The possibilities of using the insights of psychiatry and the social sciences to influence our choices and our behaviour are so inviting that no one anywhere can be sure nowadays that he is not being worked upon by the depth persuaders.
Marketing Eight Hidden Needs "The home freezer becomes a frozen island of security."—from a report, Weiss and Geller advertising agency.
In searching for extra psychological values that they could add to products to give them a more potent appeal, the depth merchandisers came upon many gratifying clues by studying our subconscious needs, yearnings, and cravings. Once the need was identified, and certified to be compelling, they began building the promise of its fulfillment into their sales presentations of such unlikely products as air conditioners, cake mixes, and motorboats. Here we will explore some of the more picturesque applications in merchandising eight of our hidden needs. Selling emotional security. The Weiss and Geller advertising agency became suspicious of the conventional reasons people gave for buying home freezers. In many cases it found that economically, the freezers didn't make sense when you added up the initial cost, the monthly cost added on the electric bill, and the amount of frozen leftovers in the box that eventually would be thrown out. When all factors were added, the food that was consumed from the freezer often became very costly indeed. Its curiosity aroused, the agency made a psychiatric pilot study. The probers found significance in the fact that the home freezer first came into widespread popularity after World War II when many families were filled with inner anxieties because of uncertainties involving not only food but just about everything else in their lives. These people began thinking fondly of former periods of safety and security, which subconsciously took them back to childhood where there was the mother who never disappointed and love was closely related with the giving of food. The probers concluded: "The freezer represents to many the assurance that there is always food in the house, and food in the home represents security, warmth, and safety." People who feel insecure, they found, need more food around than they can eat. The agency decided that the merchandising of freezers should take this squirrel factor into account in shaping campaigns. The same agency found that the air conditioner has a hidden security value of another sort that can be exploited. Some people, its psychiatric probers found, need to feel protected and enclosed and to keep the windows closed at night while they sleep so that nothing "threatening" can enter. These people, it seems, are subconsciously yearning for a return to the security of the womb. While the womb-seekers are a highly vulnerable market for air conditioners (already a half-billion-dollar-a-year business), another type of person offers a real challenge to the conditioner salesman. The agency's probers found that there is a latent claustrophobia in many of us. For those of us in this class the conditioner, far from being a symbol of security, becomes a threat. Its sealed world gives us a feeling of being closed in. The agency concluded that a way would have to be found to give such people open windows and still persuade them to buy air conditioners, but didn't say how to do it. (Another agency man advised us that many people still feel guilty about installing an air conditioner because "God made bad weather so you should put up with it." He said, "There is a lot of that attitude, amazingly, left in America.") Dr. Dichter advised marketers of do-it-yourself tools and gadgets that they were missing a bet if they were not selling men security as well as gadgets. He advised: "A man concentrating on his tools or his machinery is in a closed world. He is free from the strains of interpersonal relationships. He is engaged in a peaceful dialogue with himself." At a showing of children's furniture in mid-1956 (National Baby and Children's Show) a combination of high chair, bathinette, and toilet trainer was displayed. The president of the firm said it was calculated to give the child a "home" and a "feeling of security." Then he added: "Things are getting to the point where manufacturers are getting more and more to be psychologists." Selling reassurance of worth. In the mid-fifties The Chicago Tribune made a depth study of the detergent and soap market to try to find out why these products had failed to build brand loyalty, as many other products have done. Housewives tend to switch from one brand to another. This, the Tribune felt, was lamentable and concluded that the soap and detergent makers were themselves clearly to blame. They had been old-fashioned in their approach. "Most advertising," it found, "now shows practically no awareness that women have any other motive for using their products than to be clean, to protect the hands, and to keep objects clean." The depth-wise soap maker, the report advised, will realize that many housewives feel they are engaged in unrewarded and unappreciated drudgery when they clean. The advertiser should thus foster the wife's feeling of "worth and esteem." His "advertising should exalt the role of housekeeping—not in self-conscious, stodgy ways or with embarrassingly direct praise—but by various implications making it known what an important and proud thing it is or should be to be a housewife performing a role often regarded . . . as drudgery." Dr. Smith, in his book on motivation research, makes the point that luggage makers can increase sales if they remind the public that they are selling a form of reassurance. Nice new luggage, he advises, gives a man a feeling of being important and gives him more bearing when he goes out into the world. Even the all-wise doctor is sometimes badly in need of reassurance, and according to Dr. Dichter, the shrewd pharmaceutical house will sell it to him, and thus win the doctor's gratitude and recommendation of at least its general type of medication when a prescription is to be ordered. Dr. Dichter made a depth study of 204 doctors for pharmaceutical advertisers in order that they could be more effective "in influencing the prescription motivation of physicians." The drug houses should understand, he counseled, that the doctor feels a little threatened by the growth of factory-compounded, ready-mixed medicines. The doctors probed revealed deep resentment of drug ads that relegated the doctor to the position of a pill dispenser (rather than chief diagnostician and healer). The shrewd drug house, Dr. Dichter counseled, will not claim too much credit for the good results or go over the doctor's head to the public. Instead, it will seek to re-enforce the doctor's self-image as the "all-powerful healer," and put the spotlight in ads on the doctor rather than overstress the "medical qualities of the drug." Selling ego-gratification. This in a sense is akin to selling reassurance or worth. A maker of steam shovels found that sales were lagging. It had been showing in its ads magnificent photos of its mammoth machines lifting great loads of rock and dirt. A motivation study of prospective customers was made to find what was wrong. The first fact uncovered was that purchasing agents, in buying such machines, were strongly influenced by the comments and recommendations of their steam-shovel operators, and the operators showed considerable hostility to this company's brand. Probing the operators, the investigators quickly found the reason. The operators resented pictures in the ad that put all the glory on the huge machine and showed the operator as a barely visible figure inside the distant cab. The shovel maker, armed with this insight, changed its ad approach and began taking its photographs from over the operator's shoulder. He was shown as the complete master of the mammoth machine. This new approach, Tide magazine reported, is "easing the operators' hostility." One of the most forthright instances of selling ego-gratification is that done by the vanity press that brings out books completely subsidized by the author. During the early fifties 10 per cent of all books published in America were of this variety. One of the most active of the vanity publishers, Exposition Press, brings out as many as two hundred books a year. Its publisher, Mr. Edward Uhlan, states: "Our authors must be prepared psychologically and financially to lose money. Other houses may promise riches . . . we just offer immortality!" He not only prints the author's words and name in deathless type but sets up author luncheons, autographing parties in local bookstores, newspaper reviews and radio interviews. Mr. Uhlan says he has had authors so anxious to get themselves in print that they have expressed willingness to sell their automobiles and mortgage their homes to pay Uhlan for publishing their books. One offered to sell his 150-acre ranch in New Mexico. Mr. Uhlan, a candid man, comments: "I have often felt that the desk in my office might be exchanged profitably for an analyst's couch." Selling creative outlets. The director of psychological research at a Chicago ad agency mentioned casually in a conversation that gardening is a "pregnancy activity." When questioned about this she responded, as if explaining the most obvious thing in the world, that gardening gives older women a chance to keep on growing things after they have passed the child-bearing stage. This explains, she said, why gardening has particular appeal to older women and to men, who of course can't have babies. She cited the case of a woman with eleven children who, when she passed through menopause, nearly had a nervous collapse until she discovered gardening, which she took to for the first time in her life and with obvious and intense delight. Housewives consistently report that one of the most pleasurable tasks of the home is making a cake. Psychologists were put to work exploring this phenomenon for merchandising clues. James Vicary made a study of cake symbolism and came up with the conclusion that "baking a cake traditionally is acting out the birth of a child" so that when a woman bakes a cake for her family she is symbolically presenting the family with a new baby, an idea she likes very much. Mr. Vicary cited the many jokes and old wives tales about cake making as evidence: the quip that brides whose cakes fall obviously can't produce a baby yet; the married jest about "leaving a cake in the oven"; the myth that a cake is likely to fall if the woman baking it is menstruating. A psychological consulting firm in Chicago also made a study of cake symbolism and found that "women experience making a cake as making a gift of themselves to their family," which suggests much the same thing. The food mixes—particularly the cake mixes—soon found themselves deeply involved in this problem of feminine creativity and encountered much more resistance than the makers, being logical people, ever dreamed possible. The makers found themselves trying to cope with negative and guilt feelings on the part of women who felt that use of ready mixes was a sign of poor housekeeping and threatened to deprive them of a traditional source of praise. In the early days the cake-mix packages instructed, "Do not add milk, just add water." Still many wives insisted on adding milk as their creative touch, overloaded the cakes or muffins with calcium, and often the cakes or muffins fell, and the wives would blame the cake mix. Or the package would say, "Do not add eggs." Typically the milk and eggs had already been added by the manufacturer in dried form. But wives who were interviewed in depth studies would exclaim: "What kind of cake is it if you just need to add tap water!" Several different psychological firms wrestled with this problem and came up with essentially the same answer. The mix makers should always leave the housewife something to do. Thus Dr. Dichter counseled General Mills that it should start telling the housewife that she and Bisquick together could do the job and not Bisquick alone. Swansdown White Cake Mix began telling wives in large type: "You Add Fresh Eggs . . ." Some mixes have the wife add both fresh eggs and fresh milk. Marketers are finding many areas where they can improve sales by urging the prospective customer to add his creative touch. A West Coast firm selling to home builders found that although its architects and designers could map houses to the last detail it was wise to leave some places where builders could add their own personal touch. And Dr. Dichter in his counseling to pharmaceutical houses advised them that in merchandising ready-mixed medical compounds they would be wise to leave the doctors ways they could add personal touches so that each doctor could feel the compound was "his own." Selling love objects. This might seem a weird kind of merchandising but the promoters of Liberace, the TV pianist, have manipulated—with apparent premeditation—the trappings of Oedipus symbolism in selling him to women past the child-bearing age (where much of his following is concentrated). The TV columnist John Crosby alluded to this when he described the reception Liberace was receiving in England, where, according to Mr. Crosby, he was "visible in all his redundant dimples" on British commercial TV. Mr. Crosby quoted the New Statesman and Nation as follows: "Every American mom is longing to stroke the greasy, roguish curls. The wide, trustful childlike smile persists, even when the voice is in full song." TV viewers who have had an opportunity to sit in Mr. Liberace's TV presence may recall that in his TV presentations a picture of his real-life mom is frequently flashed on screen, beaming in her rocking chair or divan while her son performs. Selling sense of power. The fascination Americans show for any product that seems to offer them a personal extension of power has offered a rich field for exploitation by merchandisers. Automobile makers have strained to produce cars with ever-higher horsepower. After psychiatric probing a Midwestern ad agency concluded that a major appeal of buying a shiny new and more powerful car every couple of years is that "it gives him [the buyer] a renewed sense of power and reassures him of his own masculinity, an emotional need which his old car fails to deliver." One complication of the power appeal of a powerful new car, the Institute for Motivational Research found, was that the man buying it often feels guilty about indulging himself with power that might be regarded as needless. The buyer needs some rational reassurance for indulging his deep-seated desires. A good solution, the institute decided, was to give the power appeals but stress that all that wonderful surging power would provide "the extra margin of safety in an emergency." This, an institute official explains, provides "the illusion of rationality" that the buyer needs. The McCann-Erickson advertising agency made a study for Esso gasoline to discover what motivates consumers, in order more effectively to win new friends for Esso. The agency found there is considerable magic in the word power. After many depth interviews with gasoline buyers the agency perfected an ad strategy that hammered at two words, with all letters capitalized: TOTAL POWER. This need for a sense of power, particularly in men, has been observed and very thoroughly exploited by marketers interested in the boat-buying habits of Americans. Although the owner of a pleasure boat is not going anywhere in particular or at least not in a hurry, Americans prefer power boats to sailboats by a margin of eight to one. The Institute for Motivational Research studied American attitudes toward boat buying and concluded that the average buyer sees his boat as a very satisfying way of fulfilling his need for power. One man, an executive, who was invited to chat at length on the subject said that with a good power boat "you can show you are all man and let her rip—without having the fear you are bound to have on the road." The institute found that many men seem to use their boats to express their sense of power in "almost a sexual way," and it outlined what it found to be a "power profile" in the average enthusiast's boat-buying habits. If the man has owned five boats the "power profile" structure is apt to shape up like this: first boat, 3½ horsepower; second boat, 5 horsepower; third boat, two tens; fourth boat, 20 to 25 horsepower; fifth boat, the sky is the limit in horsepower. The institute counsels: "Manufacturers, eying profits, should explore to the fullest the psychological ways and means of tapping these motives." Selling a sense of roots. When the Mogen David wine people were seeking some way to add magic to their wine's sales appeal (while it was still an obscure brand), they turned to motivation research via its ad agency. Psychiatrists and other probers listening to people talk at random about wine found that many related it to old family-centered or festive occasions. Some talked in an almost homesick way about wine and the good old days that went with it. A hard-hitting copy platform was erected based on these homey associations. The campaign tied home and mother into the selling themes. One line was: "The good old days—the home sweet home wine—the wine that grandma used to make." As a result of these carefully "motivated" slogans, the sales of Mogen David doubled within a year and soon the company was budgeting $2,000,000 just for advertising—the biggest ad campaign in the history of the wine industry. Selling immortality. Perhaps the most astounding of all the efforts to merchandise hidden needs was that proposed to a conference of Midwestern life-insurance men. The conference invited Edward Weiss, head of Weiss and Geller, to tell members of the assembled North Central Life Advertisers Association (meeting in Omaha in April, 1955) how to put more impact into their messages advertising insurance. In his speech, called "Hidden Attitudes Toward Life Insurance" he reported on a study in depth made by several psychologists. (In an aside he pointed out that one of the serious problems in selling insurance to women is how to do it without reminding them that they are getting older. If they start brooding about their advancing age the whole sales message may be lost on them. He further agreed this called for real "creative" thinking.) The heart of his presentation, however, was the findings on selling life insurance to the male, who is the breadwinner in most families and the one whose life is to be insured. Weiss criticized many of the current selling messages as being blind to the realities of this man who usually makes the buying decision. Typically, he demonstrated, current ads either glorified the persistence and helpfulness of the insurance agent or else portrayed the comfortable pattern of life the family had managed to achieve after the breadwinner's death, thanks to the insurance. Both approaches, said Mr. Weiss, are dead wrong. In a few cases, he conceded, the breadwinner may be praised for his foresight, but still he is always depicted as someone now dead and gone. One of the real appeals of life insurance to a man, his probers found, is that it assures the buyer of "the prospect of immortality through the perpetuation of his influence for it is not the fact of his own physical death that is inconceivable; it is the prospect of his obliteration." The man can't stand the thought of obliteration. Weiss reported that when men talked at the conscious and more formal level about insurance they talked of their great desire to protect their loved ones in case of any "eventuality." In this their desire for immortality was plain enough. But Weiss said there was strong evidence that this socially commendable acceptance of responsibility was not always the real and main desire of the prospective customer. Weiss said it appeared to be true for many men but not all. "In many instances," he went on, "our projective tests revealed the respondent's fierce desire to achieve immortality in order to control his family after death. These men obtain insurance against obliteration through the knowledge that they will continue to dominate their families; to control the family standard of living, and to guide the education of their children long after they are gone." Then Mr. Weiss asked how advertising could be more effective in reassuring both these types on the prospect for the kind of immortality they yearned for. In short, how could appeals contain a promise of both protection and control without alienating one or other of the potential buyers? He said: "I suggest that such advertising may become more effective as it is concentrated on the emotional problems of the buyer himself rather than picturing the comfort of his surviving family." He proposed that in picturing the security and unity of the surviving family, the "living personality" of the breadwinner always be present by picture or implication. Not only should he be there in the family picture, "but he, and he alone, is the hero—eternally shielding, providing, comforting and governing."
The Built-in Sexual Overtone "Infatuation with one's own body is an infantile trait that. . . persists in many an adult's subconscious. . . . The ethics of exploiting it. . . to sell goods . . . are something else."—Fortune.
The potency of sex as a sales promoter was not, of course, an original discovery of the depth merchandisers. Sex images have long been cherished by ad men purely as eye stoppers. But with the depth approach, sex began taking on some interesting twists, ramifications, and subtleties. Penetration to deeper levels of consciousness was sought. Simple cheesecake and get-your-man themes of old, while used for routine selling, were regarded as limited-penetration weapons. One shortcoming of get-your-man themes was that they frequently left the buyer disappointed and resentful. Perfume makers, in straining to outpromise each other in the early fifties with sex-drenched titles and themes, had trouble getting women to buy a second bottle when the first bottle, rich in sexual promise, had failed to deliver a satisfactory man into their arms. The Institute for Motivational Research, after exploring this problem, reported finding many women's dressers cluttered with "dead enthusiasm"— stale jars, unopened bottles, half-used boxes of cosmetics. It found that there is a dismally low rate of brand loyalty among users and that the industry has had to combat disappointment and raise new hopes by constantly bringing out new products, an expensive and discouraging process. (Ad men at conventions tell the story of the wistful girl who surveyed all the passionate labels on a perfume counter and asked bashfully if the store perhaps had something for beginners.) In 1955 more than 250 new trade-marks were issued in the toilet preparation field. Another difficulty harassing the cosmetics people was that modern women were no longer bewitched by a mere get-your-man or sexual enchantment promise. They wanted something more: to be accepted and respected by men as partners, and that of course was something a little more difficult for a mere perfume merchant to promise. It would take thought. In the words of the institute the situation called for "more subtle and more passive sex symbols than was the case a generation ago" with careful emphasis on such ingredients as poetry, fantasy, whimsey, and a distinct soft-pedaling of pure sex. While sex was soft-pedaled for marketing in depth, its use as a simple eye stopper took more daring forms. The public had become jaded and permissive. The brassiere and girdle appeals, for example, became bolder, with overtones of masochism, body exhibitionism, and so on. One ad widely exhibited showed a lovely girl with blond tresses, dressed only in her bra and girdle, being dragged by the hair across the floor by a modern caveman. The gay title was "Come out of the bone age, darling!" Another girdle ad showed a girl and her boyfriend at a Coney Island type of wind tunnel with the wind blowing her skirt above her head and exposing her entire midsection, which, of course, was encased in the girdle being offered for sale. She was giggling modestly. The most controversial of the eye stoppers of this sort was the "I Dreamed I Stopped Traffic in My Maidenform Bra" campaign. The situations varied but always the girl involved, dressed fully except that she wore only a bra above the waist, was wandering about among normally dressed people. The theory was that since she was dreaming, her undressed state was permissible. The ad men themselves argued about the wisdom of this ad and the deep-down effect it had on women seeing it. Some were convinced, after talking with their psychological consultants, that the scene depicted would simply produce an anxiety state in women since it represented a common oneiric, or dream, expression of the neurotic anxieties experienced by many women. Others in the trade, however, became convinced after checking their psychologists that the ad was sound because the wish to appear naked or scantily clad in a crowd is "present in most of us" and "represents a beautiful example of wish fulfillment." This view evidently prevailed because the campaign was intensified and Maiden-form began offering the public prizes up to $10,000 for ideas on dream situations that could be depicted. The twists given sex in the hands of the depth merchandisers took some odd forms. A study was made for a major fountain-pen company in the Midwest on the sensuality and sexual connotations of pens. R. R. McMurry, psychological consultant of Chicago, made the study into the motivation for buying fountain pens and concluded that the pen is experienced as a body image by men— which is why they will pay up to fifteen dollars for a pen with an image particularly satisfying to them even though a cheaper one might write just as well. An evidence of the extent to which sexual appeals have been carried is available in the so-called sport of wrestling. The discovery was made that the grunt-and-groan spectacles of professional wrestling, supposedly a sweaty he-man sport, survive only because of the feminine fans. A Nielsen check of TV fans watching wrestling matches revealed that ladies outnumbered men two to one. The promoters of the matches, shrewdly calculating the triggers that produced the most squeals from feminine fans, stepped up the sadism (men writhing in torture), the all-powerful male symbolism (chest beating and muscle flexing), and fashion interest (more and more elegant costumes for the performers). A classic example of the way motivation analysts found merchandising possibilities in our deeper sexual yearnings was a study Dr. Dichter made for Chrysler Corporation in the early days of M.R. His study is now known as "Mistress versus Wife." Dr. Dichter was called upon to explain a fact puzzling marketers of the auto. While most men bought sedans and rarely bought convertibles they evidently were more attracted to convertibles. Dealers had found that they could draw more males into their showrooms by putting convertibles in the window. After exploring the situation Dr. Dichter concluded that men saw the convertible as a possible symbolic mistress. It set them daydreaming of youth, romance, adventure just as they may dream of a mistress. The man knows he is not going to gratify his wish for a mistress, but it is pleasant to daydream. This daydreaming drew the man into the auto salesroom. Once there, he finally chose a four-door sedan just as he once married a plain girl who, he knew, would make a fine wife and mother. "Symbolically, he marries the sedan," a spokesman for Dr. Dichter explained. The sedan is useful, practical, down to earth, and safe. Dr. Dichter felt that the company would be putting its best foot backward if it put its main emphasis on sedans simply because that was the car most men ended up buying. Instead, he urged the company to put the hope of mistress-adventure a little closer to males by giving most prominent display to the convertibles. The spokesman went on to explain Dr. Dichter's line of thinking: "If we get a union between the wife and mistress—all we sought in a wife plus the romance, youth, and adventure we want in a mistress—we would have . . . lo and behold, the hardtop!" The hardtop was soon to become the most successful new auto style introduced in the American market for several years, and Dr. Dichter's organization takes full credit for inspiring it by its "Mistress versus Wife" study. The motivational analysts began finding that a major sexual need of both men and women in America at mid-century was sexual reassurance. Women by the millions were yearning for evidence that they were still basically feminine; and men by the millions were yearning for evidence they were still indisputably and virulently masculine. Merchandisers were quick to see the possibilities of offering both products that would serve as reassurance symbols. Women were in need of evidences of reassurance because during the first half of the century their role in life had been undergoing radical changes: they had lost many of their old functions, had taken over many male functions, and in business had often fought to be accepted on the same basis as men. During one of the psychiatric brain-storming sessions conducted at the Weiss and Geller agency the conferees began speculating on the fact that much of the "sex business" in cosmetic advertising seemed to be bringing inadequate responses and one of the consultants offered this insight: "I think the modern ad should place more emphasis on one term Eric Fromm [the noted analyst] pointed out, one that is almost missing in our society. That is tenderness." And he went on to explain: "I mention that because of what Fromm points out as the tremendous mark on the part of the woman who is constantly trying to get ahead and who pays such enormous penalty for it by her failure to be tender." The agency began applying this line of thinking to its merchandising of lingerie and hair preparations for women. This meant quite a change. As one official explained its efforts to sell hair preparations: "We used to handle it by having a guy's nose stuck in the dame's hair." Under the new thinking the guy's nose went completely out of the picture. Get-your-man themes became outmoded. The new emphasis was on themes that would reassure the woman of her own femininity. The agency made a depth study on the problem of marketing lingerie and concluded that when it comes to approval symbols the woman first of all wants to be able to look approvingly at herself and feel assured she is fully feminine, and second she wants the approval of other women. Approval of the male—as typified in ad symbology by the admiring glance of a romantic-looking male—was judged to be the least effective way of the three to sell lingerie. Upon arriving at this insight the agency mapped an ad strategy for its lingerie that consisted simply of showing a woman admiring herself in the lingerie in a full-length mirror, and urged all women to do the same. Such an appeal, of course, had strong overtones of narcissism. It proved a strong sales booster, and the sales of the lingerie in question climbed in two years far ahead of the industry trend. Professor Smith, in his book on M.R., reports incidentally, that this agency saved itself from hitting a hidden reef, in trying to sell a hair preparation to women, by getting timely counsel from social scientists. The idea, and it had seemed a brilliant one, was to sell a home permanent by showing identical hairdos of mother and daughter with the headline, "A Double Header Hit with Dad." It was cute, and when they asked wives casually—and at the conscious level—if the wives would resent the idea of being compared with their daughter in competition for the husband-father's admiration, they dismissed the possibility that such a competition could exist. The agency was apprehensive, however, and decided to explore the question in depth interviews. There it became quickly evident that women would indeed deeply resent a double "hit with Dad" theme. It was dropped. As for men and their need for sexual reassurance, it was discovered that reassurance symbols would be appealing to them because women had been invading so many domains that they were being hard put to demonstrate that they were still he-men. After all, women were wearing trousers and standing up at bars. One publication that thrived by offering a product strongly pervaded with masculine sexual reassurance was True Magazine. It grew to 2,000,000 circulation largely by offering assurance to men at bay. It addressed its 2,000,000 male readers, the bulk of whom obviously had sedentary lives, as if they were all hairy-chested sourdoughs who had just returned from a tramp in the woods. And it voiced man's resentment at woman's "creeping equality." Its editorial director Ralph Daigh told a group of men in early 1956 that man in "unprecedented numbers" had turned to True because it "stimulates his masculine ego at a time when man wants to fight back against women's efforts to usurp his traditional role as head of the family." The problem of marketing razors and shaving preparations can be simplified, depth merchandisers discovered, if man's feelings toward his beard are understood. The psychologists on the staff of a New York advertising agency found in a study that the beard is very important symbolically to man. Investigators found that for some men the mere daily act of cutting off this symbol of manliness is a kind of daily castration. Some men admitted that they perspired when they shaved, and many complained about what a chore and bother it was. In a test survey, however, a number of men were given this hypothetical question: If a cream was offered for sale at a reasonable price which in three applications would rid you of your beard forever so that you would never need to shave again, would you buy it? The response? Practically none of the men was interested. Only 3 per cent of them showed any interest in buying such a wondrous product. One of those few men who did show interest explained, "It would be O.K., because I've got hair on my chest." The fact that cigar makers have been enjoying the heaviest sales in a quarter century (6,000,000,000 cigars in 1955) has been credited by some to the man-at-bay market. The cigar certainly is one of the potent symbols of masculinity available, certainly the. most potent available for a dime. When men assemble at stag parties or "smokers" where women are barred, they all light up stogies, even those who have difficulty suppressing a fit of coughing. The cigar, in our minds, is a symbol of masculine toughness: it is favored by gangsters and hard-boiled bankers. An ad agency, Young and Rubicam, found in a depth study that young men feel uneasy smoking cigars, presumably because cigars are such virility symbols that they feel a bit presumptuous trying to smoke them. A study made by a Chicago ad agency (Weiss and Geller) turned up the fact that cigars appeal both to men who are very strong, and to men who are basically weak and small. A cigar helps the little guy feel big. When a new father passes out cigars to his friend the true meaning of this, according to one depth study, is that he is in effect trying to crow: "What a man am I to have produced a child!"' And when a man politely asks ladies if they mind if he smokes a cigar, according to one theory, he is being less than sincere. He actually is defiantly asserting his masculinity. As Edward Weiss explained it, "He knows darned well he is going to stink up the room." Mr. Weiss became intrigued with the symbol meanings of cigars when a cigar campaign that showed a woman beaming as she offered cigars to men backfired. Mr. Weiss ordered a depth study to find out why. The conclusion was that men smoke cigars to assert their masculinity and like to think the habit is objectionable to women. Any message that runs counter to this deprives the man of one of his main reasons for smoking cigars. Despite these warnings from Mr. Weiss it appears that the cigar makers as a whole intend to try to get women into the picture. There are sound marketing reasons for this. It seems that when women are shopping in supermarkets they can be persuaded to pick up a handful of cigars to take home to their husbands. The possibilities of cigars as impulse items for wives are so appealing that the Cigar Institute of America began featuring, in 1956, a woman approving her husband's cigar smoking in a $200,000 campaign to be used on Father's Day. News reports stated that the Cigar Institute had its "eye on the woman shopper" and that a move was afoot to build good manners into cigar smoking. The cigar, evidently, was about to be demasculinized, for the sake of volume. The motivational analysts began finding that products have fundamental differences of meaning for men and women. This knowledge soon was enabling the merchandisers hiring them to be more precise in shaping and aiming their appeals. The attitude of a man and woman toward their new car, for example, shows a gap in motivations. Whereas the woman can't wait to ride in it, the man can't wait to start polishing and taking care of it. Women in recent years have attained an increased voice in determining what car will be purchased. Their voice is particularly persuasive in deciding the color and styling of the family chariot. Car makers are taking this into account. As one maker proclaimed in 1956: "You never had it so safe and so stylish!" Dr. Dichter brought the auto-servicing industry to attention in the early fifties by pointing out that it was gearing its sales messages to the wrong sex. Marketers had been gearing their sales messages for filling station products to the man of the family exclusively since he was well known to be the practical one in the family. Dr. Dichter, however, reported (and most of us upon thinking about it know he is right): "When we conducted our study we found something had happened—particularly in suburban areas. Apparently the woman has taken over and she has taken over quite thoroughly. She is really the one who has the car fixed; she is the one who discovers the first rattle; and she is the one who knows Charlie, the mechanic, much better than her husband does. . . ." In our buying of homes our motivation evidently varies considerably depending upon our sex. Several years ago a large community development near Chicago faced the problem of selling a thousand houses quickly. To expedite the seemingly formidable task it retained a depth-oriented ad agency in Chicago. The agency called in several psychiatrists for counsel, and a depth study was made to find the triggers of action that would propel prospects into a home-buying mood. The task of selling the houses was complicated, the probers found, by the fact that men saw home in quite a different light from women. Man sees home as a symbolic Mother, a calm place of refuge for him after he has spent an abrasive day in the competitive outside world, often taking directions from a boss. He hopes wistfully to find in his idealized home the kind of solace and comfort he used to find as a child when at his mother's side. Women on the other hand see home as something quite different since they already are symbolic Mothers. A woman sees home as an expression of herself and often literally as an extension of her own personality. In a new home she can plant herself and grow, re-create herself, express herself freely. As a result of these insights the agency devised several hard-hitting themes to reach both men and women. One ad that was drawn up to appeal especially to men showed a small home with two feminine arms stretching out, seemingly beckoning the troubled male reader to the bosom of her hearth. Mom would take care of him! During the mid-fifties many different products that were judged by motivational analysts to be maladjusted sexually began undergoing a planned transvestism. These changes in sex were felt to be necessary often in order to cope with changing buying habits. Whisky, gin, and beer for example had traditionally been garbed in two-fisted male vestments in keeping with the assumed sex of the buyer. Vogue, the ladies' fashion magazine, became suspicious of this assumption in the mid-fifties and surveyed four hundred retail liquor stores. It found 38 per cent of the dealers reporting that more than half of their liquor customers were women. The women evidently were ignoring many of the old taboos about liquor, perhaps because liquor stores were starting to be grouped in shopping centers. Dorothy Diamond, an advertising writer, took her male colleagues to task for being so outdated. "If I were to become acquainted with American drinking habits merely from advertising I would assume that whisky and gin are consumed solely by men. Clubmen, sportsmen, men in evening clothes . . . but women, never." She conceded there were still some taboos with potency, but felt the liquor people could do a much better job of appealing to the little woman, especially in gift items. "Actually many hostesses prefer it to candy," she said, and she exhorted the industry to do something to "make the average liquor store a more attractive place to shop," with festive windows and well-styled interiors. In catering merely to men the liquor stores had neglected decor so that the average liquor store, she felt, was as listless as a leftover highball. Fleischmann's Gin, in seeking to cope with the sexual revolution, turned to Louis Cheskin for guidance. He suggested a slight change in the label design which probably wasn't even noticed by the average buyer but which, he claims, distinctly modified its sex appeal and brought a great increase in business for the company . .The old label was a plain rectangle with sharp right-angle corners. Mr. Cheskin merely rounded the corners, which reportedly made the label more feminine. One big trend of 1956 in liquor merchandising, the race to bring out whisky in decanters, was also partly a response to the new sexual situation. Women, it was found, like nice decorative bottles. This trend developed troubles in depth, however, that gave the marketers grave second thoughts. Studies showed that many people who had bought decanter-type liquor bottles felt a sense of guilt about seeing old whisky bottles sitting around the house as lamp bases, or if they hadn't converted them into something attractive such as lampshades they again felt guilty because they hadn't gotten their full money's worth from the bottle. The beer brewers, too, had been caught napping. In 1955 the United States Brewers' Foundation exhorted members to stop assuming the average beer buyer was an older man. The average beer buyer, it said after researching the subject, was a woman between twenty-five and thirty-six who buys beer out of her weekly food budget and is particularly prone to female-oriented ads, nice packaging, and display. The beer packagers began tampering with their can's sex appeal in ways that must have made some he-man customers uneasy. Pabst began stressing fashion as a selling lure by using the selling line "The finest is always in fashion," and its ads began showing stylish young people of both sexes partaking of beer. Budweiser, meanwhile, came out with a slim new beer can aimed at the woman buyer. The merchandising director explained that the can was being made "high style" to "appeal to the woman buyer. . . . We believe that the innate preference of women for grace, beauty, and style carries over to the purchase of beer." A spectacular transvestism in the opposite direction was carried out in 1956 by Marlboro cigarettes, which used to be lipstick red and ivory tipped, designed primarily for women. Marlboro felt a little unhappy about its sexual designation because men smokers still outnumbered women two to one. When the cancer scare drove millions of men to show interest in filter tips, the Marlboro people decided to do a sexual flip-flop and go after the men, while holding onto as many women as they could. Their first move was to have Louis Cheskin, of the Color Research Institute, design a more masculine package. He did, in bold red and white. But that was only one of several significant changes. The Marlboro ads began featuring rugged, virile-looking men deep in work. To get the virile look desired the company used many nonprofessional models for the pictures (sailors, cowboys, and, reportedly, some men who worked at the company's ad agency). And the headlines of the ads began talking of Marlboro's "man-sized flavor." Perhaps the most fascinating innovation was that all the rugged men shown in the long series—whether they were cow-pokes, fishermen, skiers or writers—had one mark in common: they wore man-made stigmata. By an amazing coincidence they all had "tattoos," and still more amazing all the tattoos just happened to be on the back of the men's hands so that they showed in close-up photos. This tattoo motif puzzled some people since the tattoo is a common phenomenon among delinquents in reformatories. Marlboro, however, decided the tattoo was just what was needed to give its men a virile and "interesting past" look. The Marlboro people in fact became so pleased with this symbol of virility that they began distributing millions of transfer pictures of tattoos that men could stamp on their wrists just as children have long done. Interestingly, first reports showed that Marlboro was, with this campaign, holding onto many women, while recruiting males. Many women seemed to enjoy gazing at the dashing-looking men in the ads. And Marlboro was still careful to call itself "A man's cigarette that women like too." Motivational expert Pierre Martineau hailed the Marlboro campaign as investing its brand with a "terrifically exciting personality." He felt the highly masculine figures and the tattoo symbols set the cigarette "right in the heart of some core meanings of smoking: masculinity, adulthood, vigor, and potency. Quite obviously these meanings cannot be expressed openly. The consumer would reject them quite violently. The difference between a top-flight creative man and the hack is this ability to express powerful meanings indirectly. . . ."
Back to the Breast, and Beyond "A lot of infantile people never get any further than having fun with their mouths."—from report to a New York public-relations firm.
The insight of Freudian psychiatry that pictures many adults as subconsciously seeking the pleasant mouth satisfactions they felt as infant breast feeders and as small children opened up vistas for the depth merchandisers. The breadth of the vistas seen can be indicated by the fact that Americans do more than $65,000,000,000 worth of their annual consuming by mouth. A Chicago ad agency felt that this oral gratification field was so rich in merchandising possibilities that it circulated a briefing to personnel on the subject. This stated, rather pedantically: All cultures have expressed basic needs for oral comfort by some form of smoking or sucking. In the South Sea Island they suck betel nuts. Gum chewing is common to both males and females and the same is true of cigarette smoking. Both offer oral comfort. The deeply ingrained need for intake through the mouth arose originally as a reaction to hunger and tension in the infant, who was pacified at the breast or with a bottle. This need became modified but remains as a primary impulse and need all through adult life. . . . Smoking in general serves to relieve tension, impatience, anger, frustration—just as sucking does to the infant. . . . The report also noted that people suffering from oral deprivation (because of early inadequate opportunities to gratify oral cravings) find comfort just in being surrounded by the sight of plenty of food, whether it is ever eaten or not. Such a fact, of course, offered interesting possibilities to merchandisers! Motivational analysts turned their attention, in particular, to the hidden meanings of milk, milk products, liquids in general, and the softer foods. Social Research, for example, made a thorough study of the hidden satisfactions obtained from milk and found considerable documentation that milk is indeed psychically loaded. The experience of the military during World War II was cited in particular. It seems that soldiers who had been tried beyond their limit in combat and developed gastrointestinal symptoms frequently revealed a common trait: a craving for milk. And soldiers in general who were far from home seemed to desire milk more than those based safely near home. The investigators could find no evidence to support the idea that the physical properties of milk as a food were particularly needed by such people. The psychologist preparing the report stated: "The craving for milk could clearly be seen in many severe cases to be related to the meanings of milk rather than to the nutritional value or use. The unhappy, suffering, far-from-home soldier looks back to milk as in many ways expressing the comfort, security, and contentedness of life as it was at home. Drinking it brings back to these men memories of life that is reassuring and offers a kind of comfort that is totally unrelated to calcium content. . . ." And then the psychologist added: "Probably to all of us reared in a world valuing and providing milk for children it has some of these meanings." On the other hand she pointed out that those of us who scorn security and insist on leading our own busy, independent lives tend to find milk not particularly appealing. We can take it or leave it. The year 1956, incidentally, was the time when synthetic mother's milk became one of the food preparations most demanded by dieters. Social Research has found that many foods besides milk are loaded with hidden meanings. Its psychologists have discovered, for example, that food is widely used on a subconscious level as a reward or punishment by the housewife. She conveys her feeling of affection and warmth toward her family if she serves steak, chocolate milk, fruit salad, and ice cream and may be warming them up for some important announcement. On the other hand if she serves her family liver, spinach, a starch pudding, or cookies the family knows that somehow she is displeased with its members and that they have somehow failed to get her affection. The psychologist concluded that the housewife uses "food as a weapon—as a technique to punish, reprimand, or encourage. She can manipulate and influence her family by the food she serves them." Social Research also has probed the special meaning food has for people under stress or in strange situations such as hospitals where they are anxious about their health. It advised institutions feeding such people not to try unusual or strange foods with them. "It is a rare person who will consider combatting his or her loneliness by trying some new food. He is much more likely to seek to reinstate more comfortable feelings by returning to foods that have been long loved." It pointed out also that fat people often use food as a substitute for other kinds of satisfaction and that the homely adolescent gorges herself on candy while her prettier friends pair off after school. When a person is ill or under stress his food preferences almost always turn away from the highly flavored back toward "the blander, plainer foods of earlier years." (The blandest and plainest being milk.) Dr. Dichter pointed out that foods in the mid-fifties were considered either light or "serious" and that "right now light foods have all the best of it on account of the social tensions of our times and the emphasis on the slim appearance." So jellied consommé and cold cuts do well and beers were becoming lighter. This trend toward "lightness" took many forms. Light "dry" rum began gaining on the dark heavy rum. James Vicary, in talking about this trend to blandness, mentioned that the breads were getting lighter and the beers getting blander. He suggested wryly that perhaps we were getting into a "bland new world." Dr. Dichter was asked to make a study of the meaning of ice cream to people by a client who wanted to stimulate ice-cream sales. First, he looked into the way ice cream was being presented to the public by various makers in ads. That wasn't very exciting. Practically all were plugging their product in terms of its superior quality and flavor. No real hooks there. He put a group of interviewers to work talking with people in depth about what ice cream meant to them. He found that most of the people interviewed, particularly those past adolescence, had emotionally loaded feelings concerning ice cream and in reminiscences often spoke of it with great feeling, especially in connection with childhood memories. One woman recalled: "We used to sit on the porch every night at the farm and eat ice cream out of soup plates. You could almost drown in the stuff." Another mentioned, "You want to get your whole mouth into it." Still another said, "We had all we wanted to eat of ice cream." It became clear to Dr. Dichter and his motivation analysts that ice cream symbolizes to many of us uninhibited overindulgence or voluptuousness, via the mouth. Armed with this insight, he admonished his ice-cream maker to show in ads his ice cream not in a neat, trim dip on a plate or cone, but in lavish portions overflowing the cone or plate, which would invite viewers to sink their mouth right into it. This phenomenon of voluptuousness and "sinking your mouth right into it" may account, incidentally, for the spectacular rise in the mid-fifties of the Dairy Queens and other soft ice cream or ice milk stands, which promise voluptuous oral indulgence in large measure. One depth view of soup is that it is both oral and visceral in its appeal. An astounding theory made by a psychiatrically-oriented ad man from one of the largest agencies was advanced in Advertising Agency magazine. "Consider what the psychologist has to say about the symbolism of soup," he said. "Besides being a good food, stimulating to the appetite and easily assimilated into the blood stream, soup is unconsciously associated with man's deepest need for nourishment and reassurance. It takes us back to our earliest sensations of warmth, protection, and feeding. Its deepest roots may lie in prenatal sensations of being surrounded by the amniotic fluid in our mother's womb." And then he added, "No wonder people like soup and prefer it hot and in large quantities. They associate it with the basic source of life, strength, and well being." This venture back to the womb touched off a little wingding in advertising circles. Some ad men wanted him to explain why some people don't care for soup, since we all once resided in the womb. Others claimed you didn't have to go back that far, necessarily, to account for soup's popularity. The depth merchandisers have been exploring the possibilities of oral gratification not only in our consumption of food but in other oral activities such as smoking and chewing gum. One view of smoking is that it provides pleasurable lip activity without the necessity of taking on calories (result: "Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet"). A study of the Freudian view of smoking, shown to me by a New York public-relations firm, is that smoking can represent only one thing: the infant's pleasure in sucking. Freud, himself a smoker, noted the oral pleasure in the action. Psychiatrist A. A. Brill called smoking tobacco a pacifier for grownups. Other psychiatrists suggest it is a safety valve for autoerotic impulses. Social Research, in its study of cigarette smoking already cited, found that oral gratification plays a prominent role in explaining why so many people continue smoking cigarettes. In its probing of hidden reasons it found that the mere fact of handling a cigarette in the fingers is satisfying and like all rituals gives some sense of well being. It permits the hand to do something familiar and well organized. Getting to the oral aspect, the investigators concluded: "Smoking provides stimulation of the mouth that is repeated continually. It is this kind of deep-seated satisfaction that makes smoking persist even while many smokers sigh that 'they don't know why' they continue smoking." It added that since smoking is oral indulgence it is partly interchangeable with other oral satisfactions so that when a person "swears off" if only temporarily the swearing off is more tolerable if he takes up gum chewing. All this, of course, suggests the possibility to merchandisers of showing smokers engaged, with obvious satisfaction, in lip or finger manipulation of cigarettes. In 1956 a University of Illinois professor, Dr. Maury Massler (College of Dentistry), told an Oklahoma convention of dentists that a man who enjoys puffing on a big fat cigar is merely indulging in an adult version of thumb sucking. (Cigarette smokers, he said, are doing the same perhaps to a lesser extent.) However, he took" the matter calmly. He said it is a method of relieving the inner tensions that build up. But he did make one interesting distinction: the man who puffs on his cigar is sucking his thumb while the man who chews vigorously on his stogie is a nail biter. As for gum chewing, a psychologist for a market research firm notes that America is a nation of gum chewers and concludes from this that America is really a nation of frustrated breast feeders. Another study, by Weiss and Geller, indicates that gum chewing is closely tied to the relief of tension, whatever the deeper implications. This agency got into gum chewing because its client, a major gum company, was dissatisfied with the conventional explanations as to why so many people seem to find great satisfaction in gum chewing. The usual explanations the company had gotten for the appeal of gum chewing was that the chewing sweetened the breath, aided digestion, or freshened the mouth. Weiss and Geller was asked to take the lid off the conscious gum chewer's head and find what was "boiling subconsciously." In this exploration it worked with psychoanalysts and other depth experts. The conclusion was that gum chewing was deeply involved in assuaging anxiety, providing oral comfort, release from tension, and release of aggressive feelings. To test out this notion the agency and company worked up a situation for a coal-mining town in Pennsylvania where gum sales were at a very low point and frustration presumably was high. The theme of the campaign was "Frustration and subsequent release of the frustration by the act of chewing gum." A series of comic-strip ads was run in the local newspapers. The first showed a child unable to do a simple everyday task and overcoming his difficulty after an adult handed him a stick of gum. A second strip showed an adult conquering an aggravating workaday situation by gum chewing, in the same way. Sales increased at such a rate that the company expanded the campaign to fourteen other test areas.
Class and Caste in the Salesroom "We can sell these people refrigerators. They may not have room for them, and they will put them on the front porch. They will buy a big automobile and all the luxuries, but they never move up the scale." —Chicago ad executive, at a forum on lower-class buying habits.
When Lloyd Warner, of the University of Chicago, published his book Social Class in America in 1948 it created a respectful stir in academic circles; but in subsequent years it was to create an even greater stir in merchandising circles. In fact it came to be regarded as a milestone in the sociological approach to the consumer. The book became a manual by which merchandisers could forge appeals that would be particularly persuasive with the various social layers of the American population. The Journal of Marketing called Warner's definitions of the social classes in America "the most important step forward in market research in many years." His book created so much excitement among merchandisers because it dissected the motivations and desires of people by class levels. Burleigh Gardner in founding the M.R. firm of Social Research, Inc., took the Warner layers as his main guiding thesis and in fact retained Warner as an associate in the firm. Warner laid down his concept of a layered America as a society of six classes. These classes, he felt, were distinct, and in each class you got a uniformity of behavior that was fairly predictable. He defined his social classes not only in terms of wealth and power but in terms of people's consumption and sociability habits. This broader approach to differentiation has received support from other perceptive observers of American society. Russell Lynes, the Harper's editor and writer, in his famous dissection of upper brows, lower brows, and middle brows, used the tossed salad as a more reliable indicator of a person's status brow-wise than the size of his bank account. And David Riesman in his now classic The Lonely Crowd makes the point we are seeing the emergence of a new social system with criteria of status that were not considered in traditional systems of class structure. Warner's six classes shape up roughly as follows, in terms of typical constituents: 1. The upper upper—old-line aristocrats in a community. 2. The lower upper—the new rich. 3. The upper middle—professionals, executives, owners of some of the larger businesses in a community. 4. The lower middle—white-collar workers, tradesmen, a few skilled workers. 5. The upper lower—mostly skilled and semiskilled. 6. The lower lower—laborers and unassimilated foreign groups. From a merchandising standpoint the three top classes are the so-called "quality market" and constitute about 15 per cent of the total population. Another 20 per cent of the total population can be found in the "lower lower" class at the very bottom. It is the fourth and fifth classes that fascinate merchandisers because they constitute, together, about 65 per cent of the population in a typical community and make up a great concentration of the nation's purchasing power. Merchandisers have been particularly interested in the female of the species in this 65 per cent of the population. They call her Mrs. Middle Majority. Gardner calls her the "darling of the advertiser." (The female interests merchandisers more than the male breadwinner because it is the female that typically controls about 80 per cent of the family's purchasing decisions.) Happily for the merchandiser, Mrs. Middle Majority is simply delighted by many of the products geared to the American housewife, particularly products and appliances for the kitchen, which is the center of her world. Her kitchen, Warner found, is actually a lot nicer than an upper-class kitchen in terms of objects there. Warner says, "It sounds crazy, but it is true. . . . She is a wonderful market because she has all these beautiful objects just pushed in all around the place. When you go into her home you are often expected to go out and look at her kitchen and admire it." In American popular literature, advertising, and TV dramatizing the "typical American housewife" is a pert, alert gal, very wise and competent. This idealized American typical housewife that the symbol manipulators have created and Warner's real-life Mrs. Middle Majority bear little resemblance, at least in seeming emotional make-up. According to Burleigh Gardner, Mrs. Middle Majority has a fine moral sense of responsibility and builds her whole life around her home. On the other hand she lives in a narrow, limited world and is quite timid about the outside world. She has little interest in civic work or the arts, she tends to fall into accepted patterns of conformity readily and feels no need for originality. Lloyd Warner sums her up even more graphically by telling ad men: "This middle majority woman is the target you are supposed to hit," and goes on to explain that she lives in an extremely restricted world. She works harder than other women, her life has very narrow routines, she likes to deal only with familiar things and tends to view anything outside her narrow world as dangerous and threatening. He adds: "Her imaginative resources are highly limited," and she finds it difficult to manipulate ideas in an original way and is not very adventurous. Finally, he points out: "And this is very important. Her emotional life is highly restricted and repressed, spontaneity is very low, she has a strong moral code that presses in on her most of the time, and she feels a deep sense of guilt when she deviates from it." For these women the safe world is there in the home. If you put these women out in the outer world, it is quite frightening to them. "That," he said, "is what soap opera is all about. . . . and fundamentally it is always true of an ad. You can get anxiety in response to an ad because it does have that threatening aspect. These women fear anything to do with uncontrolled impulse and emotional life where the sexuality theme gets too high." Some ads, he continued, are poison to these women for that reason. Pierre Martineau, who is also strongly influenced by the Warner line of analysis, contends that the United States lower middle class, especially the Protestant portion of it, is the most moral part of our society. He pointed out you don't see much divorce at this level; the divorces come from the top and bottom of the class structure. He, too, stressed that people at this level unconsciously reject any illustrations with a bed-roomy air. Professor Smith in his book on motivation research told of an ad campaign that ran head on into this rather prim morality (prim by other class standards). A company producing a perfume wanted to introduce a new fragrance to be called Naomi for the mass market. The ad men in one of their brain-storm sessions got the idea of illustrating Naomi, to which they wanted to give a sensual South Sea Island suggestion, with one of Gauguin's famous drawings of South Sea Island girls. They thoughtfully studied the Gauguin. The girls were unquestionably seductive by upper-class standards. Some of the more cautious ad men worried about the wisdom of using the drawing since the girls were natives and their breasts were bare. The decision was made to make a study in depth with representative lower middle class women who would comprise the main market for the fragrance. When the women's feelings about Gauguin's gals were sought, the probers got an earful. The women saw these South Sea Island beauties with breasts exposed as anything but glamorous. They called them dirty, heavy, sweaty creatures, maybe Africans. These women were shown another picture (Naomi II), which was of a young American blonde girl holding flowers. That produced many emotionally warm, admiring responses. Needless to say Gauguin's masterpiece was scuttled; and the picture used showed a blonde, pale-skinned girl with "loveshaped lips and inscrutable eyes" against a South Seas backdrop. Mrs. Middle Majority, in the Warner analysis, is a relatively troubled lady who feels a bit isolated and lonely, and when she turns to television, she looks to a brighter world than the one she knows in real life. Social Research pointed out that television producers and sponsors who properly understood her deep-felt needs would be paid off with her loyalty when it came to fan mail and product sales. Social Research stated that she is motivated by "a sense of isolation from the rest of the world that frightens and baffles her; a feeling of loneliness as she goes about her solitary housework. Therefore her daytime viewing must bring her the warmth of a pleasing personality." Could that account for the fact that the daytime people on TV tend to exude cheerfulness (Arthur Godfrey, Garry Moore, Bert Parks, etc.)? The social scientists who studied the Godfrey program for Weiss and Geller pointed out that Godfrey "wraps up the major dreams of the mid-twentieth century. . . . By selling us on our own wishes he becomes the most powerful salesman of our times." An awareness of the particular tastes of the middle majority was revealed inadvertently by a spokesman for the Ford Motor Company when he was quizzed after Ford canceled its plans to present Noel Coward's "Present Laughter" on TV even though Coward's previous shows had received excellent reviews and good ratings. The trouble, he indicated, was that the Coward show was caviar to many of the people who were the best prospects for Ford cars. He blurted: "I loved Coward's shows, but if we only had people like me to buy Ford cars I'd be out of a job!" The tastes and buying habits of the lower-lower-class people, in contrast to the middle-majority people just above them, tend to be more relaxed, carefree, uninhibited. As Warner says, "These people tend to get more fun out of life. They aren't beset by the rat race most of us are in." At one briefing of ad men Warner explained: "They can give more easily." You can see the reason for this, he said, in "the way they train their kids, the permissive breast feeding, the bowel and bladder training. In other words, training gets into the organism." They may share the genial contempt of middle-class morality that was voiced by Liza Doolittle's reprobate father in Shaw's Pygmalion. Although people in the lower social brackets do not seem to strive particularly hard to get into a higher social layer, they can be persuaded, merchandisers have learned, to move up their consumption. The research director of the nation's largest ad agency for example made the point in 1956 that in prewar America upperincome people took a great many more baths than the next income people and so on down the scale. Since then, he pointed out, incomes have risen considerably all along the scale, and merely persuading the lower-income people to take as many baths as upperincome people did in 1940 would produce "terrific increases in markets for soap Layer-conscious depth merchandisers began in the early fifties giving considerable detailed thought to the precise consuming preferences that went with the various class levels. Social Research was quick to notice that living rooms decorated to suit the discriminating upper-class taste of ad executives often repelled mass-market viewers. Social Research put a class label on many touches that are seen in homes. The solid color carpet, it found, was strictly upper class; Venetian blinds were upper middle class; and the knickknack shelf tended to go with lower-class homes. Louis Cheskin, of the Color Research Institute, in pursuing the sociology of color, found that people with many emotional outlets tend to favor muted and neutral colors. These people with many emotional outlets correlate with people at the higher educational and income levels. In contrast the poor and relatively unschooled people strongly favor brilliant colors, such as orange and red. In the slums, he found, the closer colors are to the rainbow, the more enticing they are. The meanings of color and decorative touches at different social levels led Mr. Cheskin into a paradoxical position when he was asked to design two boxes for a candy manufacturer, both twopounders. One of the boxes was to contain candy to sell for $1.95 to the lower-class clientele, and the other box of candy was to sell for $3.50 to upper-class buyers. Mr. Cheskin gave the problem his deepest thinking and came up with the conclusion that the box for the expensive $3.50 candy could be bought for nine cents while the box for the cheaper $1.95 candy would have to cost fifty cents! The reasoning behind this odd conclusion was that the outer package means a lot more to the person giving the $1.95 box, who is not used to buying candy. And the girl receiving the candy is likely to cherish the gift and perhaps wish to save the box, if it is nice, as a jewelry box. On the other hand the person buying the $3.50 candy gives little thought to the box. It will be thrown away. The candy is what counts. The final box he prescribed for the $3.50 candy was just a pasteboard one, colored a delicate pink with a magenta ribbon. The cheaper candy got a metal box vermilion in color with a bright blue ribbon. Our social status shows up, the depth probers found, even in our preference for drinks. Quite a few years ago one of the leading breweries in Chicago, in fact the most popular, fell into difficulty. Its beer had always appealed to the men in the taverns, the kind who liked to toss off a few after work. As the brewers fought to maintain the commanding position they had achieved for their beer, they set out to give their beer prestige by showing that the best people drank it. In their billboard and other advertising they began showing people in dinner jackets drinking the beer, men in fox-hunting garb sipping it after a strenuous hunt, and they even had a famed pianist, in white tie and tails, tell how he always drank it to relax after a concert. The campaign may have made the beer a little more respectable in "discriminating" circles, but it had one unforeseen result. The men in the taverns suddenly found that the beer didn't taste right any more. They began sneering at it as "onion juice" and complaining that it wasn't fit to wash their mouths out with. The beer fell from first to nineteenth place on the market. Social Research looked into this situation while it was making its comprehensive depth study of beer drinking for The Chicago Tribune. It sought to find why people drink beer, who drinks beer, and what beer means to people at different social levels. The investigators concluded, after exploring the subconscious attitudes of several hundred beer drinkers, that beer drinking is an informal, predominantly middle-class custom and that when you try to show the best people, all dressed up, drinking beer the message that really comes across is "How silly can you get?" Social Research recommended that brewers, in their ads, show hearty, active "all American" men—rather than cultivated-looking ones—drinking beer, and if girls are shown, they should be more sweet than sexy. It called beer a relaxing, equalitarian type of drink for informal occasions and settings, and said that if people in the upper or upper middle class drink beer it is usually to show they want to be a good fellow. Interestingly, the institutional ads of the brewers' foundation began in the mid-fifties stressing the shirtsleeved approach; and it became accepted in the modeling profession that the only girls who had much chance of winning Miss Rheingold titles were those with a sweet, girl-next-door look.
Babes in Consumerland "You have to have a carton that attracts and hypnotizes this woman, like waving a flashlight in front of her eyes."—Gerald Stahl, executive vice-president. Package Designers Council.
For some years the DuPont company has been surveying the shopping habits of American housewives in the new jungle called the supermarket. The results have been so exciting in the opportunities they suggest to marketers that hundreds of leading food companies and ad agencies have requested copies. Husbands fretting over the high cost of feeding their families would find the results exciting, too, in a dismaying sort of way. The opening statement of the 1954 report exclaimed enthusiastically in display type: "Today's shopper in the supermarket is more and more guided by the buying philosophy—'If somehow your product catches my eye—and for some reason it looks especially good—I WANT IT.'" That conclusion was based on studying the shopping habits of 5,338 shoppers in 250 supermarkets. DuPont's investigators have found that the mid-century shopper doesn't bother to make a list or at least not a complete list of what she needs to buy. In fact less than one shopper in five has a complete list, but still the wives always manage to fill up their carts, often while exclaiming, according to DuPont: "I certainly never intended to get that much!" Why doesn't the wife need a list? DuPont gives this blunt answer: "Because seven out of ten of today's purchases are decided in the store, where the shoppers buy on impulse!!!" The proportion of impulse buying of groceries has grown almost every year for nearly two decades, and DuPont notes that this rise in impulse buying has coincided with the growth in self-service shopping. Other studies show that in groceries where there are clerks to wait on customers there is about half as much impulse buying as in self-service stores. If a wife has to face a clerk she thinks out beforehand what she needs. The impulse buying of pungent-odored food such as cheese, eye-appealing items like pickles or fruit salad in glass jars, and candy, cake, snack spreads, and other "self-gratifying items" runs even higher than average, 90 per cent of all purchases. Other investigators have in general confirmed the DuPont figures on impulse buying. The Folding Paper Box Association found that twothirds of all purchases were completely or partially on impulse; the Progressive Grocer put the impulse figure about where DuPont does: seven out of ten purchases. And Printer's Ink observed with barely restrained happiness that the shopping list had become obsolescent if not obsolete. One motivational analyst who became curious to know why there had been such a great rise in impulse buying at supermarkets was James Vicary. He suspected that some special psychology must be going on inside the women as they shopped in supermarkets. His suspicion was that perhaps they underwent an increase in tension when confronted with so many possibilities that they were forced into making quick purchases. He set out to find out if this was true. The best way to detect what was going on inside the shopper was a galvanometer or lie detector. That obviously was impractical. The next best thing was to use a hidden motion-picture camera and record the eye-blink rate of the women as they shopped. How fast a person blinks his eyes is a pretty good index of his state of inner tension. The average person, according to Mr. Vicary, normally blinks his eyes about thirty-two times a minute. If he is tense he blinks them more frequently, under extreme tension up to fifty or sixty times a minute. If he is notably relaxed on the other hand his eye-blink rate may drop to a subnormal twenty or less. Mr. Vicary set up his cameras and started following the ladies as they entered the store. The results were startling, even to him. Their eye-blink rate, instead of going up to indicate mounting tension, went down and down, to a very subnormal fourteen blinks a minute. The ladies fell into what Mr. Vicary calls a hypnoidal trance, a light kind of trance that, he explains, is the first stage of hypnosis. Mr. Vicary has decided that the main cause of the trance is that the supermarket is packed with products that in former years would have been items that only kings and queens could afford, and here in this fairyland they were available. Mr. Vicary theorizes: "Just in this generation, anyone can be a king or queen and go through these stores where the products say 'buy me, buy me.' " Interestingly many of these women were in such a trance that they passed by neighbors and old friends without noticing or greeting them. Some had a sort of glassy stare. They were so entranced as they wandered about the store plucking things off shelves at random that they would bump into boxes without seeing them and did not even notice the camera although in some cases their face would pass within a foot and a half of the spot where the hidden camera was clicking away. When the wives had filled their carts (or satisfied themselves) and started toward the check-out counter their eye-blink rate would start rising up to a slightly subnormal twenty-five blinks per minute. Then, at the sound of the cash-register bell and the voice of the clerk asking for money, the eye-blink rate would race up past normal to a high abnormal of forty-five blinks per minute. In many cases it turned out that the women did not have enough money to pay for all the nice things they had put in the cart. In this beckoning field of impulse buying psychologists have teamed up with merchandising experts to persuade the wife to buy products she may not particularly need or even want until she happens to see it invitingly presented. The 60,000,000 American women who go into supermarkets every week are getting "help" in their purchases and "splurchases" from psychologists and psychiatrists hired by the food merchandisers. On May 18, 1956, The New York Times printed a remarkable interview with a young man named Gerald Stahl, executive vice-president of the Package Designers Council. He stated: "Psychiatrists say that people have so much to choose from that they want help—they will like the package that hypnotizes them into picking it." He urged food packers to put more hypnosis into their package designing, so that the housewife will stick out her hand for it rather than one of many rivals. Mr. Stahl has found that it takes the average woman exactly twenty seconds to cover an aisle in a supermarket if she doesn't tarry; so a good package design should hypnotize the woman like a flashlight waved in front of her eyes. Some colors such as red and yellow are helpful in creating hypnotic efforts. Just putting the name and maker of the product on the box is old-fashioned and, he says, has absolutely no effect on the mid-century woman. She can't read anything, really, until she has picked the box up in her hands. To get the woman to reach and get the package in her hands designers, he explained, are now using "symbols that have a dreamlike quality." To cite examples of dreamlike quality, he mentioned the mouthwatering frosted cakes that decorate the packages of cake mixes, sizzling steaks, mushrooms frying in butter. The idea is to sell the sizzle rather than the meat. Such illustrations make the woman's imagination leap ahead to the end product. By 1956 package designers had even produced a box that, when the entranced shopper picked it up and began fingering it, would give a soft sales talk, or stress the brand name. The talk is on a strip that starts broadcasting when a shopper's finger rubs it. The package people understandably believe that it is the package that makes or breaks the impulse sale, and some more objective experts agree. A buyer for a food chain told of his experience in watching women shopping. The typical shopper, he found, "picks up one, two, or three items, she puts them back on the shelf, then she picks up one and keeps it. I ask her why she keeps it. She says, 'I like the package.' " (This was a buyer for Bohack.) The Color Research Institute, which specializes in designing deep-impact packages, won't even send a package out into the field for testing until it has been given ocular or eye-movement tests to show how the consumer's eye will travel over the package on the shelf. This is a gauge of the attention-holding power of the design. According to some psychologists a woman's eye is most quickly attracted to items wrapped in red; a man's eye to items wrapped in blue. Students in this field have speculated on the woman's high vulnerability to red. One package designer, Frank Gianninoto, has developed an interesting theory. He has concluded that a majority of women shoppers leave their glasses at home or will never wear glasses in public if they can avoid it so that a package to be successful must stand out "from the blurred confusion." Other merchandisers, I should add, have concluded that in the supermarket jungle the all-important fact in impulse buying is shelf position. Many sharp merchandisers see to it that their "splurge" items (on which their profit margin is highest) tend to be at eye level. Most of the modern supermarkets, by the mid-fifties, were laid out in a carefully calculated manner so that the high-profit impulse items would be most surely noticed. In many stores they were on the first or only aisle the shopper could enter. Among the best tempters, apparently, are those items in glass jars where the contents can be seen, or where the food is actually out in the open, to be savored and seen. Offering free pickles and cubes of cheese on toothpicks has proved to be reliable as a sales booster. An Indiana supermarket operator nationally recognized for his advanced psychological techniques told me he once sold a half ton of cheese in a few hours, just by getting an enormous half-ton wheel of cheese and inviting customers to nibble slivers and cut off their own chunks for purchase. They could have their chunk free if they could guess its weight within an ounce. The mere massiveness of the cheese, he believes, was a powerful influence in making the sales. "People like to see a lot of merchandise," he explained. "When there are only three or four cans of an item on a shelf, they just won't move." People don't want the last package. A test by The Progressive Grocer showed that customers buy 22 per cent more if the shelves are kept full. The urge to conformity, it seems, is profound with many of us. People also are stimulated to be impulsive, evidently, if they are offered a little extravagance. A California supermarket found that putting a pat of butter on top of each of its better steaks caused sales to soar 15 per cent. The Jewel Tea Company set up "splurge counters" in many of its supermarkets after it was found that women in a just-for-the-heck-of-it mood will spend just as freely on food delicacies as they will on a new hat. The Coca-Cola Company made the interesting discovery that customers in a supermarket who paused to refresh themselves at a soft-drink counter tended to spend substantially more. The Coke people put this to work in a test where they offered customers free drinks. About 80 per cent accepted the Cokes and spent on an average $2.44 more than the store's average customer had been spending. Apparently the only people who are more prone to splurging when they get in a supermarket than housewives are the wives' husbands and children. Supermarket operators are pretty well agreed that men are easy marks for all sorts of impulse items and cite cases they've seen of husbands who are sent to the store for a loaf of bread and depart with both their arms loaded with their favorite snack items. Shrewd supermarket operators have put the superior impulsiveness of little children to work in promoting sales. The Indiana supermarket operator I mentioned has a dozen little wire carts that small children can push about the store while their mothers are shopping with big carts. People think these tiny carts are very cute; and the operator thinks they are very profitable. The small children go zipping up and down the aisles imitating their mothers in impulse buying, only more so. They reach out, hypnotically I assume, and grab boxes of cookies, candies, dog food, and everything else that delights or interests them. Complications arise, of course, when mother and child come out of their trances and together reach the check-out counter. The store operator related thus what happens: "There is usually a wrangle when the mother sees all the things the child has in his basket and she tries to make him take the stuff back. The child will take back items he doesn't particularly care about such as coffee but will usually bawl and kick before surrendering cookies, candy, ice cream, or soft drinks, so they usually stay for the family." All these factors of sly persuasion may account for the fact that whereas in past years the average American family spent about 23 per cent of its income for food it now spends nearly 30 per cent. The Indiana operator I mentioned estimates that any supermarket shopper could, by showing a little old-fashioned thoughtfulness and preplanning, save 25 per cent easily on her family's food costs. The exploration of impulse buying on a systematic basis began spreading in the mid-fifties to many other kinds of products not available in food stores. Liquor stores began organizing racks so that women could browse and pick up impulse items. This idea was pioneered on New York's own "ad alley," Madison Avenue, and spread to other parts of the country. Department and specialty stores started having counters simply labeled, "Why Not?" to promote the carefree, impulsive purchasing of new items most people had never tried before. One store merchandiser was quoted as saying: "Just give people an excuse to try what you are selling and you'll make an extra sale." One of the most daring ventures into impulse selling was that launched by a Chicago insurance firm, Childs and Wood, which speculated that perhaps even insurance could be sold as an impulse item. So it set up a counter to sell insurance to passers-by at the department store Carson Pirie Scott and Company. Women who happened to be in that area, perhaps to shop for fur coats or a bridal gown, could buy insurance (life, automobile, household, fire, theft, jewelry, hospital) from an assortment of firms. The experiment was successful and instituted on a permanent basis. Auto, household, and fire insurance were reported to be the most popular impulse items. Social scientists at the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan made studies of the way people make their decisions to buy relatively expensive durable items such as TV sets, refrigerators, washing machines, items that are usually postponable. It concluded: "We did not find that all or most purchases of large household goods are made after careful consideration or deliberation . . . that much planning went into the purchasing . . . nor much seeking of information. About a quarter of these purchases of large household goods were found to lack practically all features of careful deliberation." In a study that was made on the purchasing of homes in New London, Connecticut, investigators were amazed that even with this, the most important purchase a family is likely to make in the year if not the decade, the shopping was lethargic and casual. On an average the people surveyed looked at less than a half-dozen houses before making a decision; 10 per cent of the home buyers looked at only one house before deciding; 19 per cent looked at only two houses before choosing one of them. Dr. Warren Bilkey, of the University of Connecticut, and one of the nation's authorities on consumer behavior, systematically followed a large (sixty-three) group of families for more than a year as they wrestled with various major purchasing decisions. He learned that he could chart after each visit the intensity of two opposing factors, "desire" and "resistance." When one finally overwhelmed the other, the decision, pro or con, was made. He found that these people making major decisions, unlike the ladies in the supermarket, did build up a state of tension within themselves. The longer they pondered the decision, the higher the tension. He found that very often the people became so upset by the indecision that they often threw up their hands and decided to make the purchase just to find relief from their state of tension
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