psychpost | 4/17/2011 02:08:00 PM
For this discussion post I am looking into the use of classical conditioning in marketing and advertising. As we already have learned, a neutral stimulus is paired with a unconditioned stimulus many times until the neutral stimulus evokes a conditioned response. Typically advertisements are written in a way that associates the product (neutral stimulus) with positive emotions (unconditioned response). The aim of advertising is to get the consumers to associate their product with these positive feelings. There is also a marketing strategy that pairs competitors products with negative emotions (similar to aversion therapy).
There are countless examples of advertisements attempting to pair their product with positive emotions. A list of several emotions paired with products are: satisfying hunger, humor, sex appeal, pleasure, youthfulness, and elitism. The methods used to pair these emotions with products can range from being very obvious to being very subtle. An example of a very obvious pairing would be a beer commercial in which a man is speaking with attractive ladies while holding the specific brand of beer. A more subtle pairing would be an insurance commercial that plays relaxing/calming music to associate the brand with 'peace of mind'.
While this may seem like an underhanded way for brands to gain an advantage over others and trick consumers into buying products, classical conditioning in advertisements can have positive applications. For example charities like the humane society use classical conditioning by showing an image of an animal that needs help and can benefit from the reader. A normal response to an advertisement regarding a charity is usually a feeling of pity or guilt (because we have a lot more than whoever is mentioned in the advertisement).
Now that we know how classical conditioning is used in marketing I think that we should ask ourselves, why do I feel this way about a certain product? Is it rational to feel this way or are we being tricked? We must think about how conditioning has shaped the world around us or we will be making decisions based on how corporations want us to feel.
PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmsmith000/