University of Nottingham psychology research harnessed for business advertising success

As members of the Ingenuity network will know, one of our key aims is to make University of Nottingham research accessible to the local business community. Our latest Ingenuity event, which took place on the 22nd February 2018, was a workshop on ‘Associative Learning in Advertising‘. It offered delegates a fascinating and practical insight into how psychology research can be harnessed in business.

Dr Mark Haselgrove, Associate Professor in the University’s School of Psychology, was our leader for this session. Mark started the session by giving us a quick introduction to the principles of associative learning; the process by which our brains make connections – or associations – between one thing and another. In business, we might want our customers to associate our company with a certain value or to associate our products with a certain offer, so there are plenty of desirable mental connections we might want to encourage.

Mark introduced us to the four things that drive associative learning:

  • Surprise – the difference between what you expect and what actually happens
  • Pairing – how closely things are placed together and how often
  • Interest – how much attention something captures
  • Novelty – the extent to which things are new in that context

…..or SPIN, as a helpful acronym.

We discussed case studies of adverts where SPIN has been used effectively and analysed adverts across different platforms including social media, television and newspapers/printed media. We soon started to realise how powerful associations can be once formed – even decades later, many of us still strongly associated the drum-playing gorilla with Cadbury’s chocolate and the laughing martian robots with Smash instant mashed potato. We also spent time working in small groups to SPIN our own adverts, incorporating the principles of surprise, pairing, interest and novelty into our own campaigns.

Delegates highly praised the session, remarking:

“Engagement during the talks was superb, probably one of the best workshops that the Ingenuity team has put forward.”

“Very interactive and a great subject.”

“Great frameworks to think about what adverts are trying to achieve.”


This is just one of a whole series of events we host for local businesses, so if you missed out on this occasion don’t despair. You can check out our full programme on the events page of our website – do sign up for some of our forthcoming sessions.

Our next business networking event will be a breakfast session on Tuesday 6th March, so join us for an opportunity to learn something new and make some new contacts.