Adorable Images Encourage Pro-Social Behavior

Published on October 30, 2017


A fuzzy baby duck. A kitten with paws batting playfully in the air. A furry little puppy, eyes half-closed, chewing on a ragged toy.

It¹s clear these images popularized in online videos and elsewhere have wide appeal, but can organizations systematically capitalize on cuteness when nudging consumers to engage in a desired behavior?

A study by Bauer College marketing professor Vanessa Patrick and two co-authors attempts to understand how a particular form of baby-like cuteness – known as Kindchenshema – works, and for what segment of the population.

The research team builds on the argument that cuteness is appealing – Hello Kitty reaps $5 billion annually in profits for Sanrio, – for instance – and is therefore a popular persuasion tactic. However, they argue that not everyone responds to cuteness in the same way. The research, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, finds that some individuals – who tend toward extroversion, impulsive and risky behavior tend to respond more favorably to cuteness appeals to drive pro-social and sustainable behavior.

“What is most important about this research is that it demonstrates in a large scale field that cuteness appeals can impact recycling behavior,” Patrick said.

By Julie Bonnin