Advertising: love it or hate it, it’s very persuasive in convincing us to choose one product or service over another or dissuade us from buying another’s. When you have allowed yourself to be persuaded to make one choice rather than an alternative, the choice you make is either on an emotional or a logical level.
When it comes to advertising, this interesting article suggests we are far more often led by emotion than by logic – and when we think we’ve been persuaded by a rational argument it is still emotional and we have simply rationalised it to ourselves afterwards. Advertisers know this, that’s why they carefully choose the strike a balance with each advert and type of advert. These are the most common form of persuasion in advertising using an emotional appeal. I will write a separate article for appeals to our rational selves in advertising.
Appeal to Emotion in Advertising
“FOMO”: The fear of missing out is a very powerful appeal to emotion. After all, who wants to be the one who misses out on a bargain? Who would want to pass up the opportunity of a lifetime> The advertiser will use concepts such as “if you don’t buy this soon, you’re going to miss out. All your friends will have one and you won’t” which also makes us not want to be part of the “out” crowd at the same time. Keeping up with the Joneses is part of aspiration and may have a biological basis as humans are social animals. “Hurry while stocks last” and “Clearance sale” all stimulate the part of our brain that doesn’t want to be left out of the crowd by suggesting there is a limited number or a limited time to grab the bargain.
Because You Deserve It: Another form of emotional advertising appeals to our narcissistic selves. We all have that sense of self that thinks we deserve this that or the other and this form of advertising gives us the personal validation we crave. It seemingly puts us at the centre of the universe, pats us on the back with a wink and says “ooh go on, you’ve worked really hard this year haven’t you? Nobody deserves a treat more than you do, you awesome, amazing fantastic person you.” Advertising is not our friend, but it pretends to be here. It may sound insidious, but while it works, advertisers are going to use it. Typically used for luxuries where they focus on creating a brand image of quality or indulgence.
David & Goliath: We do love an underdog, don’t we? Well, I know I do. President Snow doesn’t. In the USA, you may find yourself drawn to the “Great American Dream” argument that anybody with an idea and drive can become rich doing it in the free market economy and in the market of ideas. In the UK, we do things slightly differently with the sentiment but with the same outcome. We’ve nearly always cheered on the underdog. If the Faroe Islands played Brazil at football, we’d cheer on the Faroe Islands because we don’t expect them to win. It’s the Rocky Balboa effect, I suppose. Businesses who advertise in this way show you how big and successful they are by being small and sticking with their principles. They use terms like “traditional” and “family run” and usually state the year of their foundation. TV advertising might show a craftsman making the product the traditional way. The organic industry has built its entire industry on this form of advertising.
Do The Right Thing: Usually used by the charity sector, there is rarely any benefit to you to spend money on starving children in Africa – at least, nothing you can quantify. That’s why they have to appeal to your altruism, doing the right thing. You’re more fortunate than these people (or these animals) suffering because of this situation. They also add in a dose of narcissism by using terms like “you can make a difference” and “will you help us?” It feels like a personal message when it is not, but in a way it puts you at the centre of the universe to think that you – and only you – can make this happen. All you need to do is give a small amount of money every month.
Appeal to Desirability: Sex sells, like it or not. Soft drinks tell you that people will find you attractive and that’s arguably the most notable type of appealing to desirability. But it’s not the only one. Do you want to be the envy of your friends? Do you want people (your boss, your colleagues, strangers) to notice you? Want to make that other girl in the office jealous? Want to go to that interview looking the part? Want to smell like David Beckham? This is all about desirability: if you smell like David Beckham, women will want to sleep with you. If you wear this suit, you will get that job. If you wear this dress, you can be Carrie Bradshaw. If you do XYZ, people will look more favourably upon you.