Ten Common Persuasive Appeals
Updated 14 August 2015

The decision of which appeal to use in an ad is a strategic decision.  The ultimate goal is to motivate the audience to take a desire action.  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 persuasive appeals that are widely used.

Added Value

Target audiences: Adults, collectors, persons with limited resources

This is an appeal to our frugal side. We are looking for bargins 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:     Buy one, get one free.
                   Twenty percent off if you order before midnight.
                   Be sure to collect the entire set before supplies run out.


Target audiences: Younger people, males

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:     We build excitement, Pontiac.
                   Join the Navy and see the world.
                   Go for the gusto.


Target audiences: People who feel that they have been wronged, people who like to compete, comparison shoppers.

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.

Examples:    Fight back against high prices.
                  Preferred by a two-to-one margin in a blind taste test.
                  Our product is better than...


Target audiences:  Single people, camp followers

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:     The Few.  The Proud.  The Marines.
                   Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too?
                   The closer you get, the more you need Noxema.


Target audiences:  Varies

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:     Seat belts save lives.
                   Know the seven warning signs for cancer -- before it is too late.
                   Help take a bite out of crime.


Target audiences: Varies

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:     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.


Target audiences: Varies

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    Buy American.
                 Give to the United Way.
                 Look for the union label.


Target audiences: Young people, women, disadvantaged, free spirits

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:    You've come a long way, baby.
                  Be all that you can be.
                  Take charge of your future.  Enroll in night classes.


Target audiences:  Social climbers.  Teenagers, young adults.

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:    Be the first on your block to own one.
                  You deserve the best.
                  Why would you want to own anything less?


Target audiences: Varies

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:    Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
                  I want to be like Mike.
                  Nine out of ten hospitals give Tylenol to their patients.

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