Consumer Defense Mechanisms
Do not be fooled into thinking that advertising is all powerful. Since every human action is governed by some sort of psychological program, advertising almost always has to interrupt one in order to be effective.
People need to be able to classify your message without putting too much thought into it. Try to utilize easily recognized symbols to trigger an appropriate psychological response. But make the ad interesting, or it won’t get attention.
In 1971 BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) became British Airways.
BOAC’s image was “cold, efficient, competent”
Competition was increasing, and BOAC held less than 20% market share in many of the American gateway cities where travelers departed for England.
In an effort to turn things around, they changed the name, acquired Boeing 747’s, and generally upgraded their product to give the company more personality. They also lowered fares and launched a new “Revolutionary Idea” advertising campaign featuring Robert Morley, a stereotypical British aristocrat, as a spokesperson.
Each ad featured a different theme (Revolutionary Idea) depending on the nature of the competitive threat faced by the company.
In an attempt to attract less price sensitive business travelers, they developed a “Club Class” that featured a special cabin that was separated the unpleasantness associated with economy class travel.
Revolutionary idea #5 was a choice of meals in Club Class.
British Airways segmented air travelers as follows:
Dominant Level of Need: Safety
Nature of the Master Program: Worrier
Basis of Executional Strategy: Symbols of physical reassurance
Example: Ads portray Morley as a worrier who always feels safe when he travels on British airways
Dominant Level of Need: Security.
Nature of the Master Program: Planner.
Basis of Executional Strategy: Symbols of thorough-ness and logic.
Example: Ads portray Morley as a careful planner who always finds the best fares on British Airways.
Dominant Level of Need: Love.
Nature of the Master Program: Social Person.
Basis of Executional Strategy: Symbols of love and belongingness.
Example: Ads give you a feeling of belongingness, that British Airways really cares about you.
Dominant Level of Need: Esteem.
Nature of the Master Program: Status-oriented Person.
Basis of Executional Strategy: Symbols of success and prestige.
Example: Ads portray Club Class service as giving you a feeling of importance and special treatment.
Dominant Level of Need: Self-actualization.
Nature of the Master Program: Fulfilled Person.
Basis of Executional Strategy: Symbols of personal fulfillment and culture.
Example: Ads portray Morley as a symbol of British culture, offering you a truly cultural experience.
(Source: Dr. Hugh M. Cannon, Ph.D. Adcraft/Simons-Michelson Professor of Department of Marketing Wayne State University. )
The Specific Mechanisms
Viewer does not register the advertising stimulus in short term memory
1. Short term memory is occupied by a task that requires a high level of concentration
2. Short term sensory memory is overloaded with stimuli
1. Consumers are thinking about the plot of a mystery and fail to register a commercial
2. Consumers see a newspaper that is so cluttered with ads that they fail to register many of the ads
Viewer classifies the advertising stimulus and dismisses it as irrelevant.
1. An ad is not seen as being relent in the context of the current psychological program.
2. Short term sensory memory is processing a large amount of information.
1. A non-business traveler is less likely to pay attention to the “revolutionary idea #5” ad than a business traveler who is planning a trip to Great Britain.
2. Someone who has nothing better to do than study interesting ads would be more likely to pay attention even if the ad seems irrelevant.
The thinking process distorts the advertising message.
1. The message is close enough to what consumers already believe that the message is assimilated.
2. The message is so distant from what consumers already believe that it is contrasted.
1. Consumers who identify with Morley as a cultured business traveler will supply supportive arguments as they read the ad.
2. Consumers who have had negative experiences with Club Class will supply negative arguments as they read the ad.
The message does not fit into an established pattern of memory and therefore is not accessible to recall.
1. The message does not relate to ideas consumers have thought about and understood.
2. The message is processed, but the consumers decide that it is irrelevant.
1. Consumers come from a different culture and are confused by the “British Revolution” and later cannot recall the ad.
2. Consumers consider Club Class service and then realize that they will probably never fly to Great Britain on business, so they file the ad under “trivia” in memory and later cannot recall the ad.