No.35 Third Person Effect & Shopping Sustainably

No.35 Third Person Effect & Shopping Sustainably

Understanding the impact of advertising and media messaging can impact our purchasing habits.

The third-person effect predicts that people tend to perceive that mass media messages (including sustainability communications) have a greater effect on others than on themselves.

One of the most intriguing things about the psychology of persuasion is how many people say that persuasion attempts have little or no effect on them. Other people, oh sure, adverts, work on them. But not you and I, we’re too clever for that. 

In other words people are likely to be influenced more than they think about subjects that are currently of little or no interest to them: Subjects like sustainability! An everyday example would be seeing an advert for a car, when you’re not in the market for a new car. You’d probably guess it has little or no influence on you, but research suggests you’d be wrong.

When it comes to communication with shoppers either in-store or online, there are several tactics we can employ.

New for how long

Put a ‘New’ message in a duty-free store and it will be effective for a year or more. Why because most shoppers only take one overseas trip per year, so just because a sustainability related message seems too old hat for your brand, what about for shoppers?

Monkey see, monkey do

It’s a positive that so many shoppers say they aren’t influenced, when they are. So, you don’t have to come up with new activations all the time, the tried and tested stuff mostly still works: Shoppers just don’t admit it. So, take previous communications campaigns and apply the same design principles to your sustainability messaging.

Belief is key

There’s nothing wrong with shoppers believing others will be influenced more than they are, because frankly it’s not the case, we’re all influenced more than we think.

Once we acknowledge our own thought processes are flawed, we can then understand the power of advertising and messages of influence both in-store and online.

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About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

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Phillip Adcock

Phillip Adcock CMRS
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

Phillips Signature

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