Persuasion Advertising 101
To fully understand what persuasion is, it helps to begin with what it is not.
Telling your son or daughter to turn off the TV, iPad or Video game and they generally follow direction and do their homework as asked. Is that really persuasion?
Not really. They still believe they should be able to watch or play as much as they like. Yes, you have influenced their actions — but it stemmed from parental authority, not the parents ability to change their beliefs.
Persuasion, meanwhile, requires the ability to alter not just action but attitude. The difference is subtle, but important: A cereal brand that slashes its prices may gain new customers, but it hasn’t fundamentally changed how it is perceived.
It’s a distinction that gets at why persuasion can be so tricky, often requiring time, skill and a nuanced reading of multiple moving parts, and mostly patience. But for brands looking to make, improve or reconfigure their image with consumers, there are few tools more valuable.
Here are three things to consider when attempting to craft a persuasive message:
1. Know your message.
In the early to mid 2000s, male grooming product company Old Spice’s marketing strategy revolved around projecting sex appeal — wear Old Spice, get the girl. The problem was Axe also already relied on that same message. That brand had a firm grasp on the “sexy” corner of the market.
Certain messages can be a harder sell simply because a competitor is already selling them convincingly. Part of an ad executives job and the most enjoyable aspect of constructing an marketing & advertising strategy is taking the competition’s tactics into consideration.
Persuading consumers isn’t structured like a debate. It’s rarely that clean. Instead, it’s a competition to gain attention, good will and dollars in a sea of competing voices.
Considering Old Spice wasn’t successful at persuading consumers to buy its products by convincing them it had more sex appeal than Axe. So it re-calibrated and changed strategies.
When trying to get there from one route, and not being successful, don’t be afraid to try a different route. There is always more to learn from failure than there ever will be squeezed from success. Primarily because success breeds complacency. Why look a gift horse in the mouth right?
2. Know your audience.
A message’s persuasiveness also depends on who is listening and how they are doing so.
Your potential clients/customers fall within a certain spectrum. Some scrutinize every message, others make quick judgments based on peripheral cues, but most fall somewhere in between. Fact-based messages from experts tend to resonate with the former group, while messages from charismatic sources are a good bet for persuading the latter.
Context MATTERS! The more engaged a person is with the topic and content of a message, the more likely he or she is to look past surface charisma to evaluate its objective strength. This should go without saying, but many make this mistake. Google or GoDaddy advertising during the Superbowl finds the client disinterested in the message and glued to the image association, not their brand. This is the primary reason you will not see either of them in the Super Bowl during halftime this year.
3. Know your competition.
Sophisticated persuasion would include a multi pronged approach. Using a campaign that employs both substance and a charismatic message, and leading with that will require your competition to follow suit, or to fall behind. They will need to beat your both on “looks” and “function”. Likely the second to do so will stay in that position in the consumer eyes.
As people become more confident, it becomes increasingly difficult to change their beliefs. They will dismiss conflicting information and approach challenges with suspicion, which means competing brands must first erode consumer confidence before they can successfully sell their own message.
Knowing what your competition is doing, how they are doing it, and more importantly what they AREN’T doing is paramount to creating a truly sophisticated persuading message.
Being successful at persuasive advertising is a daunting task requiring, a clear strategy and message, with that message being applicable to your audience all the while watching your competition to stay ahead of the persuasion curve.