show its consumers, particularly woman, that their concerns and opinions are noted giving them the feeling of being heard and understood. Some might argue that psychologically the adverts can give pleasurable chemical response through using God terms and attractiveness such as the beach body advert resulting in sparking up a feeling of joy and power through buying the illusion of an easy solution from a product. Similarly for Men, it can help create a social
awareness and promote healthy masculine traits through positive examples like the Gillette- The Best Man Can be,(2019). The adverts can also give male consumers a sense of pride if
they can associate their looks to an example in the advert such as the Dove-Girl's shampoo isn't made for real men!, (2014). And lastly it also gives them a platform to compare themselves to and create a better understanding of their self-image and identity. However, using these powerful psychological techniques for the benefit of profiting a company could be argued that it can have a catastrophic effect on a consumers self-esteem. For women, having a smaller body can give the illusion of being powerful such as and for men having less feminine features and relating to certain women’s preferences can give the feeling of more acceptance and respect. But these aren’t things that are as easily obtained. Body-shaming products such as Flickr- Are you beach body ready, (2015) for women can’t always give the desired effect leaving the consumer in a loop of self-hate and purchasing. From the Gillette Fusion, (2014), for men being liked by many woman isn’t a realistic gain and also not an ideal goal for all. Highlighting bad behaviours and masculinity in men won’t make the consumer feel better about themselves but it can raise a social awareness resulting in change. It could be argued that, advertisers should stop only using psychological effects to depict its male and female consumers and instead listen more to their customer and promote more healthy images and educate healthy masculine examples instead of body-shaming and shaming certain features of a man inducing toxic masculinity. Instead these techniques can be used to better shape our society to a more realistic and representational one where customers can relate to the product more, resulting in more brand credibility and more consumer satisfaction. One might hope that the advertisers goal is representation and positive effects of change.
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List of Images:
Victoria Secret Advert from 2014 The Huffington Post (2014) Victoria's Secret 'Perfect Body' Campaign Changes Slogan After Backlash. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/06/victorias-secret-perfect-body-campaign_n_6115728.html ?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAD TzemfnACwPKts7zI63Yz7OFb46htb4mNxj_0wlvI95eNESaxxry_kT7KUmc7U849SxZh0chmjG-tqAux9 7rm23rAjKAm7WmvQV1ccjIUxsNOQWgE2FvGcZqFlYDiV-i6cAKlz33Um4FLW0fTb2xxNG_ITkChH8 Wd0Di0nMKvHk (Accessed: March 2019).
Protein world- Are You Beach Body Ready? Advert from 2015 Flickr (2015) Are you beach body ready?. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/schnappi/17872693041/ (Accessed: March 2019).