Peer pressure: Boon or bane

 Peer pressure: Boon or bane

Four out of five dentists prefer Sensodyne, touts the toothpaste advertisement in an attempt to get you to try their product – a double blind study conducted by a top university concluded – shared in a late night commercial.

If the product is good enough for professionals, it’s good enough for you, the advertising eggs on. With over a million satisfied customers and sill counting, teases another ad.

These are all form of peer pressure. When marketers report that a majority of population or a group of experts prefer buying their product over another, they are attempting to sway the buyer to believing, that whatever they are selling is better. The peer pressure works because we believe that majority or the experts might know more than we do. Peer pressure works not because the majority of the experts are always right, but because we fear that we may be wrong.

Celebrity endorsements are sometimes used to add peer pressure to the sales pitch. If he uses it, we are supposed to think, it must be good. This makes sense when we hear Tiger Woods endorsing Nike golf products or Titeleist golf balls. Woods deal with Nike is actually credited for putting the company on the map in the golf world.  Amitabh Bachan endorses a host of products, services which actually have resulted in upping of their sales. His endorsement of Gujarat as a Tourist destination generated an upswing of over 24% in tourists flocking that state.

Incidentally Tiger Woods’ also endorsees General Motors cars, Management consulting services, credit cards, food and a Tag Heuer watch designed especially for the golfer.  The watch incidentally can withstand a 5000-g shock, a level of shock more likely experienced by the golf ball than the golfer. But Tiger endorsed it, so it must be good.




Celebrity endorsements are also used to appeal to our aspirations and our desires to be like them. The most explicit example was Gatorade’s – I want to be like Mike campaign, which tempted youngsters to grow up and be just like Michael Jordan if they drink Gatorade. With many other examples of celebrity endorsements however its harder to see the connection.

Sam Waterson of Law & Order fame, for example, sells on line trading from TD Ameritrade. But for his celebrity, it’s uncertain what an actor famed for convicting homicidal maniacs does for the brand.

I guess he is trustworthy.

Impressionable youth are not the only ones subject to peer pressure. Most of us have probably had an experience of being pressured by a sales man. Have you ever had a sales rep try to sell you some office solution by telling you that 70% of your competitors are using their service, so why aren’t you.

  • But what if 70% of those competitors are idiots?
  • Or what if 70% were given so much value added or offered such a low price that they couldn’t resist the opportunity?

The practice is designed to do one thing and one thing only – to pressure you to buy. To make you feel you might be missing on something or that everybody else knows but you. Better go with the majority, right.

To quote my mother – if your friends put their head in the oven, would you do that too? Sadly if Michael Jordan or Tiger woods’ or Amitabh Bachchan were paid to do just that, it might actually start a trend.


Your call now, folks!


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