Making mistakes is normal and okay, and can even have a positive impact on your marketing. You might have noticed that some brands showcase their products’ flaws, and that’s because of something called the pratfall effect. In this blog, we’ll explore what the pratfall effect is, why it’s relevant to marketing, and why it applies to marketing, and how to take advantage of it.
What is the Pratfall Effect?
- The Pratfall Effect is a psychological phenomenon that affects how we perceive others when they make mistakes.
- According to the Pratfall Effect, we tend to like people more when they make mistakes if we already hold them in high regard.
- On the other hand, if we don’t like someone, their mistakes or errors can make us like them even less.
- This effect also applies to brands and marketing, where a company that shows its flaws or mistakes can actually be perceived as more relatable and likable by its customers.
- The Pratfall Effect can be a powerful tool for marketers to build a connection with their audience and increase their appeal.
- However, using the Pratfall Effect requires a delicate balance between showing vulnerability and not appearing incompetent or untrustworthy.
- Overall, understanding the Pratfall Effect can help marketers create more effective and relatable marketing campaigns that resonate with their target audience.
Where Does the Pratfall Effect Originate?
The Pratfall Effect was first studied in 1966 by social psychologist Elliot Aronson.
- Aronson observed that people who were seen as superior or successful could become even more appealing to others if they made a mistake or showed a flaw.
- Aronson theorized that we tend to see our idols or successful people as exceptional or almost superhuman, but when they make a mistake, it humanizes them and makes them more relatable.
- The Pratfall Effect is based on the idea that showing vulnerability or imperfection can actually increase a person’s attractiveness or likability.
- Aronson’s research showed that people who made a mistake were perceived as more likeable and relatable than those who didn’t make any mistakes.
- Overall, Aronson’s study on the Pratfall Effect provides insight into how people perceive others and how marketers can use this psychological principle to connect with their audience and increase their appeal.
To test his idea, Aronson conducted an experiment with 48 college men. He divided them into four groups, with each group listening to a different recording of someone answering questions.
The recordings were about people who were either average or superior in their abilities, and some of them made mistakes like spilling coffee loudly while answering questions.
After listening to the recordings, the participants were asked about their impressions of the people in the recordings. The results showed that people who were seen as superior but made a mistake (like spilling coffee) were the most positively perceived.
Meanwhile, people who were average and made a mistake were the least positively perceived.
Examples of the Pratfall Effect in Marketing
- Volkswagen’s advertising campaigns for the Beetle in the 1950s and 60s are a famous example of the Pratfall Effect in marketing.
- The Beetle was everything that the typical American consumer didn’t want: small, ugly, and German-made.
- However, VW’s advertising campaigns made the Beetle a massive hit in the US.
- The ads reinforced everything that the typical American consumer didn’t like about the Beetle.
- The headlines used in the ads, such as “Lemon,” “One of the nice things about owning it is selling it,” and “Nobody’s perfect,” took advantage of the Pratfall Effect before Aronson even tested the theory.
Guinness is known to be the slowest drink to pour in a pub. While other brands might see this as a problem and try to change their product, Guinness turned it into their advantage and made it their tagline.
Their tagline, ‘Good things come to those who wait,’ cleverly adds value not only to the drink but also to the wait itself. This improved the customer experience and made waiting for a Guinness a symbol of patience and anticipation.
One of the most iconic television adverts of all time uses this tagline to promote the brand.
- KFC experienced a shortage of chicken, a major component of their menu.
- Instead of quietly resolving the issue, KFC created humorous marketing materials that addressed the problem.
- These marketing materials, which included an image of a chicken bucket with the letters KFC rearranged to spell FCK, went viral on social media.
- This unconventional approach to a business mistake helped to increase KFC’s brand recognition and awareness.
- Eventually, KFC was able to restock their chicken, and their sales increased as a result of the viral marketing campaign.
How To Use the Pratfall Effect In Marketing?
- The pratfall effect can benefit your marketing campaign, but it is not advisable to intentionally make a mistake.
- There are alternative ways to incorporate errors in your marketing strategy.
- It is crucial to ensure that you or your product are already viewed as superior, or the pratfall effect could have a negative outcome.
- Highlighting weaknesses in your product can be a successful marketing strategy.
- What might be seen as a weakness by some can be reframed as a positive for others.
- Expensive products can be marketed as ‘worth it’ or ‘luxury’.
- The cough medicine brand, Buckley’s, famously used the line “It tastes awful. And it works” to build trust and remind customers of the effectiveness of their product.
- By acknowledging a weakness and being confident in the overall value of your product, you can use a pratfall as a marketing hook.
- Using an apology can tap into the power of the pratfall effect in marketing
- An apology can humanize your brand and make it more appealing
- Apologizing can also highlight a problem that has been fixed to a wider audience
- It is an effective way to promote new product or brand features and generate greater brand awareness
- Combining an apology with the pratfall effect in content marketing is exemplified by the KFC case
Be Less Perfect
- Imperfections can add authenticity to a product or service and make it more appealing.
- Imperfections show that real people, not machines, are behind the creation of the product or service.
- Customers often crave authenticity and can appreciate the honest touches that imperfections add.
- Comparing a product to a handmade pizza can illustrate the appeal of imperfections, as many people prefer the unique and imperfect qualities of a handmade pizza over a perfectly round one.
- A consumer psychologist conducted an experiment with 600+ consumers.
- The experiment involved two identical cookies with different edges.
- One cookie had a perfectly smooth edge while the other had a slightly broken, crumbly, and imperfect edge.
- The cookie with the slightly broken, crumbly, imperfect edge was preferred by a large majority of the 600+ consumers surveyed, indicating a preference for authenticity and imperfection.
- The reason for this was because of its authenticity, realness, and imperfection.
- This experiment shows that being less perfect is an effective way to incorporate the pratfall effect in marketing.
- Successful brands like Marmite, KFC, Volkswagen, and Guinness have embraced their imperfections and used them to their advantage in marketing.
- Don’t hide the imperfections in your product. Instead, use them to make your brand more human and relatable to your audience.
- The pratfall effect can be a powerful tool for marketing your product by highlighting its flaws and making it more authentic.
- By using the pratfall effect in your marketing, you can turn weaknesses into strengths and create a more appealing brand image.
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