New Frontiers for Recruiting Customers "The up-and-coming thing, the trade press reports, will be a drive to put THREE cars in every garage."—Consumer's Report.
By 1957 American merchandising persuaders were embarking on several bold and portentous attempts to create new, broader, or more insatiable demands for their products. One ambitious and significant effort to tamper with our living pattern was the multimillion-dollar campaign by the men's clothing industry to make men pay more attention to stylishness in their clothing. It seems that men were much too easily satisfied when it came to clothing. They wore suits for years upon years. Men's clothing sales stood still while other lines of enterprise were forging ahead. Several years ago the executive director of the National Fashion Previews of Men's Apparel, Inc., diagnosed the trouble: "The business suffers from a lack of obsolescence." And the president of the American Institute of Men's and Boy's Wear as late as 1955 pinpointed the cause of the trouble: the consumer had "a lackadaisical if not downright negative attitude about his wardrobe." Why, some exclaimed, should the woman of the family spend 60 per cent more for clothes than the breadwinner, who should be trying to make a good appearance in the world? Even when it came to footwear American males were old shoe. By 1953 per capita ownership of men's shoes fell to a low of 1.9 pair compared with 2 plus pairs in 1942. A part of the decline was blamed on the fact that many men began wearing Army surplus shoes for leisure. An official of the National Shoe Manufacturers' Association declared that "U.S. men are simply not buying enough shoes." Psychologists who poked into the problem concluded that men were held back by a fear of seeming conspicuous in their dress. But the depth merchandisers reasoned that this attitude could be overwhelmed by the increasing desire of Americans to make a good impression on their peer group, as a part of the trend to otherdirectedness. (As perceived by David Riesman, the University of Chicago social scientist, other-directed people are those who— unlike the old-style inner-directed people, who are governed by goals implanted early in life by their elders—are largely guided in their behavior by the expectancy of the crowd with which they associate.) It was clear that the men of America needed to be made style conscious. Pierre Martineau pointed out that while most businesses were doubling sales and profits in the 1945-55 decade the male apparel industry had stood still because "the American male has never been completely sold on the concept of style in clothing." He felt that the male should be made conscious that "something exciting is going on." And something exciting was going on. The American Institute of Men's and Boy's Wear was raising from members a $2,000,000 war chest to drive home to males the slogan: "Dress Well—You Can't Afford Not to," the first such large-scale persuasion effort it had attempted in history. The aim, as Tide phrased it, was to "force the average man out of a drab routine of stereotyped garb into a seasonal, volatile, style-conscious class." One of the big hat makers, Frank H. Lee Company, set out to make the phrase "as old as last year's hat" apply to men's hats as well as women's. It devised this message for males: "Every hat you own just went out of style." Cooperative media began heralding the change. The fashion editors of newspapers began in 1956 announcing that gabardine, knickers, and loud sports shirts were enjoying a revival and that men were mad about India madras. Meanwhile, depth merchandisers were making the discovery that the male has an "other self" or "inner self" that cries out for expression through loud attire. The president of one sportswear firm rejoiced that the United States male is no longer "a frustrated animal, afraid of color and of looking different." The Manhattan Company began showing a man and girl holding hands, both attired in riotously colorful shirts, against a backdrop of colored Japanese lanterns. The big lever the persuaders discovered for forcing males into a "seasonal, volatile, style-conscious class" was woman. Pierre Martineau was one of the first to point out that "mothers, wives, girl friends, and secretaries can do a tremendous job of exerting pressure on a man to make him dress right." By 1956 the Institute for Motivational Research had devoted a major depth study to the best ways to use the woman leverage on men. (Already women were reported buying almost half of men's suits and two thirds of their shirts! The institute called this an unprecedented trend that was resulting in a number of changes in our society.) This trend, it felt, was not merely the result of persuasion efforts; but persuasion could give women the permission they needed to take over so that they could "mold and perfect" their husbands' public image. It explained: "When a wife is dissatisfied with the husband's image as it is reflected in his manner of dressing, she will seize every opportunity to do his shopping and change the image according to her own ideas." The institute added that the strong influence of Momism on the current generation of males caused many males actually to want the women to take over and take care of their clothing problems just as their moms had done. The institute admonished merchandisers to bear in mind that in addressing their men's wear messages to women they should stress different features than they might in talking to men. Women, it said, are impressed by the shade of fabric, buttons, lapel shape, feel and "ensemble" effect, and "style." It urged the men's wear merchandisers, in appealing to women, to remind them that buying clothes for their husbands had become their natural function and that this was an "accepted, happy trend." She should be reassured that even when she enters a man's store the salesman is delighted to work with her on the husband's problem because he recognizes she is an expert on clothing. Finally it admonished, "Stress changing styles and fashion features. . . ." Soon, men's wear merchandisers across the landscape were feminizing their messages. One men's hat manufacturer began advertising in Vogue, the women's fashion magazine! And Lee Company, in one of its new strategies, showed four women dressed for four different occasions. Each woman was holding out the male hat best suited for the occasion for which she was dressed. This company even hired a woman consultant and sent her on a nationwide tour of men's wear stores. And a fabric firm began crying to women: "Does your husband look as smart as he is?" Dr. Dichter reported that even the workmen in the factories were starting to become more conscious of their garb and becoming far fussier about how they looked now that women were coming into the plants. How it was all ending (for the male) was vividly indicated by the syndicated financial columnist Sylvia Porter, who reported excitedly: "Styles of men's clothing already have become much more spectacular than in many years and they'll become more so. Ruffles and tucks are coming back—for men. The Civil War 'dandy' is in for a modern-day revival. . . . As a woman. . . I admit I'm fascinated by the picture of a more colorful male. Just to see them in their flounces and their ruffles, their peaches and their pinks may be worth the sacrifice of a few pennies of each clothing dollar." Tide likewise reported happily on the boom in men's fashions and related that the typical man's closet—"once containing a blue serge, a black alpaca, a pair or two of shoes, one felt and straw hat, and a few odds and ends—today is bursting at the joints with Dacron, Orion, nylon, blends, sports jackets, slacks, and colorful shorts, collections of hats for every occasion, and other varied paraphernalia." It added that what the average man of 1960 will look like "is anybody's guess." Another old-fashioned curmudgeon who came into the persuaders' sights for reform was the farmer, who, as Dr. Dichter conceded, was long the counterpart of the puritan. Dr. Dichter found from depth studies that the new mood was infecting even these holdouts of austerity and that, for example, farmers responded favorably to colored splashes on farm machinery (if the color could be rationalized as useful in identifying parts) and the farmers could be persuaded without too much trouble to buy tape-recorded music for the henhouse. Auto makers became alert to the growing mellowness of the farmer and began dressing up, styling (and of course pricing up) the farmer's pickup truck, which originally began as a lowly mechanized work horse. By 1956 farmers in large numbers were being sold pickup trucks with whitewall tires, quilted plastic upholstery, half-foot foam rubber cushioning, heavy chrome trim, and such nonpuritan colors as flame red, goldenrod yellow, and meadowmist green, with some two-toning. The drive to create psychological obsolescence by the doublebarreled strategy of (1) making the public style-conscious, and then (2) switching styles, began extending in 1956 to all sorts of home appliances. The marketers were driven to it by an ugly economic fact: the overwhelming majority of American families already had refrigerators, ranges, and washers. In order to be persuaded to buy replacements, rather than to wait for the old ones to collapse in exhaustion, some powerful influences would have to be brought to bear on the consumer. The marketers found answers by looking to the advanced thinkers of the auto industry. In 1956 one of the largest makers of refrigerators was shaping a favorable trade-in formula so that housewives would be encouraged to seek the "last word" in refrigerators. An executive said the company was committed to a program of "planned product obsolescence," presumably by creating new styles and features each year that would make appliance owners dissatisfied with the models they had. Financial columnist Sylvia Porter in commenting enthusiastically on this drive to pump vitality into the appliance industry told Mrs. America: "You'll watch for style changes in next year's appliances, tend to consider your model 'obsolete' after two or three years even though it works well—just as your husband watches year-to-year style changes in cars, tends to consider the family model outdated after two or three years even though it runs beautifully." A color stylist in talking with gas-range people showed them not only the "current best sellers" but also the colors "being groomed for future leadership." The persuaders of merchandising found that while there are various ways to create a new-styled product that will outmode existing models, use of color is one of the cheapest ways it can be done. Auto makers went berserk with color in 1955, then stressed muted colors in 1956. Typewriters and telephones came out in a wide range of colors in 1956, presumably to make owners dissatisfied with their plain old black models. The phone people were using color as room-brighteners to get people to order more extensions and thus have "properly telephoned homes." A merchandiser of the New York Telephone Company explained the explosion of colors by saying the colored phones "eliminate the tension and the ceaseless subconscious searching for a telephone." Then he was reported adding: "In modern merchandising, having several telephones is called impulse phoning. If a phone is handy, you make a call and why not a pleasant color to blend with the room scheme? Make your life brighter." Motorboat makers, too, were turning to color in a way that left some old hands dismayed. The head of a marine paint company attributed the rampage of color in boats to the feminine influence. Once the women got on the boats they started brightening them up. Even the ship-to-shore phones had to be designed to harmonize with the furnishings. In seeking new ways to broaden sales, depth merchandisers even began changing the seasons around. Depth-prober James Vicary made a "psycho-seasonal" study and found that marketers could safely start selling spring finery to women in the middle of January, because that, he said, was when "psychological spring" begins. Psychological spring, he found, runs from January 13 to June 6—almost five months. Psychological winter, on the other hand, begins November 17 (a month before calendar winter begins) and lasts less than two months. The sunglass marketers too found they could push the seasons around. Traditionally the sunglass makers, in building up a $30,000,000 business, confined themselves to the hot sunshine months from Decoration Day to Labor Day. This narrow season became intolerable to Foster Grant, the biggest sunglass firm, and so it conducted a pilot study in Boston, Detroit, and Youngstown, Ohio, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that with proper persuasion techniques it could sell sunglasses in the dead of winter. (This same firm sold a million Davy Crockett glasses in about a week, even though it is most unlikely that the real Davy Crockett ever wore or saw sunglasses. ) The persuaders, by 1957, were also learning to improve their skill in conditioning the public to go on unrestrained buying splurges when such images as Mother and Father were held up. Mother was still the better image in relation to sales. Mother's Day was grossing $100,000,000 in sales, while Father's Day was grossing only $68,000,000. A great deal of thought, however, was going into Father's Day exploitation to correct this poorer showing. The National Father's Day Committee proclaimed that Father's Day in 1956 would be noncommercial. The 1956 Father's Day, it said, would have a patriotic motif, "Liberty Stems from the Home." When columnist Inez Robb received an announcement of this act of patriotism she commented, "Who was it opined that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel?" An illustration of the noncommercial and patriotic nature of Father's Day as observed at mid-century could be seen in the gigantic $100,000 campaign set off across the nation in 1955 by a hobby-kit maker to give Dad a $4.95 hobby kit. ("Give Dad a Hobby on Father's Day.") NBC stars plugged it (because there was a publicity value in it for an NBC show, Victory at Sea). The kit was displayed in Macy's window, and the kit maker had publicity men "at strategic spots across the country" to build Dads up to a drool by Father's Day. That was the noncommercial aspect. The patriotic motif could be clearly seen in the fact that the hobby kit contained plastic toy battleships. Thus the tie-in with the Victory at Sea show. The United States Navy reportedly was persuaded to co-operate by providing photos, posters, etc., for background material for window displays of the kit; and the Navy League likewise was reported joining in the cooperation. And it was all to honor Father. The most important of all new areas to beckon the persuaders of merchandising was relaxation. Here was a field that if properly exploited could yield not millions but tens of billions. As Tide pointed out, "It's amazing how much money you can spend relaxing." What made the picture so exciting to merchandisers was that because of automation and other factors people were working fewer and fewer hours a week. According to one consultant of the New York ad agency, Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn, the average worker was away from his bench or office 125 days a year and was enjoying a higher income while doing it. By 1960 people would be averaging 37-hour weeks, and by 1980 nearer 30. This growing amount of free time of people, marketers agreed, was a phenomenon of paramount importance. Pushing into this one frontier, as Tide pointed out, could "solve a lot of problems." A Yale professor was quoted as saying this leisure could solve the "greatest peril" in our economy, the danger of production outrunning consumption. Another business journal said the leisure market could become the dynamic component of the whole American economy. And Tide devoted a four-part series to an erudite discussion of the situation— and the best ways to exploit it. Marketers quickly noted that there was one peculiarly American trait that was a happy one from their viewpoint: the average American hates to be idle. The idea of simply relaxing by absence of preoccupation is intolerable. Europeans noted that American sight-seers couldn't merely amble about soaking up the beauty; they had to be following some sort of schedule they could boast about when they got home. This loathing of nonpreoccupation suggested possibilities for luring "relaxing" Americans by the millions into such money-burning activities as do-it-yourself, building hi-fi sets, building hobbies that involved buying more and more merchandisable goods. Although sociologist David Riesman was appalled by the way leisure activities were being standardized, the merchandisers quoted him extensively on the play habits of other-directed people. Tide quoted him as saying that leisurely living was accentuating the drive to conformity and other-directedness. He was reported observing: "Such [other-directed] people learn early to accept their directions in the game of leisure and life from their peers—that is, their age mates, job mates and playmates—to whom they respond with radar sensitivity." Dr. Dichter got himself into the leisure picture by warning marketers of the puritan hangover in our make-up, which, we have observed, is one of his favorite themes (and one also put forward by David Riesman and by the editor of Holiday). Dr. Dichter warned: "A product can never be sold purely for pleasure. You must convey the idea that the consumer will get a sense of fulfillment if he purchases your product." Marketers began hammering many of their joys-of-relaxing messages to teen-agers and college students. One reason for this, as Tide explained, was to show "them early that leisure time should be enjoyed, a belief not yet universal, thanks to a puritan past." Pierre Martineau noted with satisfaction that Midwesterners were finally starting to shed their Sunday best clothes after Sunday dinner and getting into play togs for golf or boating. The merchandiser-persuaders shrewdly encouraged the trend away from spectator sports to participation sports, such as badminton or skin diving, since the market potential was greater in participation sports and also offered more "fulfillment." They also encouraged the trend to get the whole family in on leisure activities, such as fishing, which Father had once considered his private refuge from the world. It is better to sell five fish poles per household than one. Dr. Dichter did a study on fishing and found some changes would have to be made in the product. Women want pretty fishing rods, rods that look nice. Also, in his study of the booming $850,000,000-a-year boating market he found that one of the appeals of a boat to Americans is that the aspiration to own a playboat is "associated with pleasant memories of one's first childhood experiences via a toy sailboat. . . ." Backyard swimming pools, too, were enjoying a lively market, thanks to the enterprise of imaginative persuaders. The International Swimming Pool Corporation began offering an Esther Williams Swim Pool Pak for $1,295 (a vinyl-plastic pool skin to cut costs). Installation cost $700 more. The big magic in selling the pool was heavy use of the image and name of Esther Williams, the Hollywood swim star, in all promotion. The firm ran an ad in the staid Wall Street Journal featuring her asking: "Are you my leading man? No construction experience is necessary." One expert cited by Tide was convinced the trend would be to renting playthings rather than buying them. He foresaw that in the future people would go to motels featuring their preferred kind of play: golf, gardening, power boating, power tooling, with the playthings being included as a part of the over-all charge. Meanwhile, the president of Cincinnati's large department store, John Shillito Company, noticed one of the most exciting trends of all, from the merchandiser's standpoint. He observed: "For many people, shopping seems to be a form of leisure in itself." Now we turn from merchandising to other and even more challenging fields where persuaders employing the depth approach are starting to take hold. We will explore what the persuaders are trying to do in politics, in the treatment of company personnel, in fund raising, in public relations, and in the creation of a "climate" of optimism in the United States. All offer inviting opportunities for extending the techniques of depth manipulation. In these fields, psycho-persuasion is in even more of an experimental, toddling state than in merchandising. But the potentialities from the public's viewpoint are more momentous, for here the goal is mind molding itself. No longer is the aim just to play on our subconscious to persuade us to buy a refrigerator or new motorboat that we may or may not need. The aim now is nothing less than to influence the state of our mind and to channel our behavior as citizens
Selling Symbols to Upward Strivers "People feel that if you jump from a Ford to a Cadillac, you must have stolen some money."—Pierre Martineau, research director. The Chicago Tribune.
While American society presents an over-all picture of stratification, most of the individuals at the various layers— excepting only the benighted nonstrivers near the bottom—aspire to enhance their status. This trait, which if not peculiarly American is at least particularly American, offered an opportunity that the depth merchandisers were quick to exploit. It needed to be done with some deftness as no one cares to admit he is a social striver. Lloyd Warner spelled out the inviting situation to ad men in these words: "Within the status systems something else operates that is at the very center of American life and is the most motivating force in the lives of many of us—namely what we call social mobility, the aspiration drive, the achievement drive, the movement of an individual and his family from one level to another, the translation of economic goods into socially approved symbols, so that people achieve higher status." Mr. Martineau is so impressed with the potentialities of selling symbols to strivers (via ads in his newspaper) that in 1956 he advised me he was putting $100,000 in a three-year study of social classes in Chicago (under the direction of Dr. Warner) that will "bring in the whole aspect of social mobility." He added, "I hope it will end up as a very significant study showing. . . the taste and style of life of people. . . the economic behavior which distinguishes both ends of the continuum on social mobility—differences between the strivers and the savers." These depth probers of the Chicago school of M.R. have already turned up many evidences of change in our behavior as we strive upward. Social Research in its study of the meanings of food found that people striving to gain entree into a more sophisticated social group almost invariably are alert and receptive to the food preferences and dietary habits of the group they aspire toward. Failure to be so, it found, may well mean failure to get "in." And Mr. Martineau likes to tell about the bourbon drinker who gets a promotion in his job and quickly makes the amazing discovery that Scotch tastes better as a drink. Several of the whisky producers, alert to their symbolic designations in people's minds, began doing some social climbing themselves to make their symbols more appealing to the human climbers. American whiskies in particular felt they had been socially depressed ever since, under Prohibition, Scotch had gotten the jump on them in age. In 1956 Schenley, with fanfare, brought out a twelve-year-old whisky to sell for thirteen dollars a fifth, which it proudly proclaimed was the oldest, most expensive American whisky and would bring back "the golden age of elegance." Not to be outdone, Calvert attempted some social climbing, too, by using backdrops of prime roast beef and lobster to show that it was right at home with fine living. The terrible fate of a beverage that doesn't keep up appearances was shown when rumors began circulating that a certain beer was slipping in sales. Socially mobile people even at the middle-majority level began shying away from it, although it had long been their favorite brand, because they didn't want to identify themselves with a symbol that was on the decline. As the merchandisers became symbol-conscious, the markets for many different products began taking on new and exciting dimensions. Mr. Martineau for example pointed out that among automobiles the Buick and Oldsmobile were particularly valued by highly mobile people as symbols that they were going somewhere. Such owners "are striving," he explained, "but don't yet want to say they are in the Cadillac class." A home-furnishings designer, in 1956, explained the facts of life about what people are really reaching for in decorating their home. This designer, George Nelson, asserted that the typical wife was more concerned about creating an impression than with solving a problem. She wants to show that her husband is rising fast in the dry-goods business and is really a great big success. Other motivation analysts pointed out that snob appeal was the basic motivation governing the purchase of sterling silver flatwear. Women talk at length about its fine durability and craftsmanship but actually want it for prestige and show-off value. Even the choice of a political party can have its social-climbing value. One Republican clubwoman was quoted as predicting that the GOP could win in 1956 if it persuaded the women voters of America that "it's fashionable to be Republican." A graphic documentation of status-striving at work is reported by Louis Cheskin, of the Color Research Institute, who tried to isolate the motivations working inside a woman as she chooses an evening dress. He and his aides used the second floor of a fashionable Chicago store as their laboratory. The latest styles from Paris were advertised. Cheskin clocked women as they came in, pondered, made their decisions, which took on an average ninety minutes. The main attraction was a new Dior style from Paris. The problem was this: the store had the dress in several colors. Mr. Cheskin found that the choice of colors usually boiled down to one of three dresses that appealed to one of the three main motivations impelling women to buy such a dress. (The functional need for a dress doesn't really count in such situations.) The women's comments and questions indicated which motive was foremost in the back of their mind. One of the bases of appeal, he concluded, was that the woman "just loved the dress." It enhanced her libidinous drive. This was her natural preference. Usually this natural, I-just-love-it preference was for the turquoise dress. The second ground for being drawn to a dress was ego involvement. Women who were complexionconscious seemed to give a great deal of thought to what the dress "would do" to their complexion. Many of these were drawn to the fuchsia because they had evidently been told many times that fuchsia looked good on them. Finally, the third ground for preference was style. Vogue magazine had had a large presentation a few months earlier stating that chartreuse was the big prestige color of the moment, the color the best-dressed women were wearing. Caught between these three powerful opposing psychological drives it's little wonder the women took ninety minutes to make up their mind. After watching these women, Mr. Cheskin concluded that in such situations only about 20 per cent of the women will end up buying the dress they "just love." Of the remaining 80 per cent, half will buy the dress that is best for their complexion and half the dress that is in style. Mr. Cheskin recalls that one girl, when she first saw the stylish chartreuse dress, commented that "the color makes me want to vomit." Yet when she was reminded that it was the latest style in color, she finally ended up buying it! The depth probers studying the most effective ways to sell status symbols to American strivers concluded that most of us are vulnerable to one of three merchandising strategies. One is to offer bigness. Millions of Americans were believed to equate, subconsciously, biggest with best, best at least at making a big impression. A kitchen-range maker found himself in trouble because he accepted as fact the explanation many people gave for preferring a large kitchen range rather than a smaller one of equal efficiency. The customers had explained, almost unanimously, that they had bought the bigger stove in order to have more work space. With this in mind the company put engineers to work, and they brought out a moderate-sized stove with all working elements engineered more compactly to permit an unusually large work space. The stove was a dud. Salesmen couldn't move it off the floor. The firm called in a Connecticut market-research firm with staff psychologists who examined the problem and concluded: "People are willing to pay a great deal more for a little space they don't really use because what they are interested in is not so much the space itself as the expensive appearance of a large range." The yearning to make an impression through bigness has been most vigorously exploited in the automotive field. In the early fifties when the highways were becoming crowded and some people were complaining about the "big fat cars" that aggravated the congestion some of the auto makers were besieged with suggestions that they bring out a small, efficient, low-cost car. Even the Wall Street Journal, hardly a journal of malcontents, carried a lengthy letter from a writer who complained that a big heavy car is a chore to drive and to handle, with or without power steering. The writer added: "Also, riding characteristics improve far less than is popularly pictured. As a car gets large the choppiness disappears but pitch and roll become worse." Some of the major car makers explored very carefully the possibility of bringing out a small, compact car. One that did some depth probing to find if a substantial market really did exist in America for a small, compact car found people giving all sorts of interesting explanations for why they wouldn't be interested in a small car. A great many people expressed the feeling that a small car somehow wouldn't be "safe." They kept saying they might be run over by trucks. The investigators concluded finally that the "safety" the people kept talking about was psychological rather than physical. There was a rationalization going on. What really worried them about small cars was that the cars might make them look small in the eyes of neighbors. It was concluded that there was only a minority interest in small cars, and that many of the people who did seem genuinely interested were also influenced by a prestige reason. They felt there might be more prestige in a new small car than in buying a secondhand big car, which was all they could afford. (In my area most of the small cars sold are to people who already have a big car and so perhaps can safely appear in a small one while knocking about.) Professor Smith, in his book on motivation research, offered further evidence on the anxiety that the thought of riding in a small car aroused. People were asked to picture themselves riding in a certain type of compact car. The images which came into the people's minds were of being jolted, tense, cramped "and personally small and inferior." The Chevrolet Car Clubs reportedly made a motivation study on the factors that are most influential in clinching a car sale. Luxury and appearance were listed as most important, "economy" was far below in second place, and reliability came in third. Faced with such evidence, the auto marketers stepped up their emphasis on bigness and hammered on the big theme with type and air wave during most of 1956 in order to try to gain a favored position in a generally difficult market. A Pontiac TV commercial dealt at length on "Your Big Pontiac," and expressed amazement that people had to pay more for "a smaller shorter car." Pontiac, it said, was a Big Car with Big Power. Then in a bit of theatrics the announcer exclaimed, "People are getting smart about car buying nowadays!" With that, the screen showed a crowd chanting, "We're everybody. . . . We want a Big Car, and style too." Meanwhile, Mercury was hammering out its "Big M" theme, and Lincoln was running double-page magazine spreads showing its car stretched the width of two pages: "Never before a Lincoln . . . so long, and so longed for." One of my acquaintances who works in an ad agency handling a major auto account was present when the art director showed the account executive his best thoughts on presenting the car in an ad. The executive, after one glance, threw up his hands at the layout and shouted: "I don't want a little package. I want to give them a big package, a big, big package!" Joseph Kaselow, advertising columnist for The New York Herald-Tribune, reports that Chevrolet now has a seven-man panel of psychologically oriented experts who evaluate the psychological overtones of their various models' sounds and smells. The sound of the door slam is regarded as especially significant. According to Mr. Kaselow, the general manager of Chevrolet boasted, when the 1957 models were introduced: "We've got the finest door slam this year we've ever had—a big car sound. . . ." Buick encountered one of the nuances of the bigness problem when it received a furious letter from an old Buick customer. This irate man said he had been buying a Roadmaster each year because it had four "portholes" while the cheaper models had only three portholes, but now (1955) all the cars seemed to have four portholes so that he felt the Roadmaster had lost its social identity. Therefore, he huffed, he was buying a Cadillac. When the 1957 models were introduced they were hailed as being even longer than the "big" 1956 cars. One car maker, in a radio commercial, had a Texas character, presumably an oil billionaire, exclaim over his new 1957 car: "I ain't ever seen one that big before!" A second way merchandisers found they could sell us their products as status symbols was through the price tag. By seemingly inverse logic, many discovered they could increase their sales by raising their price tag, in the topsy-turvy merchandising battle of the mid-fifties. This battle for the Biggest Price Tag was waged with particular vehemence in the car field where, Tide magazine observed, "the almost insane drive by the consumer for a social prestige car has kept auto makers racing to produce the most luxurious vehicle." As Ford Motor Company prepared to unveil its Continental with an upto-$10,000 price tag insiders explained that the real goal was, for prestige purposes, to get a higher-priced car in the Ford line than General Motors had in the Cadillac. It would serve as a "rolling institution" and its prestige would rub off on the lowlier Ford makes. Tide summed this up by saying that "at $10,000 the Mark II Continental Is Ford's Challenge to G.M.'s Caddy, Top U.S. Prestige car." The problem was not to outsell the Caddy but to top it in elegant overtones. There were rumors that "applicants" for the car would have to submit applications and be screened for financial status and social standing. The Ford people never confirmed this, but they did suggest that the Lincoln dealers would be selective in determining who would get the car in each community and who wouldn't. After the car went on sale reports from dealers stated that 90 per cent of the people buying paid spot cash. (Cadillac responded to the challenge in 1957 by bringing out a $12,500 car.) In the face of such potent appeals to upward strivers Chevrolet, caught with a moderate price tag, fought back by taking a tack of psychologically spiked condescension. It stated with elaborate casualness in The New Yorker magazine, itself known for sophistication: One of our people has a psychologist friend and the friend says that the auto is bought as a status symbol in many cases, as a reflection of the owner's position, importance and take home pay. Well, now maybe that's the reason a lot of people buy higher priced cars instead of Chevrolets. . . . Because it couldn't really be a matter of more room, say . . . or power . . . or ride and readability. . . . So if this psychologist is right these people are buying higher priced cars just to prove that they can afford them. That might well be. As you know, people are strange and wonderful and contrary. But we love them. Particularly those who don't buy the most expensive car they possibly can. . . . Meanwhile, Chevrolet did not hesitate to try to sell itself as a status symbol on another basis in Life magazine where it was shown in ads in a very plush steeplechase setting calculated to impress symbol-conscious people. Many products besides cars started to be sold to upward strivers largely on the merits of being the most expensive. Jean Patou, Inc., proudly advertised that its Joy perfume was the "costliest perfume in the world" ($45 an ounce). The director of the National Association of Tobacco Dealers reminded colleagues that "the man who offers you a thirty-five-cent package of cigarettes is doing a little advertising of his own. He is letting you know that he has arrived. Everything that the marketer says or does with his product must reinforce this belief." Paper-Mate introduced a $50 ball-point pen reportedly just to lift the prestige of its name a little, and Kaywoodie brought out a $50 pipe for the same reported reason. The third strategy that merchandisers found was effective in selling products as status symbols was to persuade personages of indisputably high status to invite the rest of us to join them in enjoying the product. The testimonial can be a mighty effective selling device, Printer's Ink pointed out, cynics to the contrary. This is particularly true where the celebrity has some plausible ground for being interested in the product. Testimonials by celebrities were not a new discovery, but in the early fifties they were placed on a systematic basis. The man who did it was Jules Alberti, a dapper man who set up Endorsements, Inc., after World War II on a $500 investment. At first the ad agencies shunned the idea of being so forthright about procuring testimonials, but soon the logic of the service he was offering proved overwhelming, and by 1956 he was grossing nearly a million dollars a year and four hundred ad agencies had used his good offices in lining up endorsements, all of which, he insists, are "true." In 1956 he said that testimonials should be written either by the celebrity himself or have the help of a topflight copy writer who really believes what he is saying. Mr. Alberti complained that too few ad men really believed what they wrote any more and asked how men who let cynicism and disbelief creep into their thinking could produce really persuasive and believable copy. Professor Smith mentioned that many people nowadays express skepticism about testimonials but added that although people consciously deny being impressed by testimonials there is a strong suspicion that unconsciously they are impressed with them. All the social striving encouraged by these various strategies of symbol-selling has a cost, too, emotionally. Economist Robert Lekachman indicated this when he stated: "We can only guess at the tensions and anxieties generated by this relentless pursuit of the emblems of success in our society, and shudder at what it might give rise to during an economic setback." While snob appeal became accepted as potent, the merchandisers also became convinced that it had to be used with considerable care and must be used within carefully defined limits. As Pierre Martineau pointed out, everybody looks up in the world, but only within believable limits. Products that are presented to the public as too perfect or too high-toned may, depth probers found, cause a sizable number of people to ask a little anxiously: "Am I good enough for the product?" This was detected in attitudes toward some autos and refrigerators, presented as superwondrous or perfect. Too precious a picture can also narrow the suggested usage of a product and thus cut down its consumption. Perfumers catering to a mass market concluded that it was wrong to put a pretty girl and boy in evening clothes because that seemed to suggest that perfume should be used only on gala or dress-up occasions and the massmarket perfume merchants of course would like women dabbing on perfume even to run to the post office. For the same reason dog-food makers found they were on dangerous ground in showing thoroughbred dogs in their sales messages. Most people have mongrels, rather than thoroughbreds, and secretly resent people who do have thoroughbreds. One of the most realistic uses of motivation research was shown by the Gardner Advertising Agency of St. Louis, which had the counsel of Social Research. It concluded that one of the serious problems of the advertising business is that its job is to appeal successfully to the masses, yet ad people themselves are practically never typical of the masses, "and the more successful they become the less typical they are likely to be." A spokesman added that Social Research helped its people become aware of the real needs and wants of typical people, and reported a case where this feet-onthe-ground awareness was put to work when a group of the agency people went to New York to film a commercial for a food client. When they arrived, they found the set all arranged: A charming dining room equipped with fine chinaware, silverware, and table settings. They had actors ready, too—the "Mother" for the ad was a chic, aristocratic lady dressed in a woolen creation "which obviously didn't come from a Sears, Roebuck catalogue." The St. Louisans created consternation by insisting that the whole set-up be overhauled with good but ordinary furniture, serviceable but ordinary china, no floral decoration in the center of the table, and a serviceable cotton house dress for Mom. And Pa was in his shirt sleeves, as the St. Louisans were sure he would be in millions of middle-majority homes. This finding of M.R. about compatibility with the audience does not, however, seem to have universal application. The TV saleslady Betty Furness is the sleek, slim, Park Avenuish type that should be poison to mass audiences; yet actually in 1956 she had one of the highest "carrier appeals" on TV. In her case other, overriding factors—perhaps voice penetration, naturalness, commanding presence, and sheer repetition of image—clearly were at work. Psychologists for a large New York consulting firm found there is an interesting distinction in the distance people can upgrade themselves as far as soap is concerned. In its depth studies the firm found that in the case of laundry soap women who were dressed in chic upper-middle-class costumes just didn't go over with readers, who couldn't identify themselves with the women in question. However, it was found that women of the same type used in an ad for facial "beauty" soap were perfectly all right. Middle-majority women had little difficulty in identifying themselves with such people. A psychologist explained why. "When there is even a vague promise of beauty, a woman can stretch herself a little further."
Cures for Our Hidden Aversions "The prune is a joyless Puritan. . . . We found it needed rediscovering."—Ernest Dichter, president, Institute for Motivational Research.
One area where the insights of the motivational analysts were most gratefully received was in helping marketers cope with our hidden resistance to their products. Often our resistance seemed blindly unreasoning and could not be dislodged by standard dosages of persuasion. The doctors of commerce, using their diagnostic skills, were called upon to get to the roots of our resistance and prescribe corrective measures. Many of these hidden resistances, it developed, were based on our unreasoned, or seemingly unreasoned, prejudice against certain products offered for sale. These products develop a sort of inferiority complex. They become burdened with "psychological limitations," to use Dr. Dichter's phrase. Some of the proudest triumphs of Dr. Dichter's institute have involved "rediscovering" products or commodities thus burdened with inferiority complexes. Following are some of the more dramatic cases of psychological limitation diagnosed by the depth experts, and the couch treatment applied, to give the unfortunate patients a new chance in the battle for our dollars. Old maids and boardinghouses. The diagnosis and remodeling Dr. Dichter performed on the poor, inferiority-ridden prune constitutes one of the classic achievements of motivation research. The merchandisers of prunes had become exceedingly discouraged in their efforts to persuade Americans to eat prunes, even in the quantities consumed in former years. With something akin to desperation the California Prune Advisory Board turned to the Institute for Motivational Research for counsel. Dr. Dichter, perhaps naturally, suspected that subconscious resistances were working against the prune. (A nonsubconscious factor might be the problem of coping with pits while eating prunes.) The variety of hidden meanings the prune held to Americans, however, astonished even his case workers. The prune's image was ridden with meanings, all unfortunate. When word-association tests were tried on people, the first thoughts that came to the surface of their minds in reference to prunes were such thoughts as "old maid," "dried up." In his studies of the place the word prune had in the English language he came upon such phrases as "old prune face" and "dried-up old prune." When his investigators conducted their depth interviews they found that prunes were thought of as a symbol of decrepitude and devitalization. Others thought of prunes in terms of parental authority. They remembered that as children they were often directed to eat prunes because they "ought to" or because "prunes are good for you." Prunes were associated with boardinghouses where they were served by parsimonious landladies, with stingy, ungiving people, with joyless puritans. The black murky color of prunes as commonly served was commented upon unpleasantly. The color black was considered somehow symbolically sinister, and in at least one case the poor prune was associated with witches. Pervading all of these associations and dominating the image of prunes was still another meaning. The prune was thought of primarily as a laxative. In word-association tests when people were asked to write in the first word they thought of in connection with prunes, many wrote "constipation." Now this laxative image was not entirely unfortunate. In fact the prune people had once prospered when the prune's laxative powers first became common knowledge. By the mid-fifties, however, the laxative market was crowded, and the prune's laxative connotations were felt by Dr. Dichter to be a mixed blessing even though the prune people were still stressing the laxative aspect in their advertising. Dr. Dichter felt this was giving the prune such an unfavorable image that it was blocking efforts to get the prune widely accepted as a food. "The taste story," he felt, "had become lost." He found that when a grocer asked a housewife if she wanted prunes she was saying to herself, "No. I don't want the laxative." James Vicary got into the prune problem, I should mention, from another angle, for another client. His particular interest was in profiling the typical prune buyer. When he found that a great many of them suffered from constipation, he proceeded to build up a psychological profile of the constipated type. He found that a person who is constipated typically is more apt to be an ungiving type of person. It is not easy for such a person, for example, to give gifts. All this should indicate the dreadful state the poor prune had gotten itself into. What should be done? The various depth probers couldn't agree among themselves on how to handle the laxative angle. One M.R. firm felt the laxative connotations had become a mental block in people's thinking about prunes so that they had to be faced, in a selling message, right at the start and brought out into the open. It found in tests that when the laxative aspect was stated at the outset "anxiety of the respondents was measurably reduced and favorable attitudes toward prunes were increased." Dr. Dichter disagreed. He felt that what was needed was a topto-bottom surgery job on the public's image of the prune so that the public could "rediscover" it as a brand-new fruit. The prune, he decided, would be the new "wonder fruit." The whole concept of the prune as a dried-out fruit for people in need of a laxative was recast into a more "dynamic" image under his guidance by the California prune people. The aim in stressing "new wonder fruit" was to reassure housewives that it was now perfectly acceptable to serve people prunes. Overnight the prune became a delightful, sweet fruit, almost a candy, if you were to believe the ads. The new imagery showed prunes in a setting as far away as you could get from the dark, murky, old-maidish look of old in which four black prunes were shown floating in a dark fluid. In the new ads gay, bright colors were used, and childish figures were shown playing. Later the image figures of "youth" gradually changed from children to pretty girls figure skating or playing tennis. And where prunes were shown they were in bright, gay-colored dishes or shown against white cottage cheese. With the pictures were jingles saying, "Put Wings on Your Feet" and "Get That Top of the World Feeling." One ad said, "Prunes help bring color to your blood and a glow to your face." In its public image the prune became a true-life Cinderella! As for the laxative angle it was now mentioned in passing near the bottom of the message. One ad showing the cute figure skater concluded with these words: "—and, a gentle aid to regularity. When you feel good, good things happen to you. So start eating prunes today till you have energy to spare." The rediscovered prune soon was enjoying a spurt in sales. By 1955, a few years after Dr. Dichter began his couch treatment, the prune was being hailed in the press as "the exception" in the farm dilemma. While price and consumption of most food crops were dropping, both the consumption and price to the grower of prunes were rising. Industry spokesmen attributed this phenomenon to "the new and very real interest in prunes among consumers." That Man. When the so-called lung-cancer scare started making millions of cigarette smokers thoughtfully reassess their smoking practices, the more enterprising of the cigarette-holder makers tried to move in to win new customers in a large-scale way. They spent large sums to remind the public that the traps in their filters took out the sinister tars, etc. Their story was convincing and seemingly impressive, yet men resisted it with a stubbornness that suggested irrational factors at work. The problem was turned over to Dr. Dichter, whose staff conducted several hundred depth interviews with male prospects. Like the prune, the holder was burdened with psychological limitations. Men confidentially expressed apprehensions about the holder. They usually accepted the merits of its health claim; but as one said: "I suppose it is good for me, but what are my friends going to say if I appear with a long cigarette holder in my mouth? They are going to laugh at me." This fear of embarrassment was a major blockage. It was found that a man might think it was all right for his wife to use a holder but not for him. The gender of the holder image was distinctly feminine. Men who used it were thought of as affected or odd. Interestingly a great many people, the investigators found, resisted the holder for still another reason. It seems that many people held a grudge against the poor holder because a President of the United States who had died nearly a decade before frequently used one. I'm referring to "That Man" Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was frequently shown in photograph and cartoon with a holdered cigarette clinched jauntily in his teeth. Unfortunately for the holder people the logical market for holders was the higher-income smoker, and high-income people were the ones in our population most likely to turn purple whenever they were reminded of That Man. Dr. Dichter recommended, and the holder maker agreed, that a new personality should be created for holders that would take them as far away in imagery from the holders used by FDR and by women as possible. A rugged, stubby holder was created in masculine browns and blacks (reds, blues, and whites and elongated ones were reserved for women). The ad copy purred: "Just a little holder." A picture showed one man smoking a plain cigarette and another using the squatty holder. "Can you see the difference?" the ad asked. And to show that everyday he-men could safely use holders illustrations showed men at baseball games happily puffing on their holdered cigarettes. The lazy housewife. The producers of instant coffee found their product strongly resisted in the market places despite their product's manifest advantage of quick, easy preparation. And it was relatively inexpensive. Furthermore, far more money was being spent to advertise instant coffee than regular coffee. Still it was resisted and accounted for only a fraction of the dollars spent by families for coffee. Efforts were made to find out why there seemed to be unreasonable resistance to the product. The answer most people gave was that they didn't like the taste. Producers suspected there might be deeper reasons. This was confirmed by another of motivation research's classic studies, one often cited in the trade. Mason Haire, of the University of California, constructed two shopping lists that were identical except for one item. There were seven items. On both lists were hamburger, carrots, bread, baking powder, canned peaches, potatoes, with brands or amounts specified. The fifth-place item on one list, however, read "1 lb. Maxwell House coffee," and the fifth-place item on the other list read "Nescafe instant coffee." Seemingly, therefore, the two lists were almost identical. One list was given to a group of fifty women, and the other to a different group of fifty women. The women were asked to study the list given to them and then describe, as far as they could, the kind of woman ("personality and character") who drew up the shopping list. Nearly half of the women described the housewife who drew up the list including instant coffee as lazy and a poor planner. On the other hand only one woman mentioned that the woman making the list containing regular coffee was lazy, and only six suggested she was a poor planner. Eight mentioned that the woman making the instant-coffee list was probably not a good wife! No one drew this conclusion about the woman making the regular coffee list. In short, the words instant coffee seemed loaded with unfortunate connotations. Pierre Martineau found that advertisers of instant coffee had been accentuating this unfortunate image by harping on such words as efficient, quick, timesaving, economical. They were words without warm emotional overtones. The regularcoffee makers, he said, stressed flavor, aroma, rich full body so that you smelled and heard the coffee perking. The result of instant's ads was that housewives might feed their husbands instant coffee but might hesitate to offer it to guests. Mr. Martineau urged the instant people to take a cue from the regular-coffee makers. By the mid-fifties the major producers of instant coffee were energetically building emotional overtone and social status into their product. Nescafe in 1956 was running full-color, full-page ads in ladies' magazines with the entire page filled with rich, brown coffee beans as a backdrop to a steaming cup of coffee, and the words stressed were "100% pure coffee" and "Satisfy your coffee hunger." And other ads for Nescafe were promised showing Emily Post, the final word on what is socially proper in America, serving instant coffee with pride. Evidence that this approach by the instant-coffee people was sound was seen in the fact that although instant coffee had been on the market more than a decade it began achieving mass acceptance only in the mid-fifties. Meanwhile, Dr. Dichter was hired by the Pan American Coffee Bureau to see if the image of regular coffee could be improved. He found regular coffee in danger of being accepted as commonplace and old shoe and "utilitarian." Also he found some coffee drinkers feeling a little guilty about drinking "too much." The bureau was so impressed that it keyed a big new campaign to his recommendation to make coffee seem more exciting by such devices as showing how coffee is served in Vienna and other romantic or elegant places. Sickly brew. While coffee had gotten itself into a mildly oldshoe image, tea had worked itself into a really bad spot in our mental imagery. Sales were in a long-term decline. By 1946 Americans were drinking only one-third as much tea as they were drinking in 1900 per capita; and they were drinking about onetwentieth as much tea as coffee. In response to cries for help Dr. Dichter and his staff depth probed the situation and found that the tea producers not only had fallen into a hole but were busily digging the hole deeper in their sales appeals. They were saying that tea was just the thing if you were feeling miserable or fatigued or irritable or if you felt a cold coming on. Tea had gotten itself to the point where you were most likely to think of it if you felt you were on the verge of becoming sick in bed. People would look at the tea ads and say to themselves, according to the institute's findings: "Well, I'm not irritable. I will drink coffee." Added to this, tea was limited psychologically because the public had come to think of it in terms of Asiatics and sissies and club ladies as its favorite consumers. The tea ads further aggravated all the brew's difficulties, Dr. Dichter found, by their insipid look—washed out blues and yellows mainly. In his explorations Dr. Dichter concluded that there was still another handicap that should be faced. That was an awkward fact of history—the Boston Tea Party. He purported to find, in tracking down tea's difficulties, that Americans had been subconsciously resistant to tea ever since that night nearly two centuries ago when colonial patriots in a burst of exuberance tossed a cargo of British tea into the Boston harbor. The continued, admiring gloating over this act of rebellion in American schoolrooms, he concluded, has over the centuries imbued young Americans with an antitea attitude. Dr. Dichter advised tea people that a part of their corrective campaign ought to start right in American classrooms and with the writers of American histories. Americans should be taught, he said, that the Boston Tea Party was not a protest against tea but rather a dramatic expression of the importance of tea in the life of Americans in revolutionary times. At first thought this thesis may sound preposterously far-fetched. A study of colonial life in preRevolutionary days does reveal, however, that American consuming habits were closely tied to tea and that many women in particular felt they couldn't live without it. The problem of straightening Americans out on the real meaning of the Boston Tea Party was admittedly a long-term project, but there were some things tea merchants could do right away, Dr. Dichter felt, to get out of their downward spiral. He urged the Tea Council to put some muscle in the tea image, make it more of a virile brew and get it out of the current image as a gentle medicinal sauce for ladies and sissies to sip. The insipid colors in ads were soon replaced by brilliant masculine reds, and the old promise of being a pickup for tired nerves was replaced, in the words of a writer in The Reporter magazine, by "sounds like a police sergeant clearing his throat—'Make it hefty, hot and hearty. . . Take tea and see.'. . . Consumers were led to feel that tea-drinking is no more unmanly than felling an oak or killing a moose." Hefty, obviously hot men were shown drinking iced tea right out of a pitcher. By all accounts I've seen, tea sales began rising with the pounding home to Americans of this new image. The figures vary, but in test areas sales rose as much as 25 per cent, and the most conservative estimate I've seen is that tea sales rose 13 per cent during the two years following the introduction of this new personality for tea. Per capita consumption by 1957 was up close to a pound a year. Lardlike spread. The oleomargarine people felt they had a perfect inexpensive substitute for butter. Their product had to lift itself literally by its own bootstraps to become an accepted part of middle-majority life. The obstacles seemingly were as formidable as they were irrational. The difficulty was summed up eloquently by Pierre Martineau to ad men in these words: "I guess I am trying to say that mere words and logic often are quite insufficient to remold our deep-seated prejudices. Margarine, for instance, sells for half the price of butter, it looks and tastes like butter, and the margarine people insist it has all the nutritional values of butter. Yet most people stubbornly say it isn't as good, and all the advertising logic by the margarine manufacturers is ineffective to change this attitude." The margarine people, in their uphill struggle against what they felt was unreason, sought to disguise their product as butter in every way they could. They got into long arguments with the Federal Trade Commission because they kept using words like "churn," "fresh churned," and "thoroughly churned," "real churns," and "churned a full hour"; and they usually lost. Evidence of the irrationality margarine was combating was provided by Louis Cheskin, of the Color Research Institute. He asked a large number of women at a luncheon if they could tell the difference between butter and margarine. More than 90 per cent insisted that they could, and that they preferred butter because oleo tasted "oily," "greasy," "more like lard than butter," to use some of the descriptions. Two pats were served to each lady present. One was yellow (margarine) and the other white (freshly churned butter). The ladies were asked if they could tell any difference in the taste of the two and describe what they were. More than 95 per cent of the ladies identified the yellow margarine as butter and used such words as "pure" and "fresh" to describe it. And they identified the white butter as margarine and complained that it was oily and greasy and tasted like shortening. The women had unwittingly transferred an optical sensation to their taste buds. The motivational analysts who got into the margarine problem urged the margarine people to stop stressing economy and similarity to butter and describe it rather in terms of the rich satisfactions it offered. Perhaps as a result of this line of emphasis and perhaps also because of a change in laws permitting the manufacture of margarine with yellow coloring already added, margarine seemed to be gaining steadily on butter. Whereas in 1947 Americans ate twice as many pounds of butter per person as margarine, by 1955 margarine was pressing butter hard for top position. Cheap substitute. Our attitude toward dried milk had many of the irrational elements of our attitude toward margarine. Social Research researched this problem and concluded that the stigma against dried milk went back to some very unpleasant contacts with it, either during the Depression when it was widely distributed to people on relief or during World War II when men in faraway places had to drink it because fresh milk was not available. Against these unfavorable elements were the facts that dried milk was a real bargain at seven or eight cents a quart and was being urged by dietitians upon weight-conscious people as a fine way to get protein without the butterfat of whole milk. Social Research urged its client (a major milk-products company): "You can't make loyal customers out of people who are ashamed to buy it." It urged the company to stress the positive values of dried skimmed milk, its high nourishment content and low fat, its versatility, its storage advantage, and just mention incidentally that it is a great bargain. This new approach may have had something to do with the fact that dried skim milk enjoyed an enormous rise during the fifties.
Coping with Our Pesky Inner Ear "We found that an exciting mystery show was inconsistent with the need to put the audience into the calm frame of mind necessary to receive and remember our . . . commercial."—Edward Weiss,
Chicago advertising executive. Some aspects of our behavior as consumers are so thoroughly steeped in perversity and irrationality that merchandisers found themselves rolling their eyes in exasperated wonderment. Our psychological peculiarities are nowhere more manifest than in the way we hear things and see things in selling messages that were not intended to be heard or seen. The acute sensitivity of our inner eye and inner ear in receiving messages that were totally unintended almost makes you feel sorry for the poor marketer at times. The marketers, faced with distressing unaccountable resistances on our part, turned to the depth experts for diagnoses and cures for their troubles. These experts began testing messages not only for their literal content but also for the "residual impression" they were actually leaving on prospects. A refrigerator maker ran into trouble trying to convince housewives of the wondrous performance of his magic automaticdefrosting system. In the ad in print and on TV, the refrigerator was shown with the door wide open, unattended. The Institute for Motivational Research in talking to housewives who had seen this ad found what it believed to be the reason for their failing to try to buy the wonderful product. It found that all the message about the merits of automatic defrosting had gone right past the women, unheeded. They couldn't take their eyes off that wide-open refrigerator and wondered uneasily what kind of a housekeeper would be so careless in wasting electricity and letting food spoil. After that the refrigerator maker was always careful to show a housewife with her hand on the open refrigerator door. A washing-machine maker (Bendix) got itself into a distressing state of misunderstanding with prospects by showing its duomatic washing and drying the family's clothes while the family snoozed. The ad agency conceiving this theme ("Your family wash all washed and dried while the family and you are sleeping") had decided the picture would be more of an eye stopper if all five members of the family were shown in one bed. That was the graphic sight that greeted viewers of the ad. The viewers, instead of being impressed by the wonders of a washer that would serve a family in such a way, were indignant, and several dozen even went to the trouble of writing the company a hot letter. The gist of their complaint, according to Advertising Age, was that these people had "spread themselves so grandly to buy a Bendix Duomatic when they can't afford to buy enough beds to go around!" In another case, this time a medical society, the persuasion misfired when the society tried to admonish the public that it should take its medical business only to legitimate doctors, members of the official society. To make this point it showed pictures to hundreds of people that illustrated what happened to a girl who went to a quack for X-rays and ended up with a badly burned face. This picture was widely shown about the county, and coincidentally the doctors in the area found people suddenly reluctant to permit themselves to be X-rayed by any doctor, quack or legitimate. The maker of a Fiberglas luggage found in tests that the luggage was virtually indestructible. Its ad men, in a burst of imagination, persuaded the company to boast that the luggage was so rugged it could survive even a drop from an airplane. When the luggage was dropped, sales dropped too. Motivational analysts who were called in found that people seeing the ad were disconcerted and antagonized. Their minds quickly became flooded with unpleasant thoughts about plane crashes and didn't see much consolation in having a luggage that could survive a crash if they couldn't! Also, the American Petroleum Institute found from motivation studies that many people do not react well at all to pictures of gushing oil wells. While a gusher may be a gladdening sight to any oil man, many others, it was found, may react by being subconsciously resentful and jealous of all the sudden or easy wealth that someone else is getting. Other people, motivational analysts have found, leap to making unfortunate and unintended subconscious associations. A maker of a soup mix got into trouble when it began offering in its soup-mix package a coupon entitling the buyer to a free pair of nylon hose. Now that might seem like a pretty good come-on device to promote the sale of soup. It didn't. Psychologists investigating the unexpected resistance found that the people seeing the offer were offended. Subconsciously they associated feet and soup and were alienated because they didn't like the idea of feet being in their soup. One of the major persuasion campaigns undertaken in the midfifties was that of many of the major brewers who sought to convince us their brews were low-calorie. This was inspired by the sudden calorie consciousness of millions of Americans who, made anxious by the messages of a host of low-calorie food producers, were waistline conscious. The beer producers began trying to outdo each other in promising the public a low-caloried drink. There reportedly was a spurt in sales, but psychologists viewed the campaign with foreboding. As Sidney Levy, of Social Research, asked: "A low-calorie promise may sell beer, but in the long run what is it saying about the nature of beer?" Wasn't it reminding the public that beer might be fattening? And wasn't the company suggesting that its beer, if really low-calorie, was somewhat denatured? Dr. Dichter's institute confirmed some of these worst fears when, for a West Coast brewer, it discovered through wordassociation tests the thoughts and pictures that sprang into people's minds when they saw the words "low calorie." The words that welled up from the people's subconscious were such things as "diet," "weight-watcher," "fat lady," "punishing self," and so on. Throughout were strong overtones of self-deprivation, unhappiness, and discomfort. The institute concluded that a low-calorie appeal for beer was psychologically contradictory. Calorie consciousness is really a form of psychological penance. People go on diets really, it concluded, to punish themselves for self-indulgence. "Low-calorie diets are not supposed to be pleasant, or else they will not fulfill their psychological purpose. Thus when a beer advertises as 'low in calories' the consumer reacts by feeling the beer has a poor taste," it explained to brewers. The institute showed brewers a picture of a hot, fat man bare to the belly happily tossing high a bottle of beer and labeled the picture: "A study in sensory enjoyment. Beer right from the bottle is manly, hearty. This is what the beer consumer wants you to tell him his drink is." Play up beer as a pleasure and enjoyment, not as a medicine, it admonished. Blatz beer may have had this antipenance advice in mind when it came forth with a new slogan: "Made by people who like beer for people who like to drink beer—and lots of it!" Another product that found it had cut itself off from the general public by too much harping on calories was Ry-Krisp. Its messages showed very slender people consuming it and publicized calorie tables. The result was, according to motivational analysts diagnosing its ills, that it had given itself a "self-punishment" image, and people said they resented eating things just because they were supposed to be "good" for them. As a result, Ry-Krisp changed its public image into a much more indulgent, nonpuritanical food. Its persuaders showed it surrounded by tempting foods and used words like delicious and delight to describe its taste promise. According to one account sales nearly doubled in test areas under this more permissive approach. Cigarette makers, too, found themselves in trouble with the public because of unanticipated residual impressions. Weiss and Geller was one firm that became concerned about the "negative" claims of cigarette makers, which it felt was the real reason the industry was ailing. An agency executive told me of a sentencecompletion test involving Philip Morris, the brand that had hammered at the theme that it was less irritating than others. People were asked to complete this sentence: "When I think of Philip Morris, I think of ----------." Many wrote in: "I think of irritation." Not less irritation, just irritation. Philip Morris's executives may have had this in mind when in the mid-fifties they completely regroomed the image of their product, which had been skidding badly in sales, and now began stressing the word "gentle." It explained that its new image was "in tune with the modern taste for gentleness." Philip Morris sales in the first quarter of 1956 picked up an impressive 26 per cent over the same period of the year before. One of the major functions James Vicary's firm performs for clients is that it promises to prevent unwitted bloopers from reaching our inner ears. Vicary takes the words a company hopes to use in a message and tests each one for possible unfortunate connotations. For this he usually uses free word-association techniques. One of his clients, a brewer, coined a new word to help put across his message: lagered. In Mr. Vicary's association tests it was found that 34 per cent of the people made the association desired and thought of it in terms of beer, ale, or stout. A larger number, 36 per cent, however, gave such responses as slow, tired, drunk, lazy, behind, linger, dizzy—all decidedly unfortunate. The word lagered was abandoned. According to Advertising Age it was a piece of Vicary research that caused Socony Vacuum to change its name to Socony Mobiloil. Vacuum presumably led people to associate the product with vacuum cleaners rather than automotive oil. Major tire makers for years have had to cope with a peculiarity of our inner eye that has kept them in trouble with customers. It seems that we become aware of the brand tire we have on our car at the worst possible psychological time, when we've had a blowout or leak, perhaps on a lonely road. When we hear the thud, thud, thud of an ailing tire, we get out in a mood of exasperation and dismay and look at the faithless tire. The name of its maker is for the first time really seared into our minds. Dr. Dichter, who made a study of the tire problem for the B. F. Goodrich Company, concluded that tire companies had made the mistake of telling customers their tires were so good they could put them on their car and forget them. That was what the customers did—forget them—until they were brought back into an intense state of tire awareness by a tire failure. The problem, he advised, was to keep telling people to look at their tires and be thankful they had again performed Trojan service for the owner in a strenuous test. Within that formula people should be reassured about their tires; and they should be constantly reassured, he said, because tires contribute more to a driver's insecurity when they fail than any other kind of failure. Firestone apparently had this in mind when it began hammering in 1956 that it was really selling "Built-in Peace of Mind." The phrase was italicized and repeated four times in a single ad. Dr. Dichter makes the further point about cars that many male car owners really regard their cars as a part of themselves and appreciate plenty of evidence that the garage-man is servicing it with loving care. They deeply resent signs that their car is getting rough or unappreciative treatment and will intensely resent the trade-in man who, perhaps deliberately, looks at the car as if it were a worn-out old horse. The television people frequently found themselves frustrated by the peculiarities of our hidden ears and eyes in trying to put across sales messages. They found, for example, that a show can be too exciting for their own good. Weiss and Geller found itself somewhat embarrassed because the TV show it had packaged to sell Mogen David wine was not producing desired results. It was, admittedly, delighting the audience with its chilling, exciting whodun-it mysteries. The show enjoyed a high rating but wasn't selling wine. Motivational analysts were put to work on the problem. They found in probing people watching the show that the excitement of the show induced a kind of "emotional frenzy" in the audience. While this was temporarily exciting it tended to "freeze" the audience. To supplement their probings the investigators dug into studies that had been made of people filled with suspense, the kind a really good mystery drama is supposed to provide. A Columbia University psychologist, Dr. J. A. M. Meerloo, found, for example, that when panic hits, "people involved remain peculiarly impassive in their behavior. . . they make no plans; they are frozen in space; they don't think. . . . Many people who come out of panic do not remember anything that happened during their affliction. When people are in panic they cannot take any action of any kind—mental or physical." The agency decided that even the small degree of panic induced by its mystery show, exhilarating as the state might be to the audience, was causing the viewers marked memory loss so that they were not retaining the announcer's instruction to go right out and buy Mogen David wine. Quite possibly some weren't even hearing the commercial! The probers found that the "excitation of the mystery acted as a shock and blotted out" the folksy feeling the announcer was trying to build up in connection with the wine. A calmer, more gentle type of show was substituted, an easygoing panel show. In test areas sales of the wine shot up more than 1,000 per cent. (Another TV advertiser found sales went up 66 per cent when he substituted a noncrime show.) A show can be not only too suspenseful but too funny for its own good. That at least was the sad conclusion of the Philip Morris people, who poured millions of dollars into their top-rated comedy show I Love Lucy. While Lucy became the most popular show on television, Philip Morris sales lagged behind and in fact dropped 17 per cent. As I've indicated, other factors involving the brand's image may have been at work, too; but as Tide magazine reported, 'There are those at Philip Morris . . . who subscribe to the idea that an extremely good show might never sell products. Reason: you tend to talk about the program during the commercials. . . . This raises questions. Is an advertiser better off with a less than top-rated show in order to get commercials across?" That observation was made in early 1955. By 1957 some viewers of United States television might raise questions themselves. Were some of the resolutely mediocre shows on television that way by design, to increase the impact of the commercials? Meanwhile, ad men in San Francisco were admonished by an ad agency president to offer listeners something besides a straight, hard-hitting sales pitch that might antagonize listeners. He pointed out that in the days of radio people could simply turn off their inner ear when a familiar and unwelcome commercial began. He added: "This is not so easy to do with television. It takes physical effort to move your eyes away from the TV screen and at the same time turn off your ears. . . . The opportunity for making an unfavorable impression on television is very great, and in our opinion many manufacturers have seized upon it. . . . A TV commercial should give the viewer something in addition to a sales pitch. He should be rewarded in terms of some sort of emotional satisfaction for viewing the commercial." In short, put more deep-down appeal into the pitch
The Psycho-Seduction of Children ''Today the future occupation of all moppets is to be skilled consumers."—David Riesman, The Lonely Crowd.
Dr. Riesman in his study of the basic changes taking place in the American character during the twentieth century (i.e., from innerdirected to other-directed) found that our growing preoccupation with acts of consumption reflected the change. This preoccupation, he noted, was particularly intense (and intensively encouraged by product makers) at the moppet level. He characterized the children of America as "consumer trainees." In earlier more innocent days, when the pressure was not on to build future consumers, the boys' magazines and their counterparts concentrated on training the young for the frontiers of production, including warfare. As a part of that training, Dr. Riesman pointed out in The Lonely Crowd, the budding athlete might eschew smoke and drink. 'The comparable media today train the young for the frontiers of consumption—to tell the difference between Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola, as later between Old Golds and Chesterfields," he explained. He cited the old nursery rhyme about one little pig going to market while one stayed home and commented dourly: "The rhyme may be taken as a paradigm of individuation and unsocialized behavior among children of an earlier era. Today, however, all little pigs go to market; none stay home; all have roast beef, if any do; and all say 'wee-wee-wee.' " The problem of building eager consumers for the future was considered at a mid-fifties session of the American Marketing Association. The head of Gilbert Youth Research told the marketers there was no longer any problem of getting funds "to target the youth market"; there were plenty. The problem was targeting the market with maximum effectiveness. Charles Sievert, advertising columnist for the New York World Telegram and Sun, explained what this targeting was all about by saying, "Of course the dividend from investment in the youth market is to develop product and brand loyalty and thus have an upcoming devoted adult market." A more blunt statement of the opportunity moppets present appeared in an ad in Printer's Ink several years ago. A firm specializing in supplying "education" material to schoolteachers in the form of wall charts, board cutouts, teachers' manuals made this appeal to merchants and advertisers: "Eager minds can be molded to want your products! In the grade schools throughout America are nearly 23,000,000 young girls and boys. These children eat food, wear out clothes, use soap. They are consumers today and will be the buyers of tomorrow. Here is a vast market for your products. Sell these children on your brand name and they will insist that their parents buy no other. Many farsighted advertisers are cashing in today . . . and building for tomorrow . . . by molding eager minds" through Project Education Material supplied to teachers. It added reassuringly: "all carrying sugar-coated messages designed to create acceptance and demand for the products. . . ." In commenting on this appeal Clyde Miller, in his The Process of Persuasion, explained the problem of conditioning the reflexes of children by saying, "It takes time, yes, but if you expect to be in business for any length of time, think of what it can mean to your firm in profits if you can condition a million or ten million children who will grow up into adults trained to buy your product as soldiers are trained to advance when they hear the trigger words 'forward march.'" One small phase of the seduction of young people into becoming loyal followers of a brand is seen in the fact that on many college campuses students can earn a part of their college expenses by passing among fellow students handing out free sample packages of cigarettes. The potency of television in conditioning youngsters to be loyal enthusiasts of a product, whether they are old enough to consume it or not, became indisputable early in the fifties. A young New York ad man taking a marketing class at a local university made the casual statement that, thanks to TV, most children were learning to sing beer and other commercials before they learned to sing the Star-Spangled Banner. Youth Research Institute, according to The Nation, boasted that even five-year-olds sing beer commercials "over and over again with gusto." It pointed out that moppets not only sing the merits of advertised products but do it with the vigor displayed by the most raptly enthusiastic announcers, and do it all day long "at no extra cost to the advertiser." They cannot be turned off as a set can. When at the beginning of the decade television was in its infancy, an ad appeared in a trade journal alerting manufacturers to the extraordinary ability of TV to etch messages on young brains. "Where else on earth," the ad exclaimed, "is brand consciousness fixed so firmly in the minds of four-year-old tots? . . . What is it worth to a manufacturer who can close in on this juvenile audience and continue to sell it under controlled conditions year after year, right up to its attainment of adulthood and full-fledged buyer status? It CAN be done. Interested?" (While the author was preparing this chapter he heard his own eight-year-old daughter happily singing the cigarette jingle: "Don't miss the fun of smoking!") The relentlessness with which one TV sponsor tried to close in on preschool tots brought protests in late 1955. Jack Gould, TV columnist of The New York Times, expressed dismay at a commercial for vitamin pills that Dr. Frances Horwich, "principal" of TV's Ding Dong School for preschool children, delivered. It seems she used the same studied tempo she used in chatting to children about toys and helping mother while she demonstrated how pretty the red pills were and how easy to swallow they were. She said she hoped they were taking the pills every morning "like I do," and urged them to make sure the next time they visited a drugstore that their mother picked out the right bottle. Gould commented: "To put it as mildly as possible, Dr. Horwich has gone a step too far in letting a commercial consideration jeopardize her responsibility to the young children whose faith and trust she solicits." First, he pointed out, was the simple factor of safety. Small children should be kept away from pills of all kinds and certainly not be encouraged to treat them as playthings. A lot of different pills (including mama's sleeping pills) can be pretty and red and easy to swallow, and after all prekindergarten children can't read labels. Gould doubted whether TV had any business deciding whether tots do or do not need vitamin pills. He felt that a vitamin deficiency is better determined "by a parent after consultation with a physician" rather than a TV network. Finally, he observed, "Using a child's credibility to club a parent into buying something is reprehensible under the best of circumstances. But in the case of a product bearing on a child's health it is inexcusable." Doctors wrote in commending Gould for his stand; and a mother wrote that she found herself "appalled at the amount of commercialism our children are being subjected to." Mr. Gould's complaints notwithstanding, the merchandisers sought to groom children not only as future consumers but as shills who would lead or "club" their parents into the salesroom. Dr. Dichter advised a major car maker to train dealer salesmen to regard children as allies rather than nuisances while demonstrating a car. The salesmen, instead of shoving them away, should be especially attentive to the kiddies and discuss all the mechanisms that draw the child's attention. This, he said, is an excellent strategy for drawing the understanding permissive father into the discussion. In late 1955 a writer for The Nation offered the opinion that the shrewd use of premiums as bait for kiddies could "mangle the parent's usual marketing consideration of need, price, quality and budget." He cited as one example General Electric's offer of a sixtypiece circus, a magic-ray gun, and a space helmet to children who brought their parents into dealers' stores to witness new GE refrigerators being demonstrated. Sylvania reportedly offered a complete Space Ranger kit with not only helmet but disintegrator, flying saucer, and space telephone to children who managed to deliver parents into salesrooms. And Nash cars offered a toy service station. This writer, Joseph Seldin, concluded: "Manipulation of children's minds in the fields of religion or politics would touch off a parental storm of protest and a rash of Congressional investigations. But in the world of commerce children are fair game and legitimate prey." Herb Sheldon, TV star with a large following of children, offered this comment in 1956: "I don't say that children should be forced to harass their parents into buying products they've seen advertised on television, but at the same time I cannot close my eyes to the fact that it's being done every day." Then he added, and this was in Advertising Agency magazine, "Children are living, talking records of what we tell them every day." Motivational analysts were called in to provide insights on the most effective ways to achieve an assured strong impact with children. Social Research got into this problem with a television study entitled "Now, for the Kiddies . . ." It found that two basic factors to be considered in children's TV programs are filling the moppet's "inner needs" and making sure the program has "acceptability" (i.e., appease Mom, for one thing, so that she won't forbid the child to listen to it, which is an ever-present hazard). Social Research offered some psychological guideposts. A show can "appeal" to a child, it found, without necessarily offering the child amusement or pleasure. It appeals if it helps him express his inner tensions and fantasies in a manageable way. It appeals if it gets him a little scared or mad or befuddled and then offers him a way to get rid of his fear, anger, or befuddlement. Gauging the scariness of a show is a difficult business because a show may be just right in scariness for an eight-year-old but too scary for a six-year-old and not scary enough for a ten-year-old. Social Research diagnosed the appeal of the highly successful Howdy Doody and found some elements present that offered the children listening far more than childish amusement. Clarabelle, the naughty clown, was found consistently to exhibit traits of rebellious children. Clarabelle, it noted, "represents children's resistance to adult authority and goes generally unpunished." The report stated: "In general the show utilizes repressed hostilities to make fun of adults or depict adults in an unattractive light. The 'bad' characters (Chief Thunder-thud, Mr. Bluster, Mr. X) are all adults. They are depicted either as frighteningly powerful or silly." When the adult characters are shown in ridiculous situations, such as being all tangled up in their coats or outwitted by the puppets, the child characters in the show are shown as definitely superior. "In other words," it explained, "there is a reversal process with the adults acting 'childish' and incompetent, and children being 'adult' and clever." It added that the master of ceremonies, Buffalo Bob, was more of a friendly safe uncle than a parent. All this sly sniping at parent symbols takes place while Mother, unaware of the evident symbology, chats on the telephone content in the knowledge that her children are being pleasantly amused by the childish antics being shown electronically on the family's wondrous pacifier. In turning next to the space shows the Social Research psychologists found here that the over-all format, whether the show was set in the twenty-first century or the twenty-fourth, was: "Basic pattern of 'good guys' versus 'bad men' with up-to-date scientific and mechanical trapping." Note that it said bad men, not bad guys. The good guys interestingly were found to be all young men in their twenties organized as a group with very strong team loyalty. The leader was pictured as a sort of older brother (not a father symbol). And the villains or cowards were all older men who might be "symbolic or father figures." They were either bad or weak. Much of this fare might be construed as being antiparent sniping, offering children an exhilarating, and safe, way to work off their grudges against their parents. "To children," the report explained, "adults are a 'ruling class' against which they cannot successfully revolt." The report confided some pointers to TV producers for keeping parents pacified. One way suggested was to take the parent's side in such easy, thoughtful ways as having a character admonish junior to clean his plate. Another good way was to "add an educational sugar coating. Calling a cowboy movie 'American history' and a space show 'scientific' seems to be an effective way to avoid parental complaints." A final hint dropped was: "Cater a little more to parents. . . . The implication that children can be talked into buying anything . . . irritates parents. Slight changes along these lines can avoid giving offense without losing appeal for the children." Some of the United States product makers evidently solicit the favor of moppets by building aggressive outlets right into their products. Public-relations counsel and motivational enthusiast E. L. Bernays was reported asserting in 1954 that the most successful breakfast cereals were building crunch into their appeal to appease hostility by giving outlet to aggressive and other feelings. (He has served as a counsel to food groups.) The cereal that promises "popsnap-crackle" when you eat it evidently has something of value to kiddies besides calories. One aspect of juvenile merchandising that intrigued the depth manipulators was the craze or fad. To a casual observer the juvenile craze for cowboys or knights or Davy Crockett may seem like a cute bit of froth on the surface of American life. To fad-wise merchandisers such manifestations are largely the result of careful manipulation. They can be enormously profitable or disastrously unprofitable, depending on the merchandiser's cunning. An evidence of how big the business can be is that the Davy Crockett craze of 1955, which gave birth to 300 Davy Crockett products, lured $300,000,000 from American pockets. Big persuasion indeed! American merchandisers felt a need for a deeper understanding of these craze phenomena so that they could not only share in the profits, but know when to unload. Research was needed to help the manufacturers avoid overestimating the length of the craze. Many were caught with warehouses full of "raccoon" tails and buckskin fringe when, almost without warning, the Crockett craze lost its lure. One manufacturer said: "When they die, they die a horrible death." This problem of comprehending the craze drew the attention of such motivation experts as Dr. Dichter and Alfred Politz. And Tide magazine, journal of merchandisers, devoted a major analysis to the craze. The experts studied the Crockett extravaganza as a case in point and concluded that its success was due to the fact that it had in good measure all of the three essential ingredients of a profitable fad: symbols, carrying device, and fulfillment of a subconscious need. The carrying device, and the experts agreed it was a superb one, was the song "Ballad of Davy Crockett," which was repeated in some form in every Disney show. Also it was richer in symbols than many of the fads: coonskin cap, fringed buckskin, flintlock rifle. Tide explained: "All popular movements from Christianity's cross to the Nazis' swastika have their distinctive symbols." As for filling a subconscious need, Dr. Dichter had this to say of Crockett: "Children are reaching for an opportunity to explain themselves in terms of the traditions of the country. Crockett gave them that opportunity. On a very imaginative level the kids really felt they were Davy Crockett. . . ." What causes the quick downfall of crazes? The experts said overexploitation was one cause. Another cause was sociological. Mr. Politz pointed out that crazes take a course from upper to lower. In the case of adult fads this means upper-income education groups to lower. In the case of children, Politz explained: "Those children who are leaders because of their age adopt the fad first and then see it picked up by the younger children, an age class they no longer wish to be identified with. This causes the older children deliberately to drop the fad." Both Politz and Dichter felt not only that with careful planning the course of fads could be charted to ensure more profits to everybody, but also that profitable fads could actually be created. Tide called this possibility "fascinating." Dr. Dichter felt that with appropriate motivation research techniques a fad even of the Crockett magnitude could be started, once the promoters had found, and geared their fad to, an unsatisfied need of youngsters. Politz felt that the research experts could certainly set up the general rules for creating a successful fad. In a bow to the professional persuaders of advertising he added that once the general rules are laid down, the "creative" touch is needed. Both he and Dr. Dichter agreed that this challenging task for the future— creating fads of the first magnitude for our children—is the combined job of the researcher and the creative man.
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