Beer and Bingo!

At first people thought this was a spoof, until the government confirmed even the cynics worst fears: that it was real.

beer_bingo

Considered as offensive to a large cohort of the population, the political opposition embraced this as their silver bullet in a campaign to brand the present government as out of touch with the people. But what was this advert trying to do?

Let us brush aside the rights and wrongs of political swings for a moment. This ad is hoping to address working families. If we consider working families as a reference group, the hope is that they will see that the government understands them and is directly influencing their lives for the better. If they feel this way, and recognise that it is a conservative government doing that, hopefully their loyalty to the conservative ‘brand’ will grow. Labour unions and political parties do this all the time, however usually they are more successful at identifying a common denominator in a reference group.

working_families

A lot of critics have said that the principle of the bingo ad is good, however the wording actually separates the sponsor (the conservative party) from its target audience. Change the word ‘they’ to ‘we’ and then see if it makes you feel any different…

As it is, it conveys the high society Tories looking down on Mr and Mrs Serf and granting them a few extra liberties down on the bottom rung of the British caste system. In addition however, I look at it and think it is very overgeneralising of a group of people in society – a point that no one else seems to have mentioned.

Should it have worked had the conservative party decided to identify with their electorate?

Escalas & Bettman (2005) argue that individuals, to construct their self-concepts, use brands associated with reference groups. When the advert conveys an image that is congruent to the image on an in-group, consumers start to bond with the brand.

There is more to reference group advertising however, than just appealing to an individuals group membership to create a brand connection. Part of the utility of a product or service is what it does for your standing in the group. Bearden and Etzel (1982) demonstrate that there is more leverage from the factors influencing brands that are publicly consumed. Simply put, decisions (either for or against) are made more sensitively when it affects ones image or standing in a reference group.

This can be either good or bad, depending on what the product or reference group is, but the principle is that the involvement of reference groups can make factors contributing to success of the ad a lot more volatile.

To bring it back to the conservative party’s advert, if the reference group is offended, people will consider their loyalty to the conservative party in light of their self image. Even before the bad press, the advert has done its sponsor a disservice. Use of the word ‘they’ over ‘we’ has also separated the public from bonding with the brand, meaning that the wrong use of a tiny (almost meaningless word), and maybe some overgeneralisation, makes this a bad ad.

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Being Erdkinder – in relation to politics

I’ve been observing the continuing changes that are taking place behind the scenes to the British economy. That being the sale of many of our public and private services to foreign investors. For example, our train operator Arriva now belongs to Deutsche Bahn and if anybody wonders what EDF energy stands for, it’s Electricite de France. India owns Jaguar Land Rover and goodness only knows where the royal mail will end up.

And then I found it really interesting this week when I heard Max Keiser describe the British enomic climbate as turning to a ‘Neo-feudal’ state. Where you have the wealthy capitol holders and all the proles pay rent for the privilege. It wouldn’t be the end of the world to reach that point, especially since with the advances in medication, technology and greater spread of ownership of capitol goods among the working man (a British man’s home is his castle). However it isn’t what we particularly want either, especially for our quality of life.

So why are we selling ourselves down the river? Well. In university this semester I have been studying the psychology behind education, and have been looking at the Erdkinder model of education described by Maria Montessori. She observed the Erdkinder (german: children of the land) going about their operations, and noted how they understood the relationships between work and upkeep, as well as the relationship between cooperation and upkeep (Kahn, 2003).

An ‘Erdkinder’ school in Germany; Photo credit: erdkinder.de

As society has gotten increasingly more global, that connection has been lost. Even though it should be obvious, the way to get fed is no longer to shoot your own elk, but it’s often to work for a large corporation as only a single small node of the operation, or live on state handouts. Of course there are other options, however these are common examples of how the natural connection between work and upkeep is conditioned out of people. This is psychological behaviourism in action, and it is taught to children from day one of their primary education.

It’s not hard to see then why the (should be) alarming notions of selling our capital goods to foreign countries are taking place. It simply goes over their heads when governments describe it as an academic means to an end of solving our economic woes.

There is a false mediation between work and upkeep, and it needs to change. Schools need to stop teaching to token qualifications, and start demonstrating cause and effect on where things come from. When youth reach adolescents, they start to wonder where they fit in to the world (Rathunde, 2001). That is the point when they need to see how things really work, where and how the things that control our quality of life are produced. Adolescence is a pivotal point, and an education that is in line with the psychological contract described here can set them for life.