Simple Jury Persuasion: Would “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” still work?
Researchers compared the effect of both logos (brands) and slogans (phrases) on subjects. They discuss past research where showing the Apple logo resulted in more creative thinking while displaying the WalMart logo encouraged frugal behavior. We all like to think we are resistant to attempts to persuade, but based on this research, it appears our capacity to resist is unconscious. Or to put it more plainly, we are not [consciously] in control of our resistance. Are we really that helpless?
In the current research, they compared the reactions to brand logos (like WalMart and Apple) versus the company slogans. What they found was intriguing (and just a little disturbing). Those shown WalMart logos in a pretend memory study were then less willing to spend extra money on a product than if they had seen a luxury brand logo—like Nordstrom. So, if participants were ‘primed’ with logos, their behavior was consistent with the logo they had seen: the WalMart logo primed them to save and the Nordstrom’s logo primed them to indulge. But when slogans were used instead—the effect reversed. Participants perceived the slogans as deliberate, persuasive communication and thus they resisted.
So the researchers tried a different approach (of course they did!). They asked participants to evaluate the creative nature of the slogans (thus de-focusing on the persuasive message). The reverse effect disappeared and the participants reacted the same way they had reacted to the brand logos.
Similarly, when researchers subliminally presented the slogans as either a ‘slogan’ or a ‘sentence’—participants behaved the same way. They resisted the ‘slogan’ and reacted positively to the sentence. (Remember the labels of ‘slogan’ or ‘sentence’ were labeled ‘subliminally’. That is, they were presented below visual levels of perception. The reality that participants still reacted by either resisting or conforming is very strange and disturbing.)
So what does that mean for courtroom persuasion?
For one thing, it means persuasion is a complex construct about which we know little.
Logos and visual cues are less likely to encounter the same level of resistence as a more obvious slogan or catch-phrase.
When you do want to use a catch-phrase because it is simply so….catchy—you will want to break down the meaning for jurors. Generally, your goal is to take the phrase out of the ‘slogan’ category and put it into the ‘sentence category’. How?
Give them data and evidence behind the shorthand catch-phrase so when they hear it they recall the evidence and data and see it as a shorthand communiqué rather than a blatant attempt at persuasion.
Persuasion is not for the faint of heart. Every time we think we have it down cold, we see new research like this that demands we think about it more carefully.
And, just for fun, here’s a terrific example of the use of surprise in branding!
Laran, J., Dalton A., & Andrade, E. (2011). The curious case of behavioral backlash: Why brands produce priming effects and slogans produce reverse priming effects. Journal of Consumer Research