Beauty products advertisements: A discourse analysis

Abstract. In this competitive world of business, different corporations have been devising different advertising strategies to attract valued customers to promote the purchases. Employing Fairclough’s three-dimensional model, this study attempted to analyze the linguistic features in Nivea’s (a German personal care brand) beauty products television commercials from a discourse analysis perspective. The research draws its data from thirty commercials for various kinds of Nivea’s products. The findings revealed that Nivea advertisements took advantage of such grammatical features as direct addresses, expressive modality and different types of processes. Also, the vocabulary was selected carefully with a wealth of positive adjectives, verbs and technical terms. The paper concluded with the practical contributions to the present discourse analysis field.

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HNUE JOURNAL OF SCIENCE DOI: 10.18173/2354-1067.2017-0043 Social Sci., 2017, Vol. 62, Iss. 5, pp. 127-133 This paper is available online at BEAUTY PRODUCTS ADVERTISEMENTS: A DISCOURSE ANALYSIS Trieu Tuan Anh Faculty of English, Hanoi National University of Education Abstract. In this competitive world of business, different corporations have been devising different advertising strategies to attract valued customers to promote the purchases. Employing Fairclough’s three-dimensional model, this study attempted to analyze the linguistic features in Nivea’s (a German personal care brand) beauty products television commercials from a discourse analysis perspective. The research draws its data from thirty commercials for various kinds of Nivea’s products. The findings revealed that Nivea advertisements took advantage of such grammatical features as direct addresses, expressive modality and different types of processes. Also, the vocabulary was selected carefully with a wealth of positive adjectives, verbs and technical terms. The paper concluded with the practical contributions to the present discourse analysis field. Keywords: Discourse analysis, beauty products advertisements, three-dimensional model. 1. Introduction In this day and age, the intensely competitive business world has required corporations to adopt advertising strategies to attract valued customers. Beauty product companies are no exception to the rule; they are attempting to advertise their products to potential customers via various means of mass media and persuade them to make a purchase. Among these, television is flooded with beauty product commercials since it is considered a rapid and effective way to reach a vast number of audiences (John, 2016) [6]. These commercials provide viewers with different kinds of information such as the background of the products, their ingredients, their effectiveness and even feedback given by celebrities, convincing them to believe what is being advertised is perfectly true. Recently, advertising has drawn linguists’ attention, especially from discourse analysts. These linguists desire to gain a better understanding of the strategies implemented by the advertisers in the light of discourse analysis (DA). They believe that advertisements are “wonderful examples of the diverse roles discourse can fulfill in society” (Freitas, 2012) [5]. Cook (2001) claims that advertisements inform, persuade, remind, influence and perhaps change opinions, emotions and attitudes [1]. In other Received date: 28/12/2016. Published date: 5/4/2017. Contact: Trieu Tuan Anh, e-mail: trieutuananh160589@gmail.com 127 Trieu Tuan Anh words, not only do advertisements strive to increase the sales, but they also change the society and encourage people to buy items which they do not want or need. Regarding linguistic research, a number of studies have examined advertisements from a DA perspective. Vahid’s (2012) [10], Kaur’s (2013) [7] and Shaikh’s (2015) [8] are among the most recent research on the issue. These works of research, based on Fairclough’s three-dimensional framework, investigated the power of language in the advertisements in general, which urged the consumers to buy the products; in addition, they primarily explored the advertisements in printed press. However, despite such an extensive body of literature, to the best of my knowledge, little research has focused on beauty products television commercials (TVC). Furthermore, previous research has investigated the beauty products in general; meanwhile, little research has paid close attention to advertisements of a brand in particular. This research is, therefore, an attempt to fill the gap by analyzing the beauty product TVCs of Nivea brand. For the analysis of beauty product TVCs, DA is an appropriate and essential approach since DA is not only concerned with the language itself, but it also examines the context of communication (Cook, 2001) [1]. The context of communication may include: who is communicating with whom and why, how different types and acts of communication evolved, and what their relationships are. This study was conducted with the aim of exploring the linguistic strategies implemented in the TVCs to convince the consumers from a discourse analysis perspective. To achieve that goal, the research sought to answer the question: What are the linguistic features in the beauty product TVCs? 2. Content 2.1. Theoretical background In this part, not only are the basic concepts used in this study explained, but the analytical framework is also presented. According to Fairclough (2012), discourse, which is also referred to as semiosis, is meaning-making as an element of the social process. Therefore, discourse analysis is the study which is concerned with various “semiotic modalities” of which language is only one (others are visual images and body language) [5]. The analytical framework of this study is based on Fairclough’s (2001) three-dimensional framework for every discourse analysis [3], illustrated in the following figure: Corresponding to three dimensions of discourse, he divided into three dimensions or stages of discourse analysis: + Description: the stage which deals with the formal properties of the text. + Interpretation: the stage which is concerned with the relationship between text and interaction. + Explanation: the stage which is concerned with the relationship between interaction and social context. This study laid a particular emphasis on micro level analysis of texts or the description of texts rather than the meso and macro level (i.e. the interpretation and the explanation of the texts) due to the limited scope though the overlap of three stages could 128 Beauty products advertisements: a discourse analysis Figure 1. Fairclough three-dimensional model (2001) be inevitable in the research. Fairclough (2015) also pointed out three types of values that formal features may have when a text is described: experiential, relational and expressive. Experiential value is to do with contents, knowledge and beliefs; relational value is to do with relations and social relationships; expressive value is to do with the evaluation of the reality [4]. Regarding advertising, an advertisement is comprised of such elements as language, images and/or music. This study was not intended to investigate the visual or auditory strategies, but rather, it aims to investigate the verbal strategies. In other words, this study took a close look at textual analysis. 2.2. Research methodology The data of this study included 30 TV advertisements from Nivea, a German brand that specializes in skin and body care. According to its official website, Nivea has opened more or less 95 branches all over the world since its foundation about one hundred years ago, and has conducted advertising campaigns on TV in almost every country [11]. The videos selected for the analysis, which used to be broadcast on TV, were downloaded from Nivea’s official channels on the Internet. Each video lasts from thirty to sixty seconds [12]. And in order to ensure the accuracy of the language, only the advertisements originally in English were chosen, and those in other languages were excluded. As a result, this study employed the qualitative method to explain how persuasive verbal language was used to convince the customers. 2.3. Findings and Discussion After 30 TVCs had been analyzed, it was discovered that not only lexical features but also grammatical ones were utilized as advertising strategies to attract consumers’ attention. The findings of this research have confirmed the existing literature, explaining what kinds of specific vocabulary and grammatical structures were used to increase the sales. Furthermore, this study has made a positive contribution to the field of discourse 129 Trieu Tuan Anh analysis. The strategies adopted by a particular brand and a number of features which were not used by other brands were revealed in this study. 2.3.1. Grammatical features Fairclough (2015) stated that grammatical features of texts may have relational, experiential and expressive values [4]. Specifically, relational values are expressed through the use of pronouns, modes and relational modality. According to Cook (2001), one of the most striking grammatical features of advertising is the use of pronouns, and advertising tends to favor the second person “you” and its possessive [1]. When analyzed, all of the thirty Nivea beauty products TVCs have synthetic personalization of audience members “you”. There are illuminating instances of the use “you” in Nivea’s TVCs, which are as below: - Sunlight darkens your skin, and will you fix it like a lady? - You just need a quick thirty second application. - Don’t let sensitive skin irritate you. - You tend to sweat which leads to bacteria. - With repeated use, it leaves you with no stains all day. There are some interpretations for the use of direct address “you” as an exophoric referent. Fairclough (2015) claimed that addressing someone personally and directly is an attempt to improve increasing impersonality since there are many actual and potential addressees whose identity is unknown to the producer [4]. As a consequence, it can be inferred that Nivea is expressing its desire to establish relationships with new potential customers. He also emphasized that many people in Western cultures do not like being impersonally addressed as part of a mass audience, for individuality is highly appreciated in these cultures [4]. Another reason why “you” is used on a regular basis is that once the relationships have been formed, Nivea considers customers its friends. This can help persuade the audience by creating a friendly atmosphere and avoiding the inequality between customers and companies. It sounds as if a friend was offering sincere personal recommendations. In terms of modes, all three major modes, namely declaratives, grammatical questions and imperatives, were used in the advertisements. It was found that declaratives (marked by having a subject followed by a verb) appear in the majority of sentences, for Nivea, like other producers, wishes to communicate with the customers by providing them with necessary information of the products. However, it is noticeable that imperatives also occurred frequently in these TVCs, especially in men’s products. Here are some extracts: - Forget complicated and time-consuming and potentially painful moisturizing. - Sunlight darkens your skin, and will you fix it like a lady? No, fix it the men’s way. - One, apply mud. Two, add water, and mud turns to green. Three, wash off. - Just wash and apply to wet skin. It absorbs in seconds. - Protect your image with the right deodorant. The imperatives were seen to occur most frequently to give instructions about beauty procedures. The short simple sentences may show that beauty procedures with Nivea are time-saving, and this is probably due to the fact that some consumers do not 130 Beauty products advertisements: a discourse analysis want to spend a large amount of time on this daily activity. In addition, with the use of the imperative form, it is a conscious attempt to engage the customers rather than simply convey the information (Toolan, 1988) [9], urging them to take action. Another value lying beneath grammatical features is expressive value, expressed by expressive modality. Fairclough (2015) argued that modality may convey both relational value and expressive value. Relational modality is the power of one participant in relation to others while expressive value is the speaker’s evaluation of truth [4]. The modalities that predominate in these TVCs are the expressive meaning expressed by the modal auxiliary “can”. Examples are shown below: - Last, you need a quick shave at the gym without a shave gel, you can use your body wash directly. - Moisturizing can be simple and fast. - Use the three in one blender. You can. - It’s proven to give you three times the dryness, so you can stay confident. As can be seen, the producers took advantage of the modal auxiliary “can” to evaluate the truth and make the buyers well aware of the benefits that the products offer. Another value that should be taken into consideration is experiential value that grammatical features have. This value is represented through processes, norminalization and activization or passivization. Active voice is evident in these TVCs: - Nivea Men total anti-acne mud foam deeply and gently closes pores to eliminate accumulated oil and bacteria. - A smoothness body wash provides moisture throughout the day with no greasy feel. - Nivea care intensely nourishes skin without greasiness. Most sentences in the advertisements were formulated by action process (S V O) in the active voice. These actions involve two participants: the inanimate agents (Nivea products) and patients, and to a certain extent, the agents act positively upon the patients. The active voice, rather than the passive one, was exploited to express the notion that it is Nivea’s products that can exert positive impacts on the users. With the passives being used, the representation of the brand would probably have been weaker; as a result, the sales would not have been promoted. 2.3.2. Vocabulary Together with the above-mentioned grammatical features, the choice of lexical items is crucial since they can convey specific messages that affect consumers’ decisions. Similar to the grammatical features, vocabulary may have three kinds of values. First and foremost, one way Nivea advertisers adopted to ensure the quality of their products is applying various adjectives with the expressive values. The list of adjectives was obtained and classified into two categories: positive and negative, as below: Positive adjectives: good/ better, nourishing, simple, fast/ faster, fresh/ fresher, great, smooth/ smoother, firm/ firmer, cool, bright, long-lasting, soft/ softer, beautiful, healthy, fair, stronger, powerful, white/ whiter, wide/ wider, clean, anti-ageing, hydrating, protective, moisturizing, non-greasy, revolutionary, vibrant, irresistible, fabulous, brilliant, incredible, effective. 131 Trieu Tuan Anh Negative adjectives: pale, worse, harsh, dull, oily, damaged, dry. These adjectives were taken from the following excerpts: - New Nivea extra whitening lotion helps repair and protect your skin, keeping it fair always. - Try Nivea extra light burning body serum with SPF 33 with a combination of Q10 and Filan C that make skin whiter and even keeps it firmer. - Other whitening lotions without SPF give you fairer skin from the first application, but with sun exposure, skin turns dark and uneven again. From the list of adjectives above, it was found that the advertisements contain adjectives with both positive and negative connotations, but the number of positive adjectives outnumbers that of negative ones (40 and 7 respectively). On the one hand, the positive connotations are associated with the quality or the effectiveness of the products such as “keeping your skin fair” or “keeping your skin firmer”. Another possible explanation for those adjectives is that they highlight the target audiences’ desirable qualities that the products can fully satisfy. It is also remarkable that a large number of comparatives are included in Nivea commercials, because Nivea wishes to emphasize how its products are superior to its competitors’. The use of positive adjectives is therefore likely to make a positive impression and shape the image of quality products in the hearers’ minds. On the other hand, such negative adjectives as damaged or oily denote the problems which exist before the products are used or when the products are not used, urging the customers to use the products to avoid such problems. Similarly, the effectiveness of the products is introduced by the application of positive verbs such as: remove, moisturize, energize, nourish, brighten, maintain, control, protect, replenish. These verbs were employed to help create positive memorable associations, and also build the image of the products being advertised. In addition to adjectives and verbs, advertisers inserted technical terms and scientific information: - You just need a quick 30 second application. - Try the new Libya man sensitive moisturizer with nor percent alcohol. - Nivea invisible black and white has triple protection to control sweat, bacteria and body odor. - Nivea care, the revolutionary formula with light hydro waxes, intensely nourishes skin without greasiness for my face and for my body. New Nivea care, 100 - Nivea Q10 replenishes the skin levels of Q10. - Other whitening lotions without SPF give you fairer skin from the first application. - Nivea instant white SPF 15 protects you from sun exposure. - 90% of 166 women agreed There is a combination between ordinary vocabulary, which aim at ordinary people, and technical terms, which aim at qualified experts in the field. The technical terms like Q10, SPF or SPF 15 are useful to construct professionalism and sound as though the products were scientifically controlled. Likewise, the numbers are given as facts, convincing the viewers of the quality of the products. Furthermore, some testimonials from the previous users or from the celebrities are quoted. The relational value is marked by the use of formal or informal words. The majority 132 Beauty products advertisements: a discourse analysis of selected words are informal, which created a friendly atmosphere between participants. This is consistent with the choice of grammatical features analyzed in the sections above. 3. Conclusions The study investigated the linguistic strategies used by Nivea to attract the valued customers and convince them to make a purchase. The findings revealed that not only vocabulary but also grammatical features play a vital role in communicating the messages of the producers. Specifically, grammatical features were expressed by the use of direct pronouns, modality, different kinds of modes and processes. Regarding lexical items, advertisers made use of positive adjectives, verbs and scientific information. The study shows several limitations due to its scope. Firstly, merely verbal elements were taken into consideration while visual and auditory factors were not discussed. Furthermore, the discourses were only analyzed from the micro-level. For further research, it is suggested that all elements of advertisements be explored so as to understand the strategies more fully. Additionally, future studies can be conducted to investigate the adverts from all three dimensions of critical discourse analysis (i.e. description, interpretation and explanation) to uncover the ideology of power embedded in the discourse. Also, I am firmly convinced that it is of great importance for researchers and language teachers to be familiar with discourse analysis in their professional activities. REFERENCES [1] Cook, G., 2001. The Discourse of Advertising. Routledge. [2] Fairclough, N., 2001. Language and Power. Longman. [3] Fairclough, N., 2015. Language and Power. Routledge. [4] Freitas, E., 2012. Advertising and Discourse Analysis. Gee, P & Handford, M (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Discourse Analysis. Routledge. [5] John, M., 2016. Cambridge O Level: Commerce. Cambridge University Press. [6] Kaur, K., 2013. Beauty Products Advertisements: A Critical Discourse Analysis. Asian Social Science, 9, 61-71. [7] Shaikh, M., 2015. The Representation of Men and Women in Advertisements: A Critical Discourse Analysis. Annual Research Journal of Gender Studies, 7. [8] Toolan, M., 1988. Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction. Routledge [9] Vahi
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