Category Archives: Gender Issues

Emotional Appeals in Advertising: Developing Pseudo-Relationships

So what uncomfortable truths need obscuring? And for what is “la femme” rushing to receive “therapy”?  Psychologist Yasuhisa Hama carried out a study of shopping as an “emotional coping behavior.” Hama makes a distinction between impulse buying and diversion buying, noting that diversion buying is more directly aimed at releasing stress. Though this was also a self-report study, it is interesting to see what reasons people give to justify these behaviors, what they say to try and make sense of them. Hama found that the number one reason people cited for partaking in diversion buying was “having a drab life” (220).

Other common sources of stress cited were work, partner, and family-related stress. He found that the number of females who diversion bought was almost twice that of males, concluding that the gender difference was most likely due to more “feminine” individuals “being more changeable in feelings”  (219). In other words, more “feminine” equals more emotional; more emotional equals more receptive to emotional appeals in advertising messages. Taken with Fisher and Dube’s evidence regarding emotional agency, we realize that “feminine” individuals are much more open to emotional manipulation and sham relationships with products.

In Deadly Persuasion, Kilbourne displays much visual evidence illustrating how advertisers create ads that are designed to make us feel our lives are boring or dull. Ads depict humans as constantly stimulated, constantly entertained. Unconsciously, this makes us feel as though we are missing out on the “real world.” Advertisers tell us that product purchase will alleviate all discomfort and be devoid of consequence. They tell us that relationships with products are safer than those with people. Kilbourne notes “when we’re not in pseudo-relationships with the models in ads, we can be falling in love with hamburgers” (83).

More often than not, emotional scenes that are completely unrelated to a product are used to market that product. Kilbourne explains that we experience the emotion that the ad evokes first and then unconsciously associate that emotion with the product depicted. Since the more “feminine” often lack the emotional agency described in my earlier post, what we see is a much higher tendency in the “feminine” to latch on to these products or services. All these subtle emotional appeals coupled with the “feminine” individual’s lack of emotional agency spell easy target to marketers and advertisers.

Admittedly, we all fall on a spectrum from more “feminine” to more “masculine,” more emotional to less emotional. Nothing is quite so black and white as we would like to think. As a heterosexual male in the twenty-first century, the role I play in relation to my partner is much different than that played by the male even one generation ago. Where those males would never entertain the idea of staying home to cook or clean, these are two large parts of the role I occupy. And while gender roles continue to morph based on social context, it does seem clear that the more emotionally sensitive or “feminine” one is, the less emotional agency he or she will develop. Perhaps in the future we will completely discard the notion of gender, moving more to the heart of the issue – our emotional states of being. These reflections may serve one well in a culture of persuasion and emotional manipulation.

Sources

Carlin, George. When will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? New York: Hyperion. 2004

Fischer, Eileen, and Stephen J. Arnold. “More than a labor of love: Gender roles and Christmas gift shopping.” Journal of Consumer Research 17.3 (1990): 333-345. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Fisher, Robert J., and Laurette Dubé. “Gender Differences in Responses to Emotional Advertising: A Social Desirability Perspective.” Journal of Consumer Research 31.4 (2005): 850-858. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Goodman, Barak, and Douglas Rushkoff. “The Persuaders.” Frontline.  PBS. WGBH, Boston, MA, 2004. Television.

Hama, Yasuhisa. “Shopping as a coping behavior for stress.” Japanese Psychological Research 43.4 (2001): 218-224. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Kilbourne, Jean. Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. New York: The Free Press. 1999.

Kim, Hye-Young, and Youn-Kyung Kim. “Receptivity to advertising messages and desired shopping values.” Journal of Marketing Communications 14.5 (2008): 367-385. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Metzl, Jonathan M. “Selling Sanity Through Gender: The Psychodynamics of Psychotropic Advertising.” Journal of Medical Humanities 24.1-2 (2003): 79-103. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Nam, Jinhee, et al. “The fashion-conscious behaviours of mature female consumers.” International Journal of Consumer Studies 31.1 (2007): 102-108. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Putrevu, Sanjay. “Consumer responses toward sexual and nonsexual appeals: The influence of involvement, need for cognition (NFC), and gender.” Journal of Advertising 37.2 (2008): 57-69. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Emotional Appeals in Advertising: Retail Therapy

While in college I met a gay man named Mark, who for the first time introduced me to the concept of retail therapy, where one shops or looks to the retail market to lift their spirits from some uncomfortable emotion. At the time, I merely found this euphemism humorous; perhaps, being a heterosexual male I found this statement humorous coming from a man. Now when I reflect on this concept though, it seems to me very representative of the way advertisers prefer to frame the “feminine” notion of shopping as therapy from unpleasantry. It is almost as if the simple addition of therapy to the word retail enshrines this seemingly mundane activity into a soul-cleansing act.

As comedian and social critic George Carlin notes, “Not all euphemisms are alike, but they have one thing in common: They obscure meaning rather than enhance it, they shade the truth” (6). This realization aligns with Kilbourne’s critique of “feminine” advertising as well. This is a land where moles become beauty marks and pimples become skin blemishes. There is much massaging of the ego. I’m sure linguistic specialists could have a field day with these terms. At any rate, there is something about the notion of retail therapy that is the perfect descriptor for the way in which advertisers sell their products and the process of obtaining those products to “feminine target markets”.

Addressing advertising in a very specific niche of retail therapy, pharmaceutical therapy, Psychiatry Professor Jonathan Metzl explains, “when considered as sources of visual history, advertisements can be seen to play upon problematic modes of representation of women, developed over time…” (81). Metzl cites an Eli Lilly ad that effectively creates a realm of “normal” that is “simultaneously full of meaning and empty of specific content” (80). This directive is perfectly conveyed by the advertisement’s disembodied image—a backboard with no supporting pole, a jumpshot with no shooter, a “normal” with no apparent referent—designed to appeal to atemporal, ahistorical postmodern sensibilities that are the products of an age when disconnect is a national aesthetic… (80).

Elusive moves such as this, on the part of advertisers, leave the woman with absolutely no specific point of comparison, but with the emotional impression that any unpleasant realities might be eliminated with the purchase of their pill, in this case Prozac. If anyone filling the typical “feminine” gender role feels depressed or unpleasant about his or her circumstances and realizes that these are actually healthy responses to their circumstances, prompting a change in circumstance and action towards health, there would be no need for the pill. The motivation on the part of advertisers is to leave the real reasons obscured because this induces sales.

Sources

Carlin, George. When will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? New York: Hyperion. 2004

Fischer, Eileen, and Stephen J. Arnold. “More than a labor of love: Gender roles and Christmas gift shopping.” Journal of Consumer Research 17.3 (1990): 333-345. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Fisher, Robert J., and Laurette Dubé. “Gender Differences in Responses to Emotional Advertising: A Social Desirability Perspective.” Journal of Consumer Research 31.4 (2005): 850-858. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Goodman, Barak, and Douglas Rushkoff. “The Persuaders.” Frontline.  PBS. WGBH, Boston, MA, 2004. Television.

Hama, Yasuhisa. “Shopping as a coping behavior for stress.” Japanese Psychological Research 43.4 (2001): 218-224. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Kilbourne, Jean. Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. New York: The Free Press. 1999.

Kim, Hye-Young, and Youn-Kyung Kim. “Receptivity to advertising messages and desired shopping values.” Journal of Marketing Communications 14.5 (2008): 367-385. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Metzl, Jonathan M. “Selling Sanity Through Gender: The Psychodynamics of Psychotropic Advertising.” Journal of Medical Humanities 24.1-2 (2003): 79-103. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Nam, Jinhee, et al. “The fashion-conscious behaviours of mature female consumers.” International Journal of Consumer Studies 31.1 (2007): 102-108. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Putrevu, Sanjay. “Consumer responses toward sexual and nonsexual appeals: The influence of involvement, need for cognition (NFC), and gender.” Journal of Advertising 37.2 (2008): 57-69. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.

Tagged , , , , , ,