The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

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 »

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.

Related Situationist posts:

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 »

Miss Representation – Premieres Tonight on OWN

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 20, 2011

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Education, Entertainment, Marketing, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

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’.


Related Situationist posts.

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

Selling Products With Sexism

Posted by Adam Benforado on March 11, 2011

Sexist products and advertising were once right out in the open.

Take this old advertisement from Honor House Products Corp. for “Stuffed” Girl’s Heads (highlighted this week over at Dangerous Minds).

A 1970 advertisement for Mr. Leggs slacks (shown below) played into the same notions of women as passive “conquests” and men as active “conquerors.”  As the copy explains,

Though she was a tiger lady, our hero didn’t have to fire a shot to floor her. After one look at his Mr. Leggs slacks, she was ready to have him walk all over her. That noble styling sure soothes the savage heart! If you’d like your own doll-to-doll carpeting, hunt up a pair of these he-man Mr. Leggs slacks. Such as our new automatic wash wear blend of 65% “Dacron®” and 35% rayon–incomparably wrinkle-resistant. About $12.95 at plush-carpeted stores.

While, in general, the sexism in advertising and marketing campaigns is less explicit today, it has in no way disappeared.

A recent example comes from an unexpected source: Jenny Craig.  One might think that the weight-loss company with its traditionally strongly-female consumer pool would be the last place to see sexism of any kind, but JC is looking for new customers: men.

I suspect that the controversial campaign was spurred by a worry that the gendered associations for the company would doom its efforts to make inroads with the male demographic unless they took bold action.  What type of man would turn to Jenny Craig for help?  That would imply his femininity — and, indeed, his weakness.

So what did the company come up with as a message?

“Jen Works For Men!”

In other words, it’s okay fellas: think about Jenny Craig as your secretary or maid.  As Mr. Leggs would have pointed out, “It’s nice to have a girl around the house.”

Check out one of the television ads below:

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Marketing, Video | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Advertising By Pulling Advertising

Posted by Adam Benforado on January 28, 2011

In case you’ve been attending to important things and haven’t been keeping up on the latest MTV programing, the network has launched a new racy show, “Skins,” that depicts the wild alcohol/drug/sex-fueled world of high school — or, well, a high school (sadly, I went to a math equation/AP biology-fueled high school).

Like clockwork, various organizations like the Parents Television Council were enraged and called for protests, congressional investigations, and pitchfork rallies outside of ominous castles.

And, as these things inevitably go, a number of companies pulled their advertising from the show.

As a representative of Taco Bell explained to the Hollywood Reporter, “We’ve decided that the show is not a fit for our brand and have moved our advertising to other MTV programming.”

So what do we make of this . . . or, indeed, any instance where a company publicly drops a show or celebrity spokesman when controversy strikes?

Is it all downside?  That is certainly the story that gets told: we invested so much into the campaign centered around O.J. and then he had to go out and . . . !

But perhaps it’s not as bad as it would seem for corporate America.  In fact, perhaps these controversial “break-ups” present ripe opportunities for establishing a brand or company identity.

Accenture was the first sponsor to drop Tiger Woods as its representative after revelations of his sexual escapades were made public.

The drama that was portrayed in the media was one of a company done wrong, but I wonder about that narrative.

After all, Accenture benefited for years with Tiger coming to personify the accuracy and integrity of the firm.  When Tiger slipped up, the company swiftly acted to sever its relationship, with the implicit message that (1) Tiger did not live up to the high expectations of the company and (2) the company was so dedicated to accuracy and integrity that it would send its heavyweight spokesman packing for personal indiscretions.  The real upside, of course, was that the breakup was quite public with numerous “news” stories about the relationship gone bad.  People who knew nothing about consulting suddenly knew the name Accenture and what the company stood for.

As the song goes, breaking up is hard to do . . . but for many companies there may be some real upside from a public split.

And, in the case of a show like “Skins” — it’s a win-win.  MTV draws in viewers who are suddenly intrigued by talk of a show that’s so over-the-top and scandalous that Taco Bell ran the other direction and Taco Bell gets to establish that while it’s still hip and spicy (it’s not pulling its advertising from MTV completely), at heart it’s a “family-oriented” business.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see

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

Secondhand Smoking

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 20, 2011

From EurekaAlert:

Seeing actors smoke in a movie activated the brain areas of smokers that are known to interpret and plan hand movements, as though they too were about to light a cigarette, according to a new study in the Jan. 19 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Habitual smokers repeat the same hand motions, sometimes dozens of times a day. In this study, researchers led by senior investigator Todd Heatherton, PhD, and graduate student Dylan Wagner of Dartmouth College set out to determine whether the parts of the brain that control that routine gesture could be triggered by simply seeing someone else smoke.

The authors found that seeing this familiar action — even when embedded in a Hollywood movie — evoked the same brain responses as planning to actually make that movement. These results may provide additional insight for people trying to overcome nicotine addiction, a condition that leads to one in five U.S. deaths each year.

“Our findings support prior studies that show smokers who exit a movie that had images of smoking are more likely to crave a cigarette, compared with ones who watched a movie without them,” Wagner said. “More work is needed to show whether brain activity in response to movie smoking predicts relapse for a smoker trying to quit.”

During the study, 17 smokers and 17 non-smokers watched the first 30 minutes of the movie “Matchstick Men” while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The researchers chose the movie because it prominently features smoking scenes but otherwise lacks alcohol use, violence, and sexual content.

The volunteers were unaware that the study was about smoking. When they viewed smoking scenes, smokers showed greater brain activity in a part of the parietal lobe called the intraparietal sulcus, as well as other areas involved in the perception and coordination of actions. In the smokers’ brains specifically, the activity corresponded to the hand they use to smoke.

“Smokers trying to quit are frequently advised to avoid other smokers and remove smoking paraphernalia from their homes, but they might not think to avoid a movie with smoking content,” Wagner said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that exposure to onscreen smoking in movies makes adolescents more likely to smoke. According to their 2010 report, tobacco use in films has decreased in recent years, but about half of popular movies still contained tobacco imagery in 2009, including 54 percent of those rated PG-13.

Scott Huettel, PhD, of Duke University, an expert in the neuroscience of decision-making who was unaffiliated with the study, said scientists have long known that visual cues often induce drug cravings. “This finding builds upon the growing body of evidence that addiction may be reinforced not just by drugs themselves, but by images and other experiences associated with those drugs,” Huettel said.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Entertainment, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Neuroscience | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Breaking Up Is Easy to Do: When Corporations Dump Consumers

Posted by Adam Benforado on September 16, 2010

As Jon Hanson and a number of other Situationist contributors (including yours truly) have profiled over the years, corporations go to great lengths to convince us that we are rational market actors, exercising free choice.  By using advertizing, marketing, and other means to encourage consumers to believe that they are in control, corporate entities can effectively evade liability and regulation.  When someone becomes obese from eating too much fast food or develops cancer from smoking too many cigarettes, the “choice myth” acts as a great shield.  How can the corporation be deemed blameworthy when individuals exercised free choice to buy the problematic products in copious quantities?

The great injustice, of course, is that at the same time that corporations are selling the narrative that the American public is in the driver’s seat, navigating an open market, they are actively working to ensure that that is not the case.

Take a recent article by Detlef Schoder and Alex Talalayevsky in the Wall Street Journal’s Executive Adviser on how companies can regain control of pricing power on the Internet.  What is fascinating about the piece is that Schoder and Talalayevsky portray consumers seeking to become well informed and exercising free choice as “taking advantage”—that is, not playing fair.  And the authors offer specific tactics to limit choice and confuse or reduce the knowledge of potential buyers.

For example, Schoder and Talalayevsky provide advice on decreasing “price transparency.”  As they explain, “Packaging, or bundling, a product with other products and/or services, makes it difficult for buyers to ascertain the specific cost of each single item within the bundle.”  Likewise, they recommend tracking online customers by delivery address and credit-card number and then banning “customers who repeatedly eat into [the] profit margin.”

Do companies actually do these things?

You bet.  Indeed, I have a friend who was banned from after she was deemed to be too savvy and not profitable enough.  Bluefly broke the news in a letter canceling her most recent order: “While we understand that you may be upset by this situation, please understand that, by choosing not to accept your order, we are not saying that you have done anything wrong.  We are simply recognizing that based on our mutual past transaction history, we are not a good match to continue to do business together.”

When my friend forwarded me the “it’s not you, it’s me” email, my first instinct was to laugh, but as I thought more about it, it all seemed pretty underhanded.  There is something seemingly unjust about corporations celebrating the autonomous, rational consumer, while actively working to undermine autonomy and rationality, and to cull the most autonomous and rational individuals from the herd.

What do you think?

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Taking the Situation of Consumers Seriously,” Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” The Changing Face of Marketing?,” “The Situation of Credit Card Regulation,” The Financial Squeeze: Bad Choices or Bad Situations?” “The Situation of the American Middle Class,” “Are Debtors Rational Actors or Situational Characters?,” and “The Situation of College Debt” – Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Posted in Choice Myth, Marketing, Situationist Contributors, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 10 Comments »

Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!

Posted by J on September 21, 2009

[This post was first published in October of 2007.]

Several weeks ago, as part of its much lauded “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty,” Unilever released “Onslaught,” a video (above) examining disturbing images of women in beauty-industry advertising. The video ends with this admonition to parents: “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.”

Dove Self-Esteem Page ImageIt’s a powerful video with a disturbing collection of images. The situation of our daughters — and, by the way, our sons — seems both overwhelming and diabolical. Read the comments about the film on the Dove website discussion board, and you can feel the love and gratitude that viewers, particularly mothers, feel toward Dove for this film.

Skimming the first ten comments, one finds these reviews and remarks:

“This is a POWERFUL little film for sure”; ” I love the message behind the Dove movies/ads”; “I applaud Dove once again”; ” I think this film is wonderful!”; “I applaud Dove for launching their campaign of what beauty really is”; “Kudos to DOVE for taking a stand”; “My reaction to ‘Onslaught’ is that I want to cry”; and “Thank you for launching this campaign as it is way overdue.”

There’s a problem that is easily lost when one contemplates the impressive production that “Onslaught” represents and the possibility that at least some corporations just may be our friends — the kind of friend who cares about our kids and who we can trust to help teach our children the valuable messages about what “real beauty” is and about the traps and dangers of our shared environment.

No, there are actually several problems.

Onslaught ImageTo begin with, although Dove claims to “provide[] a refreshingly real alternative for women who recognise that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes,” even the Dove models seem to fit quite comfortably within a slightly expanded perimeter of conventional conceptions of beauty. The young girls, for instance, who represent “our children” in the film “Onslaught” are exceptionally attractive children even by commercially influenced cultural standards.

The same is true for the models in the Real Beauty campaign — yes, there is variety, but the variety is measured in small deviations around an average that is itself only a tiny enlargement of the single standard of beauty given to us by those other beauty products. In other words, Dove’s claim that beauty comes in “all shapes and sizes” seems to mean that beauty comes in “a few more shapes and sizes — particularly if the women are laughing and playing together in their underwear.”

Dove Models Real Beauty Campaign

What is the implicit message to those girls and women who don’t measure up to even the “lowered” Dove standard? And what is the message of these particular images — where groups of young women reveal their “inner beauty” by standing in their underwear touching, rubbing, and giggling?

There may be another even more troubling feature of these ads. Telling parents to “talk to [their] daughters before the beauty industry does,” is equivalent to telling parents to teach their children how to float in thin air before gravity gets to them. The beauty industry “talks” to our children either directly or indirectly at virtually every waking moment, and, I suspect, during many of our children’s dreams. If you don’t agree, just watch “Onslaught” again. Those images set the beauty standard not simply for the young girls who strive to slim down and measure up, but also of their friends and families and society at large. Those cultural expectations and pressures enmesh our children even when the ads and posters are briefly out of sight.

Parents fortunate enough to have the time, energy, and resources to “talk to their children” meaningfully and consistently about “real beauty” might be able to hold their children up against the force of gravity for a brief spell. Eventually, though, the “onslaught” of commercial images and messages will take its toll. After all, the barrage is incessant, multidirectional, and credible. Existing beauty standards matter in the lives of those who do, and those who do not, meet them. A parent’s words are among the least frequent, least credible, and least relevant words that their adolescent children will hear, particularly when it comes to questions of beauty and social acceptance among their peers. In fact, by even focusing on the problematic standards of beauty that their children face, parents risk underscoring and strengthening the power of that standard.

Ideas for Moms and Mentors Websiste ImageThe “Onslaught” video may itself have that effect by bringing into relief the current unforgiving and unrealizable standard of beauty that now dominates our culture. Thus, while the “Onslaught” video urges parents to “talk to your daughters,” it probably should add “but don’t show them this video” which all-too-clearly highlights the undernourished and oversexualized prototypes of “beauty.”

A parent’s task is made that much more difficult by the fact that commercial marketing is not simply teaching our children about the importance and meaning of “beauty,” it is also pitting parents and kids against one another — from encouraging children to “nag” for more stuff to undermining the credibility and authority of parental limits or advice. (For fascinating and detailed accounts of the consumerist kidnapping, you can read Susan Linn’s Consuming Kids or Juliet Schor’s Born to Buy — if time permits, both are worth reading. For an excellent website covering these topics, visit the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.)

Do not misunderstand: I accept that some parents may be able to make some difference — or, as a parent of three, I hope that is true. My point is that parents are competing against a force that is far larger than any one of us, a force not of our choosing.

As Cornel West and Sylvia Ann Hewlett have written:

[S]imply heaping blame on overburdened moms and dads will not solve our problems. Modern-day mothers and fathers, like those before them, struggle to put children at the center of their lives. But major impediments and obstacles stand in their way, undermining their most valiant efforts. From early in the morning till late at night, America’s parents are battered by all kinds of pressures, most of which are not of their making.

It seems peculiar, therefore, that Dove would offer a film demonstrating the ubiquitous attack of the beauty industry that ends with the suggestion to parents that they are the ones to make a difference by simply talking to their kids. If the industry is the problem, it strikes me as odd that the parents are supposed to be the solution.

“Peculiar?” “Odd?” Maybe the word “suspicious” is a better fit. Telling parents to talk to their children is not unusual as a public relationsPhilip Morris Talk to your Kids; They’ll Listen strategy. For instance, Philip Morris, among other companies, has long been pushing that message in its “public service” ads, particularly since the industry began to face a real threat of tort liability in the 1990s. The message seems public-spirited, but most industry analysts believe that Philip Morris is delivering, not a public-service message to parents, but a responsibility-shifting message to the public: kids smoke because of uninvolved or irresponsible parents, not because of anything that Philip Morris has done. (For a discussion of how the fast food industry has engaged in similar attribution-shifting tactics, you can link to an article by Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, David Yosifon, and me by clicking here.)

To add to my suspicions, many of the comments on the Dove website indicate that those who watch the video are concluding that the problem created by the beauty industry should be solved by parents — as if the industry conduct is immutable and the key variable to protecting our children is the presence or absence of good parenting.

Here is a sample of comments — again, from the first ten on the Dove website discussion page:

“I do NOT condone the way a lot of families allow their children to become obese”; “[S]hame on their parents for letting this affect their child”; “The media is not totally to blame”; “I do believe that it is the job of the parent to their daughters. I have read articles describing girls at 16 and younger getting plastic surgery and breast augmentation. What’s wrong with those parents??”; “it all starts in the home and with the kind of role model a mother is to her daughter”; and “I do agree that it is up to parents to educate children about what is right and what is wrong.”

If Dove were attempting to shift responsibility to parents for the “beauty” preoccupation of adolescent girls, it seems to be working. But, still, why would Dove do that?

One plausible answer is that they wouldn’t. Dove is selling soap, not tobacco. Any suspicions that one might have about the Philip Morris campaign do not translate easily to the message of the “Onslaught” video. To be sure, Dove may be criticizing the rest of the beauty industry and its standards to maximize its own profits; expressing concern (genuine or not) about our children might be a saavy route to getting our dollars. Selling “real beauty” instead of “commercialized beauty” seems a brilliant strategy for distinguishing Dove products form those of its competitors and for attracting that group of consumers who fancy themselves beautiful, but who want to reject the standards of “unreal beauty” set by those other beauty product ads. The returns indicate that this plus-sized marketing strategy has been immensely profitable. But that sort of profit-seeking does not seem particularly nefarious. As one commenter on the Dove website puts it:dove-model.jpg

“Good for Dove to tackle the ‘real beauty’ of women. As a former, public relations professional it’s hard for me not to be cynical of the company’s dollar-driven agenda, but I’m moved by the campaign and hopeful that others will follow suit in responsible social marketing.”

If it’s profitable for Dove to push meekly against the tide of commercial messages, more power to them, right? Philip Morris, in contrast, is attempting to shift blame that otherwise would be placed on them through law suits, legislation, and regulation or through reduced consumption by an angry public. Dove does not face those potential costs or public relations problems, so why would they want to shift responsibility from the beauty industry toward parents?

The second plausible answer is more troubling.

Dove is not, as most people seem to imagine, a company devoted to helping parents and their children in their battles against the polluting and quasi-pornographic images and messages of commercialized beauty products. Dove is not a person, and Dove is not a friend.

vaseline-ad.jpgDove is a brand — one member of a “family” of brands owned by the company Unilever. If Dove were a person, then, Unilever would be its parent. And, in light of that relationship, the question is, not whether Dove would have an incentive to shift responsibility to parents for the practices of the beauty industry, but whether Unilever would. Is Unilever acting responsibly by doing its part to stem the “onslaught”? If not, is it possible that that is because Unilever has the same sort of incentive that Big Tobacco has for shifting responsibility to others for the consequence of their own culpable conduct?

When one gives some thought to that question, the “real beauty” campaign begins to look a little ugly.

Unilever, as a company, seems uninterested in expanding our conceptions of beauty, much less in helping parents confront the problem of beauty-industry marketing. Unilever is not part of the solution; in fact, Unilever — one of the largest manufacturers of cosmetics, skin lighteners, diet products, and the like — may be one of the worst offenders.

A previous Situationist post has already detailed some of the ways that Unilever helps to set and reinforce harmful beauty standards with its products and marketing. (See “Shades of Fairness and the Marketing of Prejudice.”) But there is more to say . . . or show.

In fact, the cascade of objectifying images in the “Onslaught” video seem surprisingly tame when compared to some of the actual ads for other Uniliver products. Consider, for example the following two ads for Lynx body spray, a male deodorant that seems to promise more than just deodorizing (indeed, the product slogan is “Spray More. Get More”):

According to the Dove website, “The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is a global effort that is intended to serve as a starting point for societal change and act as a catalyst for widening the definition and discussion of beauty.” Apparently Unilever has a different global vision. To learn more about the global “Lynx Effect,” check out this ad:

Unilever’s other body spray, Axe, is no better, as the following videos illustrate:

What are those ads if not an onslaught? The Dove website explains that “the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can’t ever achieve.” Elsewhere, the website describes the pressure on young women this way:

“The comparisons are non-stop, especially among girls who see rich, beautiful young women in the media and want to be just like them. Dissatisfaction with body image increases as girls move into adolescence, according to a 2000 study by the Girl Scout Research Institute. Although 75 percent of 8- and 9-year-old girls in the study said they like their looks, only 56 percent of those ages 12 and 13 did. And of the 33 percent of girls ages 14-17 who said they’re too fat, two-thirds were dieting. Ninety percent of eating disorders are diagnosed in girls.”

Ummm. Good point.

But if the problem is sexualized stereotypes and unhealthy body types, then why is Dove telling parents to “talk to their kids before the beauty industry does”? Shouldn’t Dove be talking to its parent about not talking to our kids? Why would we applaud the arsonist when he passes out pamphlets on how to fight fires? Why buy mousetraps from the same person who dumped rodents into our basement? Should we not judge Dr. Jekyll in part by the sins Mr. Hyde?

If Dove cares about “real beauty,” it should start at home. If Unilever doesn’t care about “real beauty” it should stop getting rich off the illusion that it does. And if the beauty industry is the source of the onslaught, then Unilever, through Dove advertising, should not be permitted to blame the victims for its own contribution to that attack.

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Situationist friend and legal scholar Tamara R. Piety has recently written an outstanding law review article that, among other things, discusses and further develops some of the themes highlighted in this post.  Her article , titled “Onslaught: Commercial Speech and Gender Inequality,” is forthcoming in Case Western Law Review (2009).  The abstract is as follows.

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Utilizing Dove’s infamous “Onslaught” viral ad, this Article explores the ways in which commercial speech constructs images of and attitudes toward women that interfere with full equality for women. Advertising and marketing contribute to creating a social reality in which it is taken for granted that women must spend a great deal of time on appearance and that appearance is of critical importance to life success. As is typical for much advertising, it does this by stimulating anxiety. Such anxiety contributes to low self- esteem, lowered ambitions and stereotype threat reactions, as well as to biased reactions on the part of others. Harms such as these are often justified on the basis of the right of the speaker to participate in public debate or in the public’s right to receive advertising “information.” The Dove ad itself, however, illustrates the problem in locating a “speaker” for commercial speech and raises questions about the nature of the “information” provided by advertising. Because commercial speech lacks an author with moral interests and because it only has informational value when it is true, this Article presents an argument that women’s interest in equality and freedom from harm should outweigh the commercial interests of the speakers, at least to the extent that commercial speech be denied any First Amendment protection beyond that already extended to truthful speech.

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To download Piety’s article for free, click here.

For a previous Situationist post highlighting some of the uglier beauty messages of Unilever, see “Shades of Fairness and the Marketing of Prejudice.” For a post discussing the situational causes and consequences of beauty, see “Survival of the Cutest.” For a sample of other related Situationist posts, check out “The Marketing Situation of Children,” “The Magnetism of Beautiful People,” “Prejudice Against the Obese and Some of its Situational Sources,” “Spas and Girls,” and “Fitting in and Sizing up.”

To read a New York Times article discussing the seeming contradiction in Unilever’s marketing strategies, click here. To read a Los Angeles Times article on the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s criticism of the Unilever contradiction, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Life, Marketing, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Situation of Snacking

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 8, 2009

Big Mac WhopperSituationist Contributor John Bargh, with his co-authors Jennifer Harris and Kelly Brownell, recently published an interesting article, “Priming Effects of Television Food Advertising on Eating Behavior” (28 Health Psychology 404 (2009)) on the subconscious behavioral consequences of food advertising.  Here’s the abstract.

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Objective: Health advocates have focused on the prevalence of advertising for calorie-dense low-nutrient foods as a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic. This research tests the hypothesis that exposure to food advertising during TV viewing may also contribute to obesity by triggering automatic snacking of available food. Design: In Experiments 1a and 1b, elementary-school-age children watched a cartoon that contained either food advertising or advertising for other products and received a snack while watching. In Experiment 2, adults watched a TV program that included food advertising that promoted snacking and/or fun product benefits, food advertising that promoted nutrition benefits, or no food advertising. The adults then tasted and evaluated a range of healthy to unhealthy snack foods in an apparently separate experiment. Main Outcome Measures: Amount of snack foods consumed during and after advertising exposure. Results: Children consumed 45% more when exposed to food advertising. Adults consumed more of both healthy and unhealthy snack foods following exposure to snack food advertising compared to the other conditions. In both experiments, food advertising increased consumption of products not in the presented advertisements, and these effects were not related to reported hunger or other conscious influences. Conclusion: These experiments demonstrate the power of food advertising to prime automatic eating behaviors and thus influence far more than brand preference alone.

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You can download a pdf of the article here.

For a collection of related Situationist posts, see “The Benefit of Knowing Your Eating Sins,” “The Situation of Body Image,” “Big Calories Come in Small Packages,”The Situation of Eating – Part II,” The Situation of Eating,” “The Situation of the Dreaded ‘Freshman 15′,” “Our Situation Is What We Eat,” “Social Networks,” Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “The Situation of Fatness = Our ‘Obesogenic’ Society,” Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,” Situational Obesity, or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat and Veg,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,”The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

The situation of obesity is explored at length by Situationist Contributors, Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosifon, who devoted a sizeable article to the mistaken but dominant dispositionist attributions made regarding obesity and the actual situational sources of the epidemic. To access their article, entitled “Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America,” click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Food and Drug Law, Life, Marketing, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Homogeneity

Posted by Adam Benforado on July 20, 2009

NudgeThis summer, I have finally gotten around to reading Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge and, unsurprisingly, there is much in the book that parallels situationist work.  Indeed, many (if not most) of the referenced social psychology experiments and dynamics should already be familiar to readers of this website.

One paragraph that I came across this morning particularly struck a chord with me because it took up a topic that I addressed not a month earlier in an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun: the problem with “collaborative filtering,” whereby consumers are given recommendations based on the preferences of others with identical tastes.  As Thaler and Sunstein explain,

[S]urprise and serendipity can be fun for people, and good for them too, and it may not be entirely wonderful if our primary source of information is about what people like us like.  Sometimes it’s good to learn what people unlike us like—and to see whether we might even like that.  If you like the mystery writer Robert B. Parker (and we agree that he’s great), collaborative filtering will probably direct you to other mystery writers (we suggest trying Lee Child, by the way), buy why not try a little Joyce Carol Oates, or maybe even Henry James?  If you’re a Democrat, and you like books that fit your predilections, you might want to see what Republicans think; no part can possibly have a monopoly on wisdom.  Public-spirited choice architects—those who run the daily newspaper, for example—know that it’s good to nudge people in directions that they might not have specifically chosen in advance.

As my op-ed, included below, suggests, Thaler and Sunstein’s faith in daily newspapers may be misplaced . . .

Segregating markets – and people

What do people interested in recent conservative attacks on federal appellate Judge Sonia Sotomayor buy? Portable pet carriers, moisturizing liquid hand soap, and flat screen televisions. The fact that I know this is not something I find comforting.

Let me explain. After I wrote a recent op-ed, a friend drew my attention to something at the bottom of the online version of the article. I have grown used to advertisements with my news and links to “most read articles,” but this seemed to raise the stakes. Alongside the helpful recommendation of other articles the newspaper imagined the reader might like based on her decision to read an op-ed on Supreme Court nominations was a list of “paired” products that other readers of the piece had purportedly purchased.

The list ought to be reassuring, I suppose: I would hate to think that readers were only purchasing catamarans and caviar. Still, I am not sure that this is an encouraging development.

True, the various technologies that make product linkage possible are not particularly mysterious or menacing. In a typicaAlso Readl scenario, when you visit a Web site, a tracking “cookie” may be placed on your computer. These cookies store data about the places you have visited on the Internet. By collecting such information for millions of people, advertisers know what individuals with an identical browsing history subsequently looked at and can direct you to the same page.

I wonder if it is good to assist individuals in this way – and, more specifically, for newspapers to be involved in this process.

Desire can be manufactured. Hummers can be sold to Manhattan housewives. Water that is by all measures inferior to that flowing out of the tap for free can be bottled and priced at $4 a pop.

Maybe readers of my op-ed do not really need or want a new flat screen TV, but what is the problem with a newspaper encouraging them to buy one? The paper makes a little revenue; Sam’s Club sells a TV; and the reader gets a fun status symbol.

The answer is that although “funneling” might be fairly harmless when it comes to being guided to other albums while shopping for a CD, the same may not be true on the broader scale. What does it mean for society when individuals who read the same articles are, as a result, encouraged to go to the same movies, wear the same clothes, drive the same cars, vacation in the same resorts and eat in the same restaurants?

Creating and reinforcing insular communities is likely to hurt us in the long run. Humans may gravitate toward those most like them, but we should resist the impulse to help the process along.

If I am going to be swayed into buying a product or watching a show, I would like to think that, at least, everyone else is being moved in the same way. In a country still deeply divided along racial, religious, economic, and ideological lines, wouldn’t it be nice if the liberal, black teenager in L.A. was encouraged to read the same book as the conservative, white soccer mom in Nashville?

How will we ever close the gaps, if we are constantly steered to opposite sides of the lunch counter?

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To review previous Situationis posts discussing marketing, click here.

Posted in Behavioral Economics, Book, Choice Myth, Conflict, Entertainment, Ideology, Life, Marketing, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Situational Branding Effects

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 14, 2009

Situationist contributor Grainne Fitzsimons conducted a fascinating study in collaboration with Gavan Fitzsimons and Tanya Chartrand on the effects of popular company logos on human behavior.  In the following video Gavan and Tanya describe the study.

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To read some related Situationist posts, see “The Unseen Behavioral Influence of Company Logos,” “The Situation of Repackaging,” and “The Big Game: What Corporations Are Learning About the Human Brain.” To read other Situationist posts on marketing, click here; for those on priming, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Entertainment, Implicit Associations, Marketing, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

A “Healthy” Alternative or the Latest Trick?

Posted by Adam Benforado on June 3, 2009

Smoke 6 colorsEven after all of these years, after millions of deaths, after countless damning scientific reports, and billions in settlements, cigarette companies are still going after children.

According to a report, “Deadly in Pink,” published last February,

The nation’s two largest tobacco companies—Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds—have launched new marketing campaigns that depict cigarette smoking as feminine and fashionable to counter the growing public consensus that smoking is socially unacceptable and unhealthy.

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These new marketing campaigns represent the most aggressive efforts by the tobacco industry to target women and girls in at least a decade. These campaigns are jeopardizing the progress the United States has made in reducing smoking and once again putting the health of women and girls at risk.

The strategy has involved revised product design, new advertising, and promotional offers.

In January 2007, R.J. Reynolds launched a new version of its Camel cigarette, called Camel No. 9, packaged in shiny black boxes with hot pink and teal borders. The name evoked famous Chanel perfumes, and the marketing campaign associated the brand with romance and glamour through magazine ads that featured flowery imagery and vintage fashion. “Light and luscious” promised the first ads in the campaign. “Now available in stiletto” and “dressed to the 9s,” read a later magazine ad that pitched a thin version of the cigarette to “the most fashion forward woman.”

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Ads for Camel No. 9 ran in magazines popular with both women and girls, including Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and InStyle. Promotional giveaways have included flavored lip balm, cell phone jewelry, tiny purses and wristbands, all in hot pink. The marketing campaign prompted the Oregonian newspaper to editorialize that R.J. Reynolds, which once marketed to kids with the now-banned Joe Camel cartoon character, was doing it again with “Barbie Camel.”

Camel No 9

Although this marketing appears to have been effective, the greatest coup for the cigarette industry in hooking children and undermining “the growing public consensus that smoking is socially unacceptable and unhealthy” may come from without.

According to an article in the New York Times, the savior for the industry may be the electronic cigarette.

The battery-powered device . . . [sold] online deliver[s] an odorless dose of nicotine and flavoring without cigarette tar or additives, and produce[s] a vapor mist nearly identical in appearance to tobacco smoke.

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That electronic cigarettes are unapproved by the government and virtually unstudied has not deterred thousands of smokers from flocking to mall kiosks and the Internet to buy them.  And because they produce no smoke, they can be used in workplaces, restaurants and airports.  One distributor is aptly named Smoking Everywhere.

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The reaction of medical authorities and antismoking groups has ranged from calls for testing to skepticism to outright hostility. Opponents say the safety claims are more rumor than anything else, since the components of e-cigarettes have never been tested for safety.

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In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has already refused entry to dozens of shipments of e-cigarettes coming into the country, mostly from China, the chief maker of them, where manufacture began about five years ago.

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For $100 to $150 or so, a user can buy a starter kit including a battery-powered cigarette and replaceable cartridges that typically contain nicotine (though cartridges can be bought without it), flavoring and propylene glycol, a liquid whose vaporizing produces the smokelike mist.  When a user inhales, a sensor heats the cartridge.  The flavorings include tobacco, menthol and cherry, and the levels of nicotine vary by cartridge.

Even leaving aside whether the e-cigarettes are safe (it is worth noting that sales and use of them are illegal in Australia and Hong Kong on just such grounds), there is a significant danger that, with their ease of use, fruity flavors, and “coolness,” they may be especially appealing to children.

“It looks like a cigarette and is marketed as a cigarette,” said Jonathan P. Winickoff, an associate professor at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium. “There’s nothing that prevents youth from getting addicted to nicotine.”

With big bucks on the line, there are countless interests urging the government to wait to act on e-cigarettes until the smoke clears.  The funny thing is that this time there’s no smoke.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Changing Face of Marketing?,” Market Manipulation – Assuaging Cognitive Dissonance,” and “Without the Filter,” “Deep Capture – Part VII,” and “Promoting Smoking through Situation.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Food and Drug Law, Marketing | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

The Marketing Situation of Children

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 20, 2009

The Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood has an excellent video, Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood, depicting the ubiquity and power of childhood advertising.  Here’s the trailer.

For related Situationist posts, see “Merchants of Discontent – Abstract,” Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,”Spas and Girls,” and “Fitting in and Sizing up.”

Posted in Marketing, Video | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Marketing Revolution?

Posted by Adam Benforado on May 19, 2009

JetBlue-703878In a previous post I discussed a recent marketing trend towards advertising corporate responsibility and emphasizing corporate commitments to various stakeholders.  I questioned whether the new wave of advertisements referenced a real shift in corporate behavior and a new responsiveness to public concerns or whether it was simply the most effective way to sell products and services in the wake of the economic debacle.

As I just highlighted over at the Faculty Lounge, Staurt Elliot provides part of the answer in an interesting New York Times article on a “a spate of angry advertising campaigns that seek to channel the outrage, frustration and fear felt by consumers hit hard by what some are calling the Great Recession.”

According to Elliot,

The campaigns take an outspoken, provocative tone that is unusual for mainstream marketing messages, which typically try to avoid aggrieved attitudes for fear of alienating audiences.  The change reflects the significant shift in sentiment as the public reacts to the wrenching and, at times, frightening financial events of the last year.

In a Post Shredded Wheat ad, for example, an actor wonders “Has progress taken us to a better place?” before concluding, “I’d say it’s taken us for a ride.  (Probably in a carbon-coughing oil guzzler.)”  Similarly, a Harley-Davidson campaign bemoans “the stink of greed and billion-dollar bankruptcies.”  JetBlue focuses on “the discomfort of chief executives forced off corporate jets by greeting them with a sardonic ‘Welcome aboard.’”

The article suggests that the advertisements are having a noticeable effect, increasing sales for the implicated companies, although there is little evidence provided that the ads reflect substantive changes within the businesses.  As Fiona Morrisson, director of advertising and brand at JetBlue, explains, “We weren’t looking for Versailles.”

Posted in Emotions, Marketing | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Market Manipulation – Assuaging Cognitive Dissonance

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 15, 2009

luckies-20679-doctorsFrom Wikipedia:

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The “ideas” or “cognitions” in question may include attitudes and beliefs, and also the awareness of one’s behavior. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Cognitive dissonance theory is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

Dissonance normally occurs when a person perceives a logical inconsistency among his or her cognitions. This happens when one idea implies the opposite of another. For example, a belief in animal rights could be interpreted as inconsistent with eating meat or wearing fur. Noticing the contradiction would lead to dissonance, which could be experienced as anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, embarrassment, stress, and other negative emotional states. When people’s ideas are consistent with each other, they are in a state of harmony, or consonance. If cognitions are unrelated, they are categorized as irrelevant to each other and do not lead to dissonance.

Cookie CrispA powerful cause of dissonance is when an idea conflicts with a fundamental element of the self-concept, such as “I am a good person” or “I made the right decision.” The anxiety that comes with the possibility of having made a bad decision can lead to rationalization, the tendency to create additional reasons or justifications to support one’s choices. A person who just spent too much money on a new car might decide that the new vehicle is much less likely to break down than his or her old car. This belief may or may not be true, but it would likely reduce dissonance and make the person feel better. Dissonance can also lead to confirmation bias, the denial of disconfirming evidence, and other ego defense mechanisms.

Smokers tend to experience cognitive dissonance because it is widely accepted that cigarettes cause lung cancer, yet virtually everyone wants to live a long and healthy life. In terms of the theory, the desire to live a long life is dissonant with the activity of doing something that will most likely shorten one’s life. The tension produced by these contradictory ideas can be reduced by quitting smoking, denying the evidence of lung cancer, or justifying one’s smoking. For example, smokers could rationalize their behavior by concluding that only a few smokers become ill, that it only happens to very heavy smokers, or that if smoking does not kill them, something else will.

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This case of dissonance could also be interpreted in terms of a threat to the self-concept.  The thought, “I am increasing my risk of lung cancer” is dissonant with the self-related belief, “I am a smart, reasonable person who makes good decisions.” Because it is often easier to make excuses than it is to change behavior, dissonance theory leads to the conclusion that humans are rationalizing and not always rational beings.

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Posted in Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Situationism in the Blogosphere – November 2008

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 14, 2009

Below, we’ve posted titles and a brief quotation from some of our favorite non-Situationist situationist blogging during November 2008. (They are listed in alphabetical order by source.)

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From BPS Research Digest blog: “Dazzled by digits: how we’re wooed by product specifications

“From megapixels and gigabytes to calorie counts and sun protection factors, there’s barely a product out there that isn’t proudly boasting its enviable specs to would-be purchasers. A new study suggests these figures exert a powerful, irrational effect on consumers’ decision-making, even overriding the influence of a person’s direct experience with a product.” Read more . . .

From BPS Research Digest blog: “Rare, profound positive events won’t make you happy, but lots of little ones

“Rather like a pond that soon returns to calm no matter the size of the stone you throw in it, psychological research has shown that people’s sense of happiness is stubbornly immovable, regardless of how good or bad the experiences one endures. . . . According to Daniel Mochon and colleagues, however, this is not the full story. Mochon’s team have tested the idea that whereas rare, massive events have no lasting effect on happiness, the cumulative effect of lots of little boosts may well have the power to influence happiness over the longer-term.” Read more . . .

From BPS Research Digest blog: We’re better at spotting fake smiles when we’re feeling rejected

“Bernstein’s team provoked feelings of rejection in students by asking them to write about a time they felt rejected or excluded. These students were subsequently better at distinguishing fake from real smiles as depicted in four-second video clips, than were students who’d either been asked to write about a time they felt included, or to write about the previous morning.” Read more . . .

From Everyday Sociology Blog: “Ideology

“You probably hear the word ideology used a lot, whether it is used in political or economic discussions (or in sociology classes). But what does it really mean? Put plainly, ideology is a way of seeing the world. Ideologies are like lenses through which we view just about everything. . . .” Read more . . .

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For previous installments of “Situationism on the Blogosphere,” click on the “Blogroll” category in the right margin.

Posted in Abstracts, Blogroll, Ideology, Marketing, Positive Psychology | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Merchants of Discontent – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 25, 2008

Tamara Piety has posted her excellent article, “‘Merchants of Discontent’: An Exploration of the Psychology of Advertising, Addiction and the Implications for Commercial Speech” (25 Seattle University Law Review 377 (2001) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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The commercial speech doctrine allows the government to regulate commercial speech so as to prevent advertising that is false or deceptive while forbidding suppression of truthful commercial information that is based on nothing more than misplaced paternalism. However, this limitation is largely illusory in the realm of traditional advertising because the processes by which advertisers convey their messages employs means such as pictures, symbols, and music, making it virtually impossible to try to test such advertising for its truth. Objections to commercial advertising or calls for stricter regulation often invoke the response that there is no harm in advertising and any regulation of it would be an imposition of elitist sensibilities, or furthermore, a slippery slope to totalitarianism. But we should not treat commercial advertising as largely harmless, argues Prof. Piety. Commercial advertising is a pervasive force which blankets our society and plays a noticeable hand in promoting harmful behavior or attitudes. Given its pervasiveness in the culture it is disturbing to note many parallels between the psychology of commercial appeals and that of addiction. Both appear to involve retreat to fantasy, escapism, a quick fix to problems, a numbing down or increased tolerance from overexposure, and the institution of a vicious cycle wherein consumption fails to really satisfy but sets up a dynamic into which satisfaction rests just out of reach with the next fix or the next purchase. Prof. Piety examines three areas in particular where values of equality or definitions of autonomy clash with First Amendment protection for advertising such as this: the advertising of addictive substances, advertising directed at children, and advertising that undermines goals respecting equality for women and suggest that the doctrine may need to be revisited in light of these issues.

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Illusions, Law, Marketing | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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