Changing Attitudes

Train travel has had its ups and downs in popularity among the American public. Recently, Amtrak was experiencing a downswing in rider ship along the lines comprising its rail system. Of major concern to Amtrak and its advertising agency, DDB Needham, were the long distance western routes where rider ship had been declining significantly.

At one time, trains were the only practical way to traverse the vast areas of the west. Trains were fast, very luxurious and quite convenient compared to other forms of transportation existing at the time. However, times change and the automobile became America’s standard of convenience. Also, air travel had easily established itself as the fastest method of traveling great distances. Therefore, the task for DDB Needham was to encourage consumers to consider other aspects of train travel in order to change their attitudes and increase the likelihood that trains would be considered for travel in the west.

Two portions of the total market were targeted: (1) anxious – those concerned with safety, relaxation and cleanliness and (2) travel lovers – those viewing themselves a relaxed, casual and interested in the travel experience as part of their vacation. The agency then developed a campaign that focused on travel experience such as freedom, escape, relaxation and enjoyment of the great western outdoors. These meaningful travel experiences did not focus so much on the physical attributes of the trains themselves. Instead, they stressed experience gained by using the trains and portrayed western train trips as wonderful adventures. Advertisements showed clips of the beautiful scenery that could be enjoyed along some of the more famous western routes and emphasized the romantic names of some of these trains (Empire, builder etc) These ads wee strategically placed among family oriented TV shows and program s involving nature an American in order to most effectively reach the target audience.

Results were impressive. The Empire Builder, which was focused on in one ad, enjoyed a 15 percent increase in passengers and a 24 percent increase in revenue on its Chicago to Seattle route. In 1990 Amtrak and DDB Needham were also honored with a Gold Effie advertising award for creating these advertisements.

The situation faced by Amtrak and DDB Needham involves considerations commonly faced by many marketers who are attempting to change consumer attitudes through use of persuasive messages. Though must be given to various characteristics of te audience that will receive these communications the type of spokespeople or various sources to use in these communications and the content of messages that will be delivered. In addition, acre must be taken to arrange the background of these messages and understand the nature of situations surrounding consumer decisions to purchase the advertised product or service.

As we have just suggested the persuasive communication process appears capable of influencing attitude change among consumers. It should also be kept in mind, however, that many of the methods for influencing attitudes change that will be discussed are also useful for encouraging the development of new attitudes – as in the case of consumers’ attitude formation for new products. The reader should also note that the degree of success in changing consumers’ attitudes depends on how strongly existing attitudes are held. Those that are strongly entrenched are difficult to change, while neutral and weakly held attitudes are much easier to influence.

By discussing strategies for changing consumers’ attitudes and reviewing the general nature of the communication process used to accomplish these strategies. Several major components of such communications are discussed next in terms of their influence n attitude change. First, various communication sources and their potential effects are addressed. Different properties of the message itself are then treated. Finally characteristics of the intended audience which affect their receptivity to persuasive communications are examined.