The Situationist

Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Corporations, Cars, the U.S.A., and Us

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 1, 2012

Benjamin Levin just posted his excellent article “Made in the USA: Corporate Responsibility and Collective Identity in the American Automotive Industry” (forthcoming Boston College Law Review, Vol. 53, No. 3, p. 821, 2012) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract:

This Article seeks to challenge the corporate-constructed image of American business and American industry. By focusing on the automotive industry and particularly on the tenuous relationship between the rhetoric of automotive industry advertising and the realities of doctrinal corporate law, I hope to examine the ways that we as social actors, legal actors, and (perhaps above all) consumers understand what it means for a corporation or a corporation’s product to be American. In a global economy where labor, profits, and environmental effects are spread across national borders, what does it mean for a corporation to present the impression of national citizenship? Considering the recent bail-out of the major American automotive corporations, the automotive industry today becomes a powerful vehicle for problematizing the conflicted private/public nature of the corporate form and for examining what it means for a corporation to be American and what duties and benefits such an identity confers.

By examining the ways in which consumable myths of the American corporation interact with the institutions and legal regimes that govern American corporations, I argue that the advertised image of the national in the global economy serves as a broad corporate veil, a way of obscuring the consumer’s understanding of corporate identity and corporate accountability. With these overarching issues and questions as a guide, this Article will historically situate the identification of corporate nationality within a broader framework of debates on corporate social responsibility and interrogate the way that we conceive of the American corporation and corporate decision making.

Download the article for free here.

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Posted in Deep Capture, History, Ideology, Law, Marketing, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Exciting New Book from Tamara Piety!

Posted by Adam Benforado on April 16, 2012

Situationist friend and Tulsa law professor Tamara Piety’s new book, Brandishing the First Amendment: Commercial Expression in America, has just hit book stores!

It looks to be an engaging read for all of us interested in how commercial entities have shaped and wielded First Amendment jurisprudence to increase profits and secure power.  And it is hard to think of a more important topic as we continue into this election year.

Here is a description:

Over the past two decades, corporations and other commercial entities have used strategic litigation to win more expansive First Amendment protections for commercial speech—from the regulation of advertising to the role corporate interests play in the political process, most recently debated in the Supreme Court case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Tamara R. Piety, a nationally known critic of commercial and corporate speech, argues that such an expansion of First Amendment speech rights imperils public health, safety, and welfare; the reliability of commercial and consumer information; the stability of financial markets; and the global environment.

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Beginning with an evaluation of commonly evoked philosophical justifications for freedom of expression, Piety determines that, while these are appropriate for the protection of an individual’s rights, they should not be applied too literally to commercial expression because the corporate person is not the moral equivalent of the human person. She then gathers evidence from public relations and marketing, behavioral economics, psychology, and cognitive studies to show how overly permissive extensions of First Amendment protections to commercial expression limit governmental power to address some of the major social, economic, and environmental challenges of our time.

To purchase a copy, click here.

Congrats, Tamara!

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Posted in Abstracts, Book, Law, Marketing | Comments Off

The Costs of Living in a Material World

Posted by Adam Benforado on April 11, 2012

Are “material girls” born or bred?

In four new experiments, Northwestern University psychologist Galen V. Bodenhausen and his colleagues Monika A. Bauer, James E. B. Wilkie, and Jung K. Kim shed some light on this question.

Here is the abstract of the paper, forthcoming in Psychological Science:

Correlational evidence indicates that materialistic individuals experience relatively low levels of well-being. Across four experiments, we found that situational cuing can also trigger materialistic mind-sets, with similarly negative personal and social consequences. Merely viewing desirable consumer goods resulted in increases in materialistic concerns and led to heightened negative affect and reduced social involvement (Experiment 1). Framing a computer task as a “Consumer Reaction Study” led to a stronger automatic bias toward values reflecting self-enhancement, compared with framing the same task as a “Citizen Reaction Study” (Experiment 2). Consumer cues also increased competitiveness (Experiment 3) and selfishness in a water-conservation dilemma (Experiment 4). Thus, the costs of materialism are not localized only in particularly materialistic people, but can also be found in individuals who happen to be exposed to environmental cues that activate consumerism-cues that are commonplace in contemporary society.

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Carol Tavris Interview – Podcast

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 10, 2012

From (For Good Reason):

Carol Tavris describes dissonance theory and how self-justification and self-deception often keep people from changing their minds even in the light of compelling contrary evidence, because the evidence is often dissonant with one’s self-image. She details the implications of dissonance theory for the persistence of psychic charlatans and other peddlers of the paranormal, and how it may explain how someone like Sylvia Brown can live with herself, and also how it may explain how believers remain so gullible about such unsupportable claims. She describes confirmation bias as a component of dissonance theory. She talks about how dissonance theory applies to the skeptic movement, both in terms of suggesting the best strategies for engaging the credulous, and in terms of fostering skepticism about one’s own skeptical views. And she argues that skepticism should be affirmative rather than destructive in its approach, and focused on both critical thinking and creative thinking alike.

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Slow Choose the Jam

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 25, 2012

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How Deceptive Advertising Preys Upon Our Minds

Posted by Adam Benforado on March 1, 2012

In my Business Organizations course this semester, we have been spending some time thinking about the collection and use of consumer data by corporations.  We have looked at the types of information that companies gather, how they employ statisticians to “weaponize” this information, and whether (and in what ways) the government might effectively (and constitutionally) regulate in this area.

Our discussion has been particularly well timed, given recent articles exposing corporate practices and proposals floated by the Obama administration to address certain types of consumer data mining practices.

One thing that surprised me in speaking with students was how unworried many of them were about corporations carefully monitoring and cataloging their behavior and characteristics.  As one student remarked, “If all of this means that Target knows when I’m in my second trimester and sends me free coupons for lotions, I think that’s great!”

I have a hunch that part of the comfort with corporate “data management” is a result of generational differences: many of my 24- or 25-year-old students have grown up in an environment in which life is lived online without window shades  and where privacy may be less valued.  Another part of the story may simply be a lack of understanding of how manipulative corporations actually are.

This leads me to wonder if with a greater knowledge of the science of advertising and marketing, we will see more restrictions on corporate actions.  If so, here is to people like Adam Craig and his colleagues who have just written an interesting new article on neural processing during exposure to deceptive advertising.

Here is the abstract:

When viewing advertisements, consumers must decide what to believe and what is meant to deceive. Accordingly, much behavioral research has explored strategies and outcomes of how consumers process persuasive messages that vary in perceived sincerity. New neuroimaging methods enable researchers to augment this knowledge by exploring the cognitive mechanisms underlying such processing. The current study collects neuroimaging data while participants are exposed to advertisements with differing levels of perceived message deceptiveness (believable, moderately deceptive, and highly deceptive). The functional magnetic resonance imaging data, combined with an additional behavioral study, offer evidence of two noteworthy results. First, confirming multistage frameworks of persuasion, the authors observe two distinct stages of brain activity: (1) precuneus activation at earlier stages and (2) superior temporal sulcus and temporal-parietal junction activation at later stages. Second, the authors observe disproportionately greater brain activity associated with claims that are moderately deceptive than those that are either believable or highly deceptive. These results provoke new thinking about what types of claims garner consumer attention and which consumers may be particularly vulnerable to deceptive advertising.

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Posted in Deep Capture, Marketing, Neuroscience | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The Situational Effects of Food Advertising

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 9, 2012

Pierre Chandonm and Brian Wansink recently posted their paper “Is Food Marketing Making Us Fat? A Multi-Disciplinary Review” on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

Whereas everyone recognizes that increasing obesity rates worldwide are driven by a complex set of interrelated factors, the marketing actions of the food industry are often singled out as one of the main culprits. But how exactly is food marketing making us fat? To answer this question, we review evidence provided by studies in marketing, nutrition, psychology, economics, food science, and related disciplines that have examined the links between food marketing and energy intake but have remained largely disconnected. Starting with the most obtrusive and most studied marketing actions, we explain the multiple ways in which food prices (including temporary price promotions) and marketing communication (including branding and nutrition and health claims) influence consumption volume. We then study the effects of less conspicuous marketing actions which can have powerful effects on eating behavior without being noticed by consumers. We examine the effects on consumption of changes in the food’s quality (including its composition, nutritional and sensory properties) and quantity (including the range, size and shape of the packages and portions in which it is available). Finally, we review the effects of the eating environment, including the availability, salience and convenience of food, the type, size and shape of serving containers, and the atmospherics of the purchase and consumption environment. We conclude with research and policy implications.

Download the paper for free here.

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerousSituaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Education, Food and Drug Law, Marketing | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Big Game: What Corporations Are Learning About the Human Brain

Posted by Adam Benforado on February 5, 2012

This post was originally published on February 4, 2007.

Superbowl XLI

As I stake out my position on the couch this evening – close enough to reach the pretzels and my beer, but with an optimal view of the TV – it will be nice to imagine that the spectacle about to unfold is a sporting event.It shouldn’t be too hard: after all, there on the screen will be the field, Brian Urlacher stretching out his quads, Peyton Manning tossing a football, referees in their freshly-starched zebra uniforms milling about.Yes, I’ll think to myself, this has all the makings of a football game.

How foolish.

The Super Bowl isn’t about sports; it’s about making money.And with 90 million or so viewers, there is a lot of money to be made.

With CBS charging an estimated $2.6 million for each 30-second advertising spot, it’s no surprise that corporations don’t mess around with guessing what the most effective approach will be for selling their products.They call in the scientists.brain-on-advertising.jpg

For the second year in a row, FKF Applied Research has partnered with the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, to “measure the effect of many of the Super Bowl ads by using fMRI technology.”The research involves “track[ing] the ads on a host of dimensions by looking for activity in key parts of the brain areas that are known to be involved in wanting, choosing, sexual arousal, fear, indecision and reward.”As the FKF website explains, why this research is useful to Fortune 100 companies is that it

shows clearly that what people say in focus groups and in response to poll questions is not what they actually think, feel and do. fMRI scans using our analytical methods allow us to see beyond self report and to understand the emotions and thoughts that are driving (or impeding) behavior.

Looking beyond the spoken word provides immense and actionable insights into a brand, a competitive framework, advertising and visual images and cues.

As it turns out, “brand” lives in a particular place in the human brain:

[W]hen [FKF] did an academic study on the impact of iconic brands, such as Pepsi and Coke and McDonalds, [they] found that the same part of the brain lit up over images of sports logos – say, for the NBA or NFL. There is a clear connection in the human brain between the anticipation of eating that you get from, say, the Coke logo and with the NBA logo.

nfl-coke-logos.jpg

For someone like me, who has always wondered why I feel so hungry reading the sports page, this is interesting stuff.For a corporate CEO, this is extremely interesting – and actionable – stuff.For everyone else . . . this is a reason to be concerned.

Corporations are using science to figure out how our brains work so they can sell more products and what they are finding is that our brains don’t work the way we think they do.

Anticipating this worry, FKF has an Ethics tab on its website:

We are committed to the highest level of ethical behavior in conducting our work. We are determined to be diligent in carving out a new field, and being a leader and advocate in ensuring the best interests of our subjects, the public, and our clients are protected. . . . We believe that wide dissemination about how people make decisions will empower all concerned – both consumers and purveyors of information. Such information, freely discussed in a democracy, will allow us to understand better how marketing is affecting us, discredit manipulation, promote communication, and help illuminate a process that fundamentally shapes the lives of human beings.

Sounds good – in fact, it sounds like situationism, and I have no reason to think that the founders of FKF, or the university scientists with whom they work, aren’t upstanding citizens with good moral compasses.It’s just that I’m still uneasy.

Corporations don’t exactly have a good track record when it comes to learning counterintuitive information about human decision making and then using it responsibly.Rather, the best approach for maximizing shareholder profit is to discover some seemingly-illogical detail about the human brain, use that knowledge to sell more widgets, and then convince the public that their naïve (and incorrect) beliefs about how they make choices are, in fact, correct.

Take big tobacco: as Jon Hanson and others have documented, after figuring out that nicotine was addictive and could compel people to buy marlboro-sm.jpgMarlboros, cigarette companies made a concerted effort to both up nicotine concentrations in their products and convince people, through advertising, that they were rational actors who were not easily manipulated.From the perspective of an entity that is charged, through our legal rules, with making money (and not with doing social good), it makes little sense to alter peoples’ situations to get them to be better consumers and then tell them that you are doing it and that it matters.

Why, that would be as silly as announcing a weak-side blitz to the quarterback before the play.Sure, it would be the nice, ethical thing to warn decent gentlemen like Manning and Rex Grossman of the imminent threat, but it’s not part of the game we’ve developed.Football is a game where you can get blind-sided.

As corporations and our brains make certain, so is watching football.

* * *

(To read about the results of a brain-scan study of men and women watching the 2006 Super Bowl by UCLA neuroscientist Marco Iacobini, click here. To listen to a recent one-hour NPR (On Point) program on “The Changing World of Advertising,” click here.)

Posted in Emotions, Entertainment, Food and Drug Law, Implicit Associations, Life, Marketing, Situationist Sports | 4 Comments »

Race Effects on Ebay

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 24, 2011

Ian Ayres, Situationist Contributor Mahzarin Banaji, and Christine Jolls recently posted their paper, titled “Race Effects on Ebay” on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

* * *

We investigate the impact of seller race in a field experiment involving baseball card auctions on eBay. Photographs showed the cards held by either a dark-skinned/African-American hand or a light-skinned/Caucasian hand. Cards held by African-American sellers sold for approximately 20% ($0.90) less than cards held by Caucasian sellers, and the race effect was more pronounced in sales of minority player cards. Our evidence of race differentials is important because the on-line environment is well controlled (with the absence of confounding tester effects) and because the results show that race effects can persist in a thick real-world market such as eBay.

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Download the paper for free here.

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Miss Representation – Premieres Tonight on OWN

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 20, 2011

The documentary explores how the media’s misrepresentation of women has led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence. It will premiere in the US tonight at 9pm ET.

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The Marketing Situation of Doritos (FTC Complaint)

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 19, 2011

NPLAN filed a complaint today with the FTC today alleging that Frito-Lay has engaged in deceptive marketing to teens by disguising Doritos ads as entertainment; by collecting and using kids’ personal information in violation of its own privacy policy and without adequate disclosure about the extent and purpose of the data collection; and by engaging in viral marketing in violation of the FTC’s endorsement guidelines. Learn more about the complaint here.

These videos, which detail the advertising strategies and goals, speak for themselves.

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in AmericaFor a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Emotions, Entertainment, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Video | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Bad Apologies

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 16, 2011

Topman has withdrawn the t-shirt pictured above (and another that suggested that women are dogs).

The shirt is intended to be humorous.  It would appear that Topman is attempting to point out  how apologies offered by batterers to their victims are often  disingenuous.  By adumbrating the standard set of meaningless apologies on a handy checklist to be worn on a shirt, Topman seems to be saying

“Ha ha guys!  We’ve all been there, right?.  You get carried away and, next thing you know, you are pummeling your girlfriend.  Then, of course, your girlfriend wants you to be all sorry and everything.   Recognize any of these excuses fellas?  lol!”

Whatever the interpretation, it seems clear that the shirt is trivializing (even condoning) domestic violence.

Now comes Topman’s (Facebook) apology:

“We have received some negative feedback regarding two of our printed T-shirts. Whilst we would like to stress that these T-shirts were meant to be light-hearted and carried no serious meaning, we have made the decision to remove these from store and online as soon as possible. We would like to apologise to those who may have been offended by these designs.”

It seems that the public relations team behind that apology is engaging in the same sort of worthless apologizing depicted on the shirt itself.

In response, we have designed a t-shirt.

 

 

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Big Tobacco still at it

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 6, 2011

From The Independent:

The world’s largest tobacco company is attempting to gain access to confidential information about British teenagers’ smoking habits.

Philip Morris International, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, is seeking to force a British university to reveal full details of its research involving confidential interviews with thousands of children aged between 11 and 16 about their attitudes towards smoking and cigarette packaging.

The demands from the tobacco company, made using the UK’s Freedom of Information law, have coincided with an internet hate campaign targeted at university researchers involved in smoking studies.

One of the academics has received anonymous abusive phone calls at her home at night. She believes they are prompted by an organised campaign by the tobacco industry to discredit her work, although there is no evidence that the cigarette companies are directly responsible. Philip Morris says it has a “legitimate interest” in the information, but researchers at Stirling University say that handing over highly sensitive data would be a gross breach of confidence that could jeopardise future studies.

The researchers also believe that the requests are having a chilling effect on co-operation with other academics who fear that sharing their own unpublished data with Stirling will lead to it being handed over to the tobacco industry.

Philip Morris International made its first Freedom of Information (FOI) request anonymously through a London law firm in September 2009. However, the Information Commissioner rejected the request on the grounds that that law firm, Clifford Chance, had to name its client.

Philip Morris then put in two further FOI requests under its own name seeking all of the raw data on which Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing has based its many studies on smoking knowledge, attitudes and behaviour in children and adults.

“They wanted everything we had ever done on this,” said Professor Gerard Hastings, the institute’s director.

“These are confidential comments about how youngsters feel about tobacco marketing. This is the sort of research that would get a tobacco company into trouble if it did it itself.” Professor Hastings added: “What is more, these kids have been reassured that only bona fide researchers will have access to their data. No way can Philip Morris fit into that definition.”

* * *

Cancer Research UK funded the Stirling research into the smoking behaviour of British teenagers in order to answer basic questions about why 85 per cent of adult smokers started smoking when they were children. The researchers at Stirling have built up an extensive database of interviews with 5,500 teenagers to analyse their attitudes to cigarette marketing, packaging and shop displays. “It is a big dataset now because we’ve been in the field several times talking to between 1,000 and 2,000 young people each time – going down to the age of 11 and up to the age of 16,” Professor Hastings said. “These kids are often saying things they don’t want their parents to know. It’s very sensitive.”

Asked what would happen if he lost the fight against Philip Morris, Professor Hastings said: “It would be catastrophic. I don’t think that’s an outcome I would like to contemplate. It is morally repugnant to give data confidentially shared with us by children to an industry that is so rapacious.”

Linda Bauld, professor of socio-management at Stirling, said that other universities in Britain and abroad are following the case with trepidation: “Our colleagues in the community… will not be willing necessarily to hand over information.”

Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing consists of 15 full-time researchers and operates with an annual staff budget of £650,000. Philip Morris International employs 78,000 people and has an annual turnover of £27.2bn.

Professor Hastings said that Philip Morris’s demands have taken up large amounts of time and resources, diverting his department’s attention from its primary role of investigating smoking behaviour. “We have spent a lot of time on this. A research unit like ours simply can’t afford this,” he said. “But for me the crux is the trust we have with young people. How easy will it be for us to get co-operation from young people in the future?

“Our funders will have to think carefully about the further funding of our research. I don’t think for one moment a cancer charity is going to take kindly to paying us hundreds of thousands of pounds to give aid and succour to a multinational tobacco corporation.”

* * *

Academics studying the smoking behaviour of British teenagers and adults have found themselves to be the targets of vitriolic attacks by the pro-smoking lobby.

University researchers have been sent hate emails and some have even received anonymous phone calls, which usually come after a series of blogs posted on pro-smoking websites, including at least one which is linked to the tobacco industry.

Linda Bauld, professor of socio-management at Stirling University’s Institute for Social Marketing, says she was unprepared for the scale of the personal attacks aimed at discrediting her work on smoking behaviour and anti-smoking legislation.

“I’ve had a series of anonymous calls starting about a year ago,” Professor Bauld said. “These are phone calls in the evening when I’m at home with my children. It’s an unpleasant experience.

“It’s happened six or seven times and it’s always an unknown number. It’s usually after stuff has been posted on one of the main smokers’ websites.

“They don’t leave their name, they just say things like ‘Keep taking the money’, and ‘Who are you to try to intervene in other peoples’ lives’, using a couple of profanities.”

. . . . There is no evidence to suggest that tobacco companies are directly responsible for the anonymous phone calls. However, Professor Bauld has been identified as a legitimate target for criticism by Big Tobacco following her high-profile work on cigarettes and the impact of smoking bans. Her report for the Department of Health last March on the smoking ban in England found that there had been positive benefits to health and no evidence of any obvious negative impact on the hospitality industry, as the tobacco industry has repeatedly claimed.

Imperial Tobacco, the biggest cigarette company in Britain and makers of the best-selling Lambert & Butler brand, responded to Professor Bauld’s report with its own review, called The Bauld Truth. This report, which took just a few weeks to write, claimed that Professor Bauld’s study, conducted over three years, was “lazy and deliberately selective”. It claimed that she used “flawed evidence and failed to validate her findings”.

Professor Bauld said such personalised attacks were nothing new. Big Tobacco has a long history of aggressively dismissing scientific evidence linking smoking to ill health, she said. “These… are heavily peer-reviewed at every stage. Their methods are robust, whereas the evidence [the tobacco companies] draw on are not well-conducted studies,” Professor Bauld said.

More.

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Posted in Deep Capture, Marketing, Public Relations | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Sarah Haskins on “Ladyfriend” Stereotypes

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 21, 2011

From :

The best part about being a girl is your girlfriends. They keep you happy when you’re sad and make you laugh when you want to cry, and most importantly, tell you what to buy.

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Posted in Entertainment, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Life, Marketing, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sheena Iyengar on the Art of Choosing

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 5, 2011

Situationist friend Sheena Iyengar studies how we make choices — and how we feel about the choices we make. At TEDGlobal, she talks about both trivial choices (Coke v. Pepsi) and profound ones, and shares her groundbreaking research that has uncovered some surprising attitudes about our decisions.

Relate Situationist posts:

To review the hundreds of Situationist posts discussing the “Choice Myth” click here.,

 

Posted in Choice Myth, Marketing, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Barbie Commercials Across the Decades and the Implications on Female Identity and Objectification

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 11, 2011

From Sister Blog, Law and Mind (by HLS student, Cassie Mathias):

In the past weeks, the Law and Mind Sciences blogposts have included observations about media influences and gender, including Misogyny in Music, Mindfulness and Identity in the context of yogurt advertisements, and the conformity in appearances at HLS job interviews. As these posts described, pop culture, advertisements, and cultural norms all have the power to influence perceptions of gender. No where does this media influence appear to have a wider or longer lasting impact than Barbie. From the first Barbie television advertisement ever (portrayed in the above video) to the introduction of Ken, to current television advertising, Barbie has maintained a prominent presence as a commercial phenomenon, a fashion icon, and source of gender socialization.

The focus of investigations and attitudes towards Barbie differ, but all seem to recognize that the Barbie is not just a doll, but a cultural phenomenon. Since Barbie first arrived at the World Toy Fair in 1959, wearing a Zebra bikini and stilettos, over a billion Barbies have been produced in 150 countries. According to Mattel on Barbie’s 50th Anniversary in 2009, 90% of U.S. girls ages 3-10 own at least one Barbie doll. In a Newsweek article commenting on this anniversary, Eliza Grey described Barbie as “the original bimbo, a relic of postwar paternalism that teaches its young to worship at the altar of blond hair, peach skin and formidable cleavage atop a waistline the size of a pinkie ring.”

Others celebrate Barbie. Ruth Handler, the founder of Mattell, defended Barbie as a progressive alternative to baby dolls that emphasized playing mom. Dr. Lenore Wright has argued that role-playing with Barbie allows children to explore identity formation openly and in empowering ways, whereas media advertisements present a determined viewpoint of the female identity. At the very least, some argue Barbie is the better alternative to the even more sexualized Bratz dolls.

Barbie progresses alongside social and political changes, and thus new editions reflect changes in the construction of female identity. Barbie advertisements send a clear message to young girls about not just their role as women, but how to make sense of the world around them and societal roles. For example, during the Civil Rights Movement, Barbie received her first black friend, “Colored Francie.” In the 1970s, Mattell reacted to feminist criticisms by adding non-traditional female jobs for Barbie, such as an astronaut, Army medic, and presidential candidate.

Has Barbie become a better influence? As an undergraduate, I sought out to perform a content analysis study on Barbie commercials across the decades to explore this inquiry. I examined Barbie television commercials from 1959-2009. I found 45 commercials on YouTube and coded for social gender role themes and appearance themes. I coded for the presence of Social Gender Role themes, including homemaking (e.g., ironing, setting the table, cooking); motherhood or care taking; emphasis on relationships (noting if the ads explicitly referenced marriage), careers; Age inappropriate themes; Explicit patronizing gender role messages; and fashion. I also analyzed the appearance of the dolls and actors in the television commercials, coding for if all the female dolls were blonde, if a minority doll was present, if the Barbie was attempting to portray sex appeal, if the dolls had an extreme, unrealistic thin body type, and if there was an explicit emphasis on the importance of beauty. I divided the commercials up by decade and then analyzed the themes within each decade by calculating the percentage of commercials in our sample that contained each theme and then compared the proportion each theme was present across decades to analyze Barbie’s progression.

On her fiftieth birthday, Barbie has now had 108 careers, 50 nationalities, and over 1 billion pairs of shoes. This TV commercial from 2008 advertises three of these new careers, Barbie can be anything she wants to be, including a pet stylist, a baby doctor, or a swim teacher.

Despite so many expectations associated with Barbies’ new careers, I found few messages that encourage girls to search for meaning or substance. Although Barbie had more careers in new editions, the commercials still portrayed Barbie in non-threatening, female stereotyped careers. Even when Barbie had a positive career, the emphasis of the commercial was often on her sexuality or Ken.

I found that while new editions of Barbie continued to communicate gendered themes, they did not strictly mirror societal changes. As the traditional 1950s homemaker ideal faded, new editions of Barbie brought an emphasis on promiscuity, fashion, and materialism. In the 2000s, the career messages focused mostly on Barbie as a fashion model, encouraging girls to use their bodies and fashion as a source of power. These messages resist encouraging girls to search for other outlets of power and supports the objectification of women’s bodies.Barbie and her friends had many new looks and careers, but failed to challenge traditional female gender roles.

Even if parents resist gender socialization or refuse to buy Barbies, children will still be exposed to the gendered messages in advertisements. As children internalize these messages, the commercials will contribute to difficulties in emotional expression and coping behaviors that could ultimately lead to many pathologies.

The commercials emphasize subservient gender roles and depending on Ken, rather than empowering young girls to take care of themselves. Studies have shown that this exaggerated “housewife role” has been associated with disorders such as depression as women struggle with gender inequality in their daily routines. Young boys are socialized to be active and assertive, whereas messages such as these encourage girls to develop a passive coping style.

Barbie is portrayed as always carefree, which girls may internalize as evidence that they should not express sadness or anger. Boys who are playing with GI Joe’s may develop patterns of more “active” actions, although their violent emphasis could also contribute to boys’ externalizing and delinquent behaviors. The commercials emphasize Barbie’s role in relation to her friends, her boyfriend, and her sister. Spending hours role playing these relationships could contribute to girls’ interpersonal orientation, which has been found to lead to poor coping strategies such as rumination, and psychological problems such as depression, stress, and anxiety.

Barbie communicates unrealistic standards, with her dream house, dream wardrobe, dream job, and dream boyfriend. Women today are expected to excel in every domain, leading to feelings of low self worth. According to the Superwoman theory, women who perceive that they should have it all fail to be intrinsically motivated, but instead look for social approval. As women strive towards this perfection, there is an increasing isolation from family and friends.

At the same time that girls are strongly associating with the female gender role, they are experiencing bodily changes and thus intensified body dissatisfaction and low self esteem (Wichstrom, 1999). Barbie provides an expectation for an unattainable body type, increasing the risk for eating disorders. Nearly all commercials contained images of unrealistic thinness, encouraging girls to internalize the thin ideal at an early age. In 2006, Helga Dittmar, Emma Halliwell, and Suzanne Ive examined Barbie as the direct cause of body dissatisfaction and eating problems. Of the 162 five through eight-year olds they evaluated, those that played with a Barbie reported low body esteem and desired to be much thinner than those that were exposed to a larger doll or no dolls.

Besides being extremely thin, Barbie has large breasts and a tiny waist. Norton et al. Statistics suggest that the probability of attaining Barbie’s body shape was less than one in 100,000, whereas the probability of attaining Ken’s was about one in fifty. Especially alongside age inappropriate and sexual themes, this message validates the trend that women’s bodies are judged and sexualized more than men’s bodies, which contributes to the objectification of women. Accepting male entitlement and female subordination facilitates violence, abuse, and rape, and may cause women to experience self-blame and helplessness.

Barbie commercials provide explicit messages to young children about the expectations associated with being female. Rather than empowering young girls to be ambitious, empowered, and virtuous, the commercials emphasize the importance of sex appeal, fashion, and relationships. As Law and Mind Sciences has discussed, these messages are still very apparent. As girls grow older, the media continues to present objectifying messages and institutions continue to promote conformity, even in law school and the legal profession. Pop artists such as Ke$ha are speaking out against misogyny in their own ways, but I believe her lyrics are more of illustrative of the over-sexualization of women present in the current media that I found in today’s Barbie commercials. How much has changed from 1959 to today? Are girls and women simply identifying with a new variety of objectification in the media? Are icons like Ke$ha the modern day Barbie?

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Gingerism

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The Situation of Donations

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 29, 2011

From BBC:

We give more to a drought victim than a war victim because we suspect the latter may be partly to blame for their plight, the authors say.

It could explain why the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami sparked a huge response but the Darfur appeal received less.

The study was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

“These conclusions are borne out by our experience,” said Brendan Paddy of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), a UK body that co-ordinates aid appeals.

“Appeals for a humanitarian disaster arising from conflict tend to get significantly less response than natural events.”

* * *

In the study, the psychologists invented a fictitious famine.

They then told test groups the famine was caused either by a “drought” or “armed conflict” and invited them to contribute to an appeal for funds.

People routinely gave more to the victims of the “drought” because when they saw victims of a man-made disaster they tended to think they must have something to do with their plight, the authors concluded.

This response was due to a “blame game” based on what was known as the “just world belief”, said lead author Hanna Zagefka of the Royal Holloway, University of London.

Under this belief, she said, we all wanted to think the world was fair and just, “because the alternative could mean that all sorts of random and horrible things could happen to us”.

“In this fair and just world that we want, the innocent do not suffer,” Ms Zagefka said.

“So if we see someone suffering, we assume they can’t be completely innocent – this is the way we defend our belief in a just world.”

In the case of famine caused by conflict, we might subconsciously think that the victims were somehow complicit, the researchers said.

But in a natural disaster, they added, our instinct told us the story was simple – the earthquake struck, or the huge wave arrived, and it could not be the fault of the victims.

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More.

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Posted in Altruism, Ideology, Marketing, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Neuro-Situation of Shopping Choices

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 16, 2011

From ScienceDaily:

Researchers at Oxford University are to study ‘neuromarketing’, a relatively new field of consumer and market research, which uses brain imaging and measurement technology to study the neural processes underlying an individual’s choice.

Neuromarketing claims to reveal how consumers assess, deliberate and choose in a variety of contexts.

According to neuromarketers this growing industry has the potential to significantly increase the effectiveness of advertising and marketing campaigns. They claim that neuromarketing will provide detailed knowledge about customer preferences and what marketing activities will stimulate buying behaviour, and make promotional campaigns more effective. It will be valuable in providing cues for the best place and prices in advertisements, and should cut the risk of marketing products that are doomed to fail. In the experts’ view, instead of relying on focus groups, neuromarketing offers the promise of ‘objective neurological evidence’ to inform organisations’ marketing campaigns.

But if neuromarketing is set to revolutionise marketing, what are the implications of this development? The study will cast light on the ‘neuro-turn’ in marketing by conducting fieldwork, interviews and documentary analysis. In addition a critical, historical assessment will consider and compare how different market research techniques can affect consumers and consumer behaviour.

The project is led by Professor Steve Woolgar, of the Saïd Business School, and is located within a larger collaborative study of the “Neuro-turn in European Social Sciences and the Humanities: Impacts of neurosciences on economics, marketing and philosophy” (acronym: NESSHI) with researchers from other parts of Europe.

Professor Woolgar said: ‘This three-year project will be the first large-scale study of how emerging neurological knowledge about human decision-making is transforming the techniques of marketers and others who seek to influence the behaviour of consumers. It has far reaching implications for what we know about how humans make their choices, the role of the brain and the factors at play in everyday decisions we all take.’

Dr Tanja Schneider, researcher on the project, said: ‘For a number of years, research has been focussed on brain imaging centres. This is now moving out of the laboratory and into practice. The research we are doing will cast light on what is already happening in this area, and will explore what is likely to develop in the near future. We know this will impact society in a major way, so it is critical to understand these developments better’.

More.

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Posted in Marketing, Neuroscience | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

On Money and Motivation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 30, 2011

This lively RSAnimate, adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA, examines some the ways that money doesn’t always buy motivation.

Related Situationist posts:

To review a collection of Situationist posts exploring the causes and consequences of happiness, click here.

Posted in Emotions, Ideology, Illusions, Life, Marketing, Positive Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Blog to Be Renamed! Meet the Situationist 24

Posted by Adam Benforado on April 28, 2011

After coming across a reference on the Harvard Business Review site to new research by Dan King and Chris Janiszewski, I immediately contacted the Grand Executive Steering, Directing, and Pointing Committee of the Situationist.  An emergency meeting was held last evening and the Committee has an announcement:  effective immediately, the blog is being renamed “The Situationist 24.”

Why?

Well, let’s have Professors King and Janiszewski explain (in an executive summary):

  • Brand names use numbers to label levels of a product line (e.g., Nikon D40, D50, D70, D80; Canon PowerShot A430, A530, A630), inform the consumer about product performance (e.g., Miller Beer’s MGD 64, Heinz 57, Intel Core 2 Duo), and facilitate brand trademark recognition (e.g., Levi’s 501, Toyota MR2 Spyder, X-14 Cleaner). Each of these applications assumes that numbers in brand names are an important source of information. It is also possible that numbers in brand names are a source of affective responses; that is, certain numbers are more liked, and in turn, this liking increases the liking for the brand that incorporates the number into its name.
  • The authors find that the source of number liking is the ease with which the number is processed. This ease of processing, similar to a feeling of familiarity, can come from two sources. First, numbers that are encountered more often are more familiar and liked. For example, smaller magnitude numbers (e.g., 1, 2, 3) are encountered more often than large magnitude numbers (e.g., 1001, 1002, 1003) and rounded numbers (e.g., 10, 100, 1000) are encountered more often than nonrounded numbers (e.g., 11, 101, 1001), Second, numbers that are generated more often are more familiar and liked. Numbers that are sums and products are more frequently generated than other numbers under 100. Thus, brands that incorporate these numbers into their names have the potential to be more liked.
  • A series of experiments documents the influence of numbers on the liking of brands. For example, an imaginary brand name for anti-dandruff shampoo (Zinc) is more liked when it includes a common product number (e.g., Zinc 24) than when with includes a prime number (e.g., Zinc 31). The research also shows that the presence of the operands responsible for the sum or product further enhance the liking of a brand name. For example, not only is a Volvo S12 more liked than a Volvo S29, but liking is further enhanced when an advertisement for a Volvo S12 includes a license plate with the numbers 2 and 6. The operands 2 and 6 make 12 more familiar because they encourage the subconscious generation of the number 12.
  • The influence of available operands on liking for the number brand extends to advertising claims. The authors conducted a study in which consumers were asked to make a choice between V8 and Campbell’s tomato juice. Some consumers saw a V8 advertisement that stated, “Get a full day’s supply of 4 essential vitamins and 2 minerals with a bottle of V8” whereas other saw an advertisement that stated “Get a full day’s supply of essential vitamins and minerals with a bottle of V8.” More consumers chose the bottle of V8 when the number 4 and 2 were explicitly mentioned in the claim. Creating similar advertisements for Campbell’s tomato juice did not influence preferences for Campbell’s.

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Posted in Marketing | 2 Comments »

 
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