60-Second Science

Associating with Brand Name Changes Behavior Even without the Product

Volunteers who drove a Red Bull car in a video came were more reckless than those who drove cars with the logos of other drinks. Christopher Intagliata reports

Companies spend billions on advertising every year. But they're not just pushing products—they're selling their brand's "personality," too. Think: Red Bull. What comes to mind? Most people say things like speed...power...hyper...extreme.

Well, a pair of scientists wanted to see if the energy drink's alleged qualities would influence people's performance in a racecar video game—without sipping Red Bull. So they had 70 volunteers race cars with identical specs, but different paint jobs. Four with the logo and colors of a drink—Guinness, Tropicana, Coca-Coca or Red Bull—and one car just plain green.

The drivers clocked similar times with most of the cars. But behind the wheel of the Red Bull car, they actually drove more aggressively, scoring either incredibly fast race times, or their slowest—by driving recklessly and crashing. The study appears in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. [S. Adam Brasel and James Gips, "Red Bull “Gives You Wings” for better or worse: A double-edged impact of brand exposure on consumer performance"]

Polled after the game, the players didn't realize the Red Bull image apparently influenced their driving. Which suggests marketing doesn't just influence a brand’s personality. It could be shaping our personalities, too, without our even knowing it.

—Christopher Intagliata

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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