Term Paper: Consumer Psychology Persuasion Lies

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[. . .] On the other hand, a nationally recognized auto expert would be successful in endorsing cars, but not athletic shoes. Either of them, however, could successfully be used to endorse fast food restaurants.

By using the peripheral route to persuasion, advertisers are relying on the effectiveness of what social psychologists term 'cues'. These cues are mental shortcuts that, if utilized correctly, can convey an advert's message without the need to engage the consumer in any form of cognitive thought. The following technique is based upon the influence that can be exerted by a using the right cue for the occasion.

The Cues of Life.

Based on the work of Robert Cialdini (Influence: Science and practice, 1980), the Cues of Life model describes how persuasion may be achieved by using six general Cues of influence. These Cues operate as mental short cuts, and are effective in many different situations, especially when the consumer is not using careful, considered thought. This technique, therefore, is suitable for advertisements that wish to pursue the peripheral route to persuasion, but is of little use to those who require a central route.

Known by the mnemonic CLARCCS, the six cues are comparison, liking, authority, reciprocity, commitment/consistency, and scarcity. Comparison is similar to group persuasion, or the bandwagon effect, and is an extremely potent weapon in the advertiser's armory. The question, "Everybody else is doing it, why aren't you?" can exert a powerful effect upon consumers, especially in regard to products that are of little importance to their life. Human psychology suggests that no one likes to be left out, but that everyone is driven by the need to belong. Therefore if an individual observes his or her friends, family, or peer group wearing a certain brand of trainer, eating a burger from a particular store, or drinking a specific bottle of beer, then there is enormous internal and external pressures on them to conform. To the advertiser this is a godsend, and if they can successfully convey the message that their product is the one that a certain group should choose then their sales could snowball, with little further effort required.

Liking is a cue that applies whenever a consumer feels a connection with either, a representative of the company, the characters or personalities within the advertisement, or to another user of the product. A great many mail order firms have successfully adopted this cue, as evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of people have, at one time or another, purchased goods from a catalogue or home enterprise that was run by a friend or work colleague. The quality of, or need for, the goods comes secondary to the desire to accommodate or please a liked associate. The basis of the sale is liking, and it could be focussed upon anyone involved in the transaction, whether it is the person handing out the leaflet, the celebrity whose face adorns the advertisement, or the friend who purchased the same brand last week. When using this strategy, advertisers are also aware of society's tendency to like physically attractive individuals and the influence that attractiveness can have upon consumers. Numerous psychological, and sociological, experiments have concluded that attractive people exert a greater influence on others, and are considered to be more trustworthy and likeable (Down & Lyons, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1991). Advertisers certainly subscribe to this belief, and there are very few advertisements that do not include happy, attractive faces smiling out at the consumer from the pages of magazines, newspapers or direct mail catalogues.

The third cue is authority, and it is a mental shortcut that has been used in advertisements since they first appeared. Many products, especially cleaning or household goods, have long relied on the endorsement of the 'man in the white coat' for authority. Just as people trust the word of their doctor, dentist, or optician, so they will happily accept the authority of any official looking individual that endorses an advertised product. This is a prime example of the peripheral route to persuasion in action as, by using an official, intelligent, or authoritative figure to advertise a product, it saves the consumer the trouble of researching or examining the issues, and they simply accept the facts and claims as being true. When used effectively, perhaps accompanied by a list of persuasive facts, figures, and scientific looking graphs, the authority cue is another powerful advertising tool.

Most people are raised to adopt the values and beliefs of good manners. One of these dictates that if someone gives you something then you should return the favor. This is the basis of the mental cue known as reciprocity, and it is a favorite technique of mail order companies and subscription magazines. Ever wondered how these companies could afford to give away free gifts with every first order, or in every second week's issue? The reason is as reciprocity, they give you something and you voluntarily purchase something in return. Such is the influence of this technique that the free gift may be nothing more than a two-cent pen, but the rule is very simple. The company has given something, and it has been accepted, now social convention decrees that the consumer is obligated to give something back. The evidence of the success of this technique is the fact that so many companies continue to use it as their primary marketing strategy.

The Commitment/Consistency cue is also known as the "Four Walls" sales technique. The advertisement poses four questions to the consumer, with the answer to each leading logically onto the next until, at the end of the advertisement, the consumer is all but committed to making the purchase (Cialdini, 1980). This logical chain of ideas comes from the Commitment/Consistency rule, which states that if you take a stand on an issue you must remain consistent with your beliefs. This is a very powerful psychological tactic, although it is more effective when employed by a sales person, rather than in print.

The final of Cialdini's cues is that of Scarcity, which suggests that if a product is rare, has limited availability, or is difficult to acquire, then it becomes desirable. The rule of Scarcity states that rare things are highly valued within our society and advertisers can make use of this concept to persuade the consumer of a product's limited availability. The most common strategy is the use of slogans such as 'one day sale', 'limited offer', 'only while stocks last', or 'first come, first served', which make the product appear scarce and therefore increase consumer interest. Again, the success of this particular technique is apparent from its continued, and widespread, use.

All of the above mentioned cues require little, if any, mental effort on the part of the consumer. This lends the technique to use in the advertising of unimportant, everyday products that can be presented to the consumer via the peripheral route. However, if the product is of sufficient importance for the consumer to engage in cognitive thought or discussion, then the cues do not stand up to close inspection, and their effectiveness is greatly reduced.

Whereas the cues of life model relies on the consumer foregoing the need to think, the following technique encourages the thought process, but claims that an individual's mode of thinking will determine how they can be influenced.

Dual Process Persuasion.

The dual process approach is extremely useful to advertisers, and is based on four assumptions about psychology and influence.

Assumption 1: There are two relatively distinct modes of thinking that a person may employ. Of these two modes, one mode is called the "systematic" mode and the other is called the "heuristic" mode. The systematic mode refers to a person who employs careful and conscious thought; whereas the heuristic mode refers to a person who judges a situation by the superficial images and perceptions. Unlike a person who is in the systemic mode, those in the heuristic mode are thinking only enough to be aware of the situation, but not carefully enough to notice any errors or inconsistencies.

Assumption 2: Situational and personality variables affect which mode of thinking a person will employ. People are flexible in their thinking and are able to switch between the two modes, so that sometimes they are systematic and other times they are heuristic. The mode used depends on situational and personality factors. For example, if an advert has a strong personal relevance for a consumer (such as a product they urgently require, or a purchase that they are currently considering) then they will use the systematic mode of thinking. However if a product is irrelevant to them (such as a product that they don't really require, or one that they had no current thoughts of purchasing) then they are more likely to use the heuristic mode of thinking. In addition to these situational factors, there are also individual preferences for particular modes of thinking. Certain people have a natural preference for cognition and like to think carefully about things… [END OF PREVIEW]

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