Darwin’s Black Friday

Most of us looked forward to the feast that Thanksgiving brings along with the the warm, loving aura. Sweet moments of families gathering around the table, chattering happily and laughing heartily are cherished. Until it hits midnight. The quiet night becomes filled with anxious murmuring and impatience builds up to exploding frustration. The minute those doors to the “treasures” opens, heed for yourself, men and women, because it has become a war zone.

Black Friday, as this phenomenon is called, holds its demonic powers over the people through time-limited discounted prices. Electronic products are especially to die for as hundreds of dollars can be saved. And I literally mean, “to die for”. Reading the article, “How much crazier can Black Friday get “(, it’s mind-blowing how primitive people can convert back to. We get pepper-spraying, mugging, stabbing, and shooting as channels of aggression just to satisfy materialistic needs. Who can come out of it alive, shall be the….as they would like to think…the winner. Perhaps this is the modern day form of Darwin’s so-called “survival of the fittest”.

While the chaos goes on, retailers and marketers are reaping the profits contently in the background. As the article pointed out, they have craftly mastered and employed several psychology concepts that managed to bring out the rawness of human:

1. Hunger for impossible finds

2. Scarcity- “when something’s scarce it’s more valued. And a resource that can be very scarce is time: If you don’t get there in time, it’s going to be gone.”

3. Notion of getting a deal

4. Deindividualization brought about by the anonoymity in crowds

I also propose sunk cost fallacy as a driving force in the determination of buyers on Black Friday. Sunk cost fallacy describes the condition in which people believe they have given too much investment to give up in the middle and would them force themselves to go through to the end. People who are psyched up about Black Friday often times start lining up on Monday…four days before the actual event. In the middle, many most have realized the irrational and unnecessary action as they stood in the cold, fatigued with their black circles. But for them, it would be even more irrational to simply give up and go home because they have already invested so much: the time, the effort, the gas to get to the place, and the patience.

The crazy Black Friday will only get crazier. So, maybe the shopper quoted in the article was correct…perhaps we do need a bullet proof vest and goggles instead of a nice sweater.


The Power of Cuteness

Babies and dogs have many things in common. They’re cute, they have the most naive facial expressions, they make you go “awww”, and they are just pure innocent little creatures. I have two dogs of my own and every time they look at me with those beady, pure eyes, I just melt a little bit. Even though one of them might have just chewed up my new shoes. Babies work in the same way by giving you the angelic gaze and doing the darnest thing that has you laughing your head off.

Just looking on Youtube, videos that have gotten large number of views fall into the category of pets and babies. I remember one puppy video had me hooked on to the point that I would click on the replay button nonstop. Here’s one for puppy and one for baby:

With their cuteness and innocent physical characteristics, babies and dogs have the ability to “activate a human caregiving system” which simultaneously generate warm and loving feelings toward them. As opposed to other advertisement that may trigger a fleeing response from the audience for its mere intention of ”selling”, cuteness can easily stop consumers on their track as audience will sense less “danger”. Advertisement have taken advantage of this by incorporating these elements. For example, Jeep included a singing dog as a way of marketing its product:

What do you think? How has “cuteness” play in a role of your shopping behavior?



So one night last week, I happened to visit on a whim, hoping to come by some goodies. The title of a video on the front page immediately attracted my attention: “The Shared Experience of Absurdity”. Absurdity?! Immediately out jumps out the words crazy, fun, free in my mind and led my fingers clicking on the video. Charlie Todd, the speaker and the creator of a group that comes up with absurd scenes in public, played their past improv recording. The best one I thought was definitely the improv in which confederates would enter the subway wearing no pants….in a 30 degrees weather! What adds on to the humor was the reaction from a particular woman that was immersed in a book…till interrupted by the absurdity of Charlie’s boxer shorts and those of the confederates.[Watch the clip through this link to see the scene yourself!]

Right there and then, I thought maybe that that’s what advertising need more of, more non-sense to jolt the audience, stop them in their track and at the same time shift their attention unto the ad content itself. The Old Spice commercial in my previous post would definitely fall into the category of absurdity, as there was absolutely no coherence in the background scene change. But in case that commercial is faint in memory, here’s another example that will demonstrate the concept:

Unicorns? Leprechaun? Fairies? In a commercial that tries to tell you how bad cigarettes are? Yes, they were totally neccessary. Because of these magical creatures, this ad has successfully captured your attention. The cognitive psychology behind it is simple: unexpected stimuli are processed more extensively due to their incongruence with audience’s prior expectation. Furthermore, with more elaborate process, the brain is also enhanced in its memory of these silly, illogical elements which translates to audience’s increased recall. (Arias-Bolzmann et al. 10)

I think what’s even more interesting is the “shared experience” of the woman and the other passengers on the metro. A positive atmosphere arised as the experiencers of the absurd scene supposedly exchanged glances and smiles. This will be important for advertisers to consider in terms of the time that this type of ad would be more influential. For example, it may be most influential after work time when families can gather in front of the T.V. and share the experience together, foster an even more initimate feelings that then generate positive feelings toward the ad product.

Were you attracted by my incoherent title (not to be misinterpreted as cursing, by the way)? Can you think of any aburd commercials or print ad you’ve seen? Feel free to share!


Arias-Bolzmann, Leopoldo, Goutam, Chakraborty, and John C Mowen. Effects of Absurdity in Advertising: The Moderating Role of Product Category Attitude and the Mediating Role of Cognitive Responses. Journal of Advertising, 2000.


Time to face the music.

Commercials and radio advertisment often times have some kind of tune playing in the background. No big surprise there. We all know that music is used by advertisers and marketers to string our emotions along. Happy songs give rise to a cheerful smiles while sad songs bring black clouds over our heads. So on and so forth. Those feelings then gets transferred to the product itself and we ultimately end up on in a store, hands reaching for those product. I know. Still nothing new here. Now, bare with me here and take a look at the video below:

For those who are unfamiliar with GoDaddy, it is an Internet domain registrar and Web hosting company. The commercial designated the three nerdy guys with the power  to control and view the two hot sexy ladies in any way they like through a computer screen. The message is clear: with a GoDaddy domain, you can be the one in control. But was that the only message the ad is sending out? Think about the behavior of invading another’s privacy as the guys blatantly viewed the women in their most intimate setting. Unethical much? Also notice how the light, playful music plays in the background throughout the clip.

In a research done on music and moral judgment, it further reinforced the idea that

music, through its influence on emotion, may interfere with rational thought and bias moral judgment. (Ziv et al. 18)

The results showed that with positive music, the brain turns toward lower processessing due to decreased motivation or simply a desire to retain the good mood. Therefore, the actual unethical message depicted by the advertisement enters consumers’ awareness much less than when high processing is used, as with negative music. Acceptant rate of the ad message then becomes much higher. (Ziv et al. 17)

What do you guys think? How do you think music plays into your ad acceptance?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are not representative of those held by the University of Southern California or the Master’s in Human Behavior Program.


Ziv, Namoi, Hoftman, Moran, & Mor Geyer. Music and Moral Judgment: The effect   of background music on the evaluation of ads promoting unethical behavior. Psychology of Music. 4 July 2011.  


PepsiCo: a deaf’s world

Don’t worry if you went and checked the sound system as you were watching the above clip. You’re not the first. When I accidently came by and play this Pepsi campaign, I panicked when no sound came out and automatically thought that something had gone wrong with my laptop. It was only until I played a random clip  that I felt a sense of relief.


PepsiCO released the first “deaf” commercial in 2008. It employed deaf actors as the characters and what follows are conversations carried out through sign language. The idea behind it was through a sense of purpose and desire to reach out to everybody in the communities, not just the majority. Furthermore, the company wanted to do an interesting role reversal between the hearing and the deaf; this time, the hearing are the ones that are allowed to be included.

The Breakdown

Pepsi’s strategy is clever and tactful. On one hand, it was bringing the typically marginalized deaf community to the forefront, which would then bring praises and respect for this considerate change of point-of-view. On the other, it was playing on humans’ main natural reliance on both the visual and the auditory, strategically removing the latter to force audience’s dependency on only one of them. Placing the ad during the Superbowl was the perfect way to maximize its effect: a sudden quietness that dawns on the the boisterious environment. The audience would have to have their eyes glue to the T.V. now for any bodily sense. The element of unexpectancy also adds another layer of intricacy as the audience would have to depend on their heuristic to explain why the expected did not occur. What better way to stop people at the tracks than a sense of emergency? Overally, this ad helps the brand gain more positive awareness from consumer through its sense of purpose and creative structure.  

The Verdict

I personally think the commercial is a huge success and would give props to the company for coming up with it. After watching it, I couldn’t help but think what would happen if we block out visual next time? But wait, that has already been done ….or is still occurring through what we know as the radio. Perhaps with the fast developing technology, the future of commercial will not be lacking in bodily sense but rather, providing overwhleming senses….to our 5 major senses.

Any thoughts, comments, arguments? Feel free to leave a comment!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are not representative of those held by the University of Southern California or the Master’s in Human Behavior Program.    


Thumbs up (Like)

Can you count the number of times you were on Facebook today? Probably not. Everyday, people are mindlessly logging into their Facebook account every chance they get. Boredom? Hello Facebook. Don’t want to do work? Hello Facebook again. Don’t have time to socialize but want to see what you’re friendly are up to? Facebook definitely. What is the magic behind this social platform that is able to suck in such a large audience and users? The deal is simple: Facebook is the new mall, the new amusement park, the new……pretty much EVERYTHING.

According to an AdAge article, Facebook has doubled “its revenue the first half of the year to $1.6 billion”. Clearly, advertising agencies have all hopped on this social wagon in an attempt to drive their product sales up. And it has been smart for them to do as Facebook is the new hangout place where most consumers blatantly shares their thoughts and feelings. Product and service reviews are informally spilt out through the status column. The immediacy of it, accompanied with the comment, like, and share button then contributes to a wildfire of even more feedbacks and thumbs up.

What does this all mean in terms of marketing and advertising? Eric Wheeler, author of the article, is right in that “advertiser no longer control the message, it’s the recipient”. Consumers can freely expresses their experience with a product/service that can instantly influence their friends. In one minute. Boom! Thousands and millions of people can know about it as the statement gets passes on. Thus, the article proposes that campaigns need to be transformed into movements, in which word of the mouth becomes the norm. (Read more about the article here:

Facebook would be one of the best channels to apply this marketing strategy due to it’s ability to “gather” crowds up instantly and contribute to a snowball effect. According to crowd psychology, particularly convergence theory, crowd attracts people of similar minds to come together. With anonymity and embedded emotions, individuals can better speak out and let their thoughts be known. For example, when you see a post you had similar feelings to and sees that it had garnered up 100 likes already, you tend to click on that thumbs up button and perhaps even comment on it.

So the next time you “like” a product, service, or even a famous person, think about how you were pulled into click that little button!


Entertainment marketing: movie poster(s)

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit in on a talk given by a representative from Sony Pictures. The topic of entertainment marketing delved into the making of movie posters and the usage of social platforms. It was interesting to see a time table structuring the employment of differing social channels along with their frequency, all dependent on the release date of a movie. But what really intrigued me was the amount of effort put into the finalization of movie posters.


Consumers are typically only exposed to movie posters released in the country where they dwell at. I, for one, usually only see the movie posters from U.S. unless my friend from overseas Taiwan happened to share with me a movie that she liked. Yet, movie posters differ in different cultures. Sometimes it may contain drastic differences, while sometimes it may merely contain subtle ones that may be observed through only careful scrutiny.


A plethora of cultural factors are considered when creating versions of movie posters. What are the cultural values considered? What would be considered appropriate/inappropriate? Which celebrities are more liked in particular cultures? Questions such as these would dictate the concrete elements that can be incorporated into the poster. Furthermore, they would target the specific emotions of each cultural group.


Culture is an overarching term that groups people in terms of beliefs and behaviors. Humans in a particular culture are then united by a common emotion and psyche, in which this “collective consciousness” operates through mutual likeness.


Let me use the movie Moneyball to demonstrate this idea. The movie is about Oakland Athletics’ baseball team and how their general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) was able to succeed in improving their performance through the use of algorithms. It stands to say that the appeal of the movie tends to be for the baseball fans. As a result, the marketing department’s mission is to figure a way to broaden the appeal to gain more audiences. This is where elements in movie poster come in and we can take a look at the Japan version and the U.S. version:

            Japan version                                                                       U.S. Version


In the Japan version, we can see Brad Pitt, the stadium, and mathematical elements in the background. But for the U.S. version, the latter two is left out and Brad Pitt gets the main attention. The Japan version clearly hints at the play of the “collective conscious” since the Japanese are more attuned to elements of mathematics and hence the addition of the numbers in the background would attract a larger crowd of viewers. Furthermore, baseball is considered as Japan’s national sport and the depiction of the stadium would bring to mind the emotions (thrill) and attitude (loyalty). Meanwhile, the U.S. version largely uses Brad Pitt as the lure for the movie, implicate his position in the U.S. audiences’ hearts.


As have mentioned earlier, the space of which a celebrity can take up in a poster is often factored in. Marketers must take in who’s the main attraction and sometimes negotiate with the stars to come to a compromise as fitting with the plot. Celebrity spokesperson, as mentioned in my earlier blogs, will be more likely be able to induce behaviors in the consumer due to liking. 


Steve Carell’s Movie Poster Contract from Steve Carell



Nope, not Coco Puffs the cereal (though that would have been my first guess as an obsessor of food). But Coco Mademoiselle, a women’s perfume in the Chanel collection designed for the younger crowd of Chanel followers.



On March 21, 2011, Chanel debuted the highly anticipated sequel to the 2007 commercial with its continued starring of actress Keira Knightley. The director for the campaign, Joe Wright, had previously filmed Knightley in Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. It may stand to say that if anyone can capture the actress’ best sides, it would be him as their works had brought about one of the highest accolades in term of Oscar nominations. The official shooting took place in Paris, across the City of Light – from Place Vendome to Place de La Concorde. In the film, the photography studio contains a replica of the legendary mirrored staircase at Coco Chanel’s Rue Cambon apartment.


Let’s take a look at the different versions (in respect to length)

30 seconds:

60 seconds:

Full film:


From the full film of 3 min and 20 seconds, bits and pieces were cut out to form the final products of 30 second and 60 seconds released on T.V. In the 60 seconds version, the first scene in which the half-covered Knightley wakes up, slowly dabbing the perfume unto her delicate neck had been taken out. Jumping straight to drive on the Ducati 750 Sport, audience sees the actress waiting at a cross-light and finding herself surrounded by men in suits, looking at her in wonder. This scene is left out in the 30 second version. The photography shooting session starts and the actress whips out her sexiest look, enticing the photographer through the lens; present in both versions.  Finally the photographer can no longer resist the mesmerizing model in front of her and seeks to take some actions. But everything is under the girl’s control as she requested the door to be closed, only to find her disappearance after the photographer complied. Outside the apartment, we get a zoom up of the model’s face and of her driving off with a bottle of Chanel perfume.


With that comparison, it goes to say that it is necessary for advertisement to capture the essence of a product or service in a very small amount of time. Instead of simply releasing the 3 minutes and 20 second version, Chanel wanted to really get across to its consumer about the quality and attributes of its perfume. To achieve that goal, the commercial was condensed to only the critical seconds, but audience may still find the full film online. To capture the core of the product, the brand must have considered several components:

  1. Spokesperson – Keira Knightley

The actress is renowned for her roles in Pirates of the Caribbean, Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, and Love Actually, just to name a few. She is already equipped with her own personal brand and fan base. Building on the concept of like, the fans who like the actress would have the tendency to care and to follow her work. With this in consideration, Chanel knew they have already captured a certain amount of audience, those who will wait excitedly to see their favorite celebrity.  With her characteristics, Chanel had chosen her to convey the following concept in the ad: 











  1. The message content – women’s empowerment

The plot of Coco Mademoiselle conveys a sense of empowerment to the women, aligning with its slogan of “Feminine and sexy, young and exciting”.  In the heart pumping, cheeks flushing scene in which our model slowly strip her clothes off and the photographer comes on to her, it is clearly shown who’s in control. The photographer, under the spell of the seductive model in front of him, abided to her command, only to find that the girl had already escaped through the windows. The message is loud and clear: Boy, YOU JUST GOT PLAYED. In a sexy, mischievous way, of course.


Now, what do YOU think about the commercial? Did you have an unstoppable urge to go buy a bottle of Coco Mademoiselle? Do you think Knightley’s image was matching to what Chanel wanted to convey?


Who Am I?

That’s what brands are itching to know from their audience! Yes of course the brands know who themselves are in terms of the product they sell. What they want to get to the bottom of is the perception consumers have of them. Now, my last post on McDonald’s popular slogan, “I’m Lovin’ It”, briefly tested people’s ability to recall the phrase and identify the brand associated with it. This time, I’ve compiled a list of popular slogans that have been created to allow easy association with particular brands. How many brands can you identify?

  • Let’s make things better.
  • Life’s Good.
  • Think outside the box.
  • Just Do it.
  • A diamond is forever.
  • Because you’re worth it.
  • It’s everywhere you want to be.
  • Once you pop, you can’t stop.
  • The ultimate driving machine.
  • Where do you want to go today?

                                                                        [answers posted at end of article]

Read More


                                                    I’M LOVING IT!

Does the phrase ring a bell? It should, considering it is part of the advertising jingle of the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restuarants. McDonald owns more than 33,000 global restaurants with its 1.7 million worldwide employees, serving more than 64 million people in 118 countires. The phrase “I’m Loving it” is no lie as the restaurant has millions of people hooked on it. The clown shaped man with puffed out costume legs had also become the legendary figure, representative of the business.

Most remember watching the US McDonald’s commercial, but what about those from other countries? Let’s take a look at Japan’s as I have tumbled upon a very interesting commercial:


Dentsu (Tokyo), one of Japan’s largest advertising agencies, launched this commercial on October of 2004. This particular ad was a part of McDonald’s promotion of its creation, Tomato McGrand, that was available only in Japan. The usual male clown figure, Ronald McDonald, was instead played by a female dressed very modern clothing.


Mr. Donald has become Ms. Donald! Instead of the friendly, a bit goofy clown, we now got ourselves a sexy, mysterious red-headed model girl. Oh the shock! Even more importantly, why had the ad agency chosen a girl whose nationality is different from that of their audience? Perhaps it is this exact contrast that would have its Japanese audience lean in and wonder. Perhaps the mysteriousness of the girl is supposed to be associated with the burger, arousing curiosity of the consumers.


What do you guys think of the commercial? How is it comparable to the McDonald commericial that you have seen? Which left a more lasting impression?

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