Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fear Appeal in Advertising

LaTour et al (1996, p 2) say a fear appeal is a “psychoactive” ad that highlights an aspect of our “suboptimal lifestyles.” Their study shows a positive correlation between fear appeal and audience attitude towards an ad, and also that there are no ethical issues (p 6). They use (p 8) “deodorant failure” advertisements as an example of how fear appelas can be helpful communication.

Hawkins, et al (p 416) say that fear appeals use the threat of unpleasant consequences if a behavior is not altered. They single out bad breath. I am going to Platonify and say plaque falls into the same category of unpleasantness. Fear reduction is an effective agent to change attitudes, according to Hawkins, et al (2007, p 386, 408).

Several theories are in play, including the Theory of Reasoned Action (see Hawkins, et al, 2007, p 404). According to TRA, normative social beliefs are a major determinant in an individual about the appropriateness of a behavior. Social beliefs about bad breath, germs and plaque are leveraged in the Listerine ads. According to Gire (2003, p 1), the man who created Listerine, Gerald Lambert also developed the word "halitosis" to provide an advertising basis for discouraging bad breath.

With Listerine a consistent fear attribute is germs. Below is a Listerine ad from 1969. (click on image to enlarge)

And the following from 2009.

In both decades it is in the body copy. The headline further informs us of the manifest consequence of following a suboptimal lifestyle: back then we would have bad breath, today plaque. In both decades, the ads are what LaTour, et al (p 3) would characterize as “mild.”

Another theory is the Elaboration Likelihood Model (see Hawkins, p 409-10). It lines-up two consumer approaches to processing advertisements. One, central route processing is very cognitive and involves extensive information exchange between consumer and marketer. The other, peripheral processing uses more emotional cues and little or no cognitive processing.

In their paper "The Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion", Cacioppo and Petty (1986, pp 1-2) clarify that they do not propose two mutually exclusive and exhaustive types but that central and peripheral represent positions on a continuous dimension ranging from high to low elaboration. I believe that along the elaboration continuum, the Listerine ads are on the peripheral side of the mean.

In the 1969 ad and also in the interesting TV commercial below, I think Listerine was trying a change belief tactic (see Hawkins, 2007, p 406) regarding the taste. They change the belief about the pungent taste of the product from bad to good, reasoning it would not be an effective germ fighter otherwise.

Here is an interesting look back to Morgan Freeman’s start in showbiz – he did TV commercials before movies. He is in a Listerine ad, explaining why the bad taste is good: Early Freeman Today, dealing with the taste is apparently not a need, or they don’t want to raise a red flag themselves about it.

Is it all ethical? Hawkins, et al (p 416) cite ethical concerns about "fear appeals based on social anxieties about bad breath...." LaTour, et al (1996, p 7) found no one in their studies considered fear appeals unethical. They even go so far to say such advertising can be helpful communications (p 8), and give as an example - deodorant failure, similar to bad breath. The Listerine ads, to me, fall on the LaTour side of the line and I do not think them unethical.

Cacioppo, John and Richard Petty (1986.) The Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion. Retrieved on March 28, 2009 from the EBSCOHost database.

Gire, JT (2/10/2003). Attitudes & Attitude Change: Influencing Thoughts and Feelings. Retrieved on March 28, 2009 from

Hawkins, Del, David Mothersbaugh and Roger Best (2007). Consumer Behavior. McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

LaTour, M, R Snipes and S Bliss (03/01/1996). Don’t be afraid to use fear appeals: an experimental study. Journal of Advertising Research.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chocolate, sometimes nothing else will do.

My Grandmother used to tell me that there’s no such thing as bad booze. I feel the same way about chocolate. There hardly seems a need to use advertising and conditioning for an obsession and so fetching a delight. Nevertheless, the major chocolate manufacturers and retailers use a combination of both classical conditioning and operant conditioning, but mostly classical.

Classical conditioning is the association of chocolate with an appealing stimulus. Hawkins, et al (2007, p 331) inform us that music, holidays and popular personalities are often paired in commercials with chocolate as part of classical conditioning. With chocolate, there is usually an undertone of romance.

Here is a Nestle’s :30 second spot on Youtube with many elements of classical conditioning. An ecstatic cellist. A woman, melting and open. How beautiful she is too. Enchanting music. Nestle's Alpine TV Spot

Latent romance in the popular commercial touched our need for objectification (see Hawkins, 2007, p 367) by having us view the behaviors of “others and [draw] inferences as to what one feels and thinks.” Showing affection in interpersonal relationships can also help satisfy our need for affiliation (p 371).

There is a dark side to chocolate too, an unstated sexual desire. Unstated motives are often driving forces in our culture but unlike manifest motives, are not directly presented (p 375). Instead, indirect appeals through artwork are made.

Hawkins, et al (2007, p 386) further report that “repeated exposure to positive-emotion-eliciting ads may increase brand preference through classical conditioning.” What is an example of such an emotion – they tell us: love. The 1989 commercial above was actually the apex of a multi-year campaign that started in 1986. Here is the Adam ad, notice the Maxfield Parrish theme (this one is a little louder): 1986 Nestle's TV Spot

NestlĂ©’s does not have a lock on chocolate advertising though. For their part Hershey’s follows suit with a more recent and similar Special Dark :15 spot (much louder): Hershey's :15 Spot

Here Hershey’s employs gold and copper colors to convey richness in the affective interpretation by the consumer, to supplement the same unconditioned stimuli we saw in NestlĂ©’s. Hawkins, et al (2007 , p 299) give a print ad example with a similar gold and copper color combination for a Godiva chocolate ad, but Hershey’s even gives us the words to associate with the product.

Hershey’s Kisses added a popular personality to the music, Thalia as she covered the Shirelle’s hit It’s in His Kiss: Thalia TV Spot

They also changed colors for the Christmas season and bell-rang a popular carol: Hershey's for the Holidays . Hawkins et al (p 332) use Christmas music as an example of eliciting the emotional responses characteristic of classical conditioning.

Hawkins and crew give other interesting examples of classical conditioning for chocolate candy (p 286): Reese’s Pieces product placement in the movie E.T. It was E.T.’s favorite food and its cinematic use in a natural way resulted in positive transfer to the product and sales jumped 6%.

In their Darwinian competition for attention, the chocolate makers are now exploring non-traditional venues. The response rate for advergames is between 16% and 45%. Additionally, customers spend an average of 25 minutes with our message. Blank (2001, ¶ 1) reports that Hershey’s Chocolate also experienced a phenomenal response rate with advergaming.

According to Ron (2002, ¶ 1), advergaming is a marketing device where the brand elements are an integral part of an online or computer game. Two academic studies have found that classical conditioning in advergaming produces most the most positive attitude (see Bailey, 2008, pp20-1 and Huang, 2005, p 1).

Operant Conditioning
Chocolate candy is a low involvement purchase. Duncan (2005, p 158) notes that conditioned learning is especially active in low involvement purchases. Gum and candy are the examples Duncan uses for low involvement products (p 140).

Operant conditioning works from the consequences of a purchase rather than through forming a positive stimulus for purchase. It rewards purchase “with positive outcomes,” according to Hawkins, et all (p 332) who also give an example of operant conditioning for chocolate candy. A free sample of chocolate in a candy shop resulted in a 25% higher purchase of chocolate. Tools of operant conditioning are free samples, discount coupons and sweepstakes (p 332). All are oriented to “secure an initial trial.”

Hershey’s used sweepstakes. Blank (2001, p 1) observes that the effective campaign used prizes ranging from Sony Play Stations, a one years supply of candy, a trip to Hershey’s Park, and daily prizes earned using the advergames – Reese’s Treasure Hunt and Reese’s Table Tennis. The sweepstakes was part of the advergame reported in classical conditioning.

Huang (2005, p 1) notes there is a secondary operant conditioning effect in advergaming, although the prime effect is from classical conditioning. Stokes, et al explain further (2008, p 9) “where reinforcement or punishment is used to promote specific behaviors,” advergames use operant conditioning to achieve desired behaviors.

Coupons and gift cards are standard fare also. See’s uses coupons as do the others, (See
See's Deals). Sweepstakes too (see See's Sweepstakes ).

ADVERGAMES. Univ. of Missouri. Retrieved on March 17, 2009 from

Blank, C (August 6, 2001). Hershey's Online Push for Reese's Gets Sweet Response. Direct Marketing News. Retrieved on March 16, 2009

Hawkins, Del, David Mothersbaugh and Roger Best (2007). Consumer Behavior. McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Huang, Y (August 7, 2005). The Application of Learning Theory to The Study of Advergaming. Retrieved on March 17, 2009 from

Ron, S (June 27, 2002). Inject Some Fun and Games Into Advertising. Direct Marketing News. Retrieved on March 16, 2009at

Stokes, B, S Seggerman, and D Rejeski (9/28/2008). Digital Games and the Social Change Sector (For a Better World). Retrieved on March 18, 2009 from

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Kennedy Center Offer

I am a member of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and I received direct mail and direct Internet e-mail offers to renew and upgrade my membership (see Kennedy_Center_Upgrade). The Kennedy Center presents plays, ballet, National Symphony Orchestra performances, and various workshops. Additionally, it has the Gift Shop and restaurant. I have made it a focal point for entertainment with friends and family when in DC. Ticket sales do not cover the Centers 3,100 stage performances a year and its ambitious educational activities; hence the need for members (donors), and its annual tin-cupping.

The offer has the price, my annual renewal at the current donation, a time limit (my current membership expires every August), no express guarantee or breakdown of use, but as Haigh and Gilbert (2005, p 108) note:

“Brands provide a guarantee of origin and quality;”

So the Kennedy Center brand is my guarantee that the money will be used to support the activities, and provide the benefits suggested. My first contact with the membership office was a phone call from them during which they sold me my membership initially. Here they did give a guarantee. The Kennedy Center representative gave me his personal, direct line to answer any questions or smooth out any difficulties I had with any benefits.

In the Internet e-mail, they give me the option of renewing with a phone call, or on-line. For the postal mail they also provided a return envelop. In neither case are mobile form factors considered. They do give me an option of upgrading my membership. The benefits are for higher levels add new perks to the benefits at lower levels. Here is the roster:

The additional benefits are an incentive but so too is identity congruence, the trait that “consumers’ behavior is often affected by what others [do]” (see Shang, et al, 2008, pp 351-2). Social influence is particularly effective in the case where the benefits of a transaction are ambiguous. The Kennedy Center appears to be using such incentive here.

Simonson (2005, p33) relates that including options in the offer can result in up-selling. This depends on the stability of consumer preferences and their insight into those preferences. I believe that donors fall into Simonson’s Category 3, those having stable preferences but lacking insight into those preferences. This is how the Kennedy Center is presenting the offer. No customized recommendation, although they have substantial demographic data. Customized offers can backfire with Category 3, as Simonson notes:

“Consequently, these customers may mistakenly accept customized offers or choice criteria that do not really fit their preferences, which leads to dissatisfaction.”

To explain why I place donors in Simonson’s Category 3, an understanding of the audience needs to be developed.

The Audience
Spiller and Baier (2005, p 97) admonish us to do market research to “determine consumer needs and wants.” Included here then is a study of charitable behaviors published in the Journal of Marketing. Reed, Aquino, and Levy (2007, p 189) found that individuals with high organizational status, low moral identity contribute money to high moral value organizations. Individuals with high moral identity want to contribute time but are chinchy with money. Here is a chart of their findings:

High moral identity is associated with idealism and low moral identity with pragmatism. A money donor’s high organizational status drives their time pressure.

A Syracuse University study furthers our understanding about the nature of donors. McNesby (2007, pp1-2) cites Who Really Cares by Arthur C. Brooks about charitable contributions. His findings are that contributors tend to be religious and conservative. Additionally, this religious and politically conservative cohort is 24 times more likely to contribute to charity than secular idealists.

Although it is an organization of artists, the Kennedy Center has an intuitive understanding of their donor audience that is reflected in the pragmatic appeal for donations (see Kennedy Center, 2008, p1) that lacks both do-goodism and change-the-world slogans. Here is their appeal instead:

"Generous support from Members like you enables the Kennedy Center to bring the finest performances to Washington D.C. and maintain its presence as the nation’s leader in arts education. "

Why Category 3? Kennedy Center donors have well defined preferences but with work and a busy schedule they do not have the idle time to actually think about these preferences.

Improving the Offer
The Kennedy Center does not customize the offer it presents to me. Based on the audience characteristics of donors who donate money as opposed to time, I have argued that their donor profile is what Simonson (p 34) categorizes as Group 3. He informs us that this group is prone to misunderstand customized offerings leading to dissatisfaction. Therefore, I would not try to improve the response with customized appeals to upgrade.

The nature of the offer’s creative appeal also seems to be an effective balance for the audience. As Spiller and Baier (2005, p 92) tell us, an emotional appeal targets the member’s wants, in this case an appeal to the noblise oblige of social status. However, a maudlin tone does not emanate from the offer, a reflection of the conservative nature of the audience. Neither does the creative appeal present opportunities for improvement.

Regarding the offer price, I think there is an opportunity to expand the revenue structure by extending the price segments to include a $60 donor level to either lapsed members or as a reach to potential donors. Spiller and Baier (p 95) instruct us that price elasticity is a critical aspect of offer pricing. Interested parties might be more inclined to become new members if it were easier to give and also a little easier on the wallet. Such a special offer can be made to them without undermining existing donations by using an emerging technology and exploiting our database.

Demographics of mobile phone SMS text users is younger and better educated. New technical venues may extend the reach of the Kennedy Center appeal for donations. Given the pragmatic and conservative nature of donors, my gut feeling is that a simple text message would have good effect. This hunch is supported by a web site, and an article on the Everyday Giving Blog. As Carr (2008, p 1) concludes “Making a donation by sending a simple text message is convenient. This convenience is available to the 250 million mobile phone users in the United States alone.”

This is an avenue for the Kennedy Center to economically extend its reach for donations to candidates with mobile technology. The donation is added as a charge to the cell phone monthly bill. The campaign is then to select appropriate audience of conservative, religious pragmatists from organizations like AllMedia.Com, and send them a simple text message much like the Center Generous Support statement above through a service like

In addition, QR Codes can be used to integrate Kennedy Center print materials with its online assets. QR Codes are a special type of barcode that is optimized for use by mobile devices. Smith (2008, p 1) echoes the view of many. He observes that QR Codes and mobile form factors link print media with the Internet. By strategically locating QR Codes, mobile readers of Center print media can link to the Center Web site, getting pod-casts, steaming audio and video, Mobile Web pages, and other entertaining or informative communications.

Center print materials for the gift store will have QR Code to link to always up-to-date reference materials on the music, play, dance, or on the artists. By also forwarding users from the Center Web site to associated blogs, and community sites further information becomes available and communities of interest can be accessed from print materials.

By using a QR Reader, possibly a mobile phone, one can jump from the print world to the online world. This is unprecedented value for the customers of the store.

Say and Southwell (2006, p 262) notes that one key success factor with text messaging direct marketing is to guide actions with testing and evaluation. They take baby steps with an idea in a test, and through a comprehensive evaluation decide how to implement it. Permission is another critical success factor. They have devised a series of techniques for garnering permission (p 263). They caution against the temptation to treat mobile marketing as a “silo” or isolated channel. Integrated channel planning unleashes the full potential of mobile marketing.

Their article explains how First Direct was able to gain permission for extensive mobile marketing activity. Initial usage of text-messaging was to provide a convenience to customers, at the banks expense. This created a foundation of trust and a new point of view by the customer. They can use their mobile phone to increase their control over their money (p 263).

The same could be done at the Center. An initial benefit of notifications of new shows, ticket availability, specific seating availability for those on wait lists and so on. The advantage of subscribing to the text messaging is first notification and right to good seats when they come open, to get tickets to popular shows on popular nights, and other conveniences. Once we have a database of subscribers, we can start the campaign for collecting donations.

Buchanan, Mark (2002). Nexus. Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Network. W.W. Norton, New York.

Carr, Roger (May 17, 2008). Will You Text Message Your Next Charitable Donation? Retrieved on March 14, 2009 at

Duncan, Tom (2005). Principles of Advertising and IMC. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Haigh, D. and S. Gilbert (May 2005). Valuing not-for-profit and charity brands — real insight or just smoke and mirrors. Int J. Nonprofit Volunt. Sect. Mar. Retrieved on September 6, 2008) from EBSCOHOST.

McNesby, Mick (January 13, 2007).Charitable Giving In America: Is Advocacy Of Government Programs A True Form Of Charity? Ezines. Retrieved on March 14, 2009 from

Reed II, Americus and Karl Aquino, & Eric Levy (January 2007). Moral Identity and Judgments of Charitable Behaviors. Journal of Marketing. Retrieved on March 14, 2009 at,Aquino,&Levy.pdf

Say, P. and J. Southwell (Jan-Mar 2006). Beep, beep, beep, beep, that’ll be the bank then – Driving sales through mobile marketing. Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice. Retrieved March 14, 2009 from EBSCOHOST.

Shang, Jen and Americus Reed, and Rachel Croson (June 2008). Identity Congruency Effects on Donations. Journal of Marketing Research. Retrieved on March 14, 2009 from EBSCOHOST.

Smith, Shawn (April 8, 2008). How QR codes could save newspapers from obsolescence. Retrieved on March 14, 2009 at

Spiller, L and M Baier (2005). Contemporary Direct Marketing. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Voices of Social Media

A blog has one voice with a chorus of commentary. You post your message and others comment on it in separate replies but no one can change your original message. Yours is the voice initiating the tone and tenor of the communications. Your message is the focus and cannot be altered except by you.
On the other hand, a wiki has a community voice. Someone posts a message and, unlike with a blog, everyone can edit that post. Version control is usually present so previous versions can be retrieved and even differences between versions highlighted.

At my job, we are using blogs, and wikis for project management work; in our case web services projects. In fact, web services is being moved under public affairs in most organizations, considered more of a communication function than a technology support function.

Design reviews by client offices are done in blogs since we have superior knowledge of computer and communications systems. The design has one voice but the ability to comment by interested parties. Internally, we prepare a design using wikis. Everyone within my office has superior knowledge in different facets of a system to contribute to an overall proposal. When we have a proposed design we transfer the communication to a blog as a design review by external offices.

These approaches get buy in from both the internal staff and our external clients more so than traditional methods. The internal public experiences a more direct hand in preparing the design. The external public can see other s’ comments in parallel. Stultz (2009, p 11) says that

“But the blog rules for now. Solid relationships can be built by you and by corporations (again, you) based on honest, open dialog with superior content.”
Secondly, we are using txt messaging gateways as one method of broadcast communications for continuity of operations. Cell phone carriers, such as Sprint or Nextel, provide SMS gateways for the transfer of text messages from computer to mobile phone. These gateways are the foundation of the mechanics for an organization, be it an aggregator mobile marketing service or a commercial business entity, or government agency to implement a mobile communications broadcast. Wikipedia has a list of mobile phone SMS gateways by carrier (see SMS Gateways in Wikipedia).

All email messages broadcast as text messages to mobile devices go through such gateways to both verify permissions you set on receiving and allowing the messages through. As an example, assuming my phone number is 800-555-1213 and my carrier is Sprint, the Sprint SMS gateway is according to Wikipedia. So I could create an email on my computer that would be sent to the gateway by using the following as the To: address

The messaging gateway ( converts my email to mobile txt and in turn forwards it to the SMS client on my cell phone. This can also be done programmatically with a function like the one below to loop through a list of recipient mail addresses. In addition, the from-name can be changed to an email alias relevant to the receiver, so they don't trash the email right away as spam.

Duncan (2005, p 392), says an important aspect of mobile marketing is that “messages can be targeted not only by individual cellular phone number but also by time and location of targeted customers.” Critical here is permission of receiver. In their article Driving Sales through Mobile Marketing, authors, Say and Southwell (2006, p262) imply that mobile direct marketing, especially text messaging can be ruinous because “the mobile phone is almost certainly the most personal electronic consumer device.” In support of this warning, another researcher Alan Chappell (2006, p1) cites a study that found 80% of cell phone users would consider ‘mobile spam’ a reason for switching carriers. Direct Marketers who fall short with mobile etiquette risk bad public relations, hardship in the mobile media, and Say and Southwell believe that ultimately it can degrade a brand (p 262).

They must be in control. Stultz notes (2009, p 13) “Marketers are encouraging consumers to become part of the conversation; in fact, to control it. “ This is true for both social media and mobile communications technologies.

Duncan, Tom (2005). Principles of Advertising and IMC. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Chappell, A (March 19, 2006). Mobile Marketing & Opt-In (Chapell & Associates). Retrieved on March 7, 2009 at

Say, P. and J. Southwell (Jan-Mar 2006). Beep, beep, beep, beep, that’ll be the bank then – Driving sales through mobile marketing. Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice.

Stultz, Larry (2009). Non-Traditional Media and Interactive Marketing.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Media Involvement

What makes print inherently more involving than radio or TV?
Drewniany and Jewler (2008, p 210) say that radio is less inherently involving than print media because it is transient, listeners cannot go back and reread something. An advertisier is relying on their memory to record and playback the marketing message. Likewise Duncan. He says (2005, p 360), “Broadcast messages are fleeting.” They have the staying power of dayflies and can be just as annoying. Duncan further notes that customers can be doing something else while listening to radio or watching TV, especially during commercials when they get restive or jerk themselves back to reality to get a soda or something.
He notes these as weaknesses for TV and Radio (p 349).

When should a more involving medium be used?
The level of consumer involvement is an important consideration in media selection. Duncan (2005, p. 142) says that consumer involvement has two facets, relevance and perceived risk. He goes on to say (2005, p. 141), that relevance is key to determining the level of involvement, the extent to which a product or its message is pertinent and connects with a customer’s personal interests. Customers are more willing to invest pre-purchase energy in learning more about a relevant and more risky buy.

The Elaboration Likelihood Model by Cacioppo and Petty can provide a framework for analyzing the most effective balance in the media mix for marketing communications. Cacioppo and Petty define the primary relationships in persuasive communication as communication engagement and cognitive commitment.

According to the model, the greater our communication engagement with the other party the more likely that party is to use what the model calls central route processing, which is to say a great deal of message related thinking. Media appropriate for in-depth thinking and evaluation of the message should be used in such a case. On the other hand, if communication engagement is low, what the model calls peripheral cues are best. In this case, more attention getting media that do not necessarily lend themselves to protracted analysis would be a better choice.

Perceived Risk
Perceived risk may be difficult for advertisiers to identify. Perceived risk is related to unsatisfactory product performance and as noted above is related to consumer involvement. The level of risk may depend on context. Hawkins, et al (2007, p 550) give an example of buying wine. If you are buying for yourself, no big problem if it is unsatisfactory. The same decision, if you are buying for a dinner with a significant other, can be much riskier.

In some ways, a different context can make one product perform like a completely different product in response to IMC. Hawkins, et al (p 551) do give examples of products that generally have high perceived risk. They are classified by types of failure:
  • Social costs (e.g. new suit not appreciated by peers)

  • Financial cost (e.g. expensive vacation that had rain everyday)

  • Time Cost (e.g. auto repairs are not just cash costs)

  • Physical cost (e.g. interactions or side effects of prescription drugs)

It also seems intuitive that context may be ascertainable from the audience characteristics of the specific media companies employed. In these cases, advertisers should be able to make a good bet on risk level.


Cacioppo, John and Richard Petty (1986.) THE ELABORATION LIKELIHOOD MODEL OF PERSUASION. Retrieved on Feb 19, 2009 from the EBSCOHost database.

Drewniany, B and J Jewler (2008). Creative Strategy in Advertising. Wadsworth.

Hawkins, D., Mothersbaugh, D. and Best, R. (2007). Consumer behavior: building marketing strategy. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.