Jealousy and Persuasion via Instagram

By Michael Barbera CEO, Barbera Solutions | February 26, 2017

Consumers in North America are exposed to approximately 30,000 brand impressions daily. During an average, day consumers are exposed to television commercials, radio advertisements, billboards and sometimes, direct sales, but more significantly are the thousands of readily identifiable brand impressions that we observe, but don't overtly consider. The car logo on our steering wheel, the MTA logo on the bottom corner of the New York City Subway map; the Apple, Google, or Samsung logo on your phone, and the interlocking "NY" of the person wearing a Yankees' jersey at a ball game are all brand impressions. Each of these items are cognitively processed and stored for a later date when marketers hope that you use your heuristic decision-making process to make a purchase without much apparent rhyme, reason or thought.

The aforementioned brand impressions are not expelled from digital marketing on social media platforms. Social media is an organic catalyst of social proof, which harnesses a powerfully persuasive tool: images.

After completing research for a well-known pizza company, we identified the phenomena of individuals using words associated with jealousy. The phenomena triggered future Internet engagement and human-to-human conversation regarding the topic of each phenomenon. These observations inspired our research team to look further into the persuasive attributes of jealousy on social media with more breadth and depth.

Prior research suggests consumers will drive passed a new restaurant approximately 22 times before visiting the establishment. Humans fear the unknown, and we tend to frequent the establishments we trust, know and have had prior positive, memorable experiences. Additionally, consumers are likely to visit establishments that share an emotional connection. Humans have two methods processing information, (1) quick and without thought or cognitive processing, and (2) systematically with an extensive decision task. Business operators and marketers continuously attempt to design campaigns that persuade the consumer to make a purchase with little to no cognitive reasoning. The heuristic decision function is important to the bottom line of businesses and their brand equity. For example, we do not conduct Internet searches, we "Google it." Humans do not Bing the nearest restaurant. Google's brand has become synonymous with Internet search.

Persuasive messaging through branding and semiotics is a simple method of nudging the consumer to execute the desired call-to-action. Purple represents loyalty. Blue represents neutrality and low cost, and red and yellow trigger hunger. Hence, why many fast food organizations choose to use red, yellow or a combination of both colors in their marketing. Additionally, humans react well to images. A picture does tell a story, and moreover, people prefer visual stimulation rather than text-rich alternatives. When a person visits a restroom, there will likely be a visual representation of a person on each door. Humans respond more favorably to images that are not cognitively taxing. This research intends to identify consumer behavior to persuasive messaging on Instagram.

We hypothesized Instagram users would engage with photos that represented physical items they did not possess. We also hypothesized that Instagram users would engage with photos that represented locations where they were not physically located. Engagement was defined as liking, commenting or the cease of scrolling on a photo for more than four seconds.

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