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
mutually exclusive. This list is offered as examples of widely
The Central Route (Logical)
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."
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,
"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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