autoevolution

Manipulated Into Liking Cars

Unless you've been living under a rock that hasn't been supernaturally gifted with a wi-fi connection, you are probably well aware of Samsung's predicaments with the ill-fated Note 7 smartphone from a few years ago.
Wooden manequin 1 photo
The rather smart piece of mobile technology had had a great start, which soon turned into a disaster after it got globally recalled and then pulled back for good following a string of impromptu self-immolation cases.

By pure coincidence, Samsung is Apple's biggest smartphone competitor, and the two companies have been at each other's throats for quite a few years now. You can probably guess that Samsung's fiery predicament was a fortunate stroke of serendipity for Apple, which by another coincidence was only days away from launching its jack-less iPhone 7, the phone that was supposed to put an end to the company's lagging smartphone sales. Plot twist, it didn't.

The timing of the whole shebang spurted a bunch of strong opinions from technology pundits around the world, though, especially those who don't believe in coincidences. The situation obviously goes a bit deeper than that, and I'm already boring you with a subject that normally wouldn't be part of autoevolution's everyday coverage.

Bear with me for a moment, though, because the point will start to emerge pretty soon. So, we are talking about Samsung and Apple, two massive companies with pockets so big that they can invest more in marketing and lobbying than others do in R&D. To put things in perspective, Apple Inc. had a net income of $59.531 billion in 2018 alone, while Samsung Electronics is not far behind regarding profits. They are two of the most prominent and most influential players not only in their fields but in the global industry as well.

It's safe to say that, for the sake of argument, either of the two rivals would be a prime candidate for the job if someone would want to pull off a gargantuan conspiracy to bury a competitor.

For an example of a much milder approach to intense feuds between two rival companies, you can probably have a look at the so-called “Cola Wars” between Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

Do you know what other large corporations are also blessed with this kind of power? You guessed it, carmakers. Not exactly at the same level, but powerful enough. With great power comes great responsibility, as Uncle Ben would say, so in a perfect world, we wouldn't be able to talk about corporate espionage and other dirty tricks being employed by rival companies. That doesn't mean that it can't happen.

The human brain is a pretty unusual organ, having a similar structure as the brains of other mammals, but with a cerebral cortex that is quite a bit more evolved, or so they say. Among other things, this default wisdom allows us to resort to a lot of mind tricks to manipulate other people into thinking differently, whether we're talking about individuals or masses. Strangely enough, if you know which buttons to push, masses are actually easier to manipulate than individuals.

Edward Louis James Bernays, known among other things as “the father of public relations” and the nephew of Sigmund Freud, was of the opinion that “a small, invisible government who understands the mental processes and social patterns of the masses, rules public opinion by consent.” He was mostly not wrong, and we can extrapolate this to the masses' stance on certain brands, whether they are in the business of making phones, dishwashers, clothes or cars.

Have you ever wondered why you are more drawn toward the products of a particular carmaker, no matter what the reviews are saying about them? Are you absolutely, positively sure that it is you who made the decision of being a Ferrari Tifosi instead of a die-hard Lamborghini fan?

I know that I am more drawn toward certain brands instead of others, and I find myself sometimes fighting my own preconceptions about other carmakers. Who put those assumptions there in the first place? Knowledge and research? How did I obtain that knowledge if it wasn't handed to me in the first place?

Media represents one of the most potent methods of crowd manipulation in existence, and with the advent of the Internet, you can even choose who you want to be manipulated by.

If you're reading this, there's a pretty big chance that you have a Facebook account, or are at least aware of how the world's largest social media website works. What some of you aren't probably aware is that Facebook was once the vessel for one of the if not the largest ever mood manipulation experiment. It could still be, but other cases haven't been documented yet.

For precisely seven days during January 2012, a team of data scientists had a job of distorting what almost 700,000 Facebook users saw on their News Feed when they logged into their accounts. For a whole week, part of those Guinea Pig users was shown predominantly happy and positive news stories or images, while others were bombarded with “sadder than average” content.

Can you guess what happened next? A vast majority of the manipulated users were more inclined to post either positive or negative things on their Walls, depending on what they had been shown in the week prior.

Can I absolutely prove that you became a BMW or an Audi fan because of a global conspiracy? Absolutely not, and I'm not trying to, either.

What I want is to make you realize that as long as you pay attention to the news, commercials and other types of “propaganda” from a brand, be it a carmaker or a smartphone maker, your opinion about that brand may not be entirely based on your own choice, but “helped” toward a positive or negative conclusion. Heck, this whole diatribe could be an attempt at manipulation into either liking or hating autoevolution or certain car brands, who knows?

Editor's note: A slightly different version of this editorial was published in 2016, but I felt that its theme is more than topical in this day and age, especially if you look at how most of the media is portraying the Carlos Ghosn scandal.

 

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