Heineken will #drop you home

Before you get enlightened, watch this video-

Now imagine yourself in this situation- would you decide to drop everything for departure roulette?

Nobel-prize winner Daniel Kahneman, along with collaborator Amos Tversky, demonstrated that most individuals tend to be loss averse- typically, they would prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. This loss aversion then tends to lead to risk aversion, wherein people prefer to accept a bargain with a certain (but perhaps lower) payoff than a bargain with an uncertain payoff. While human beings are generally risk averse, what if risk seeking is portrayed as being socially desirable? In this ad, Heineken builds on key behavioural principles (which I will elaborate on soon), making impulsive behaviour appear socially desirable. The logic? My hunch would be that the newly acquired positive  feelings towards social risk taking and impulsivity will then lower inhibitions about alcohol consumption, which is associated with risk taking behaviour.

Social Norms and Conformity- In the ad, the number of individuals who are willing to commit to departure roulette is portrayed to increase after one man decides ‘Let’s go’. Individuals generally tend to conform to what those around them are doing- Psychologist Solomon Asch found that when asked to estimate the length of a line, most individuals conform to others’ estimates one thirds of the time, even when they suspect that it is wrong! By making departure roulette seem like the perceived norm in the airport at that very moment, Heineken also indirectly creates a perceived norm about risk taking behaviour in general. Whilst in reality there is no evidence that one ‘yes’ is followed by another, this is not made salient to a consumer viewing the campaign from home-to them, a series of positive responses towards the gamble begins to seem like the acceptable norm.

Social approval and inclusion- Social psychologists emphasize the influence that subtle cues in our environment have on our behaviour. Individuals are often ‘primed’ by objects in their environment and these primes typically affect behaviour. In the Heineken ad, the applause that can be heard in the background when someone commits to departure roulette serves as an indication that the acceptance of risk is viewed to be socially desirable- making more people want to ‘open their world’ (or rather, their minds). Once the social desirability and social approval associated with the gamble convinces you to say ‘yes’, a commitment bias is likely to kick in, making you feel compelled to go ahead with your commitment to departure roulette.

Risk taking leads to positive outcomes- The adventurous who accepted the challenge were rewarded with exotic destinations and incentivized with a budget expense. Overall, the portrayal of emotions experienced by the beneficiaries seemed to be quite positive. What is left for us to find out is if the man who received a ticket to Cyprus has been there numerous times before and is secretly wishing he had just stuck to visiting good ol’ mum (who by the way, sounded pretty pissed off on the phone).

Overall this is, in effect, an extremely smart way to promote Heineken purchase. If successful, the consumer should perceive taking a social risk as an action that is approved by the majority , with positive outcomes. However through this campaign, they ensure that this positivity towards social risks is associated with Heineken and not just any alcohol. The next time you’re in a pub and you see the Heineken logo, the chances of you associating it with impulsivity, after which you associate impulsivity with positive emotions, are very high. And that could be the underlying phenomenon that motivates you to reach into your wallet and ask the bartender to get you yet another pint of Heineken. Reality check- after one too many pints, the only place you will be getting ‘#dropped’ is on your couch back home (courtesy your risk/loss averse friend who just knows better…Heineken? …PFFTT!).

* Nudge is a concept (usually credited to Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein) in the behavioural sciences which argues that human decision making can be influenced by suggestion and subtle influences. Buy the book here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nudge-Improving-Decisions-Health-Happiness/dp/0141040017 (TOTALLY worth it).


4 thoughts on “Heineken will #drop you home

  1. karishmarajaratnam Post author

    That could definitely be at play here- it could be that in reality, on the spot reactions to the campaign were quite different or there could have been more to it…and Heineken just ‘picked’ the reactions that would portray the people in the challenge as being very interesting….sort of like a ‘visual’ framing effect I guess…didn’t know about that bias, thanks for the insight! 🙂

  2. Nikhil Mahen

    I have a similar story about people following behavior.
    A couple of years ago at a pub quiz in New Hampshire, one member of each team was supposed to answer a common question for a special prize. The question was something to the tune of “which year was the first modern american penny with copper and nickle as its constituents minted”. Initially the answers all ranged from early 1700’s till 1750’s, with answers increasing with small increments. The guy who had an inkling of the right answer said 1845. As everyone was guessing till that point, the subsequent guesses were around and a little more than 1845. Needless to say the guy who had the inkling gave the closest right answer.. :), but people ended up following the first person guessing the answer. I bet the range of answers would have been more diverse if everyone would have answered the question anonymously and not speak it out one after the other.

  3. karishmarajaratnam Post author

    Yeah Nikhil, totally! The effects of conformity really stand out in situations like the one you described…so when people are usually guessing around 1700’s-1750’s it appears ‘safe’ to stick to values that are similar to what seems to be the norm…until someone deviates, after which the next answer seems like it could be plausible too. it could also be that in this case its a mix of anchoring effects along with the conformity- so people may use the first person’s answer as an anchor based on which they guess similar estimates..


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