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Your Beliefs About People Could Be Brands’ Next Target

Every day, hundreds of Elon students click, tap, and open ads generated by apps like Tik Tok and Instagram. You are likely aware that our phones store and save information about our personal preferences. But what would happen if companies were able to word advertisements specifically catered to your core beliefs about people? Very soon, companies may be able to use the same ad, but phrased differently depending on whose phone it is on.

The language of advertisements might not be something you consciously consider when buying a product, but it is important that these brands grab and keep your attention. The more your ideas of personality resonate with the goals of the ad, the more likely you are to support the brand as a whole. Your mind is subconsciously more attracted to some brands over others because of the personalities they portray in their advertisements. What is the science behind this?

One type of belief you hold implicitly is whether you think people can change or are mostly set in their ways. In order to find out which belief you identify more with, consider these two statements and your level of agreement with them:

  1. “People can substantially change the kind of person they are” and,
  2.  “Everyone is a certain kind of person, and there is not much they can do to really change that.”

If you agree more with the first statement, you are probably someone who has an incremental theory of personality. In contrast, agreeing more with the second statement would mean you hold more of a fixed theory of personality.

Researchers wanted to look into the effects of each type of thinking and conducted a study in 2012 in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. In their study, undergraduate female students were given a Victoria’s Secret ad for a hypothetical cosmetics line the researchers created. Participants in the study were then split them into two groups, with each group being given a differently worded version of the “fake” ad.

The results of the study showed that those with the incremental theory of personality were more likely to be affected by the ad with wording that highlighted self-improvement: “there is no better way for you to learn how to have a modern-up-to-date sense of beauty.”

On the other hand, with the fixed personality theory were more likely to be affected by the ad that is meant to show off or signal preexisting qualities: “there is no better way for you to show others that you have a modern-up-to-date sense of beauty.”

This makes sense. Those with a fixed theory of personality believe in the idea that you can’t really change your personality, that it stays mainly the same. With this idea, the self-improvement condition would not work as well as the ad is focused on how you can change and learn from the product. This opposed to showing off your preexisting attributes, which relates more to the ideas of the incremental theory of personality.

At Elon, there is a large variety of personalities, which means there would be ads that cater to different types of people. In the future you may get an ad for the same product but worded slightly differently than your roommate or best friend.

These ads would be particularly effective, as they would be specifically catered to you. The more you know about your own ideas about personality and what ads are more likely to entice you, the more likely you will be able to avoid that manipulation.

To find out which types of ads are likely to affect you, it would be worth looking at online “fixed/growth” personality assessments. With growth ideas, you would be more likely to be interested in ads that promise you some sort of solution to your problem. While with fixed ideas, ads that promise to enhance your existing attributes would be more likely to interest you. This knowledge can help you stop piling your dorm room with various products from the same brand because the ad made them sound like something you personally need in your life, for whatever reason that may be.

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