Credit for today’s blog goes to the gods of procrastination. Sauntering over to youtube early this afternoon and throwing productivity to the wind in search for some classic Tracy Chapman I was greeted with this disapproving message:

I have to applaud the marketers behind this advertising campaign for their ingenuity. Youtube is the procrastinator’s paradise – which the advert taps into, with the actor (handsome and commanding Max Beesley) chastising the viewer “What you watching this for? I thought you were serious about changing your job”, then giving you an encouraging fatherly nod “come on, press pause”.

Let’s face it, if you have the free time to be browsing youtube on a weekday afternoon, you’re more than likely: a) unemployed; b) bored in your current job; or c) a student.

In all three cases, an advert for a jobsite is likely to make you think that you should be doing something about your personal situation. The advert offers a solution, and plants jobsite.co.uk firmly in the viewers consciousness. It’s like reminding someone than they need to do more exercise and then selling them a gym membership!

Another example of excellent target marketing is this advert for Johnnie Walker. It’s six minutes long, tells the history of the Johnnie Walker brand, and stars one of the finest actors ever to emerge from Scotland, Robert Carlyle. More impressively, it was filmed in a single take, with very little margin for error (you’ll see why). Incidentally, this was the last take of 40.

This advert is an interesting case study because it was part of a cinema campaign. This environment is much more suitable for a six minute ad, as you can’t hit the mute button or channel surf (apparently, 2/3 of people do this). Crucially though, this is also an audience much more likely to appreciate the qualities that make the advert so good, such as the story telling, the technical and acting skill required, the involvement of a high profile actor, and the atmosphere and scenery.

What also appeals to me about these two adverts is that they are not designed for repeated viewing – the impact they have is based on one exposure. There is a psychological basis to this – research actually suggests that if exposure to a company is too high, it can create ambivalence towards an advert and lower the reputation of a company (Brooks & Highhouse, 2006). My own observations and experiences also tell me this is true – is there anything more annoying that seeing the same adverts over and over again?

I wanted to share these adverts with you as two good examples of brands targeting a narrow section of the population extremely well. Dewan, Jing and Seidmann (2002) suggest that targeting favourable customers (narrowcasting, as they call it) through electronic media is a viable way for a seller to increase sales and reinvigorate static markets. I would love to hear of other examples from you guys. Do you think being exposed to an advert once can ever be as effective as repeated exposures? Perhaps you have some ideas that you think would make a similarly effective advertising campaign? Speak your brains!!

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Behold: a car advert, featuring an attractive woman

It’s the oldest trick in the book – pairing a desirable babe with a thing you can buy. Classical conditioning at it’s finest – and apparently, it’s very effective at selling cars. Mainly to men, I think. But who actually decided that this particular woman was the right girl for the job? On what basis do car manufacturers decide that one girl, above all others, will sell the most cars, or promote the brand better than any other?

Every Body is Different

Take a look at the following pictures. I understand that we’re not talking super-model sexy here, but think about how attractive you find each of them. If you had to choose, which would you say has the “ideal” body?

Swami and Tovee (2012) showed these pictures, which form the basis of the Photographic Figure Rating Scale (Swami, Salem, Furnham & Tovee, 2008) to two groups of males. One group was put through a 20 minute task called the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), which is designed to evoke a stress response, before being asked to evaluate and rate each picture for physical attractiveness; which woman they thought had the “ideal” body; and which were the largest and thinnest figures they found physically attractive. The control group simply had to wait in silence for 20 minutes, at which point they too evaluated the figures on the same dimensions.

The researchers found that participants who were exposed to stress rated figure 5 as the “ideal” body, whereas non-stressed individuals rated figure 4 as the “ideal”. Furthermore, stressed participants rated figures 5, 6, 7 and 8 all higher than non-stressed participants did. The researchers explain this preference in light of the environmental security hypothesis, which suggests that during stressful times humans develop a preference for those with mature physical characteristics.

So what does this have to do with Consumer Psychology?

 

Picture your typical hard-working city-living young professional. He makes a fair bit of money, but it doesn’t come easy. He works long hours and is under a lot of pressure, and stress is an occurrence.

Outside of office hours he wants to enjoy his time. He wants a good car, nice clothes, maybe an expensive watch, and premium holidays to make the most of the breaks he gets. He has money, and he doesn’t mind spending a bit extra to get exactly what he wants. He would be a great person to try and sell luxury goods to.

Here are the types of adverts that I would say target this demographic:

Maybe, rather than going down this well trodden path, a company targeting this particular demographic of men might consider using a woman with a curvier, more mature body… in short… a “thick” girl.

In terms of celebrities which might embody this idea, an example would be Monica Bellucci – curvy body, eternally youthful (she’s past her forties in this picture), and I would say, not the typical type of woman you might see in your average luxury car advert

Such campaigns could potentially be focussed in inner cities, where the number of people who fall into that demographic would be highest. It would be a bold move, but it could potentially be pretty memorable. Furthermore, the scientific evidence suggests it would appeal to a certain demographic of people who these products are geared towards.

Future research in aid of further segmentation

While this study only tested White British participants, future research could test participants in other countries to evaluate the extent to which stress impacts on sexual preferences in other emerging markets such as China, Japan, Brazil and Russia. This would help companies use the most effective models in their advertising of luxury goods in these countries.

This study also only examined male sexual preferences. Investigating whether females under stress prefer males with more mature features would also be a worthwhile research question. If this does prove to be the case, then this would provide a basis for effective marketing to female workers in similar high stress jobs.

The shape of things to come

This is just one example of how I think Psychological Research should be being used to inform the marketing of products and brands. Over the coming weeks I aim to explore this theme further, and hope to find other innovative ways in which scientific research can inform more effective marketing strategies.

Like the rest of you, I’ve covered quite a diverse range of topics over the course of this semester. In this final blog I’d like to reflect on how my views on the future of education have changed over the last 10 weeks.

At the start of this module, I became very disillusioned with the state of the education system after watching a number of talks on the subject.

Although an abundance of excellent teaching and learning resources exist online, they are not being utilised in mainstream education, and I can see that because of the standardized nature of our curriculum, there is little hope of these innovations being used in schools.

However, over the course of this module I have become convinced that the future of education does not lie in traditional classrooms, ranked by age, (and later on, ability) but in multi age, flexible-learning environments.

School models such as the Sunmore Valley School or Montessori schools where children follow their passions and cultivate their own interests, becoming self motivated industrious learners are highly effective, and have a proven track record of producing some of the greatest innovators of our time. Self organized pupil centered learning works.

Undoubtedly, there is a need to maintain a standard of skills in key areas such as maths, reading, and writing. In the future, this will be fulfilled through interactive iPad and tablet applications that utilize the principles of direct instruction (DI), and combine them with practice based progress. This could work in a similar way to the Khan Academy, where students work their way through a knowledge map, and progress and performance is tracked and monitored graphically and statistically. This will also enable students to focus on weak areas, or progress faster through areas they master quickly.

Having DI available on tablet devices such as iPads will give us the best of both worlds. Children in learner-centered environments will be able to follow their passions and cultivate deep learning without intrusions from set timetables, and in their own time they will be able to study the core subjects to the minimum of nationally agreed standard through direct instruction on their mobile devices.

Such apps already exist in some form, but a day will come when the Khan Academy finally releases the software which ties all its resources together into an adaptive package which can be used by all children (a cornerstone of Khan academy founder XYZ’s vision). The result will be that the quality of education which a child can access through this software will be superior to one provided by state funded education.

This will signal the death knell for traditional schools. When it is proven empirically that this model provides children with a vastly superior education to traditional schools, parents will simply stop sending their children there. Schools will HAVE to change, for no reason other than there is no economic sense in paying an army of teachers to provide direct instruction when an app can do it just as well, if not better.

After debating, discussing and presenting for an entire semester, this is the direction I see education moving towards, and I’m all in favour of it.

However, I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you agree with me? If not, where do you think the future of education lies?

In week 6, I controversially (for some) wrote “we don’t need anymore factory workers”, and was criticized for it, with people claiming that we would always need factory workers. I would like to use this weeks blog to justify my perspective.

In 2009, the manufacturing sector only employed 8% of the UK workforce. Between 1994 and 2009, eighteen out of the twenty-two industries within the manufacturing sector witnessed large declines. Only four industries witnessed growth: food and drink; medical and precision instruments; chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and bioscience; and aircraft, rail, marine, and motorcycles. It is a sector in decline. (These stats are from a 2010 Manufacturing sector review).

It is particularly interesting to note that the manufacture of office machinery and computers also saw declines in that period, despite the growing ubiquity of computers, mobile phones and tablets in our lives. This indicates to me that we are failing to capitalize on technological trends, because we aren’t producing graduates capable of making a difference.

Meanwhile, Manchester and London are the two creative industry centers in Europe, and the creative industry in the UK grew at an average of 6% per annum between 1997 and 2005, by which time it accounted for 7% of total UK GVA, while the manufacturing industry accounts for just over 11%. In short, the creative industry, in which the UK is a pioneer, is going to overtake the manufacturing industry.

There’s nothing wrong with not manufacturing. However, what it means is that we are going to have to become pioneers and world leaders in other fields – or risk having nothing to offer in exchange for the goods other countries manufacture (far more cheaply than we can afford to do so), in addition to dealing with high unemployment levels.

According to Fisch and McLeod (2010) the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004. We are training leaners for jobs that don’t yet exist. We can hazard a guess at some of the technologies that are sure to grow in the coming decade: pharmaceuticals, renewable energy resources, biofuels. However, a blog by Thomas Frey, Google’s top rated futurist speaker paints a much clearer picture of just how many avenues of work lie just around the corner.

According to Frey, one area set to explode in the next decade is data analysis, with the amount of data businesses have access to set to grow to fifty times its current level over the next decade. This will require waste data managers, privacy managers, data retrieval specialists, and will create thousands of jobs for those with the necessary skills.

One things for sure, if we aren’t educating people to be passionate about learning and enthusiastic about embracing and developing new technologies, then they won’t be able to adapt to a job market that is changing rapidly to keep up with technology. However, as Einstein said, “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”. Every child is born equipped with the passion to learn and experiment with the world around them, new technology included (just think back Jesse’s video of Cai playing with his iPad).

In my opinion, the way schools are run eliminates this innate and natural instinct, and forces children to conform to what policy makers think they should be learning. I would argue that children who end up working in creative industries do so in spite of traditional state funded education, not because of it. Unless we fundamentally change the classroom, and our perception of the purpose of education, we will continue running ourselves into economic stagnation.

This blog was written after reading Abigail’s thought provoking blog on “Tall Poppy Syndrome” (TPS)

TPS is the behavioral tendency to knock down those who are ‘superior’ to you (Yang & Terjesen, 2007).  As Abigail notes, in a school environment this may result in intelligent/gifted/high achieving children being bullied.

The “cutting down of tall poppies”, and scrutinizing high achievers is synonymous with Australian (Peeters, 2004) and New Zealand culture (Kirkwood, 2007). It is also ubiquitous in Scandinavian cultures, where it is referred to as the “Law of Jante” (Danish and Norwegian: Janteloven; Swedish: Jantelagen; Finnish: Janten laki; Faroese: Jantulógin) 

The law consists of ten rules who’s broad message is: Don’t think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us.”

Most people in our culture would intuitively see this as a very negative thing, small minded, envious, and petty. How can true individual freedom exist under such a law?

And yet, in a list of the happiest countries in the world compiled by Professor Ruut Veenhoven at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Sweden (7), Australia (6), Finland (5) and Denmark (1) all make the top 10.

So how can countries so scornful of individual success be so collectively happy and successful?

Inherent in the law of Jante is that the needs of the individual are less important than the needs of the collective whole. In all of the countries named above, most public services are high quality and state funded. These countries can afford to spend so heavily on public services because all four are so heavily taxed that they also made the top ten-list in 2011 for the most heavily taxed countries in the world.

All of this can be related back to bullying in schools. Studies highlight that a common cause of bullying is socioeconomic (SE) inequality and deprivation (Wong, Lok, Lo & Ma, 2007). Similarly, Mouly and Sankaran (2000) highlight that the envy and jealousy that accompanies the syndrome is often related as much to the societal status of the bully as it is to the status of the person they are cutting down.

Consequently, it doesn’t surprise me that bullying is so prevelant in U.S schools, as Abigail highlights. This graphic highlights that the U.S (along with many other countries) has high SE inequalities compared to other countries:

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Furthermore, compare the SE inequalities of New Zealand and Australia. TPS is culturally ingrained in both countries, yet New Zealand have higher SE disparity (Marie, Fergusson & Boden, 2010) and are reported to have the second worst bullying problems in the world.

The point I’m making is that TPS only seems to be a bad thing when societies are unequal, in which case it can result in bullying, and clearly a negative school environment. My worry is that the way this country is going, we are going to see a reduction in tax funded public services, increasing the socioeconomic gap between rich and poor, which will increase the problem of bullying in our schools. What good will all our innovations and efforts to change education be if schools are full of bullies?

In my opinion, only by providing the necessary state funded public services to reduce the inequalities suffered by socio-economically deprived populations will countries be able to stop the problem of bullying in schools.

I recently watched this fantastic video called “When Ideas Have Sex” by Matt Ridley. It made me question why we even consider IQ to matter in the first place.

He suggests that our entire progress as a species, as well as the astronomical increase in living standards we have seen over the last 200 years rests on our unique ability to exchange both material goods and ideas.

“I’m not interested in the debate about IQ, about whether some groups have higher IQ’s than other groups. It’s completely irrelevant. What’s relevant to a society is how well people are communicating their ideas, and how well they’re co-operating, not how clever the individuals are…it’s the interchange of ideas, the meeting and mating of ideas that is causing technological progress, incrementally, bit by bit, however bad things happen”

So does IQ even matter?

I’m sure that like me you some people who might score high on an IQ text – but they refuse to consider the point of view of other people and remain inflexible. By the same token, other people might score low on an IQ test but remain open to new ideas and can approach issues from different perspectives.

Although there are conflicting opinions in the scientific community about whether IQ tests predict creative achievement (CA), a 2008 meta-analysis found a significantly higher relationship between divergent thinking tests and CA than IQ tests and CA. More recently, researchers investigated children’s ability to create new raven’s progressive matrices (rather than simply measuring their ability to solve them), and found that problem solving ability is not a precondition for creative reasoning, and that these two skills require different abilities.

In light of this evidence, of what value is it to judge or even attempt to measure a child’s IQ? An over emphasis on IQ might even be detrimental to a child’s overall creative and divergent thinking abilities, something that I noticed that Adrian has touched upon this week.

The world we currently live in allows virtually everyone (not just the educated or the rich elite) to share their ideas with the world, collaborate with others, and contribute to this “bit by bit” progression of civilization.

An excellent example of this is our.windowfarms.org, an online community set up by people interested in growing vegetables in the windows of their small city apartments hydroponically (i.e. pumping nutrient solution to the roots of the plant rather than growing them in soil).

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Through the process of collaboration, sharing ideas, and a “research and do-it-yourself” ethos, this community progressed from generally inefficient and crude methods of hydroponic farming to developing continuously improving window farming methods.

As the internet changes the way we organize ourselves and interact, projects like our.windowfarms.org and www.ikeahackers.net will become more commonplace, and qualities such as openness, creative reasoning and experimentation will begin to supercede the narrow, convergent IQ centered type of intelligence that our current education system places such a high value on. Our education system needs to change accordingly.

I’ve read books voraciously all my life, and I love writing. The first time anyone commented on this in school was when I was 17, and my English teacher said to me, “I’m really surprised. I had no idea you were such a capable student”. Isn’t it strange that by the time my school recognized and allowed me to demonstrate one of my main passions it was nearly time for me to leave?

I would hazard a guess that like me, your real passions when you were growing up were unrelated to the majority of what you studied in class. Imagine how much better you would be at the things you really care about had you been able to pursue them all day, instead of having to sit through hours of classes that meant nothing to you.

Now imagine instead, a school where students are allowed to pursue whatever activity they want, at their own pace, without constant interruptions from the school bell and a myriad of subjects taught to a shallow superficial standard. Such schools already exist. At Sudbury Valley School, students are allowed to pursue their own interests throughout the course of the day. If they want help or guidance from a teacher, they need only ask for it.

The core philosophy behind this school is that the best learning is done when the student is self-directed and is given responsibility for their own learning.

I followed one student’s story throughout his Sudbury experience, and it seemed quite clear why it is such a successful school. In his own words:

“I spent four years at Sudbury Valley…in each one I had a completely different learning experience, and I had a higher order of thinking every successive year.”

During his time at the school, he went through different phases; first become intensely involved in video games, then playing music, progressing towards socializing, debating, writing essays, and eventually realizing that he had an intense passion for cognitive neuroscience, which came out of thinking about how we perceive music. He then realized he needed to work up to a traditional college education to be able to go into this field, and spent time putting together what he would have to do in order to get accepted by a university

Does it sound like he missed out by going to this school? Does he sound like a self-entitled person who believes that the world owes him a living? Or does he sound like a truly engaged, creative and motivated person?

Every week in these blogs it seems that someone addresses the issue of motivation in education. This generally involves some reference to intrinsic motivation, followed by some vague suggestion about how we could promote motivation in schools.

Here’s a theory of motivation for you: If you don’t want to do something, you won’t be very motivated to do it. Sure, there are ways of getting people to work harder even though they don’t want to do it. Competition can improve performance for example (Stanne, Johnson & Johnson, 1999). But it can also increase cheating (Schwieren & Weichselbaumer, 2011), and is only really effective until students realize that they don’t have to play by those rules anymore. Tragically, I’m sure many people continue to live by this ethos their entire lives, never realizing that co-operation enhances interpersonal attraction, social support, and self esteem (Stanne, Johnson & Johnson, 1999) – things that so many disconnected and isolated people seem to lack.

I hope by now we’re all on the same page. We don’t need anymore factory workers; we don’t need any more automatons. The industrial age is over. Stop treating children like they are products to be assembled on an academic conveyor belt. End depersonalized education, and start allowing children to use the information they have at their fingertips to construct their own unique learning experiences. This has been proven empirically to work. (Mitra & Dangwal, 2010)

Most importantly, lets help children learn the most important lesson of all – that they, and they alone are responsible for their own destiny. Better that they learn that in school than be spat out of university at 21 with a pile of debt, a meaningless degree, and the realization that the life and the dream they were told would be theirs at the end doesn’t exist after all.