Everyday hundreds or thousands of advertisements bombard us. Often they are seen not heeded or noticed but there are those that not only attract the attention of the target audience but also successfully influence them to actually decide to try the products advertised. The nature and the key to successful advertisement are through an appeal to emotions of the target audience which is the topic of this essay.
In his article, Advertising’s Fifteen Basic Appeals, Jib Fowles bases his claims on a research done by a Psychologist Henry Murray to discuss fifteen of the advertisers favorite emotions that they influence to ensure their products sell in an ever increasingly competitive market. Advertisements attempt to vividly portray the desires of their potential customers and then clearly show how these desires are best satisfied by the products they are offering. A case in point is using images of sexually attractive models which appeals to most people’s subconscious needs as desiring this models translates to an almost equal desire of the products they advertise or in the least get the attention of the potential customers. The key is to use images or some fine artwork which best appeal to the primal level of the brain than just plain text. Fowles thus describes an advertisement as consisting of two principal parts. The first part of the advertisement seeks to appeal to the emotions of the target audience and the second part conveys information about the product regarding its price, uses and its pictures among others.
Fowle’s covers in details the fifteen emotions of appeal in a hierarchical order starting with the most prevalent ones. Need for sex, affiliation, nature, guidance, aggress, achieve, dominate, prominence, attention, autonomy, escape, feel safe, aesthetic sensations, satisfy curiosity and psychological needs are the fifteen emotions that are largely targeted by advertisers.1 Sexual imagery however best works with men than women and if a product largely targets some gender the opposite sex is often used. Most liquor bottles have an image of an attractive woman embedded in their labels as men are more likely to drink than women. A perfect example is Black Velvet liquor that has the image of a very attractive woman wearing a tight, black velvet dress. The advertiser appeals to the sex drive of a largely male audience by urging them to “feel the velvet.”
Another favorite emotion is the need for affiliation which Murray describes as, “the need to be close to somebody whom you can enjoyably cooperate, please and be loyal to each other as friends.” An appeal to this universal emotion can substitute an appeal to the emotions of the need of sex as some people find it to be repugnant and if not handled carefully may lead to negative advertisement. The need to nature works best with parents who desire to take care of their kids in the best way they can. A fine example is napkins that claims “a baby will sleep all night comfortably” or cereals that claim “to help kids grow strong and intelligent.” The need to achieve is best captured through the use of sports stars. A case in point is Johnnie Walker advertisement by Kiplang’at who is a multi-time athletic champion who tells his success story and encourages those who seek success like him to use this product.
Jeffrey Shrank points out that most advertisements are dedicated to parity products such as gasoline, cigarettes and soft drinks. He also claims that the first rule of advertisement is that the word “better” and “best” means almost the same thing if the products are identical thus they are of an equally good quality legally speaking. However, he cautions the use of the word “better” as it can only be used if the superiority of the product as compared to another product is justifiable.
His second rule of advertisement states “if a product is truly superior it must state clearly the convincing evidence of the product superiority.” Shrank also discusses the concept of weasel claims which are advertisement claims that appears to have a meaning on their face value but when analyzed for a deeper meaning they appear to be hollow and lacking in substantial meaning. As an illustration an advertisement may claim that it helps to eliminate dandruff symptoms if used regularly. On analysis this weasel claim shows that this product does not claim to stop dandruff as the terms “helps to”, “symptoms” and “regular” use are not well defined and can be considered as weasel statements. Weasel statements serve the purpose of avoiding legal consequence if the products are not as effective as they claim and thus can be viewed as beautifully put disclaimers. Other types of advertisement claims include unfinished, different and unique, vague, testimonial, scientific, rhetorical questions and “water is wet.”
In conclusion, appeals to emotions have proved to be the most effective technique of advertisement. There is a need to exercise caution to avert negative advertisement and consecutive legal petitions.
Kern-Foxworth, Marilyn. 1997. “Jib Fowles, Advertising And Popular Culture . Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1996. 278 Pp. Cloth, $48. Paper, $22.95”. American Journalism 14 (2): 234-235. doi:10.1080/08821127.1997.