Promotion and Persuasion

To develop an effective promotional campaign, a firm must select the right spokesperson to deliver a compelling message through appropriate channels or media.

Source, message, and channel factors are controllable elements in the communications model.  The persuasion matrix helps marketers see how each controllable element interacts with the consumer’s response process.’ The matrix has two sets of variables.  Independent variables are the controllable components of the communication process; dependent variables are the steps a receiver goes through in being persuaded.

Marketers can choose the person or source who delivers the message, the type of message appeal used, and the channel or medium.  Although they can’t control the receiver, they can select their target audience.  The destination variable is included because the initial message recipient may pass on information to others, such as friends or associates, through word of mouth.

Promotional planners need to know how decisions about each independent variable influence the stages of the response hierarchy so they don’t enhance one stage at the expense of another.  A humorous message may gain attention but result in decreased comprehension if consumers fail to process its content.  Many ads that use humour, sexual appeals, or celebrities capture consumers’ attention but result in poor recall of the brand name or message.  The following examples illustrate decisions that can be evaluated with the persuasion matrix.

1.         Receiver/comprehension: Can the receiver comprehend the ad?  Marketers must know their target market to make their messages clear and understandable.  A less educated person may have more difficulty interpreting a complicated message. jargon may be unfamiliar to some receivers.  The more marketers know about the target market, the more they see which words, symbols, and expressions their customers understand.

2.         Channel/presentation: Which media will increase presentation?  A top-rated, prime-time TV program is seen by nearly millions of households each week. But the important point is how well will it reach the marketer’s target audience.

3. Message/yielding: What type of message will create favourable attitudes or feelings?  Marketers generally try to create agreeable messages that lead to positive feelings toward the product.  Humorous messages often put consumers in a good mood and evoke positive feelings that may become associated with the brand being advertised.  Music adds emotion that makes consumers more receptive to the message.  Many advertisers use explicit sexual appeals designed to arouse consumers or suggest they can enhance their attractiveness to the opposite sex.  Some marketers compare their brand to the competition.

4.         Source/attention: Who will be effective in getting consumers’ attention?  The large number of ads we are bombarded with every day makes it difficult for advertisers to break through the clutter.  Marketers deal with this problem by using sources who will attract the target audience’s attention-actors, athletes, rock stars, or attractive models.

Source Factors

 We use the term source to mean the person involved in communicating a marketing message, either directly or indirectly.   A direct source is a spokesperson or endorser who delivers a message and/or demonstrates a product.  An indirect source, say, a model, doesn’t actually deliver a message but draws attention to and/or enhances the appearance of the ad.  Some ads use neither a direct nor an indirect source; the source is the organisation with the message to communicate.  Since most research focuses on individuals as a message source, our examination of source factors follows this approach.

Companies are very careful when selecting individuals to deliver their selling messages.  Many firms spend huge sums of money for a specific person to endorse their product or company.  They also spend millions recruiting, selecting, and training salespeople to represent the company and deliver sales presentations.  They recognise that the characteristics of the source affect the sales and advertising message.

Marketers try to select individuals whose traits will maximise message influence.  The source may be knowledgeable, popular, and/or physically attractive; typify the target audience; or have the power to reward or punish the receiver in some manner.  Herbert Kelman developed three basic categories of source attributes: credibility, attractiveness, and power.   Each influences the recipient’s attitude or behaviour through a different process

Source Credibility

Credibility is the extent to which the recipient sees the source as having relevant knowledge, skill, or experience and trusts the source to give unbiased, objective information.

There are two important dimensions to credibility, expertise and trustworthiness.

A communicator seen as knowledgeable-someone with expertise-is more persuasive than one with less expertise.  But the source also has to be trustworthy-honest, ethical, and believable.  The influence of a knowledgeable source will be lessened if audience members think he or she is biased or has underlying personal motives for advocating a position (such as being paid to endorse a product).

One of the most reliable effects found in communications research is that expert and/or trustworthy sources are more persuasive than sources who are less expert or trustworthy.  Information from a credible source influences beliefs, opinions, attitudes, and/or behaviour through a process known as internalisation, which occurs when the receiver adopts the opinion of the credible communicator since he or she believes information from this source is accurate.  Once the receiver internalises an opinion or attitude, it becomes integrated into his or her belief system and may be maintained even after the source of the message is forgotten.

A highly credible communicator is particularly important when message recipients have a negative position toward the product, service, company, or issue being promoted, because the credible source is likely to inhibit counter-arguments.   Reduced counter-arguing should result in greater message acceptance and persuasion.


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