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December 14, 2012 / psp046

Learning to love McDonalds

Well we all know that Yellow clown with the red stripes – yes i am talking about Mr Ronald Mcdonald! A fast food fanchise that has been round for many years! It is a company that made its name for burgers and fries, appelaing to young and old a like!  The franchise has branches all over the world, you can go anywhere and more or less find a franchise within driving reach. Infact most places are drive through adding to your convenience. What is the attraction? Wel ll how do they know what is in the brain? Why do our brains prefer high calories foods? Our brains have evolved since a time when food was scarce, have we become used to searching for high calorie food to keep us going? Is it the addictive properties in the food we eat?  High sugar?
Just ike Pavlov got the dogs salivating at the sound of a bell, perhaps we are conditioned to salivate due to our encounter with Mc Donalds? Pavlov’s cllasical conditioning experimemt taught us about conditioning, his dogs began drooling when they saw the experiementer even without food, associating the expeirmenter with the deivery of food.  We all respond to environmental cues including the smell of Mc Donalds or perhaps the logo?
It has long been recognized that reward processing depends on brain structures that are called the limbic dopamine systems. According to the brains reward system – dopamine – we learn and store good experiences an dopamine release is associated with the reinforcement aspects of food, and in the hypothalamus, dopamine is associated with the initiation of feeding and the length of feeding (Wang, Volkow, Thanos, & Fowler, 2004) (Joranby et al, 2005); we prefer products with rewarding associations -ever tried to convince a kid that a happy meal is not worth the toy? We all know that fast foods are not healthy – yet we continue; overeatting is reaching a pandemic wordwide in developed countries, leading to a high proportion of obese people (Joranby et al, 2005) – why can’t we stop visiting fast food chains? An emottional connection is formed with the the product we enjoy, we return again and again, perhaps we have become conditioned as a nation of fast food – what do you think?

December 7, 2012 / psp046

Shock advertisement – Are you scared of the taboo?



            Corporate Chhattisgarh — “Martyr” (India, 2008)


I have always been inspired by the minds of the advertisement firms, which bring to   the front issues that are on a world level –also known as shock advertisement. The advert that came to my mind is the Italian clothing retailer United colours of Benetton advert that showed a newborn baby with the umbilical cord –what does this have to do with the brand? If you explore the net you see hundreds of advertisements, which are designed to shock you by using religious, violent, controversial images; sexual references, obscenity, moral offensiveness, vulgarity. The real shock Is the imagery that are employed by these adverts –take a look:


Gustafson & Yssel (1994) and Venkat & Abi-Hanna (1995) state that, Shock advertisement is something that intentionally startles and offends its audience. Shock advertisement has now been progressed further and it is seen on cigarette packets across the world – whether this stops people from smoking is another matter. It got me thinking about weather using shock tactics can actually work for consumer brands without hurting the brand.  These advertisements use the principle of emotional connection in marketing strategy. They use the ‘shock’ emotion and create an emotional connection – one that you don’t easily forget; emotional persuasion is more effective than rational persuasion! The primary aim of advertisement is to gain the attention of the audience and this is achieved by ‘shock’. People are able to recall information better that has been processed at a higher level (Lezak et al, 2004). However is this the way we want remember is it ethical? There has been a number of controversial adds that have been banned due to the ‘uncomfortable’ nature of them.

Do all people react in the same way? I guess this is something of debate as an artist may find some of these pictures as a way of creative expression. Society has become complex and with competing demands one way to get through and seek the consumers attention and brand awareness is by using controversial advertisement (Waller 1999).   How we respond to this is individually tailored by our belief systems, values and morals, we may believe that we are better than some people and choose to ignore some of these adverts. Or we may open our minds and think about some of the issues on a world scale. Please let me know your thoughts and reactions – are you scared of the taboo?




Gustaeson B & Yssel J (1994), Are Advertisers Practicing Safe Sex?, Marketing News, March 14.

Lezak, MD, Howieson, D.B., & Loring, D.W. (2004). Neuropsychological Assessment (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Venkat R & Abi-Hannan (1995), Effectiveness of Visually Shocking Advertisements: Is It Context Dependent?, ln Administrative Science Association of Canada Proceedings. Journal of Advertising Research, September, 2003 Vol. 43 Issue 3, p268-280

Waller, David S. (1999) “Attitudes Towards Offensive Advertising: An Australian Study”, Journal of Consumer Marketing, 16 (3), 288-294.

Whiteside, S. (2008). The ten most controversial ads of 2007. WARC Report.

Internet sites: (accessed Friday 7th December 2012)

November 30, 2012 / psp046

Get Healthy in the 2 -week challenge!


How often have you come across advertisements that guarantee certain things? Those things may be the desire to hold a six -pack, have bright white teeth, wrinkle free face or even a flea free cat! Living in a world where getting old is delayed and health is at the forefront –everyone wants eternal youth. One marketing strategy is the use of celebrity testimonial’s who claim to have used these products and not the thousands spent on surgery! Why do people not want to look the age? How do people decide which consumable products are good for them and which are not? As a man I want to look good, I want my skin to look good too and most of all I want to eat what is right. I will not say that I am on the look constantly for products but I do look out for certain food products –no sugar, no additives, no preservatives! Even if my concentration is low and my attention is elsewhere i may suddenly look towards advertisements in the TV or magazines for certain consumables–I am able to tune in. Attention can be influenced by many factors (Lezak, 2000). This got me thinking about what factors are necessary to grab the consumer’s attention?  What is consumer attention? Attention is focused mental engagement on a particular item of information. Items come into our awareness, we attend to a particular item, and then we decide whether to act (Davenport & Beck 2001, p. 20). Attention is in fact dependent on many factors that are determined by key attributes that the consumer industry is able to use in advertisement. Factors such as display size, colour scheme, familiarity with the label and its location on the front of the pack are key determinants of consumer attention to labels (Bialkova & Trijp, 2010). Bialkova and Trijp (2010), report that these factors can influence nutrition information on healthy food choice. Other studies have found that the precise location of the food labels should be placed in the centre ( It must be a tough job finding the right way in a competitive environment to engage the consumer. Colour has also been found to be associated with increasing attention– red, orange, yellow  (like street lights). Also colour is thought to be helpful for recognition (i.e., Hertz is yellow, National is green, and Avis is red; also true with cereals where Kellogg’s has a red logo and white background). Well what factors do you think influence your nutritional habits? Are you on the look for nutrition or do you pick based on price?

November 23, 2012 / psp046

The use of Advertisement to change thinking

I was thinking about how we manage to filter through all the marketing jargon that we are presented on a daily basis. The consumer is bombarded with so much information that at times its just like there is nothing actually registering –there is no attention to give; between my favourite dramas, between the films I am watching. In the current climate were there is so much competition how do companies manage to keep people’s attention? Living in a cognitively cluttered environment, some researchers have declared that we are living in the attention economy, with attention being a scarce resource (Davenport & Beck 2002).

Attention one of many cognitive processes that are vital for everyday functioning; but how when there is lots of stuff going on is the brain able to still process all of it or do we end up with some form of automatic filter  -selective attention?   I remember certain tracks from adverts, I remember the clever ‘jingles’ used –what do other people remember? In marketing it is very important to the consumers attention and models that involve attention as the building block were considered as far back as 1898, the first formal advertising model, AIDA (Attention,  Interest,  Desire, Action), (Vakratsas & Ambler 1999) shows the stages people go through before making a purchase. This got me thinking about the recent southern comfort advertisement that is garunteed to grab anyone’s attention only based on the person they have selected to pose as the model –it’s a male who walks down the beach with his stomach hanging out and not really giving a care!


Researchers suggest -when observers are looking at faces in an image this can also increase the amount of time spent viewing the image (Milosavljevic & Cerf, 2000). What do you think?

Selective attention is the ability to pay attention to things you want to. This can be used by advertisement agents with “change blindness “ –also used. This is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a change in a visual stimulus goes unnoticed by the observer. Check this link:

Now tell me is it fairr to use such psychological processes to manipulate the human mind in advertisements?

November 16, 2012 / psp046

Why is my choice better than your choice? Brand Loyalty!

We all have a reason why we purchase what we do, how we rationalise this is up to us. The launch of the internet and social networking sites allow us to promote and debate why our chosen choice is better than others.  Is this a new way to compete for status? iPhone versus Android, MAC versus PC. Does money play a factor? Does the cost of a product, increases loyalty to it? How about the more intelligent and savvy a product? Surely in earlier times choices were limited, did the same brand loyalty exist? How about before the dawn of more technical gadgets, did people have an emotional connection to products that were food or drink? Brands such as the ‘hoover company’ founded 1908 dominated the vacuum industry but ‘Dyson’ founded 1993 also has devotees.  Cleaning products like “Fairy” washing up liquid have also seen rivals yet they too have dedicated followers like my family whom even the recession cannot persuade to sell her loyalty. I know when I make a purchase a need to use comparison sites nowadays as I am overwhelmed and need to make the right choice so I can justify it e.g. television choices Samsung, Panasonic, plasma, HD, 40 inch 50inch! What makes humans advocates for brands? What creates Brand loyalty?

Consumers make decisions based on a number of factors, marketing and advertising agencies spend a lot of money to influence these choices. One way of looking at this is through the brand personality model proposed by Jennifer Aaker’s that has 5 Dimensions (Aaker, 1997). In her paper the author describes brand personality as “the set of human characteristics associated with a brand” and the 5 concepts are Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication and Ruggedness. I know my friendships are based on certain personality characteristics I share with those individuals; this got me thinking about what personality dimensions I share with my brand choice.  I like competence, intelligence and the excitement of cutting edge technology wrapped in sophistication; these factors stimulate my interest in the Apple brand – technology (ok – its geeky). What do you share with yours?



November 2, 2012 / psp046

Clothing Industry – Quality or Quantity?

I like to purchase clothes that I can afford, saying that I also like to think that I am paying for quality. So how are these demands met in the current climate. I have the choice of going to Primark and purchasing goods at a cheap price, however they may not last me versus my other choice of wearing designer labels that make me feel part of something. Why do I want to wear the name of a designer across my chest –merely another advertisement ploy? I wonder at times whether it bothers me where my clothes are made, what kind of labour is put into it from China to southeast – the ethical dilemmas posed in the press around child labour ( I also think about the mammoth cost of the clothing industry on a global level. By far they are one of the biggest consumers of energy, chemicals, cotton, petroleum and the carbon footprint and how my purchase contributes to global issues? What factors motivate the consumer to buy? Why is that some people are motivated by labels and others are not? Why is that some think about the process of manufacture and others do not?

Generally buying choices are made by a combination of emotional responses to the product and or rational thinking –also known as needs and wants. These needs and wants may be modulated by different internal states –i.e. how your feeling on the day. Other factors are that branding agencies know how to manipulate these in order to ‘nudge’ us towards their products. Consumer behaviour including brand loyalty, variety seeking, impulsive buying, preferences, choices and regret; these behaviours are modulated by many factors; including cognition (Climcher, 2011) and the reward system, emotions and how we are primed (Dutton & Arron, 1974; Higgins 1998). What motivates you?



Association for Consumer Research, 2012.

The Affective Regulation of Cognitive Priming, 2012.

Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2012.

October 26, 2012 / psp046

The Motivated Consumer!! Needs versus Wants? The iPhone or Any Phone ?

Do we really need an iPhone? or is it simply the fact that it is another basic need for us now –and that it has to be fulfilled. Maslow’s model states that there is a hierarchy of need. Within this hierarchy has electronics such as iPhone iPads Kindle Airmac have they infiltrated! or is it a fashion accessory that makes us feel good if we are using an iPhone?

Maslow’s theory is worth mentioning here in an attempt to see if this is still a true reflection of todays 21st Century needs pattern.

Maslow’s Hierarchy Theory mentions there is in each one of us a need we must satisfy based on a certain requirement.  Abraham Maslow put forward a concept in an attempt to explain this.  The model starts with the most basic needs when we arrive in this world which we need to survive in this world.

The hierarchy of needs moves from satisfying lower order needs which once satisfied can one usually start to satisfy higher needs based on influence and personal development.

Maslow’s original Hierarchy of Needs model was developed between 1943-1954.

Biological and Physiological needs – Life’s basics such as air, food etc

Safety – stability, home, etc.

Belongingness and Love – family, affection, relationships, etc.

Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, status, dominance, prestige, etc.

Self-Actualization – realising self-potential, self-fulfilment, personal growth, experiences.

This has got me thinking within the 21st century that do we need to adapt such models around our basic needs. In the way that electronics have evolved, human needs and desires have evolved, do we have a model that encapsulates the 21st century consumer?