This book is an attempt to explore a strange and rather exotic new area of modern life. It is about the way many of us are being influenced and manipulated—far more than we realize—in the patterns of our everyday lives. Large-scale efforts are being made, often with impressive success, to channel our unthinking habits, our purchasing decisions, and our thought processes by the use of insights gleaned from psychiatry and the social sciences. Typically these efforts take place beneath our level of awareness; so that the appeals which move us are often, in a sense, "hidden." Some of the manipulating being attempted is simply amusing. Some of it is disquieting, particularly when viewed as a portent of what may be ahead on a more intensive and effective scale for us all. Co-operative scientists have come along providentially to furnish some awesome tools. The use of mass psychoanalysis to guide campaigns of persuasion has become the basis of a multimillion-dollar industry. Professional persuaders have seized upon it in their groping for more effective ways to sell us their wares—whether products, ideas, attitudes, candidates, goals, or states of mind. This depth approach to influencing our behavior is being used in many fields and is employing a variety of ingenious techniques. It is being used most extensively to affect our daily acts of consumption. The sale to us of billions of dollars' worth of United States products is being significantly affected, if not revolutionized, by this approach, which is still only barely out of its infancy. Two thirds of America's hundred largest advertisers have geared campaigns to this depth approach by using strategies inspired by what marketers call "motivation analysis." Meanwhile, many of the nation's leading public-relations experts have been indoctrinating themselves in the lore of psychiatry and the social sciences in order to increase their skill at "engineering" our consent to their propositions. Fund raisers are turning to the depth approach to wring more money from us. A considerable and growing number of our industrial concerns (including some of the largest) are seeking to sift and mold the behavior of their personnel—particularly their own executives—by using psychiatric and psychological techniques. Finally, this depth approach is showing up nationally in the professional politicians' intensive use of symbol manipulation and reiteration on the voter, who more and more is treated like Pavlov's conditioned dog. The efforts of the persuaders to probe our everyday habits for hidden meanings are often interesting purely for the flashes of revelation they offer us of ourselves. We are frequently revealed, in their findings, as comical actors in a genial if twitchy Thurberian world. The findings of the depth probers provide startling explanations for many of our daily habits and perversities. It seems that our subconscious can be pretty wild and unruly. What the probers are looking for, of course, are the whys of our behavior, so that they can more effectively manipulate our habits and choices in their favor. This has led them to probe why we are afraid of banks; why we love those big fat cars; why we really buy homes; why men smoke cigars; why the kind of car we draw reveals the brand of gasoline we will buy; why housewives typically fall into a hypnoidal trance when they get into a supermarket; why men are drawn into auto showrooms by convertibles but end up buying sedans; why junior loves cereal that pops, snaps, and crackles. We move from the genial world of James Thurber into the chilling world of George Orwell and his Big Brother, however, as we explore some of the extreme attempts at probing and manipulating now going on. Certain of the probers, for example, are systematically feeling out our hidden weaknesses and frailties in the hope that they can more efficiently influence our behavior. At one of the largest advertising agencies in America psychologists on the staff are probing sample humans in an attempt to find how to identify, and beam messages to, people of high anxiety, body consciousness, hostility, passiveness, and so on. A Chicago advertising agency has been studying the housewife's menstrual cycle and its psychological concomitants in order to find the appeals that will be more effective in selling her certain food products. Seemingly, in the probing and manipulating nothing is immune or sacred. The same Chicago ad agency has used psychiatric probing techniques on little girls. Public-relations experts are advising churchmen how they can become more effective manipulators of their congregations. In some cases these persuaders even choose our friends for us, as at a large "community of tomorrow" in Florida. Friends are furnished along with the linen by the management in offering the homes for sale. Everything comes in one big, glossy package. Somber examples of the new persuaders in action are appearing not only in merchandising but in politics and industrial relations. The national chairman of a political party indicated his merchandising approach to the election of 1956 by talking of his candidates as products to sell. In many industrial concerns now the administrative personnel are psychoanalyzed, and their futures all charted, by trained outside experts. And then there is the trade school in California that boasts to employers that it socially engineers its graduates so that they are, to use the phrase of an admiring trade journal, "custom-built men" guaranteed to have the right attitudes from the employer's standpoint. What the persuaders are trying to do in many cases was well summed up by one of their leaders, the president of the Public Relations Society of America, when he said in an address to members: "The stuff with which we work is the fabric of men's minds." In many of their attempts to work over the fabric of our minds the professional persuaders are receiving direct help and guidance from respected social scientists. Several social-science professors at Columbia University, for example, took part in a seminar at the university attended by dozens of New York publicrelations experts. In the seminar one professor, in a sort of chalk talk, showed these manipulators precisely the types of mental manipulation they could attempt with most likelihood of success. All this probing and manipulation has its constructive and its amusing aspects; but also, I think it fair to say, it has seriously antihumanistic implications. Much of it seems to represent regress rather than progress for man in his long struggle to become a rational and self-guiding being. Something new, in fact, appears to be entering the pattern of American life with the growing power of our persuaders. In the imagery of print, film, and air wave the typical American citizen is commonly depicted as an uncommonly shrewd person. He or she is dramatized as a thoughtful voter, rugged individualist, and, above all, as a careful, hardheaded consumer of the wondrous products of American enterprise. He is, in short, the flowering of twentieth-century progress and enlightenment. Most of us like to fit ourselves into this picture, and some of us surely are justified in doing so. The men and women who hold up these glowing images, particularly the professional persuaders, typically do so, however, with tongue in cheek. The way these persuaders—who often refer to themselves good-naturedly as "symbol manipulators"—see us in the quiet of their interoffice memos, trade journals, and shop talk is frequently far less flattering, if more interesting. Typically they see us as bundles of daydreams, misty hidden yearnings, guilt complexes, irrational emotional blockages. We are image lovers given to impulsive and compulsive acts. We annoy them with our seemingly senseless quirks, but we please them with our growing docility in responding to their manipulation of symbols that stir us to action. They have found the supporting evidence for this view persuasive enough to encourage them to turn to depth channels on a large scale in their efforts to influence our behavior. The symbol manipulators and their research advisers have developed their depth views of us by sitting at the feet of psychiatrists and social scientists (particularly psychologists and sociologists) who have been hiring themselves out as "practical" consultants or setting up their own research firms. Gone are the days when these scientists confined themselves to classifying manic depressives, fitting round pegs in round holes, or studying the artifacts and mating habits of Solomon Islanders. These new experts, with training of varying thoroughness, typically refer to themselves as "motivation analysts" or "motivation researchers." The head of a Chicago research firm that conducts psychoanalytically oriented studies for merchandisers, Louis Cheskin, sums up what he is doing in these candid terms: "Motivation research is the type of research that seeks to learn what motivates people in making choices. It employs techniques designed to reach the unconscious or subconscious mind because preferences generally are determined by factors of which the individual is not conscious. . . . Actually in the buying situation the consumer generally acts emotionally and compulsively, unconsciously reacting to the images and designs which in the subconscious are associated with the product." Mr. Cheskin's clients include many of America's leading producers of consumer goods. These motivational analysts, in working with the symbol manipulators, are adding depth to the selling of ideas and products. They are learning, for example, to offer us considerably more than the actual item involved. A Milwaukee advertising executive commented to colleagues in print on the fact that women will pay two dollars and a half for skin cream but no more than twenty-five cents for a cake of soap. Why? Soap, he explained, only promises to make them clean. The cream promises to make them beautiful. (Soaps have now started promising beauty as well as cleanness.) This executive added, "The women are buying a promise." Then he went on to say: "The cosmetic manufacturers are not selling lanolin, they are selling hope. . . . We no longer buy oranges, we buy vitality. We do not buy just an auto, we buy prestige." The reason why I mention merchandisers more frequently than the other types of persuader in this exploration is that they have more billions of dollars immediately at stake and so have been pouring more effort into pioneering the depth approach. But the others—including publicists, fund raisers, politicians, and industrial personnel experts—are getting into the field rapidly, and others with anything to promote will presumably follow. Since our concern here is with the breed of persuaders known in the trade as the "depth boys," much of the book is devoted to describing their subterranean operations. For that reason I should add the obvious: a great many advertising men, publicists, fund raisers, personnel experts, and political leaders, in fact numerically a majority, still do a straightforward job and accept us as rational citizens (whether we are or not). They fill an important and constructive role in our society. Advertising, for example, not only plays a vital role in promoting our economic growth but is a colorful, diverting aspect of American life; and many of the creations of ad men are tasteful, honest works of artistry. As for the new operators in depth, some of them try for good reason to pursue their operations quietly. I frequently came up against a wall in trying to get direct information from companies known to be deeply involved in depth probing. In two cases in which officials of such companies had been candid with me they later called and confessed they had been talking out of turn. They asked me not to identify them or their companies or products, and I have respected their requests for anonymity. Others, particularly from the research organizations, were so frank and detailed about their findings and operations that while I admired their candor I at times wondered if they had become insensitive to some of the antihumanistic implications of what they were doing. Some were so cooperative in providing me with remarkable case material and explanations that I now find it embarrassing to try to relate in cold print some of what they told me. However, I shall do so and hope they will not be too offended. In justice perhaps I should add that the trade journals of the persuaders occasionally publish soulsearching commentaries on some of the manipulative practices of colleagues. The motivational analyst and symbol manipulator pooling their talents, and with millions of dollars at their disposal, make a fascinating and at times disturbing team. Results of their maneuvers indicate they are still quite a way from being infallible. Many of them are quick to admit their techniques are still not precise. But startling beginnings are being made. These depth manipulators are, in their operations beneath the surface of conscious life, starting to acquire a power of persuasion that is becoming a matter of justifiable public scrutiny and concern. It is hoped this book may contribute to the process of public scrutiny.
The Trouble with People "In very few instances do people really know what they want, even when they say they do."—Advertising Age.
The trend in marketing to the depth approach was largely impelled by difficulties the marketers kept encountering in trying to persuade people to buy all the products their companies could fabricate. One particularly disturbing difficulty was the apparent perversity and unpredictability of the prospective customers. Marketers repeatedly suffered grievous losses in campaigns that by all the rules of logic should have succeeded. The marketers felt increasing dissatisfaction with their conventional methods for sizing up a market. These methods were known in the trade most commonly as "nose-counting." Under nose-counting, statisticminded interviewers would determine the percentage of married women, ages twenty-one to thirty-five, in Omaha, Nebraska, who said they wanted, and would buy, a three-legged stove if it cost no more than $249. The trouble with this approach, they found, was that what people might tell interviewers had only a remote bearing on how the people would actually behave in a buying situation when confronted with a three-legged stove or almost anything else. Gradually many perceptive marketers began becoming suspicious of three basic assumptions they had made, in their efforts to be logical, concerning the predictable behavior of human beings, especially customers. First, they decided, you can't assume that people know what they want. A major ketchup maker kept getting complaints about its bottle, so it made a survey. Most of the people interviewed said they would prefer another type the company was considering. When the company went to the expense of bringing out this other bottle in test markets, it was overwhelmingly rejected in favor of the old bottle, even by people who had favored it in interviews. In a survey of male beer drinkers the men expressed a strong preference for a "nice dry beer." When they were then asked how a beer could be dry they were stumped. Those who were able to offer any answers at all revealed widely different notions. Second, some marketers concluded, you can't assume people will tell you the truth about their wants and dislikes even if they know them. What you are more likely to get, they decided, are answers that will protect the informants in their steadfast endeavor to appear to the world as really sensible, intelligent, rational beings. One management consulting firm has concluded that accepting the word of a customer as to what he wants is "the least reliable index the manufacturer can have on what he ought to do to win customers." The Advertising Research Foundation took magazines to task for asking people what magazines they read frequently, and naively accepting the answers given as valid. The people, it contended, are likely to admit reading only magazines of high prestige value. One investigator suggests that if you seriously accepted people's answers you might assume that Atlantic Monthly is America's most-read magazine and some of the confession magazines the least read; whereas actually the confession magazines in question may have twenty times the readership of Atlantic Monthly. A brewery making two kinds of beer made a survey to find what kind of people drank each beer, as a guide to its merchandisers. It asked people known to favor its general brand name: "Do you drink the light or the regular?" To its astonishment it found people reporting they drank light over the regular by better than three to one. The truth of the matter was that for years the company, to meet consumer demand, had been brewing nine times as much regular beer as light beer. It decided that in asking people that question it was in effect asking: Do you drink the kind preferred by people of refinement and discriminating taste, or do you just drink the regular stuff? The Color Research Institute conducted an experiment after it began suspecting the reliability of people's comments. Women while waiting for a lecture had the choice of two waiting rooms. One was a functional modern chamber with gentle tones. It had been carefully designed for eye ease and to promote a relaxed feeling. The other room was a traditional room filled with period furniture, oriental rugs, expensive-looking wallpaper. It was found that virtually all the women instinctively went into the Swedish modern room to do their waiting. Only when every chair was filled did the women start to overflow into the more ornate room. After the lecture the ladies were asked, "Which of those two rooms do you like the better?" They looked thoughtfully at the two rooms, and then 84 per cent of them said the period room was the nicer room. In another case the institute asked a group of people if they borrowed money from personal-loan companies. Every person said no. Some of them virtually shouted their answer. The truth was that all those selected for interviewing were people who were listed in the records of a local loan company as borrowers. Psychologists at the McCann-Erickson advertising agency asked a sampling of people why they didn't buy one client's product— kippered herring. The main reason the people gave under direct questioning was that they just didn't like the taste of kippers. More persistent probing however uncovered the fact that 40 per cent of the people who said they didn't like the taste of kippers had never, in their entire lives, tasted kippers! Finally, the marketers decided it is dangerous to assume that people can be trusted to behave in a rational way. The Color Research Institute had what it felt was a startling encounter with this proneness to irrationality when it tested package designs for a new detergent. It was testing to see if a woman is influenced more than she realizes, in her opinion of a product, by the package. It gave the housewives three different boxes filled with detergent and requested that they try them all out for a few weeks and then report which was the best for delicate clothing. The wives were given the impression that they had been given three different types of detergent. Actually only the boxes were different; the detergents inside were identical. The design for one was predominantly yellow. The yellow in the test was used because some merchandisers were convinced that yellow was the best color for store shelves because it has very strong visual impact. Another box was predominantly blue without any yellow in it; and the third box was blue but with splashes of yellow. In their reports the housewives stated that the detergent in the brilliant yellow box was too strong; it even allegedly ruined their clothes in some cases. As for the detergent in the predominantly blue box, the wives complained in many cases that it left their clothes dirty looking. The third box, which contained what the institute felt was an ideal balance of colors in the package design, overwhelmingly received favorable responses. The women used such words as "fine" and "wonderful" in describing the effect the detergent in that box had on their clothes. A department store that had become skeptical of the rationality of its customers tried an experiment. One of its slowest-moving items was priced at fourteen cents. It changed the price to two for twenty-nine cents. Sales promptly increased 30 per cent when the item was offered at this "bargain" price. One of the most costly blunders in the history of merchandising was the Chrysler Corporation's assumption that people buy automobiles on a rational basis. It decided back in the early 1950's, on the basis of direct consumer surveys and the reasoning of its eminently sensible and engineering-minded executives, that people wanted a car in tune with the times, a car without frills that would be sturdy and easy to park. With streets and parking spaces becoming increasingly packed with cars the times seemed obviously to call for a more compact car, a car with a shorter wheel base. In 1953 Tide, a leading trade journal of marketing-management men, asked, "Is This the End of the 'Big Fat Car'?" and told of Chrysler's decision that such was the case, and its planned style revolution for all its makes. The company's styling director was quoted as saying, "The people no longer want to buy a big fat car. The public wants a slim car." The article also mentioned that Chrysler had recently mailed stockholders a pamphlet entitled "Leadership in Engines," an area where it felt it was supreme. What happened? Chrysler's share of the auto market dropped from 26 per cent in 1952 to about 13 per cent in 1954. The company was desperate. It looked more deeply into what sells cars and completely overhauled its styling. The result is shown in another article in Tide two years later. It reported: Chrysler, going downhill in 1954, makes a marketing comeback. Whole line suffered mostly from styling. . . . One look at this year's products tells the story. People want long, low cars today. So some of the new cars by Chrysler are as much as 16 inches longer and 3 inches lower. Plymouth is now the longest car in the low-price field. The Dodge is the first car with 3-color exteriors. The happy result (for Chrysler) was that its share of the market bounced back very substantially in 1955. Tide called it one of the most remarkable turnabouts in marketing history. Our toothbrushing habits offer a prime example of behavior that is at least seemingly irrational. If you ask people why they brush their teeth, most of them will tell you that their main purpose in doing so is to get particles of food out of the crevices of their teeth and thus combat decay germs. Tooth-paste producers accepted this explanation for many years and based their sales campaigns on it. Advertising men who made a study of our toothbrushing habits, however, came upon a puzzle. They found that most people brushed their teeth once a day, and at the most pointless moment possible in the entire twenty-four-hour day, from the dental hygiene standpoint. That was in the morning just before breakfast, after decay germs had had a whole night to work on their teeth from particles left from supper—and just before the consumption of breakfast would bring in a new host of bacteria. One advertising agency puzzling over this seemingly irrational behavior made a more thorough study of the reasons why we brush our teeth. It concluded that we are motivated by differing reasons, based on our personality. Some people, particularly hypochondriacs, are really concerned about those germs and are swayed by a "decay" appeal. (The hammering in recent years on all the wondrous antidecay pastes has swollen the size of this group.) Another group, mostly extroverts, brush their teeth in the hope they will be bright and shiny. The majority of people, however, brush their teeth primarily for a reason that has little to do with dental hygiene or even their teeth. They put the brush and paste into their mouth in order to give their mouth a thorough purging, to get rid of the bad taste that has accumulated overnight. In short, they are looking for a taste sensation, as a part of their ritual of starting the day afresh. At least two of the major paste merchandisers began hitting hard at this appeal in 1955 and 1956. One promised a "clean mouth taste" and the other proclaimed that its paste "cleans your breath while it guards your teeth." (More recently one of these products got itself a new ad agency, as often happens, and the new mentor began appealing to the extrovert in us through the slogan, "You'll wonder where the yellow went. . . ." Good results are reported, which simply proves there is always more than one way to catch a customer.) Business Week, in commenting on the often seemingly irrational behavior of consumers, said: "People don't seem to be reasonable." However, it made this further point: "But people do act with purpose. Their behavior makes sense if you think about it in terms of its goals, of people's needs and their motives. That seems to be the secret of understanding or manipulating people." Another aspect of people's behavior that troubled marketers is that they are too easily satisfied with what they already have. Most of the marketers' factories have ever-larger warehouses full of goods to move. By the mid-fifties American goods producers were achieving a fabulous output, and the output with automation promised to keep getting more fabulous. Since 1940, gross national product had soared more than 400 per cent; and man-hour productivity was doubling about every quarter century. One way of viewing this rich, full life the people were achieving was the glowing one that everyone could enjoy an ever-higher standard of living. That view was thoroughly publicized. But there was another way of viewing it: that we must consume more and more, whether we want to or not, for the good of our economy. In late 1955 the church publication Christianity and Crisis commented grimly on America's "ever-expanding economy." It observed that the pressure was on Americans to "consume, consume and consume, whether we need or even desire the products almost forced upon us." It added that the dynamics of an ever-expanding system require that we be "persuaded to consume to meet the needs of the productive process." With growing productivity and prosperity the average American had five times as many discretionary dollars as he had in 1940. (These are dollars we have after we take care of our basic, immediate needs.) But discretionary dollars are also deferrable dollars—we can defer spending them if we are satisfied with what we already have. This hazard posed by so many optional dollars in our pockets was summed up quite eloquently in the October 24, 1955, issue of Advertising Age by an executive of the publishing firm of McGraw-Hill. He stated: As a nation we are already so rich that consumers are under no pressure of immediate necessity to buy a very large share—perhaps as much as 40%—of what is produced, and the pressure will get progressively less in the years ahead. But if consumers exercise their option not to buy a large share of what is produced, a great depression is not far behind. The view virtually all goods producers choose to take when confronted with a threat of overproduction was voiced in what might seem a comical way to nonnatives of his state by Senator Alexander Wiley, of Wisconsin, sometimes known as "the cheese Senator." In the mid-fifties when America had such a glut of cheese that cheese was even being stored in old World War II vessels, thanks largely to the great outpouring of the product from his section, he said: "Our problem is not too much cheese produced, but rather too little cheese consumed." In the early fifties, with overproduction threatening on many fronts, a fundamental shift occurred in the preoccupation of people in executive suites. Production now became a relatively secondary concern. Executive planners changed from being maker-minded to market-minded. The president of the National Sales Executives in fact exclaimed: "Capitalism is dead—consumerism is king!" There was talk at management conventions of "the marketing revolution" and considerable pondering on how best to "stimulate" consumer buying, by creating wants in people that they still didn't realize existed. An auto maker talked of increasing his car sales by selling to "those who do not yet know what they need." This urgently felt need to "stimulate" people brought new power, glory, and prosperity to the professional stimulators or persuaders of American industry, particularly the skilled grayflanneled suiters of New York's Madison Avenue, known as "ad alley." In 1955, $9,000,000,000 was poured into United States advertising, up a billion from 1954 and up three billion from 1950. For each man, woman, and child in America in 1955 roughly $53 was spent to persuade him or her to buy products of industry. Some cosmetics firms began spending a fourth of all their income from sales on advertising and promotion. A cosmetics tycoon, probably mythical, was quoted as saying: "We don't sell lipstick, we buy customers." One big and intimidating obstacle confronting the stimulators was the fact that most Americans already possessed perfectly usable stoves, cars, TV sets, clothes, etc. Waiting for those products to wear out or become physically obsolete before urging replacements upon the owner was intolerable. More and more, ad men began talking of the desirability of creating "psychological obsolescence." At a conference of gas-range people the conferees were exhorted to emulate the more up-to-date car makers in this business of creating psychological obsolescence. They were reminded that auto merchandisers strive to make everyone ashamed to drive a car more than two or three years. The gas-range people were told bluntly by the director of American Color Trends: "Ladies and gentlemen, you know and I know that too many housekeepers have the attitude that 'any old piece of equipment will do so long as it works at all.'" He described the recent trend to change the color of many products and explained: "All of these trends have a definite bearing on what you can do to step up the obsolescence of gas appliances." By the mid-fifties merchandisers of many different products were being urged by psychological counselors to become "merchants of discontent." One ad executive exclaimed with fervor: "What makes this country great is the creation of wants and desires, the creation of dissatisfaction with the old and outmoded." A third major dilemma that was forcing marketers to search for more powerful tools of persuasion was the growing sameness of their products, with increased standardization. Too many people were complacently saying that the gasoline brands were "all the same" and equally good. Pierre Martineau, director of research at The Chicago Tribune, frankly asked a group of ad men: "What difference really is there between brands of gasoline, tires, cigarette tobacco, orange juice, milk, and what have you? . . . What is the advertising direction going to be when the differences become trivial or nonexistent?" How can you make a logical sales talk to a prospect to persuade him to swear by your brand when in truth the brands are essentially alike in physical characteristics? That was a real dilemma for ad men. Ad agency president David Ogilvy commented on this problem by stating: "I am astonished to find how many advertising men, even among the new generation, believe that women can be persuaded by logic and argument to buy one brand in preference to another, even when the two brands concerned are technically identical. . . . The greater the similarity between products, the less part reason really plays in brand selection. There really isn't any significant difference between the various brands of whisky or the various cigarettes or the various brands of beer. They are all about the same. And so are the cake mixes and the detergents and the automobiles." (This was not to imply, of course, that all brands of a product are the same. In some lines substantial differentiations exist. And it is also true that most companies strive mightily to develop product differences.) An annual conference of advertising-agency men heard an appeal for more "gifted artists" in persuasion to cope with this problem of the "rapidly diminishing product differences." Thus it was that for several compelling reasons marketers began groping for new and more penetrating persuasion techniques, for deeper approaches, better hooks. They needed customer-catching techniques that would be powerful and still not get them in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission, which has been taking a sternly righteous and disapproving attitude toward overextravagant claims and promises, such as had often characterized some of the ad copy of yesteryear. The search for more persuasive ways to sell was summed up colorfully by a car salesman in Atlanta who said of his problem in selling cars in a then-slack market: "If buyer shopping gets any worse, we'll have to hit the customer over the head and get him to sign while he's unconscious." His use of the word unconscious, as we shall see, was unwittingly prophetic.
Self-Images for Everybody "People have a terrific loyalty to their brand of cigarette and yet in tests cannot tell it from other brands. They are smoking an image completely."—Research director, New York advertising agency (name withheld upon request).
The subconscious salesmen, in groping for better hooks, deployed in several directions. One direction they began exploring in a really major way was the molding of images; the creation of distinctive, highly appealing "personalities" for products that were essentially undistinctive. The aim was to build images that would arise before our "inner eye" at the mere mention of the product's name, once we had been properly conditioned. Thus they would trigger our action in a competitive sales situation. A compelling need for such images was felt by merchandisers, as I've indicated, because of the growing standardization of, and complexity of, ingredients in most products, which resulted in products that defied reasonable discrimination. Three hundred smokers loyal to one of three major brands of cigarette were given the three brands to smoke (with labels taped) and asked to identify their own favorite brand. Result: 35 per cent were able to do so; and under the law of averages pure guesses would have accounted for a third of the correct identifications. In short, something less than 2 per cent could be credited with any real power of discrimination. Somewhat comparable results were obtained when merchandisers tried "blindfold" tests on beer and whisky drinkers. If people couldn't discriminate reasonably, marketers reasoned, they should be assisted in discriminating unreasonably, in some easy, warm, emotional way. Pierre Martineau, a high apostle of image building, analyzed the problem with startling candor in talking to Philadelphia advertising men in early 1956. Advertising, he admonished them, is no longer just a neat little discussion of your product's merits. "Basically, what you are trying to do," he advised, "is create an illogical situation. You want the customer to fall in love with your product and have a profound brand loyalty when actually content may be very similar to hundreds of competing brands." To create this illogical loyalty, he said, the first task "is one of creating some differentiation in the mind—some individualization for the product which has a long list of competitors very close to it in content." While a competitor can often successfully imitate your product as to ingredients and claims of quality, a vivid personality image is much more difficult to imitate and so can be a more trustworthy sales factor. A fairly simple, straightforward use of nonrational symbolism in image building was Louis Cheskin's transformation of the Good Luck margarine package. The package originally contained several elements, including a picture of the margarine. In one corner was a little four-leaf clover. Mr. Cheskin found from his depth probing that the four-leaf clover was "a wonderful image" so in three successive changes he brought it into more and more prominence until finally he had a simple foil package completely dominated by a large three-dimensional four-leaf clover. Mr. Cheskin reports that sales rose with each change. David Ogilvy's advertising firm devised a highly successful nonrational symbol for an obscure brand of shirt—a mustached man with a black eye patch. Soon the public knew that any man wearing a black eye patch had to be wearing a Hathaway shirt. To prove his faith in the power of imagery Mr. Ogilvy began running expensive color full-page ads in magazines such as the New Yorker that did not contain a single word of text, not even the word Hathaway. All that was shown was a picture of a man. He stood by an observatory telescope taking notes. He had a mustache. He wore a bright plaid shirt. And he had a black eye patch. Hathaway shirt sales thrived. Procter and Gamble's image builders have charted a living personification for each of their cakes of soap and cans of shortening. Ivory soap is personalized as mother and daughter on a sort of pedestal of purity. They exude simple wholesome-ness. In contrast the image charted for Camay soap is of a glamorous, sophisticated woman. As for the company's two shortenings, Crisco and Golden Fluffo, differentiation is achieved by depicting Crisco in the image of a no-nonsense professional dietitian and Golden Fluffo as a warm, robust, motherly character. The image builders began giving a great deal of thought to the types of images that would have the strongest appeal to the greatest number of people. An eye patch might sell shirts to sophisticates, but it didn't have an emotional tug, and the image builders reasoned that the emotional tug could be a real plus factor in mass merchandising. The Jewel food stores chain of Chicago, in its search for an appealing "personality" that would give it an edge over competitors, came up from its depth probing with one promising answer: It decided the chain should, in its image, take on the traits "we like in our friends." Those were spelled out as generosity, courtesy, cleanliness, patience, sincerity, honesty, sympathy, and good-naturedness. But wouldn't it be even better, merchandisers reasoned, if they could build into their products the same traits that we recognize in ourselves! Studies of narcissism indicated that nothing appeals more to people than themselves; so why not help people buy a projection of themselves? That way the images would preselect their audiences, select out of a consuming public people with personalities having an affinity for the image. By building in traits known to be widely dispersed among the consuming public the image builders reasoned that they could spark love affairs by the millions. The sale of self-images soon was expediting the movement of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of merchandise to consumers, particularly gasoline, cigarettes, and automobiles. And the image builders were offering some surprising evidence of the extent to which American consumers were becoming self-image buyers. A chief of research for a major advertising agency was showing me many dozens of drawings people had made of cars when they were asked by his investigators to "draw a car." He said casually, "You can just about predict from the way a person draws a car the brand of gasoline he will buy." I expressed astonishment and said I thought people bought gasoline because of the dealer's location or because they liked him or because of the supposed quality of his gasoline. He agreed those all had some bearing, but not as much as we assume, and cited a study showing that where there were four dealers at an intersection and one dealer changed his brand his business would suddenly go up or down as much as 30 per cent as a result of the change in image. This man said his staff had classified the drawings as to the kind of personality they revealed in the drawer and then had checked the findings against the kind of gasoline the drawer consistently bought. They found a startling correlation between the way a person draws a car and the gasoline image that will attract him. He explained: "In buying a gasoline you get played back to you who you are. Each gasoline has built up an image or personality. Each helps a buyer answer the question 'Who am I?' Your aim is to find the people who have an affinity for your gasoline." He showed me a series of car drawings made by people who consistently buy the particular brand his agency handles. The agency has deliberately sought to give its gasoline an image of bigness, authority. The cars drawn by users of the gasoline clearly showed a tendency to be long, streamlined, big. And he said that an analysis of the personal characteristics of these users showed they tended to be either local successes in their community (merchants, doctors, lawyers, etc.) or else were people frustrated in yearnings for bigness. Then he showed me another series of drawings of cars. These tended to be done not in any grand style but with loving detail. They were all done by people who prefer brand B gasoline, which has built up an image of being a friendly gasoline. Its image reminds people of outdoors, small towns, warm colors. Even its TV show presents an image of folksiness. The people who buy this gasoline, my informant said, are the chatty type who like to get out of the car and talk with the station attendant while the car is being serviced. A third series of drawings was like Rube Goldberg cartoons, flamboyant. The car might not run but it had an aerial and a host of other gadgets on it. Typically the artist thinks of his car as a wonderful plaything. The gasoline he consistently buys has sought to build an image of itself, on TV and elsewhere, as an exciting, dramatic, flamboyant gasoline. My informant explained: "By understanding these personalities we are not only in a better position to maintain our present customers, but to know where to make gains from our competitors. Of these five brands I can say, 'Where am I going to get increases? Which is the gasoline most vulnerable to us?' Actually the brand B buyer is most vulnerable to us because, although he is folksy, he wants bigness. By wanning up our image of brand A we can appeal to this brand B buyer." A little later this research director got to talking about the images of cigarettes. Roughly 65 per cent of all smokers are absolutely loyal, and 20 per cent more relatively loyal, to one brand of cigarette. Even though in tests they cannot identify that cigarette, they will walk down five flights of stairs to buy their brand rather than accept a substitute. He cited an experiment his chief psychologist performed in the early fifties. This psychologist chose a group of eighty smokers known to have a strong loyalty for some brand of cigarette and gave these eighty smokers the Rorschach inkblot test. Later the psychologist, who had not been advised what brand each favored, went through the Rorschach results and from the emotional make-ups indicated named with only a few misses the brand of cigarette that each of the eighty smokers had to favor! This agency has built a comprehensive personality profile of the typical smoker of each major brand of cigarette. This material is confidential. However, the type of material in it resembles to a large degree profiles assembled by other investigators. Social Research, for instance, profiled several of the leading cigarettes for The Chicago Tribune. It found, for example, that Camels were regarded as masculine, and strong, and for the ordinary working people. Lucky Strikes had a similar reputation—strong and for men, too; for ordinary people, but less for the workingman. Chesterfields were thought to be for both men and women and on the mild side and not bound by class. This study was made shortly before the cigarette industry was thrown into its tizzy by the now famous cancer scare, which in the words of one spokesman of the advertising agencies put the "cigarette industry in one hell of a fix." Some of the old leaders who had built themselves images as rough, tough cigarettes found themselves losing customers. There was turmoil as the cigarettes groped for more reassuring images. Retailers were flooded with new brands all claiming to be safer than others. As a result of the cancer scare virtually every major tobacco marketer brought out a filter-tip brand, and in four years filter-tip sales rose 1800 per cent. By 1957 the filter tips, too, were, by skilled image building, developing distinctive personalities, the old brands were developing more "gentle" personalities, and cigarette sales as a whole began trending upward again, starting in 1955. Perhaps the most spectacularly successful image building has been done by the automobile industry. The automobile has become far more than a mere means of conveyance. In the words of Pierre Martineau, "The automobile tells who we are and what we think we want to be. . . . It is a portable symbol of our personality and our position . . . the clearest way we have of telling people of our exact position. [In buying a car] you are saying in a sense, 'I am looking for the car that expresses who I am.'" Buick, in fact, suggested this in its ad when it offered this promise to the public: "It makes you feel like the man you are." One of the most remarkable documents I came across in my investigation was a pamphlet called "Automobiles, What They Mean to Americans." It reports on a study made for The Chicago Tribune by Social Research, Inc. The major merchandising journals have discussed its findings in great detail. The study was conducted by a team of social scientists who used a variety of probing techniques on 352 car owners in the Chicago area. The investigators found that only a minority of the population, mostly men in the lower class, have any real interest in the technical aspect of cars. And the major finding that stands out in the survey is that automobiles are heavily laden with social meanings and are highly esteemed because they "provide avenues for the expression . . . of the character, temperament and self concept of the owner and driver. . . . The buying process is an interaction between the personality of the car and the personality of the individual." The report indicated the personality of one sort of owner of various major makes of car by presenting a series of circles. Each circle contained words written in to indicate the dominant traits of this owner and their relative importance. Here are some of the owner profiles that were indicated: Cadillac: "Proud . . . flashy . . . salesman . . . middle-aged . . . social mobility . . . good income level. . . responsible." Ford: "Speed demon . . . good income . . . young man . . . proud . . . upper lower class . . . drives to work . . . practical." DeSoto: "Conservative . . . responsible . . . matron . . . upper middle class . . . good income . . . proud." Studebaker: "Neat look . . . sophisticated . . . intellectual. . . mobile. . . professional. . . young man." Pontiac: "Stable class outlook . . . middle of road . . . married woman . . . mother . . . sincere . . . conventional. . . busy." Mercury: "Salesman . . . assertive . . . mobile . . . modern . . . substantial. . . lower middle . . . father . . . quick." The report stated that "people buy the cars they think are especially appropriate for them" and then made these points: People who want to seem conservative, to tell the world they are very serious and responsible tend to buy Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Packard, four-door sedans, dark colors, minimum accessories and gadgets. People who want to seem sociable and up-to-date but in a middle-of-the-road sort of way tend to favor Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Chrysler, two-door coupes, light colors, moderate accessories and gadgets. People who want to express some showiness, to assert their individualism and modernity, tend to buy Ford, Mercury, Oldsmobile, Lincoln, hardtops, two tones, bright shades and hues, a range of extras, gadgets, fads. People who need to express unusual status or individual needs favor Cadillac (ostentation, high status), Studebaker, Hudson, Nash, Willys, convertibles (impulsiveness), very bright colors, red, yellow, white, latest gadgets and accessories. One of the interesting variations, under the ways to fulfill "wish for attention" through car ownership, is what the investigators call "conspicuous reserve." Those people want other people to know their status but at the same time want to express it modestly. Some may engage in deliberate downgrading. This is "a frequent technique of people who are secure in their high social position. They show their superiority by displaying indifference to status—by purposely buying less expensive cars than they might be expected. They love beat-up station wagons and old cars." Others who wish attention may try to do it with car images showing a sophisticated flair: foreign cars, the Nash Rambler, the new Studebaker. Burleigh Gardner told of a crisis that occurred among a group of four doctors who shared a suite on Chicago's swank Michigan Avenue when one of the colleagues began parking his slightly radical, attentiongetting car in front of the building. After conferring they told him the car didn't fit the image they were trying to build for themselves as carriage-trade medicos. One of the findings of the Social Research study was that DeSoto was thought of as appropriate to settled people, including middle-aged and retired ones. Dodge, while appropriate for mature, responsible people, had a chronological age somewhat younger than DeSoto. Shortly after this study was released the Chrysler Corporation began overhauling the images of all its cars. (The degree to which the company had been influenced by the report could not be specifically determined.) At any rate the entire line was given the "Forward Look" with more youthful and exciting appeal. The Social Research report said the Dodge owner wished to be known as a solid citizen. When Dodge was restyled for a more "forward look," its makers proclaimed that the solid citizen was in for some surprises. And Plymouth, when it launched its big comeback by a change of image, didn't use a "nuts and bolts" campaign. Instead, as Mr. Martineau points out, Plymouth's campaign was built on creating a "young in heart" theme appealing to the eternal sophomore in all of us. I asked Mr. Martineau if there had been any substantial changes in image personality of cars and cigarettes since he conducted his two studies and he replied: "Generally I would say that contrary to superficial impression, these product images change very slowly unless something radically different happens to the product or the advertising. I think Plymouth went very fast from a dull car to a rather exciting one. I think the image of Lucky Strike as a masculine cigarette is fading slowly. Naturally these images will change with time, but very generally these product personalities in the two studies . . . are relatively the same." Although cars have distinctive images carefully created for them, aimed at appealing to a certain type of buyer, auto merchandisers do not confine their search for customers to one personality group. That would be too restrictive to be tolerated by mass marketers. As the report states: "A car can sell itself to different people by presenting different facets of its personality. . . . Advertising is a multiplier of symbols. Like a prism it can present many different facets of the car's character so that many fundamentally different people see it as their car." When the image analysts know a few of the images we buy, they can project our behavior in other buying situations and fill in many of the gaps of our total personality configuration. I was chatting with two psychologists from Social Research and one of them said: "Now take the man who drives a Studebaker, smokes Old Golds, uses cream-based hair oil, an electric shaver, carries a Parker 51 fountain pen. Obviously he's a salesman, an active man, aggressive in face-to-face situations and wants to make a good impression. Probably he was quite a romantic type in his youth." And the other psychologist added: "Also, you'll find that he is wearing loud shorts."
So Ad Men Become Depth Men "The business man's hunt for sales boosters is leading him into a strange wilderness; the sub-conscious mind."—Wall Street Journal, page 1.
In searching for a deeper approach to their marketing problems American merchandisers began doing some serious wondering. They wondered why on earth customers act the way they do. Why do they buy or refuse to buy given products? In trying to get guidance from the psychological consultants they turned to, they found themselves trying to understand and explore the deep unconscious and subconscious factors that motivate people. In this they were searching not only for insights but also, to use one common phrase, "triggers of action." The triggers would be needed once the real motivations were diagnosed. They could get guidance on this matter of triggers from Clyde Miller's book The Process of Persuasion, where it was pointed out that astute persuaders always use word triggers and picture triggers to evoke desired responses. Once a response pattern is established in terms of persuasion, then you can persuade people in wholesale lots, because all of us, as Professor Miller pointed out, are "creatures of conditioned reflex." In his view the crux of all persuasion jobs, whether selling soft drinks or a political philosophy, is to develop these conditional reflexes by flashing on trigger words, symbols, or acts. An advertising columnist, Charles M. Sievert of the New York World-Telegram and Sun, commented on this up-to-date line of thinking by reporting that merchandisers were seeking ways to precondition the customer to buy their product by getting the product story "etched in his brain." Ad men in their zeal for their new-dimensional perspective began talking about the different levels of human consciousness. As they saw it there were three main levels of interest to them. The first level is the conscious, rational level, where people know what is going on, and are able to tell why. The second and lower level is called, variously, preconscious and subconscious but involves that area where a person may know in a vague way what is going on within his own feelings, sensations, and attitudes but would not be willing to tell why. This is the level of prejudices, assumptions, fears, emotional promptings and so on. Finally, the third level is where we not only are not aware of our true attitudes and feelings but would not discuss them if we could. Exploring our attitudes toward products at these second and third levels became known as the new science of motivational analysis or research, or just plain M.R. M.R. did not take root as a really serious movement until the late forties and early fifties. The actual first pioneer of M.R., if there is one, is obscure; but two different men have been actively competing for the title of "father" of the depth approach: Ernest Dichter, president of the Institute for Motivational Research, Inc., and Louis Cheskin, director of the Color Research Institute of America. Both are now claiming they were proposing depth-probing methods for merchandising back in the thirties. Dr. Dichter, for example, says: "It is now almost two decades since I first started using the words 'motivational research' and 'depth interviews.' Little did I realize they would become standard phrases and that many would claim to practice such research techniques." Meanwhile, Mr. Cheskin's staff is now advising people who inquire that Mr. Cheskin was conducting M.R. as far back as 1935 (also two decades ago), and his institute now cites in a leaflet ten different "firsts" to its credit. For example, it claims the institute, or C.R.I., was first "to apply psychoanalytic techniques to market research." In 1948 Mr. Cheskin published a paper in the Harvard Business Review called "Indirect Approach to Market Reactions," which is certainly a landmark in the movement's early striving for respectability. At least a decade before the appearance of these motivational students, however, ad agencies were groping for crevices into the human psyche. J. Walter Thompson, for example, consulted the famed behaviorist psychologist John B. Watson. Another of the early forerunners of the depth approach to merchandising was Professor Dale Houghton, of New York University. In the thirties he made a pioneer study of eighteen common human irritants such as dirty teeth, constipation, cough, and headache and the degree to which mention of these irritants flashed in people's minds pictures of specific products to relieve them. Basically however as a mass movement M.R. is a postwar phenomenon. One of the first real milestones of M.R. in printed form is the April, 1950, issue of the Journal of Marketing, published by the American Marketing Association. It carried four major articles dealing with the depth approach. And within a few months Printer's Ink, the merchandising journal, was carrying James Vicary's article explaining "How Psychiatric Methods Can be Applied to Market Research." The ad agencies continued to use conventional nose-counting research but increasingly began exploring the possibilities of M.R. Some die-hard ad men refused to have anything to do with M.R. and insisted they would rest their case with the public on a recitation of "product benefits." When one evangelist of M.R. talked to a meeting of Philadelphia ad men, he warned, "Some of you will be hard to change because literally I am pulling the rug out from the notion that logic and purpose direct all the things that you do." The research director of a major ad agency, a tense tweedy man, was explaining to me how he became an early enthusiast of the depth approach. I asked if anything in his personal background revealed a previous interest in psychology. He mentioned that his mother was a psychoanalyst and that he himself had once worked as an aide in an insane asylum! As early as 1951 Dr. Dichter was exhorting ad agencies to recognize themselves for what they actually were—"one of the most advanced laboratories in psychology." He said the successful ad agency "manipulates human motivations and desires and develops a need for goods with which the public has at one time been unfamiliar—perhaps even undesirous of purchasing." The following year Advertising Agency carried an ad man's statement that psychology not only holds promise for understanding people but "ultimately for controlling their behavior." With all this interest in manipulating the customer's subconscious, the old slogan "let the buyer beware" began taking on a new and more profound meaning. Four of the most respected journals read by advertising men and marketers (Advertising Age, Printer's Ink, Tide, Business Week) all began devoting more and more attention in their columns to M.R. (In the years between 1943 and 1954 Printer's Ink carried thirty-six articles on motivation research.) Some of the regular writers of Advertising Age who belonged to what was referred to as the "old school" even occasionally slipped into the new language of depth. James Woolf for example agreed that "while I do not go along all the way with what Dave Ogilvy has said [about brand images] I do think the image concept is a most important one. How do I want the public to feel, perhaps subconsciously, about my company and my brand is a question that should be examined carefully by every advertiser." Business Week in August, 1954, ran a three-part series on M.R., which it printed up in a booklet called "Business Week Reports to Executives on the New Science of Motivations." Sales Management ran a two-part series by Dr. Dichter in early 1955 on "What Are the REAL Reasons People Buy Today?" And in June, 1956, if there was still any doubt that M.R. was at least approaching respectability, it was dispelled when the eminently respectable and sophisticated business magazine Fortune devoted a cover article to M.R., describing it in predominantly respectful terms, with some soul-searching in its appraisal. As the excitement and interest in M.R. reached a crescendo in 1953 and 1954 the nonprofit Advertising Research Foundation named a special committee on M.R. under the chairmanship of Dr. Wallace Wulfeck, a psychologist and ad-agency researcher. It brought forth a series of publications for the guidance of ad men on this strange wilderness they were getting into. For example: A bibliography of books and articles they could read to brief themselves so they could talk more knowingly on the subject. A small book called The Language of Dynamic Psychology as Related to M.R. This gave the ad men a handy little guide to the tongue twisters that went with the new science: words like autism, catharsis, compensation, confabulation. A Directory of Organizations Which Conduct Motivation Research. It named eighty-two United States outfits that claimed they were qualified and ready to undertake depth research for clients. The price of this little manual: $25. A full-sized book called Motivation Research in Advertising and Marketing issued by the foundation and written by George Horsley Smith, Rutgers psychologist. Its jacket blurb promised it would "be of interest to all who wish to know about or wish to use the newest research techniques for a practical approach to the subtler aspects of human motivation." A Directory of Social Scientists Interested in Motivation Research. Contained names and facts about 150 available "social scientists," mainly on college campuses. Price of directory: $25. This recruitment of "whiskers," to use the word sometimes used by the ad men, was essential to all serious efforts in depth probing. Traditionally America's social scientists had concerned themselves with more esoteric or clinical matters. As the need to sell billions of dollars' worth of products became urgent, they were solicited and in increasing numbers formed an uneasy alliance with the merchandisers. Dr. Smith in his book on M.R. counseled the ad men that they would have to proceed delicately in dealing with men from the universities. Some might be impractical, naive about business problems, and might have grandiose notions about the amount of exactness needed in a simple little market study, or else scuttle their standards entirely in order to come up with a fast answer when demanded. Fortunately for the ad men the supply of social scientists to draw from had multiplied in profusion within the decade. There were for example now at least seven thousand accredited psychologists. At first the ad men had a hard time getting straight in their own mind the various types of social scientists. They were counseled that sociologists and anthropologists were concerned with people in groups whereas psychologists and psychiatrists were mainly concerned with what goes on in the mind of the individual. As the recruitment gained momentum, hundreds of social scientists gravitated into making depth studies for marketers. By 1955, for example, the McCann-Erickson advertising agency in New York had five psychologists manning a special motivation department, according to one count. The Reporter magazine carried a report on advertising agencies that concluded that many if not most of the agencies had been hiring M.R. experts. It added: "Agencies that do not have resident head-shrinkers are hastening to employ independent firms, run by psychologists. . . ." And a Rochester ad executive reported in a trade journal: "Social science today has an assessable cash value to American business." The "social scientists" who availed themselves of the new bonanza ranged, in the words of an Advertising Research Foundation official, from "buck-happy" researchers to very serious, competent social scientists, including some of the most respected in the nation. One of these was Burleigh Gardner, social anthropologist of Harvard and the University of Chicago and author of Human Relations in Industry. He helped set up his own consulting company, Social Research, Inc., and in 1953 addressed the American Marketing Association on putting social stereotypes to work in their advertising strategy. One of America's distinguished psychologists, Gardner Murphy (research director at the Menninger Foundation), lectured to a Chicago ad-agency staff during the same year on the topic: "Advertising Based on Human Needs and Attitudes." The following year this ad agency staged an even more unusual consultation. It rented a suite at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, installed TV sets, and then brought in eight social scientists from the Chicago area to spend a man-sized day (9 A.M. to 10:30 P.M.) watching TV commercials and giving their interpretations to agency men, who directed the talk into "specific areas of concern to advertisers." Meals were brought in on trays. (The experts included two psychoanalysts, a cultural anthropologist, a social psychologist, two sociologists, and two professors of social science.) The analysis these experts gave of the phenomenal success of Arthur Godfrey, then the idol of housewives, was of special interest. Here is the gist of their conclusions as revealed by the agency: "Psychologically Mr. Godfrey's morning program creates the illusion of the family structure. All the conflicts and complex situations of family life are taken out and what is left is an amiable, comfortable family scene—with one important omission. There is no mother in the Godfrey family. This gives the housewife-viewer the opportunity to fill that role. In her fantasy Godfrey comes into her home as an extra member of her family; and she fancies herself a specially invited member of his family. . . ." (This was before the spectacular off-stage schisms in Mr. Godfrey's happy little TV family.) Perhaps we might well pause, before proceeding to cases, to take a close-up look at some of the principal figures in this new world of depth probing. Certainly the most famed of these depth probers is Ernest Dichter, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Motivational Research. He is sometimes referred to as "Mr. Mass Motivations Himself." Dr. Dichter is jaunty, wears a bow tie, horn-rimmed glasses; is exuberant, balding. His standard fee for offering advice is $500 a day. For that $500 the client is apt to get an outpouring of impressive suggestions. His headquarters, which can be reached only by going up a rough winding road, are atop a mountain overlooking the Hudson River, near Croton-on-the-Hudson. It is a thirty-room field-stone mansion where you are apt to see children watching TV sets. The TV room has concealed screens behind which unseen observers sometimes crouch, and tape recorders are planted about to pick up the children's happy or scornful comments. Dr. Dichter has a "psycho-panel" of several hundred families in the area whose members have been carefully charted as to their emotional make-up. The institute knows precisely how secure, ambitious, realistic, and neurotic each member is (if he is); and thus by trying out various subtle advertising appeals on these indexed people the institute can purportedly tell what the response might be to a product geared, say, to the hypochondriac or social climber. The institute issues a monthly news magazine called Motivations, which is available to marketing people for $100 a year. Its fee for studies ranges from a few hundred dollars for a simple package test to $25,000 for a real run-down on a sales problem. The institute's gross in 1955, according to one report, ran to about $750,000. The doctor was born in Vienna, where he had experience as a lay analyst. A friend of mine in the marketing business recalls vividly hearing Dr. Dichter expounding his revolutionary approach to merchandising more than a decade ago when Dr. Dichter still spoke broken English. Dr. Dichter then illustrated his concept of depth selling to shoe people by stating: "To women, don't sell shoes—sell lovely feet!" By 1946 he had set up his own United States firm to conduct studies and by 1956 had conducted approximately five hundred. He lists on his staff more than twentyfive resident specialists, including psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists. Among his clients are or have been such blue-chip firms as General Foods, General Mills, Lever Brothers, American Airlines, Carnation Company. Some of the major advertising agencies such as Young and Rubicam have been calling on the institute, on an occasional basis; and many ad firms, particularly outside New York, have an annual contract with his institute. Dr. Dichter is vehement in his emphasis on the emotional factor in merchandising. He contends that any product not only must be good but must appeal to our feelings "deep in the psychological recesses of the mind." He tells companies that they've either got to sell emotional security or go under; and he contends that a major problem of any merchandiser is to discover the psychological hook. Of equal eminence if not fame in the depth-probing field is Burleigh Gardner, of Social Research, a professional, mop-haired, slow-speaking, amiable man. He contends that knowledge of class structure (as well as psychological make-up) is basic to sound merchandising. More than 60 per cent of his firm's work is in consumer-motivation studies, and his staff includes more than a dozen professional people of the various disciplines. Among his notable clients have been General Electric, General Mills, Jewel Tea Company, United Air Lines and The Chicago Tribune. His relations with the Tribune have amounted to an alliance. Some of his most celebrated studies have been made for the Tribune, whose research director, Pierre Martineau, is, with Ernest Dichter, probably the most enthusiastic missionary for M.R. in America. Martineau spends an average of $100,000 a year on sociological and psychological studies of consumers. Mr. Martineau became so intrigued by the possibilities of the depth approach that he went back to college (University of Chicago), although he was a middle-aged man, to study dynamic psychology, mostly at night. A friendly tweedy man, he now wears pink shirts because, as he says, "with a pink shirt I am trying to say something about myself." To make his points about mass behavior he draws, while talking, from such classic authorities as Korzybski in semantics, Whitehead in symbolic logic, Durkheim in sociology. One of the books on his desk when I saw him was Basic Principles of Psychoanalysis. In his latest communication to me he advised that he has several sociological studies underway at the moment, and added: "I have been formulating a systematic rationale on what modern advertising is trying to do as a fusion of many modes of symbolic communication. This brings in semantics, Cassirer's and Langer's epistemology of symbolic forms, the whole psychology of aesthetics, and symbolic behavior as it is construed by the anthropologist." That is a mouthful, but the studies he has conducted, through Burleigh Gardner's Social Research, to uncover the real dynamics of our purchasing of autos, cigarettes, and beer are eye openers. Another of the commanding figures of M.R. is Louis Cheskin, director of the Color Research Institute, also of the Chicago school of depth probers. A plump, intense, friendly man, he himself concedes that the name of his firm, Color Research Institute, is something of a blind. He began by doing color studies but soon found himself in much deeper water. However, he has kept the original title and explains why in these words: "Because of the name and cur work with color we can conduct our tests on the unconscious level." (He passes out booklets on "How to Color Tune Your Home" that make good devices for getting people talking in areas he wants to probe without their being aware of it.) Much of the institute's work is with testing the deep-down appeal of various package designs. He states: "We use the psychoanalytical approach," and adds that all his fifty field people are majors in psychology. He himself majored in psychology and did some graduate work in psychoanalysis. Among firms that have been using his package-testing services are Philip Morris, Procter and Gamble, General Foods, General Mills. Mr. Cheskin relates with a touch of pride that he and Dr. Dichter were both once hired by the same client for counsel. (Quality Bakers of America.) You can guess whose counsel prevailed. At issue was the effectiveness of a trade-mark image in the form of a little girl and of an ad campaign featuring her with movie stars. He relates: "Dr. Dichter's tests and our tests showed almost identical results on the movie stars. On the little girl, however, Dr. Dichter arrived at conclusions exactly opposite from ours. His depth interviews found, I was told, that consumers were not sufficiently familiar with the little girl as symbolizing the brand and that consumers did not believe the little girl was real. He recommended not using this little girl as a trade-mark. However, our tests, conducted on an unconscious level, showed that the little girl had the greatest number of favorable associations and fewer than two per cent unfavorable associations." He added that his view was adopted. The girl has been featured on all the company's packages. Perhaps the most genial and ingratiating of all the major figures operating independent depth-probing firms is James Vicary, of James M. Vicary Company in New York. His speciality is testing the connotation of words used in ads, titles, and trade-marks for deeper meanings. A social psychologist by training, he has worked for and with many different merchandisers. In appearance he is handsome; in fact, he might well have stepped out of a clothing ad. He's a member of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Applied Anthropology, and the American Marketing Association. Mr. Vicary is realistic about the amount of depth research needed to satisfy clients in marketing. He states: "The amount of information a client needs is that which will give him a favorable edge over his competition and make him feel secure in making his decisions." Among the ad agencies themselves, one that has been deeply involved in M.R. is Young and Rubicam, long one of the top agencies in volume. Y.&.R. has its own staff of social scientists and acknowledges that "we have successfully carried out" many motivational studies. Peter Langhoff, vice-president and director of research, explained that while M.R. has not replaced the more familiar types of research "we do feel that large contributions have been made and that motivation research may well become the most dynamic research tool at our command." McCann-Erickson is another of the great agencies very deeply involved in depth probing with its own staff. It has conducted more than ninety motivation studies. While most of the big ad agencies using M.R. have been notably reticent in revealing their specific projects, often with good reason, the small but bustling agency Weiss and Geller in Chicago has been frank and in fact openly proud of the depth probing it has been doing. (As we go to press the agency announces it is changing its name to Edward H. Weiss & Co.) Edward Weiss, the ebullient, intense president states: "We have found that when you admit the social scientists to your fraternity advertising becomes less of a gamble, more of an investment." He is not only practicing the depth approach but in love with it. Mr. Weiss has been serving on the board of directors of the Institute of Psychoanalysis in Chicago and the board of governors of the Menninger Foundation, famed mental-health clinic in Kansas. In the early 1950's Mr. Weiss began sending his entire creative staff "back to school" to study human behavior. At the "school" he has been conducting he had a series of lectures for the staff by respected social scientists such as Helen Ross, director of the Institute of Psychoanalysis, and Lloyd Warner, sociologist of the University of Chicago. Supplementing the lectures, he has been staging "creative workshops," in which staff members and psychiatrists engage in "psychological jam sessions" and roam over the emotional implications of specific products the agency is trying to merchandise. All people working on accounts at the agency must do regular reading by drawing books from the agency's special social-science and psychiatry library of more than 250 volumes. Included in the library are such works as Reich's Character Analysis, Reik's Masochism in Modern Man, Pavlov's Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes. The agency proudly announced early in 1957 that it had doubled its business in 1956 and had added 9 new accounts. One Weiss and Geller project of note was a psychiatric study of women's menstrual cycle and the emotional states which go with each stage of the cycle. The aim of the study, as I've indicated, was to learn how advertising appeals could be effectively pitched to women at various stages of their cycle. At one phase (high) the woman is likely to feel creative, sexually excitable, narcissistic, giving, loving, and outgoing. At a lower phase she is likely to need and want attention and affection given to her and have everything done for her. She'll be less outgoing, imaginative. Mr. Weiss explains: "It is obvious that your message must reach women on both of these levels if it is to achieve maximum effectiveness. For example, a single ad for a ready cake mix might appeal to one woman, then in her creative mood, to try something new; then at the same time appeal to another woman whose opposite emotional needs at the moment will be best satisfied by a cake mix promising 'no work, no fuss, no bother.' " Thus it was that merchandisers of many different products began developing a startling new view of their prospective customers. People's subsurface desires, needs, and drives were probed in order to find their points of vulnerability. Among the subsurface motivating factors found in the emotional profile of most of us, for example, were the drive to conformity, need for oral stimulation, yearning for security. Once these points of vulnerability were isolated, the psychological hooks were fashioned and baited and placed deep in the merchandising sea for unwary prospective customers.
. . . And the Hooks Are Lowered "Preliminary results seem to indicate that hypnosis helps in getting honest reasons for copy and brand preferences."— Advertising Research Foundation publication.
The techniques used for probing the subconscious were derived straight from the clinics of psychiatry, for the most part. As Dr. Smith advised marketers in his book on motivation research, "Different levels of depth are achieved by different approaches." I shall summarize here some of the more picturesque probing techniques put to use by the depth probers of merchandising. For this Dr. Smith's authoritative book has been a helpful guide. One of the most widely used techniques for probing in depth is what is called the "depth interview." When 1,100 of the nation's top management men met at a conference in New York in early 1956 (sponsored by the American Management Association), they were treated to a closed-circuit TV demonstration of an actual depth interview, with psychologists doing the probing. These interviews in depth are conducted very much as the psychiatrist conducts his interviews, except that there is no couch since a couch might make the chosen consumer-guinea pig wary. (Many of these consumers are induced to co-operate by the offer of free samples of merchandise. Others apparently just enjoy the attention of being "tested.") Typically the psychologist, psychiatrist, or other expert doing the probing tries, with casualness and patience, to get the consumer into a reverie of talking, to get him or her musing absent-mindedly about all the "pleasures, joys, enthusiasms, agonies, nightmares, deceptions, apprehensions the product recalls to them," to use Dr. Smith's phrase. Sometimes these depth interviews take place with whole groups of people because, oddly, the group reverie often is more productive. Many people tend to become less inhibited in a group than when they are alone with the interviewer in the same way that some people can only warm up at a party. As Dr. Smith explains it, "What happens is that one member makes a 'daring,' selfish, or even intolerant statement. This encourages someone else to speak in the same vein. Others tend to sense that the atmosphere has become more permissive and proceed accordingly. Thus we have been able to get highly personalized discussions of laxatives, cold tablets, deodorants, weight reducers, athlete's foot remedies, alcohol, and sanitary napkins. On the doorstep, or in the living room, a respondent might be reluctant to discuss his personal habits with a stranger." Much of the depth probing by marketers is done with what Professor Smith calls "disguised," or indirect, tests. The person tested is given the impression he is being tested for some other reason than the real one. Most are what psychiatrists call "projective" tests. In this the subject is presented with a drawing or other stimulus that doesn't quite make sense. Something must be filled in to complete the picture, and the subject is asked to do that. In doing this he projects a part of himself into the picture. One of the most widely used is the famed ink-blot test developed by the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach. Here a series of ten cards on which are printed bisymmetrical ink blots is used. They are ambiguous forms representing nothing whatever. The subject sees in the picture what he "needs" to see, and thus projects himself into it—his anxieties, inadequacies, conflicts. Many of the depth probers of merchandising however prefer the so-called TAT to the Rorschach. The TAT (Thematic Apperception Test) in its pure clinical form consists of a series of printed pictures chosen carefully from magazine illustrations, paintings, etc. Merchandisers, however, make adaptations by including pictures of their own, pictures they are thinking of using in ad copy. Again the subject is encouraged to project himself into the picture so that the probers can assess his impulses, anxieties, wishes, ill feelings. Suppose that in a series of pictures every single one shows some fellow in an embarrassing jam with some obvious figure of authority, such as boss, teacher, cop, parent. The testee is asked to tell a story about each picture. If in his stories the underling usually kills or beats up or humiliates the authority figure, we have one kind of character; if he builds a secure and comfortable dependence with the authority figure, we have quite a different story. A variation is the cartoon-type test where the testee can write in words in a "balloon" of the cartoon left empty. In the Rosenzweig picture-frustration test, for example, one of the figures says something that is obviously frustrating to the other person pictured, and the subject is invited to fill in the frustrated person's response. In one cited by Dr. Smith a man and woman were standing near their parked car as the man hunted through his pockets for his keys. The wife exclaimed, "This is a fine time to have lost the keys!" What would the man reply? One of the most startling of the picture tests used by market probers is the Szondi test. It is, as one research director of an advertising agency told me, "a real cutie." He has used it with whisky drinkers. The assumption of this test is that we're all a little crazy. The subject being probed is shown a series of cards bearing the portraits of people and is asked to pick out of them the one person he would most like to sit beside if he were on a train trip, and the person pictured that he would least like to sit beside. What he is not told is that the people shown on the cards are all thoroughly disordered. Each suffers severely from one of eight psychiatric disorders (is homosexual, sadist, epileptic, hysterical, catatonic, paranoid, depressed, or manic). It is assumed that we will sense a rapport with some more than others, and that in choosing a riding companion we will choose the person suffering acutely from the same emotional state that affects us mildly. The ad agency in question used this Szondi to try to find why people really drink whisky. Among its ad accounts are major whisky distillers. The agency was interested in diagnosing the personality of the heavy drinker for a thoroughly practical reason: heavy drinkers account for most of the whisky consumed (85 per cent of the volume is consumed by 22 per cent of the drinkers). In using the Szondi on heavy whisky drinkers, it tested the subjects before they had a drink and then tested them after they had had three drinks. The research director relates: "A change takes place that would make your hair stand on end!" Why does a man drink heavily? Here is his conclusion: "He wouldn't drink unless he got a change in personality that was satisfying to him." Some of these people undergo extremely surprising changes of personality. Meek men become belligerent, and so on. In other tests instruments are used to gauge the subjects' physiological responses as clues to their emotional states. The galvanometer, better known as lie detector, has been used by the Color Research Institute and The Chicago Tribune, to cite just two examples. A subject's physiological reactions are clocked while he sees images and hears sounds that may be used in trying to promote the sale of products. James Vicary, on the other hand, employs a special hidden camera that photographs the eye-blink rate of people under varying test situations. Our eye-blink rate is a clue to our emotional tension or lack of tension. Hypnosis also is being used in attempts to probe our subconscious to find why we buy or do not buy certain products. Ruthrauff and Ryan, the New York ad agency, has been employing a prominent hypnotist and a panel of psychologists and psychiatrists in its effect to get past our mental blockages, which are so bothersome to probers when we are conscious. The agency has found that hypnosis sharpens our power to recall. We can remember things that we couldn't otherwise remember. One place they've been using it is to try to find why we use the brand of product we do. An official cited the case of a man who under hypnosis told why he preferred a certain make of car and always bought it. This man, under hypnosis, was able to repeat word for word an ad he had read more than twenty years before that had struck his fancy. The agency is vague as to whether it is at this moment using a hypnotist. However, it does uphold the fact that the results to date have been "successful" to the degree that "we believe in years to come it may be employed as a method." One ad man I talked with revealed he had often speculated on the possibility of using TV announcers who had been trained in hypnotism, for deeper impact. The London Sunday Times front-paged a report in mid-1956 that certain United States advertisers were experimenting with "subthreshold effects" in seeking to insinuate sales messages to people past their conscious guard. It cited the case of a cinema in New Jersey that it said was flashing ice-cream ads onto the screen during regular showings of film. These flashes of message were split-second, too short for people in the audience to recognize them consciously but still long enough to be absorbed unconsciously. A result, it reported, was a clear and otherwise unaccountable boost in ice-cream sales. "Subthreshold effects, both in vision and sound, have been known for some years to experimental psychologists," the paper explained. It speculated that political indoctrination might be possible without the subject being conscious of any influence being brought to bear on him. When I queried Dr. Smith about the alleged ice-cream experiment he said he had not heard of it before and expressed skepticism. "There is evidence," he agreed, "that people can be affected by subthreshold stimulation; for example, a person can be conditioned to odors and sounds that are just outside the range of conscious awareness. However, this is rarely done in one instantaneous flash. . . ." When I questioned The London Sunday Times about its sources a spokesman reported: ". . . Although the facts we published are well attested, the authorities in question are unwilling to come any further into the open." Then he added: "There have, since publication of this article, been two programmes dealing with the subject on the B.B.C. Television, when experiments of a similar nature were tried on the viewing public; but although some success was claimed, it is generally agreed that such forms of advertising are more suitable for the cinema than for the slower television screen." Although each depth-probing group has its own favorite techniques, it may use many others when appropriate. The research director at Young and Rubicam, for example, states: "In research at Y.&R. we like to think we practice 'eclectism,' a frightening word which simply means 'selecting the best.' We are willing to experiment with depth interview, word association, sentence completion, Minnesota multiphasic personality inventories (which incidentally turn up things like inward and outward hostility) and even Rorschach and Thematic Apperception Tests. . . ." Our subconscious attitudes, of course, are far from being the whole explanation of our buying behavior, even the depth probers are quick to acknowledge. A sale may result from a mixture of factors. Dr. Wulfeck, of the Advertising Research Foundation, points out: "A consumer may have an internal hostility toward a product, and he may still buy it because of other facts such as advertising, distribution, dislike of competing brand, and so on." Even the advertising agencies most devoted to motivation research still carry on exhaustively the two mainstay kinds of research: market research (study of products, income levels, price, dealers, etc.) and copy research (the testing of specific layouts, phrases, etc.). There appears to be abundant evidence, however, that by 1957 a very large number of influential marketers were trying to use this new depth approach in some of their work. It was here to stay. When in the chapters that follow we enter into the wilderness of the depth manipulators by getting down to cases, you may occasionally find yourself exclaiming that only the maverick and extremist fringe of business would embrace such tactics. Here, briefly, is the evidence to the contrary, showing that the depth approach—despite the fact that it still has admitted limitations and fallibilities—has become a very substantial movement in American business. Some of the journals most respected by America's leading marketers had this to say during the mid-fifties: Printer's Ink: "Overwhelmingly a group of top-drawer advertising agencies and advertising executives, representing many of the nation's outstanding advertisers, favor the increased use of social sciences and social scientists in . . . campaign planning." (February 27, 1953) Tide: "Some of the nation's most respected companies have sunk millions of dollars into ad campaigns shaped at least in part by analysis of consumer motivations." (February 26, 1955) It reported making a study that found that 33 per cent of the top merchandisers on its "Leadership Panel" were getting M.R. surveys from their ad agencies. (October 22, 1955) Wall Street Journal: "More and more advertising and marketing strategists are adapting their sales campaigns to the psychologists' findings and advice." It said Goodyear Tire and Rubber, General Motors, General Foods, Jewel Tea, and Lever Brothers were only a few of the large outfits that had made M.R. studies. (September 13, 1954) Sales Management printed one estimate that $12,000,000 would be spent by marketers in 1956 for research in motivations. (February 1, 15, 1955) Advertising Age: "The big news in research during 1955 was M.R., its advocates and critics." (January 2, 1956) Fortune: "Of the $260,000,000,000 spent on consumer products last year (1955) a full half probably went to industries in which one or more major manufacturers had tried M.R." It is estimated that nearly a billion dollars in ad money spent in 1955 came from the big corporations that had used M.R. directly or through their ad agencies, and added that M.R. had been responsible for some major shifts in advertising appeals. (June, 1956)
R for Our Secret Distresses "One of the main jobs of the advertiser in this conflict between pleasure and guilt is not so much to sell the product as to give moral permission to have fun without guilt."—Ernest Dichter, President, Institute for Motivational Research, Inc.
In learning to sell to our subconscious, another area the merchandisers began to explore carefully was that involving our secret miseries and self-doubts. They concluded that the sale of billions of dollars' worth of products hinged to a large extent upon successfully manipulating or coping with our guilt feelings, fears, anxieties, hostilities, loneliness feelings, inner tensions. Our guilt feelings, in fact, proved to be one of the major problems the motivational analysts had to grapple with. Selfindulgent and easy-does-it products such as candy, soft drinks, cigarettes, liquor, cake mixes, and laborsaving appliances were starting to comprise a significant sector of the total American market; and Americans still were basically puritans at heart. Dr. Dichter brooded a great deal over this old-fashioned Puritanism of the average American who "uses all types of soft drinks, cigarettes, liquor, and what not. . . yet at the same time seems to be consistently worried about what he is doing." As a result of his brooding and probing Dr. Dichter arrived at this general conclusion: "Every time you sell a self-indulgent product. . . you have to assuage his [the buyer's] guilt feelings . . . offer absolution." The smoking of cigarettes for many people had become deeply enmeshed in such guilt feelings. The feelings had been generated in part presumably because the smoking habit had been sternly repressed in their childhood, and partly from their very genuine suspicion that cigarettes were coffin nails. The cancer scare of the early fifties was just the final prod that sent sales skidding. Motivational analysts studying the dilemma of cigarette makers felt that, despite the king-size fortunes the makers had been spending on advertising, their approach was psychologically incorrect and thus largely a waste of money. In fact, some felt the cigarette makers had fallen into a cycle of downright silliness in their sales talks. The makers were offering either sheer, dreamy happiness or else were trying to lure prospects with the message, "This won't kill you." Dr. Dichter took a scornful view of all the dreamy faces on cigarette ads and said flatly that they were wrong. He said smokers know they need to smoke most when they are under strain or working against time. And Pierre Martineau publicly declared the cigarette industry seemed to be trying to commit suicide with its negative, "this-won't-kill-you" approach. He observed: "I can't imagine a whisky advertiser in folksy, confidential tones telling people to 'guard against cirrhosis of the liver' or proclaiming that 'a ten-month study by leading medical authorities showed no cases of acute or chronic alcoholism.' " He became so disgusted that he hired Social Research, Inc., to make a thorough depth study of more than 350 smokers, using a battery of psychiatric and other probing techniques. Its report, "Cigarettes, Their Role and Function," received wide attention in merchandising circles. The investigators found about a dozen reasons why many people continue to smoke despite their guilt feelings about the habit: they smoke to relieve tension, to express sociability, as a reward for effort, as an aid to poise, as an aid in anticipating stress, as proof of daring, as proof of conformity, because it is an accustomed ritual, and so on. They found that many people like to have a cigarette in their fingers when they enter a roomful of people as it makes them seem less nervous, more sophisticated. Perhaps the major discovery of the investigators, however, is that Americans smoke to prove they are people of virile maturity. They see smoking as proving their vigor, potency. The report explains: "This is a psychological satisfaction sufficient to overcome health fears, to withstand moral censure, ridicule, or even the paradoxical weakness of 'enslavement to habit.'" Young people who smoke are trying to be older; and older people who smoke are trying to be younger! The true idealized smoker in this misty mythology is in the prime of life. Thus adolescents know they have to be "old enough to smoke"; and if they are caught smoking the adults may say, "Oh, the kids just want to be grown up." At the same time there is a faint color of disapproval of older women smoking. A psychologist at Social Research reports that one subject interviewed, in commenting on the smoking of an older woman acquaintance, exclaimed: "Oh, she just wants to be a young chicken." By 1957 cigarette advertising was becoming much more realistic from the motivational analyst's standpoint. Many ads were showing people while under pressure or smoking as a reward for tough jobs done. The characters in many of the ads were exuding virile maturity. And the "negative" medical claims were soft pedaled. Printer's Ink reported the good news that "the public is approaching the smoking-health problem in adult fashion." Meanwhile the producers of sugar-tooth items were confronting a public suffering from massive guilt feelings of another sort. The public was starting to shun anything conspicuously sweet and sugary. Not only were Americans suffering their persistent guilt feelings about indulging themselves, but they were made doubly uneasy by all the publicity about the dangers of overweight and tooth decay, both widely attributed to rich, sugary foods. (Consumption of confectionery items fell more than 10 per cent from 1950 to 1955.) Much of the publicity, it should be added, was generated by the makers of low-calorie products and dentifrices. (Consumption of low-calorie soft drinks multiplied three hundred times from 1952 to 1955!) The candy manufacturers were reported losing customers in a "sticky market." Producers of sugary foods such as candy raised more than half a million dollars to tell their "story." More important, perhaps, the candymakers hired Dr. Dichter. He chided them for not countering blow for blow and for meekly accepting the role "imposed on candy by propaganda as being bad for the teeth and fattening instead of being widely known as a delightful, delicious, wholesome, and nourishing food. . . ." He mapped for them a strategy for getting us back to candy-munching on a mass basis in spite of all the propaganda. The real deep-down problem they had to cope with, he advised, was this guilt feeling about self-indulgence. One of the tactics he urged the candymakers to adopt was to emphasize bite-size pieces within the present largesize candy packages. That, he advised, would appeal to us as selfindulgence in moderation. He confided: "You will be providing the excuse the consumer needs to buy a bar of candy—'After all, I don't have to eat all of it, just a bite and then put the rest away.' Seriously, we doubt whether the rest will be put away. However, the consumer will be left with the feeling that candy manufacturers understand him and the bite-size pieces will give him the 'permission' he needs to buy the candy because the manufacturers are going to 'permit' him to eat in moderation." An individual candymaking firm that hired its own psychological consultant came up with another strategy: reward yourself. The theory behind this strategy was that children get rewards of candy for being "a good little boy" or "good little girl." Thus at an early age candy becomes etched in young minds as a reward symbol. Armed with this insight the candy-maker began drumming out this message, "To make that tough job easier—you deserve M&M Candy." According to the company sales doubled in test areas. Another candymaker, Lofts, using both the bite-size and reward insights, began running full-page ads showing such slim, energetic people as Maria Tallchief, the very svelte prima ballerina. She was dancing and reaching for a tiny piece of candy at the same time, if you can conceive of such a thing. It quoted her as saying what a tough job she has keeping herself constantly in trim, which is why she loves Lofts Little Aristocrats for a quick pickup backstage without getting a "filled" feeling. Also she loves them at home after a hard night's work. She concludes: "I love dainty things." (Meanwhile Sugar Information, Inc., began running a series of fullpage ads urging people to try the "Scientific Nibble" of sweets to control appetite.) An interesting side light on the sweet-tooth situation is that cough drops began enjoying a boom while candy sales declined. Social Research looked into the situation as the cough-drop people happily sought ways to keep the boom going. While the cough drop ostensibly is a medicine, Social Research found that in reality it had become with most of its users a permissible form of candy, bought to satisfy their craving for sweets. Social Research therefore urged cough-drop makers to hit hard on the pleasant taste theme but do it adroitly. It counseled: "But sweetness should not be mentioned because it disturbs the users' rationalization—that they take them because they are preventive or therapeutic." Perhaps this thinking is why Pine Brothers' cough drops display the word "Honey" in large type in two different places on their package, and the Cocilana cough drops stress the words "Delightful Tasting." Another area where guilt feelings on a large scale presented a challenge to marketers was with the easy-does-it, step-saving products devised for the modern housewife. The wives, instead of being grateful for these wonderful boons, reacted in many cases by viewing them as threats to their feelings of creative-ness and usefulness. Working wives (numbering about 10,000,000) could welcome these short-cut products, such as appliances, but regular housewives, in large numbers, showed unexpected resistance. The "creative" research director of an ad agency sadly summed up the situation in these words: "If you tell the housewife that by using your washing machine, drier, or dishwasher she can be free to play bridge, you're dead! The housewife today, to a certain extent, is disenfranchised; she is already feeling guilty about the fact that she is not working as hard as her mother. You are just rubbing her the wrong way when you offer her more freedom. Instead you should emphasize that the appliances free her to have more time with her children and to be a better mother." Our small fears and anxieties, like our guilt feelings, offered many openings for the depth manipulators to map successful campaigns for enterprising merchandisers. It was found, for example, that some products repelled us in a small but measurable way because they filled us with a mild uneasiness. . The trouble that befell Jell-o is an example. Over the years Jello was a familiar sight in millions of households because it was established in the public mind as a simple, easy-to-make, shirtsleeve type of dessert. Then in the early fifties its mentors, ambitious for it to look nice in ads, began showing it in beautiful, layered, multicolor creations with elaborate decorative touches. The ads were spectacular but did not produce the expected sales. Jell-o was in trouble without knowing why. Dr. Dichter was asked to depth-probe the situation. His investigators in talking at length with wives soon pin-pointed the trouble. The wives felt a vague sense of inferiority when they saw the beautiful creations advertised. They wondered if they would fail if they tried to duplicate it, and they vaguely resented the idea of someone watching over their shoulder and saying, "It's got to look like this." So many started saying to themselves when they saw a Jell-o ad, "Well, if I've got to go to all that trouble I might as well make my own dessert." After Dr. Dichter made his diagnosis Jell-o went back to being a simple, relaxed, shirt-sleeve dessert without fancy trimmings. In 1956, for example, it was typically shown in a simple one-color mound amid amusing fairytale drawings that created widespread comment and admiration for the dessert. The wine producers faced much the same sort of mass uneasiness when people were confronted with the product. A psychologist who looked into the problem of the wine merchants advised them that psychologically they faced a very formidable situation. The great number of wine types, the emphasis on the good and bad years, and the correct glass for each type added up to a situation that made prospective customers fearful and unhappy at the thought of buying a bottle of wine. He advised the wine folks to stop the esoteric nonsense and hammer across to the public that any wine is good no matter how you serve it, and that essentially is what the wine merchants began doing, with considerable success. Sometimes our fears of products seem completely irrational until they are probed by an expert. The Corning Glass Works came up against a seemingly illogical resistance to the Pyrex glass pipe it was trying to sell to engineers and purchasing agents for chemical food processing. Technically they had a very good sales story, but the customers showed strong resistance to the idea of using such pipe no matter how good it was supposed to be. So the company called in Dr. Charles Winick, research consultant. He sent a team of psychologists out to talk to would-be purchasers. Here was their conclusion, in the words of the Wall Street Journal: "The engineers and purchasing agents have an 'emotional block' about the glass pipe's fragility based upon experiences in their childhood involving glass. They learned as little boys that a broken water glass always led to a spanking." The company began coaching its salesmen how to spot and take into account such irrational resistance in their sales talks. On the other hand, some of our fears are very real and their basis obvious; and here, too, the motivational experts advise merchandisers how to get around our resistance. A major farmequipment manufacturer in the Midwest, in trying to promote its tractor sales, found from psychological studies that farmers operating their tractor revealed in talks a deep-seated fear that the machine would rear back and fall on top of them while they were driving the tractor uphill. This fear was handicapping the company in making new sales. Tide magazine explained the problem, and the solution that was devised, in these startling words: "When a tractor motor is gunned hard on a steep hill, this freakish accident sometimes happens due to the machine's weight distribution. (Most of the weight necessarily is over the rear wheels.) To overcome this fear, the firm redesigned its tractor line so that the tractor looked as though the weight was distributed more evenly over front and rear wheels." The motivational analysts were called upon to find ways to bypass our fears, not only of products, but of situations of interest to merchandisers. One such situation that was turned over to Dr. Dichter for analysis was the tearfulness of airplane passengers. American Airlines some years ago became disturbed by the fact that many of its passengers flew only when it was imperative. The line hired a conventional research firm to find out why more people didn't fly. The answer came back that many didn't fly because they were afraid of dying. A lot of money was spent, carrying the emphasis on safety to great extremes; and according to Dr. Dichter, it didn't pay off with the increase in traffic that might be expected. Then Dr. Dichter was called in. He went into the problem in depth and even used projective tests that permitted potential travelers to imagine themselves being killed in an air crash. His investigators found that the thought in men's minds at such times was not death at all, but rather the thought of how their family would receive the news. Dr. Dichter concluded that what these people feared was not death but rather embarrassment and guilt feelings, a sort of posthumous embarrassment. The husband pictured his wife saying, "The darned fool, he should have gone by train." The airline took this diagnosis seriously and began aiming its campaign more at the little woman, to persuade her that the husband would get home to her faster by flying, and to get her in the air through family flying plans. In this way, Dr. Dichter explains, "The man was taken off the spot through the symbols of family approval of flying." Meanwhile, all the airlines began going to great extremes to preserve a "psychologically calm environment" for passengers up in the air. Airlines began schooling their hostesses in how to treat customers who got excited when they saw sparks flying from an engine. One airline official said the main reason the hostesses of his airline ask the name of each passenger and write it down on a sheet is to give the hostesses a chance to talk to the passenger and reassure the passenger through the calmness of their voice that all is well. Several of the airlines require that hostesses practice talking in a calm, soft manner into tape recorders and listen to the playbacks of their voices for correction. The pilots, too, in some airlines are trained to have a voice that exudes confidence. One airline says it wants pilots who can talk over the loud-speaker "like they could fly an airplane." Another airline indoctrinates its pilots to talk with the "voice of authority from the flight deck." Our relationship with banks is another area where the depth probers have isolated a definite fear factor and have devised techniques for reducing that fear. An ad agency in Rochester, New York, turned to motivation research to try to find out how to broaden the clientele of a leading bank in that city. Its probers turned up in the people sampled a large variety of fears concerning banks: fear of being rejected for a loan, fear of the banker finding out how untidy their family financial affairs really are, or fear of sign of disapproval. The agency concluded that people subconsciously see their bank as a kind of parent, a parent capable of scolding or withholding approval, and constantly scrutinizing. With that subconscious cowering before the parent symbol in mind, the agency designed an ad for the bank, showing a man standing at the bank door saying "How I hated to open that door!" and then relating in the text his story of the warm welcome he got. Dr. Dichter is another prober who has looked into the problem of the banks in winning friends. His particular interest was in the paradox of the great growth of loan companies in spite of the fact most banks were offering personal loans at lower interest and were more lenient in accepting people for loans. His conclusion was that the loan company's big advantage over the bank is its lower moral tone! The bank's big handicap—and here he concurs with the Rochester findings—is its stern image as a symbol of unemotional morality. When we go to a banker for a loan, he points out, we are asking this personification of virtue to condescend to take a chance on us frail humans. In contrast, when we go to the loan company for a loan, it is we who are the virtuous ones and the loan company is the villain we are temporarily forced to consort with. Here, it is we, the borrowers, who do the condescending. Dr. Dichter explains: "This shift of moral dominance from borrower to lender changes completely the whole emotional undertone of the transaction." We shift from feeling like "an unreliable adolescent to feeling like a morally righteous adult. The higher cost of the loan is a small price indeed to pay for such a great change in outlook." He counsels banks seeking more business to soften their image of righteousness. Another common commercial situation where the uneasiness of customers plays a significant role is in the grocery. James Vicary found that one reason many young housewives prefer the supermarket to the small grocery is that in a small grocery, dealing with a clerk, it is harder for them to conceal their ignorance about foods. The Jewel Tea Company found from a motivation study that this tearfulness is particularly common when women confront the butcher in the meat department. They are afraid of the butcher because they know so little about cuts of meat. The Jewel stores, as a result, began training their butchers to show great sympathy and patience with women, and the strategy paid off with increased business for all departments of the store. Tooth-paste makers doubled their sales in a few years, and one explanation is that they succeeded in large part by keeping a great number of people feeling uneasy about their teeth. They hammered at the wondrous new ways to kill bacteria and prevent decay. In the mid-fifties Crest tooth paste containing a fluoride was unveiled with typical modesty (for a tooth paste) as a "Milestone of Modern Medicine" comparable to the discovery of means to control contagious diseases in the eighteenth century. The marketers themselves were less reverent in discussing the new fluorides among themselves. Advertising Age called the fluoride paste the latest gimmick of a series of big promises (ammoniated, chlorophyll, antienzyme) and added, "The feeling persists that the public has responded appreciatively to every new therapeutic claim that has come down the pike in recent years. . . . The hope is that it will exhibit the usual alacrity at the sight of the fluorides." An interesting success story among the tooth pastes is that of Gleem, which on the surface had nothing spectacular to offer in the way of killing the dragons in our mouths. It had an ingredient called GL-70 that was apparently a competent bacteria-killer, but as Fortune pointed out GL-70 seemed pretty puny as a peg for ad copy when compared to the more spectacular cleansers that had been ballyhooed. Gleem, however, had discovered a secret weapon. Investigators had uncovered the fact that many people—as a result of being subjected for years to the alarums of tooth-paste makers— felt vaguely guilty because they didn't brush their teeth after each meal. Gleem began promising tooth salvation to these guilt-ridden people by saying it was designed for people who "can't brush their teeth after every meal." (This, of course, includes most of the population.) Two years after it was introduced Gleem was outselling all but one rival dentifrice. The pain relievers, too, began looking carefully into our hidden anxieties. Social Research found that the two best prospective customers for pain relievers were (1) the suggestible anxiety-prone people who tend to exaggerate their aches and pains and (2) the aggressive, self-reliant Spartan types who scorn doctors and insist on doing their own medicating. One motivation study turned up the interesting fact that users of the painkiller Bufferin tended to have more hostility toward life than the users of the older Anacin. It may be significant that Bufferin ads are a delight to the hypochondriac. They picture a cross section of the human body with Bufferin pills going through our system as if it were a series of pipes, tanks, and valves. Even the Sunday comics have become alert to the possibilities of playing upon our secret anxieties. The Sunday comic Puck, which calls itself the Comic Weekly, underwrote a motivation study called, "The Sunday Comics—a Socio-Psychological Study, With Attendant Advertising Implications." It found that comic reading is a "private, almost secret pastime." From that it leaped to the conclusion that comics offer a fertile field for any marketer who wants to play upon our hypochondriacal anxieties. In the comics, the report pointed out, "It is possible to suggest, in fairly direct fashion, the desires or fears which for many people must remain unspoken. Plain talk may be possible concerning the fear of smelling bad, of being seriously ill or weak because of attack by some unseen but dangerous germ or disease, or being in pain." It offered examples of companies that are taking advantage of these opportunities in precise fashion. Still another area where shrewd merchandisers are gearing their selling to our secret distress feelings is that involving our hostilities and aggressive feelings. The marketers are learning to invite us to channel these feelings through their products. The Chicago Tribune's study of automobiles makes it very clear that one significant function of the automobile is "to express aggression." It explains, "This motive is clearly expressed in interest in speed, governors, horsepower, acceleration, brakes and body styling." Dr. Smith, in his book on motivation research, makes this same point that many people like to drive a high-powered car fast in order to let off aggressive impulses. Some auto merchandisers accordingly are stressing features that promise us we can let her up when we feel like it. A motivationally minded executive of a Chicago ad agency claims his researchers have concluded that people who have body odors secretly don't want to give them up. He told me: "B.O. is a hostile act. A person with B.O. is like a skunk and uses his B.O. as a defense mechanism." His investigators reached this fascinating conclusion as a result of making a depth study for a soap firm that had tried to modify the odor of a pungent-smelling soap it had long marketed. When it brought the soap out with a pleasanter, milder odor, it received many vigorous complaints. The complaining customers apparently felt a strong subconscious attraction to the disagreeable odor. This man added, as if it were a most obvious fact: "People with extreme B.O. are extremely angry or hostile people. Their B.O. is a defense mechanism. They fear attack." (Another soap-making firm, however, got conflicting advice when it sought counsel from two leading M.R. firms as to whether to feature the soap's alleged deodorant powers. One firm found people want to get rid of their body odors; the other found they feel subconsciously uneasy at the thought of losing their distinctive body odors. The confused client threw up his hands and in his ads just talked about the soap's nice clean smell.) Finally, merchandisers began learning to play expertly on our hidden feelings of loneliness, which, as Dr. Harry Stack Sullivan, the famed psychiatrist, once said, is perhaps the most unbearable of all human emotions. A major greeting-card company in the Midwest became curious to learn why people really bought greeting cards, so that it could merchandise more expertly. One thing that had puzzled company officials was that year after year one of its best sellers showed a barren, gnarled tree standing alone on a windswept and often snow-covered hill. It was scarcely cheerful, yet it had tremendous pulling power. In the motivation study the company conducted it found out why: a key factor in the sale of greeting cards is loneliness. The most frequent buyers tend to be widows, spinsters, and divorcees who apparently often feel gnarled and lonely and still are trying to be graceful. Freudian analysis also turned up the fact that many of the more successful greeting cards were loaded with sexual symbolism: artistic moons, candles, ovals, circles. Harry Henderson reported in Pageant magazine that the greeting-card company, armed with these discoveries, gave a summary of the study to its artists "to help them design more popular cards and cut down production of cards that lacked unconscious symbols."
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