Man on the Moon gets the price wrong

November 26, 2015 by Martha’s Dad

carlsburg-6587731It’s a lovely ad, isn’t it? Leaving aside jibes about what this guy must have done to get banished alone to the lunar service for Christmas, the John Lewis commercial this year really is a gem. What it lacks in product placement, it more than makes up for in capturing the actual spirit of Christmas and it certainly makes the brand both memorable and charming this festive season.

It was only a matter of time before a spoof appeared, I guess, and the recently-aired Aldi version in that category is a notable early entry.  “I like this one”, says the old man on the Moon, “but I also like this one” – a reference to the cheaper Aldi telescope that the little girl on Earth could have bought instead for her off-world friend.  A couple of interesting psychological concepts are at work here, of course. The JL brand’s association with warmth and kindness is being reinforced through straightforward Pavlovian learning, a conditioned emotional response further strengthened through the presence of the musical backtrack.  The Aldi spoof evokes the original in a similar way, exploiting the technique of second-order conditioning, while at the same time drawing on anchoring effects to position the price of its telescope relative to the JL offering. Great techniques, well exploited by both retail giants.

In terms of the anchoring aspect, however, there is a slight problem here. The Aldi telescope at £69.99 is trying to force a favourable comparison with a JL telescope priced at £109.95 in the ad. Snag is that the telescope featured in the genuine JL commercial only retails for £99.95, some £10 less than Aldi appear to be claiming and making that still-favourable comparison a little less powerful when the real anchor is applied!

Misleading? Leave you to decide… Aldi’s response is that they are required legally to show telescopes of the same specification and that means using one available at £109.95 in JL, rather than the one featured in the original commercial. So on the one hand this makes the Aldi telescope better value, which is good, but it’s pointed out by featuring it in a context that makes us think it’s the telescope we originally saw, which is maybe not so good.  Fortunately, anchors adjust anyway in our heads once more information is known, so I doubt it makes much difference in the scheme of things – a view the Advertising Standards Authority presumably share, given they have so far stuck to the position that they aren’t getting involved either way unless consumers start to complain that they feel misled.

As for JL, well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and they don’t seem to be unduly bothered either. In fact, their only real response to date has been to point out that they also stock a cheaper option anyway priced at just under £55 which messes up our anchors even further! Truth is, both ads are effective and memorable, each evoking the other through conditioned effects, so both retailers are probably gaining here and the sum of the two is perhaps greater than its individual components.

For me, one question remains… How on Earth did that guy get on the Moon in the first place?!?  Maybe this classic cover from the Sport newspaper holds the answer!