Classical Conditioning, Believability and Abercrombie "Push-up Bra's" for kids

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Mass media has become a powerful tool to mold people's thoughts and attitudes. It basically tries to define the norm to the mass. I'm not trying to say that advertising is an evil that is taking over society. However, my claim is that advertisers use the concept of classical conditioning to their advantage by manipulating our thoughts when we don't even realize. Advertising has advanced from informative advertisement to full fledged persuasive advertisement. No matter how hard you try to look for an informative ad, you'll find some persuasive tactics used to sell that specific product. There are many ads that aim to keep us from thinking, and instead, make a purchase decision as an emotional response.
Abercrombie & Fitch is a popular clothing company amongst teenagers and young adults. Abercrombie has been involved in many ad controversies because they use racy campaigns like photos of barely clothed models to send a message of sexiness. Their ads become racier every year. Abercrombie is a branch of the brand that targets juniors, or kids under 12. Their clothes are not that much different from their competition. In fact most of their clothes are not even "racy" or "sexy". They sell plaids and t-shirts with their logos, and a ripped jean is as "sexy" as it gets. However, their advertising tactic is the creation of a brand image that manipulates kids into believing they are grown ups. The huge posters in their store show 13 year old models wearing plaids with their bellies showing. When kids go into the store, they associate the clothes with the positive emotion of feeling grown up and looking cool like their older brothers or sisters in high school. The atmosphere in Abercrombie is the exact same as the atmosphere in Abercrombie & Fitch (the adult store). They play the same loud music and have the employees dress the exact same way that they dress in Abercrombie & Fitch. Employees wear an outfit comprised of the current Abercrombie stock and they are all thing and naturally good-looking. Many studies show that the average American desires being wanted and admired by their peers. Abercrombie uses this idea to suggest that their clothes are for sexy grownups and wearing their clothes will make the kids sexy. Abercrombie uses the concept of believability. Their "racy" ads not only influence their target market, but are also presented in a way so that the customers believe their message. They use the sex appeal in their barely-clothed models, loud pop music and dark lit stores to make the kids believe that when they enter the store they are transformed into grownups.

Classical conditioning develops our physiological associations to stimuli that signal important events or emotions. Advertisers like Abercrombie & Fitch use this concept to influence and manipulate kids into thinking that Abercrombie products make them look older and sexier. Kids were persuaded through sexy topless posters and models to purchase Abercrombie clothing through identification with the company image. Their campaigns create an unconditioned response of being grown up and cool among the kids, and a conditioned response of sexiness.


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I really like how you connected this super relevant topic to something that we've all seen but don't always recognize what is happening. I think you did a great job identifying what tactics the store uses to achieve classical conditioning of Abercrombie Fitch products to grown up freedom and sexuality. It's amazing because not only do companies that use this method convince young people to buy their clothes but they also instill a deeper message that might negatively affect their values and self worth. Good post

This is a good example of conditioning in a contemporary society setting. We have moved to this consumer economy where we believe that "we are what we buy." Items such as Abercrombie have become cool because through advertising they have conditioned society to believe they are cool or sexy. The need to fit in has become a necessity for teens. Our society has become much more mainstream and advertising such as abercrombie's reinforces this.

I'm really glad you touched on this topic. When I was 13 and 14 Abercrombie was the brand that everyone was wearing. But the older I got the farther I distanced myself from that fad. I look back on it now and realize the classical conditioning of the advertising did affect me. The brand was "cool" only because in our minds we thought it was "sexy" and society todays makes us believe that the ultimate goal for a young women is to become sexy. You put a lot of thought into this post and I really enjoyed reading it. Good job!

I agree with you. It is important to recognize how advertising works and for the consumer to be aware. You were right on with your description of how the store wants to make teenagers feel. When I was in middle school everyone always wore Abercrombie,it was the essence of cool. I remember walking in to the store and thinking the people who worked there were so cool and I wanted to be like them when I was older. This was all because of the advertising Abercrombie had used. Looking back I realized I spent a lot of money just because I thought I had to wear those clothes to fit in. It is important to remain aware as a consumer and keep your individuality.

I agree with your example of Abercrombie and Fitch using classical conditioning to make kids feel like they are grown up. Advertisements are all about making consumers feel or think differently so that companies can sell more products. I see the same type of marketing to kids with regards to sports equipment. Pro athletes will endorse Nike, Under Armour, Gatorade, and many other brands to get kids to buy their products. Kids (and adults) see these ads and think that buying those shoes, shirts, or sports drink endorsed by their favorite player will help them be a better player. I think it relates to the Asch Conformity Experiments and the need for people to fit in. Everyone wants to look and be like everyone else, and buying clothing similar to others allows people to fit in.

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This page contains a single entry by rajax011 published on February 26, 2012 11:51 PM.

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