Wed, April 28 2010

Baby vs. puppy and the winner is…

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Marketing essentials •



(Fantastic DonateNow button from Network for Good customer Heartspring.  We love you.)
UPDATE: apparently in the last 24 hours, Heartspring got rid of the baby button.  So the above link is gone.  As a colleague of mine says - “Nobody puts baby in the corner!”  But I guess they did. Heartspring, bring back baby!  That was my favorite DonateNow button of all time.

I’ve often joked about how the way to get someone’s attention - and compassion - is through babies and puppies.

And now - further proof, from the Neuromarketing blog.

This highly recommend blog notes an experiment in Scotland:

Hundreds of wallets were planted on the streets of Edinburgh by psychologists last year. Perhaps surprisingly, nearly half of the 240 wallets were posted back. But there was a twist.

Richard Wiseman, a psychologist, and his team inserted one of four photographs behind a clear plastic window inside, showing either a smiling baby, a cute puppy, a happy family or a contented elderly couple. Some wallets had no image and some had charity papers inside.

When faced with the photograph of the baby people were far more likely to send the wallet back, the study found. In fact, only one in ten were hard-hearted enough not to do so. With no picture to tug at the emotions, just one in seven were sent back.

According to Dr Wiseman the result reflects a compassionate instinct towards vulnerable infants that people have evolved to ensure the survival of future generations. “The baby kicked off a caring feeling in people, which is not surprising from an evolutionary perspective,” he said. [From TimesOnline - Want to keep your wallet? Carry a baby picture.]

The results were quite startling. Fully 88% of the wallets with the baby photo were returned. The next best rate was the puppy photo, at 53%. A family photo netted a 48% return rate, while an elderly couple picture scored only 28%.

Attention nonprofit marketers: Want to keep your wallet?  Carry baby pictures.  Want to win hearts and minds?  Apparently, the answer is the same.


  • Comment: (4)   


Great post, thanks for sharing the info from that study.  It’s nice to have data confirm what we as humans “feel” is right.  However, as marketers, how do we capitalize upon this truth without taking advantage of people’s emotions?  Is it a fine line to walk or am I confusing the issue?

Posted by Chip McComb  on  04/28  at  01:31 PM

Wow! Amazing results from this study. Thanks for sharing.

And I’m interested in Chip’s comment. I’ve witnessed (from the inside) nonprofits trying to capitalize on the kids/babies appeals, particularly in direct mail. But does a savvy consumer see right through this? Or does it work (outcome and ethics-wise) as long as the baby angle legitimately relates to the work/needs/mandate of the organization?

Posted by Marlene Oliveira  on  04/28  at  04:06 PM
Katya Andresen's avatar

Great questions, Chip and Marlene.  Here’s where I stand: we have an ethical obligation as nonprofits to compellingly communicate what we do so we have the resources to fulfill our missions.  Bad marketing hurts our ability to do what we need to do in the world.  So we should speak to the human mind and heart in the most effective way possible.  That said, we have to be authentic and honest at the same time we are compelling.  If a baby or puppy has absolutely nothing to do with our work, they don’t belong in our outreach and marketing crosses the line into crass manipulation.  But don’t despair if your work has nothing to do with children or animals.  You can still put some kind of a human face on your work - and tell a story about that person. That is also effective - and honest.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/28  at  04:50 PM

Thanks for the response Katya.  I’d definitely have to agree with your thoughts.  At Kiwanis, we sometimes resist relying upon imagery of children or babies too heavily even though it’s our stated mission to “Serve the children of the world.”  Coming at the challenge from a perspective similar to yours (“speak to the human mind and heart in the most compelling way possible”) could have a great impact throughout our entire organization.

Posted by Chip McComb  on  04/28  at  05:00 PM

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