New Belgium Message and Congruity Theory

In class we discussed Osgood and Tannenbaum’s theory called The Congruity Theory. It was the theory that everyone had such a fun time with in class because of the mathematical aspect. I have chosen this theory to assess the persuasive effect of a video put out by New Belgium Brewing Company to promote their Rampant Imperial IPA (For those who are not into beer; that is an India Pale Ale). The video is titled “The Hop Burp” which describes a technique called ‘dry hopping’ which use when brewing this beer that gives it such a distinct flavor. IPAs are known for their dominant hops flavor and aroma. The man in the video describes how the hot beer is cooled with hops to add them to the brew and how when this process meets our humanly body temperature it can produce what they call ‘The Hop Burp’. In a mildly humorous way, the man smells the ‘hops burps’ and lets us know what they smell like.

Osgood and Tannenbaum’s Congruity Theory places a person’s perception of the source providing the message, the preconceived opinion of the concept as well as the message itself on a scale from -3 to +3. There is a mathematical formula to find how effective a message can be using all of these rankings. To begin, I must say that this is entirely subjective, and will differ from person to person because all rankings are based on the person’s personal feeling toward what is being ranked. I will explain the theory using this ad as the focus point. The person using the scale must use the scale from -3 to +3. To begin, I must rank my idea of the concept in general. Beer in general would get a very high grade from me, but IPAs are my least favorite type of beer. I give it a -2. Next, I must assess my idea of the source providing the message in question. New Belgium makes two of my favorite beers of all time (Fat Tire and 1554) and I hold a pretty high regard for them as a brewing company. I give them a 3. Next, I must assess my attitude of the message I have received. I thought the ad was humorous and tastefully (as tasteful as burping can be) done. I give it a 1. My scale would look like this:

3          Source- New Belgium Brewing Co.


1          Attitude Towards Message- “The Hop Burp”



-2         Concept- IPAs


Now that the ranking is over, the fun begins. There are two mathematical formulas in this theory to assess how 1) Your attitude of the concept can change and 2) your attitude towards the source can change. The formula to find the change in attitude towards the concept is  Image.   C is the concept, S is the source, and P is the distance between S and C on the scale. To find the possible change in my idea of the concept, the equation would be Image. This means that my idea of the concept (IPA’s) could possibly go up 2 or down 2 after seeing and assessing the message. The formula that assesses what can change in the attitude of the source is Image. The formula for my situation with this message is Image. This means that based on seeing this message my evaluation of New Belgium Brewing Co. can either raise 3 or drop 3. Seeing as how the scale tops at 3, it could not possibly go any higher.
I like this theory because it tries to apply a concrete (mathematical) perspective to a very static social concept (persuasion). I like that it takes into account how the source is perceived as well as the preconceived notion of whatever is being discussed (in this case the IPAs). However, I think there are too many underlying aspects that have an influence on the situation to be able to give an absolute numerical value to something in a social situation. I.E.- My dislike of IPAs may decrease in relation to my inebriation rising because of my differing perception. This theory simply measures the ability of a message’s persuasive value on the person using the scale alone. Everything in this scale is subjective to the person, situation and the actual outcome. This scale gives an idea of how effective a message can be in persuading but how effective it actually is simply depends on the person. My perception of New Belgium has not changed simply because I love their other products, I just do not like this particular one. I feel that this scale takes into account the fact that I liked the message, which ends up being beneficial for the source even though I do not like the particular product. Something that I do not like about this theory is there is no way of telling how the attitude towards the message effects the idea of the source. If the “Hop Burp” were to, in some way, offend me then my idea of New Belgium may go down but there is no way of showing with the numbers that this is a possibility.

-Craig Christman

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