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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

“Imagine you are standing in a long queue at the copier. Someone behind you asks: ‘I only have five pages to copy, can I go first?’ Would you let that person cut in line?” This is the scenario posed by lecturer Bram Van den Bergh to the over 70 students in the lecture hall. A QR code on the screen behind him directs students to MentiMeter, where they express their opinions with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Less than 20 per cent of students agree, while the majority reject the request. Van den Bergh laughs, saying: “My, you sure are strict!”

Lecture: Advertising and Communication, Wednesday 13:00–15:45 in the Mandeville building T3-21

Lecturer: Bram Van den Bergh

Subject: Influencing people to buy a product

Audience: Over 70 students who, by the time the series of lectures come to an end, will be able to sell anything

Reason to attend: The lecture is highly interactive and fast-paced, leaving no time to get bored and scroll on your phone. Examples are from the real world, so by the end of this lecture, you will know the marketing strategies behind advertisements, and be aware of the tricks you shouldn’t fall for in wine shops or hotel bookings.

This question originates from a study on how accommodating people are. The lecturer then reveals the study’s results. “Contrary to your responses, 60 per cent of the participants agreed to the request”, Van den Bergh says. When the person behind provides a good reason for the question (like, they are in a hurry), 94 per cent of people allow them to go first. Even for silly reasons, such as ‘because I want to’, 93 per cent of people still say ‘yes’. “This is because it’s a low-impact request. After all, copying five pages does not take that much time”, the lecturer explains.

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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

As the request gets larger, such as 20 pages, only 24 per cent of the study’s participants indicate that they would agree. With a good reason, 42 per cent say ‘yes’, but with a ‘silly’ reason, only 24 per cent would let the person cut in front of them. Conclusion: people are not as easily swayed with larger requests compared to smaller ones.

Strong reasons

Applying this research to marketing, the importance of giving a good reason to persuade people becomes evident. “Clearly, providing a good reason is essential to convincing people”, says the lecturer.

Van den Bergh illustrates this with an example from a campaign by Child Focus, a Belgian foundation for missing and sexually exploited children. When a child goes missing, the foundation spreads the message on social media. However, not enough people were sharing the message.

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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

“People did not feel connected to a missing child because they did not know the child personally”, explains the lecturer. The foundation then launched the ‘Closer than you think’ campaign, based on the idea that it only takes six steps to connect you with any stranger (six degrees of separation) – in this case, the missing child. They used this concept in a video to show people that they were indeed connected to the missing children. This campaign resulted in a 380 per cent increase in the sharing of missing children’s messages, reaching twice as many people.


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Another strategy to persuade people is to show what others are doing, because most people want to belong. “But you must have a good strategy, because it can sometimes backfire”, says the lecturer, citing an example from the Petrified Forest National Park in the United States. To prevent people from taking petrified wood from the park home, park management put up a sign to indicate that was prohibited. “However, the sign actually gave more people the idea to take the wood”, Van den Bergh says. When the National Park removed the sign, the number of thefts dropped dramatically.

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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

Master’s student Thijs laughs at this example, recalling a similar experience. “I’ve been through something like that. I had just moved in when my friends came over. I had valuable items in the corner of the living room that I hadn’t been able to put away, so I told them: ‘Don’t touch’. But that made them curious, so they did the opposite. Requests can backfire. Sometimes, it’s better not to draw attention to it and just not say anything”, he says.


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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

Exchange student Ni listened with interest throughout the lecture. She is studying Finance, but she also finds this subject interesting. “Especially the psychology behind designing an advertisement. Apparently, it is not easy to make a good ad”, she says.

Student Shaohan also loves the subject. “Each lecture offers interesting, intriguing new insights”, she says. “The lecturer provides real-world examples, but he also presents good theories.” Thijs adds: “Even though it’s a long session and a lot to take in, it remains engaging.”

Students have nothing but praise for Van den Bergh. “He is so energetic and enthusiastic, which keeps the lecture dynamic”, says Shaohan. According to Thijs, the lecturer is very approachable even outside the lecture. “The other day I came to him for personal career advice, and he really took the time to listen to me and give good advice. That’s very cool of him.”

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part of special

The greatest lectures at the EUR

Each month, editor Feba Sukmana and illustrator Pauline Wiersema attend a lecture at EUR.…

Editor Feba Sukmana and illustrator Pauline Wiersema follow a college every month. Together, they describe and depict how teaching is done, what happens in the lecture hall and what students think of the lecture.

EM is looking for the best, funniest or most interesting lectures at EUR. Should we pay your lecturer a visit? Tip us off at [email protected]