Common Persuasive Appeals
Portions of this document were derived from lectures presented by Lecturer Kerry Benson.
Updated 15 February 2018

The decision of which appeal to use in an ad is a strategic decision based on consumer insights uncovered in research. Consumer insights are the below-the-surface attitudes and beliefs that influence consumer behavior. The ultimate goal is to motivate the audience to take a desire action.  Those efforts usually follow one of two routes: a central route based on logic (getting people to think) and a peripheral route based on emotion (getting people to react). These appeals are a strategic decision that play of the target audience's needs. There are many ways to "punch one's buttons."  There is no one list of the different appeals.  Nor are these categories mutually exclusive.  This list is offered as examples of widely used persuasive appeals.

The Central Route (Logical)

Added Value

This is an appeal to our frugal side. We are looking for bargains and savings.  The desire is to obtain the things we want for as little as possible.  It also relates to the desire to collect and maintain things we value -- including money, art objects, stamps and baseball cards. Examples include, "Buy one, get one free." "Twenty percent off if you order before midnight." "Be sure to collect the entire set before supplies run out."

Argument/Comparison (Problem/Solution)

This can take an intellectual approach, appeal to one’s emotions, or a combination of both.  It is a way to address forces that threaten us.  It can also be used in comparison with another product. Usually a twist on an everyday occurrence.  The audience should be able to relate to it. Examples include,"Fight back against high prices." "Preferred by a two-to-one margin in a blind taste test."  "Our product is better than..."


This is where you show the product in action.  In television, demonstrating a product is relatively easy.  However, on radio, creative use of words and sound may be needed to convey the message.  For example, using the sound of sandpaper on wood to indicate the dirt and grit left behind by Brand X.  Among the many kinds of demonstration ads are problem/solution ads (A clear statement of what the product or service can do for the consumer), before/after ads (showing cause and effect), and side-by-side ads (When you make such a comparison, the Federal Trade Commission has said it has to be fair, accurate and documented).


Sometimes the man or woman on the street has more credibility than a celebrity.  Using the words of people who actually use the product or service can be very effective.  However, these people must be compensated for their testimonials.  The Federal Trade Commission has said it is all right to use an actor to play a “real person,” just as long as it is made clear that it is, in fact, an actor portrayal.


This involves provide basic facts about the features of the product/service and the benefits to be received by the consumer.

The Peripheral Route (Emotional)


Almost everyone enjoys the exciting and unusual.  Many thrive on overcoming obstacles.  However, this appeal usually diminishes with age.  Although differences between the sexes have narrowed somewhat in recent years, it can take different forms, such as the appeal of a traditional outdoor adventure to a male audience versus the appeal of a glamorous setting to a female audience. Examples include "We build excitement, Pontiac." "Join the Navy and see the world." "Go for the gusto."


Humans are social creatures.  We tend to enjoy the company of others.  In the basic sense, we are looking for love.  In a much broader sense, many also enjoy belonging to a bigger group or movement.  Sometimes the focus is on becoming a member of an elite organization.  The appeal can be intellectual, emotional or sexual.  Images of happy people interacting with one another are widely used. Examples include "The Few.The Proud.The Marines." "Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too?" "The closer you get, the more you need Noxema."


This appeal is used to both keep us from doing things that can bring us danger and to motivate us to taking an action that can protect us from a potential threat.   The use of this appeal is highly dependent upon the action feared.  Children who have not experienced serious illness are not likely to respond to that kind of appeal.  However, they are more likely than most to respond to the fear of the dark and the unknown.  The fear of losing one’s job may be more real than losing one’s life. Examples include "Seat belts save lives." "Know the seven warning signs for cancer -- before it is too late." "Help take a bite out of crime."


A favorite among parents, appealing to one’s sense of guilt can be a powerful motivator.  It is used to convince us to contribute to certain charities, to provide financial security for our loved ones after death, and even to get us call our mothers long distance.  The effectiveness of this appeal is highly dependent upon the audience being targeted.  Guilt has been socially instilled into various publics differently.  The key is knowledge of the specific public. Examples include "Don't buy life insurance for yourself.  Buy it for those left behind."  "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." "Voting is not a privilege.  It is a responsibility."


This is a very broad category for a wide range of appeals.  People are loyal to many things: family, friends, social groups, and nation. Examples include "Buy American." "Give to the United Way." "Look for the union label."


In these increasingly complex times, more and more people are wanting to take greater control of their own lives.  This appeal works well with those who see themselves as being on the outside looking in.  It is also an effective appeal among those who fashion themselves as rugged individualists. Examples include "You've come a long way, baby." "Be all that you can be." "Take charge of your future.  Enroll in online classes."


This appeal can be very powerful.  It takes several forms: reputation, self-respect, prestige and vanity.  It is driven by how we view ourselves and how we want to be seen by others.  The appeal is particularly effective among teenagers and young adults trying to establish their identities.  Persons concerned about their standing within their social circles also respond.  The ownership of certain products, such as luxury cars, are often seen as a statement of social standing. Examples include "Be the first on your block to own one." "You deserve the best." "Why would you want to own anything less?"


Source credibility is the key to the effectiveness of this appeal.  We hold certain people, institutions and values above all others.  We often hear testimonials from specific individuals, such as actors or athletes.  We also pay attention their roles, as a parent or as a doctor.  A popular tactic is to associate a product with valued traditions or institutions.  At its highest level, this appeal takes form in a statement of religious belief.  However, the use of religion in support of an product or cause is a sensitive issue and can backfire. Examples include "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet." "I want to be like Mike." "Nine out of 10 hospitals give Tylenol to their patients."

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