Monthly Archives: December 2012

IMAG0318bLast week the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Imperial Tobacco to overturn new legislation banning the display of tobacco products in Scotland.

I imagine that most of you will agree with me that this is great news.

Why we even entertain the tobacco companies’ opinion on the matter of banning cigarette displays is beyond me, after all, tobacco companies admitted to lying for years about the dangers of smoking. They knowingly promote an extremely addictive product that kills half of its users. As Samuel L Jackson would say:

This news follows on from Australia’s plain packaging cigarette policy, which came into force this December. Basically, all cigarettes sold in Australia now come in olive green packaging, with little to distinguish between the brands apart from the name and the variant. Encouragingly, British MP’s are calling for the introduction of similar policies in the UK.


Naturally, the tobacco industry has come up with several arguments against plain packaging rules, and have responded to the plain packaging legislation by accusing the government of becoming a Nanny state.


Nanny State??


Ah, but of course…

Their main assertion is that there is no evidence that plain packaging is effective in discouraging young smokers, or encouraging existing smokers to quit.

They would say that though. After all, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

turkeyContrary to what the tobacco companies would have you believe, a causal effect between exposure to tobacco promotion and the initiation of tobacco use in children has been established (DiFranza et al., 2006). Morgenstern, Isensee, and Hanewinkel (2013) also found evidence that mere exposure to cigarette advert is all that is needed to enhance a young adolescent’s  attitude towards it. This ‘mere exposure’ effect is an implicit process and does not require one to consciously attend to the stimuli (Gordon & Holyoak, 1983).

Clearly, children are influenced by exposure to cigarette packaging, which irrefutably supports a global movement towards plain packaging – the less exposure they have to brand information, the better. This is important, because in the UK and the US, most adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 18.

Neuroscience research highlights the negative impact that starting smoking in adolescence can have on the development of the adult human brain. Galvan et al. (2011) compared late adolescent smokers (15-21) with non-smokers (16-21), and found that the more addicted the teenage smokers were to nicotine, the less activity they showed in their prefrontal cortex.

This area has been implicated in decision-making and cognitive control, and it continues to develop throughout late adolescence. The researchers suggest that smoking may consequently influence how this region of the brain develops, which may have long-term consequences for the individual’s decision making ability – which may make them more likely to continue smoking through adulthood.


Ignore what the tobacco companies are saying. They know how important packaging is in marketing. A report from a former vice president of marketing for Imperial Tobacco asserted that:

“one of every two smokers is not able to distinguish in blind (masked) tests between similar cigarettes …for most smokers and the decisive group of new, younger smokers, the consumer’s choice is dictated more by psychological, image factors than by relatively minor differences in smoking characteristics.” (p. 5)


“This doesn’t taste right…”

A myriad of factors can influence a smokers perception of a brand. For example, smokers concerned with the health risks of cigarettes are more likely to choose white packaging (Bansal-Travers et al., 2011a). The new olive green packs prevent tobacco companies from preying on this misconception.

Of course, the companies are finding ways to push their brands onto smokers despite these packaging laws. For example, in the absence of colourful packaging, they have begun using verbal imagery to distinguish their brands, with varieties such as “sea green menthol” and “smooth amber”, “crush blue”. Like colour, different words can also change people’s perceptions of the health risks of cigarettes, with words like “light”, “silver” and “smooth” perceived as delivering less tar and a lower health risk compared to other descriptions (Bansal-Travers et al., 2011b).

As McLure et al. (2004) demonstrated when they researched consumer preferences for Coca Cola and Pepsi, brand information can have a dramatic impact on behavioural preferences and on brain responses in consumers. Many smokers show strong brand preference and loyalty, and given that nicotine and sugar both activate the reward circuitry of the brain, we can presume that brand information on cigarette packaging has a similar effect on smokers’ preferences.


Brand Loyalty

Plain packaging is a step towards both preventing future generations from developing this deadly addiction, and helping those who are trying quit the habit by removing many of the cues and associations that can drive them to continue buying tobacco products. And if anybody disagrees –


Crowdsourcing: The Other Side Of The Coin

Last week I used as a model for how crowdsourcing can an effective way for a company to increase demand in their product. This week I was browsing through some other blogs when I came across one by venividivulgo, who took a more negative perspective on crowdsourcing, labelling it “slave labour”.

Venividivulgo suggested that making money out of the ideas of others without appropriate reimbursement is questionable ethically. I personally disagree. After all, if people don’t want their ideas to be used, they are under no obligation to participate.

However, crowdsourcing will always have the potential to turn sour. The images below are of outraged tweets by (design agency watchdog?), showing what happens in the digital age when companies run design competitions (a form of crowdsourcing), but nobody wins the advertised prize money.

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In my opinion, if a company runs a design competition but nobody wins, then that is unethical – because their work has been “crowdsourced” under false pretences. I’m sure many of you will agree.

Contrast this with how threadless do things – very transparent, and we can deduce that for crowdsourcing to be effective, companies must be transparent – to avoid scandals like this one, particularly in the age of social and digital media.

When Crowdsourcing Backfires…

 Speaking of digital media, how about these videos for examples of crowdsourcing backfiring on a company?

Chevrolet actually provided the facilities for all of these adverts to happen. They set up a website with software preloaded on a website where people could edit together a load of different footage of Chevrolet cars (including one where the car is perched on a mountain), choose their music, and program the text to overlay the images. In short, Chevrolet were the architects of their own misfortune. Evidently, crowdsourcing isn’t right for all companies, particularly ones who want to manage their image carefully.

Why Do We Bother?

The users of these videos weren’t paid for putting together these videos, and I’m pretty sure they knew their entry wasn’t going to win the competition. They did them because they were intrinsically motivated to do so. Similarly, when we were asked to host an event in PJ hall last year, my friend and I came up with lots of ideas for mid show videos, and this was the first one we filmed:

The event was later cancelled – but unlike the people who participated in the design competition, we didn’t really care – we had fun making the video over three days, and filmed it because we wanted to, not because of external reward. Furthermore, we did all this using limited resources – a £50 camera that we borrowed from a member of staff, a tripod, and a macbook pro laptop.

This is all relevant to crowdsourcing. Ambile, Hennessey & Grossman (1986) showed that intrinsic motivation enhances creativity, while extrinsic motivation has a negative effect on creative tasks, and inhibits creativity. They also suggested that creativity results from risk taking and uninhibited exploration.

Similarly, studies have shown that children who initially show high levels of interest in creative tasks show decreased interest when working for expected extrinsic rewards, compared to children who work for no reward, and that the extrinsic children’s work is assessed to be of lower quality (Greene & Lepper,  1974; Lepper, Greene and Nisbett, 1973).

Titans in the field of motivation Deci, Koestner and Ryan (1999) also assert that  “tangible rewards tend to have a substantially negative effect on intrinsic motivation”, and that tangible rewards have a negative effect on intrinsic motivation, and that attempting to control people’s behaviour also has a long term negative effect on motivation.

Implications For Businesses

These studies show that if businesses want to get the best crowd sourced ideas, they need to ensure that their users feel intrinsically motivated to contribute, and that tangible rewards are unnecessary. In fact, they are best avoided altogether. In order to maximise creativity, they also need to provide users intuitive and engaging platforms that allow them to explore the creative options available to them freely and fully.

The Chevrolet website is a perfect example – they provide a fun medium, and some really cool facilities to the public – some incredible panoramic shots, dramatic music, and free reign on the text. As a result, users came up with some really creative adverts! The only problem of course, was that the results cast Chevrolet in a negative light. Nonetheless, the results of their videos do highlight the massive potential of crowdsourcing creativity to provide free publicity and generate engaging content.