Living in a Social World
Psy 324: Advanced Social Psychology
Fall, 1996
Miami University

Advertising: Appealing to Vanities
and Egos

By: Jon Gresko

Please Note: These materials may be used for research, study, and education, but please credit the authors and source.

Advertisements that appeal to peoples’ vanities or egos are typically used with expensive or conspicuous items such as jewelry. These are high profile items that people sometimes buy to make themselves feel important or better. It’s almost as if the product is part of that person’s identity or at least they strongly identify with the product. Producers of these items also know this and it is the reason why they will display their logos or brand names in conspicuous places on their products. For example, Chanel purses with the double C logo or Ralph Lauren shirts have the Polo horse on the left breast.

     Advertisers will try to create a certain image that a consumer with a particular personality can identify with. For example, BMW cars are yuppie and TAG Heuer watches are for someone reckless and daring, yet refined. All the consumer has to do to become like the portrayed image is purchase the product. By purchasing the "right stuff," we [the consumer] enhance our own egos and rationalize away our inadequacies (Pratkanis and Aronson, 1991).

     Arguments in advertising to people’s egos need not be strong if the advertisement puts the consumer in a good mood. They will want to identify with the product and may already have preexisting ideas and beliefs. When people are in a good mood they can not concentrate very well, central processing declines, and therefore will not be able to distinguish between a strong argument and a weak one. Therefore, ads for luxury items seldom contain convincing information to purchase the product or will try to highlight the product itself, distracting from the text in the ad. Just the image that the product evokes is generally enough to convince the consumer.

     Another obvious market to people’s vanity is that of plastic surgery. Many plastic surgeons try to lure customers with the hope of looking younger into their office. There seems to be a fear of aging that is becoming more pervasive in society today. It is seen as disadvantage to look older in some professions. The recent presidential election is a good example of this trend. The was much concern over the health and fitness of the two candidates, especially Bob Dole’s health because of his older age.

     This also leads to how important appearance is in our society. There are also many people who go to surgeons for breast implants, tummy tucks, nose jobs, and other "reconstructive" surgeries. It is, in part, because of advertising that people have this surgery. Advertising in media can give us an "ideal" image of what people are supposed to look like. When people look in the mirror and they do not fit that image then they go to doctors who help them attain that look. We need to realize that it is not possible for everyone to look like the models in these advertisements. They represent a very small fraction of the population. Instead, what needs to happen is for the people who make the advertisements to use average, everyday people. This would lead to less concern over appearance and possibly higher self-esteems for those who feel self-conscious of their appearance.

Learn More About :

Fear in Advertising

Fun and Pleasure in Advertising

Vanity & Egotism in Advertising

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Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA). Last revised: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 17:06:32. This document has been accessed 1 times since April 20, 2002. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman