Hugh Rank has a simple model of persuasion in which he describes how BENEFIT PROMISERS (often marketers, but also anyone who is trying to influence other peoples behaviours) intensify certain aspects of their offering and downplay other aspects in order to persuade BENEFIT SEEKERS (often prospective customers or receivers of the message) to buy from them (or believe what they are saying) as opposed to their competitors. His model also addresses how BENEFIT SEEKERS play a role in this process by the mere act of seeking such benefits.
It is useful to understand Hugh Rank’s model of persuasion, so you can defend yourself against its trickery. On the flip side, if you are a marketer or persuader, it gives you incredible power in the art of persuasion.
Hughes rank’s model can be used in marketing, but also in political communication or any other domain where you are trying to influence the behaviour of other people.
Intensify Downplay Schema Explained
We are all benefit seekers (buyers or receivers of information) at certain times, playing an active part in the persuasion process.
Consider two factors relating to our role as seekers:
- #1 – Our perception of what is good and bad.
- #2 – If we have something in our possession or not.
This allows us a deeper understanding of our own benefit-seeking behaviour related to the messages we are inevitably exposed to. We can break this down even further:
- Protection – keeping the good of something already in our possession
- Acquisition – getting the good of something not currently in our possession.
- Relief – getting rid of the bad of something currently in our possession
- Prevention – avoiding the bad of something not currently in our possession
Benefit promisers look to take advantage of our benefit seeking by intensifying their “good” and downplaying their “bad” and more aggressively intensifying others (competitors) “bad” and downplaying others “good” to further enhance their message.
When they Intensify their own “Good”
The promisers (would-be persuaders) try to increase the significance of elements of their message so that the seeker is more responsive to that message. They do this using repetition, association and composition.
Repeating a message over and over has an accumulative effect, and makes it more likely to be remembered and accepted. This often results in the seeker believing it to be true, or at the very least, important.
Seekers can protect themselves from this kind of tactic, by looking or listening for words, sounds, visual elements or patterns that are repeated (direct repetition or repetition of similar words, sounds, visual elements, patterns)
This is about linking or connecting information in a message to something or someone that is desirable or admired, or taking the polar opposite approach and linking it to something that is feared, or perceived as threatening or dangerous. This can be done using words, visual elements, or auditory details. The connection may be explicitly stated or implied.
Seekers can protect themselves from this kind of tactic by looking or listening for ideas, words, visuals, and sounds that may be symbolic of abstract ideas. For example, the use of a maple leaf to represent patriotism, a ticking clock to represent the passage of time or increased urgency, the use of allusions or references to people, events, media, pop culture, etc. Anything with which the audience may be familiar, or appeals to emotions rather than logic.
This involves organizing or constructing a message in order to have a specific impact. A message which carries the benefit (the thing which is desired) may be explicitly stated or implied or its opposite may be explicitly stated or implied to stir a fear response.
Seekers can protect themselves from this kind of tactic by looking or listening for words, visual elements, and ideas within a message. Taking particular notice of such things at the beginning or end of the text or paragraphs, these tend to have the greatest impact. Seekers should take notice of how much space or text such words, visual elements, and ideas take up.
When they Downplay their own “Bad”
The persuader tries to reduce attention on certain details or ideas so that the seeker perceives this information as being unimportant and not worth consideration. They do this using 3 tactics; diversion, omission and confusion.
This involves distracting the seeker away from certain information, which may in fact be important to know, but that doesn’t serve the message well. For a historical example of this tobacco companies used movie stars to make cigarettes appear cool, diverting attention away from the health dangers of smoking. Fortunately, governments have forced tobacco companies to display clear health warnings on packaging these days.
Seekers can protect themselves from this kind of tactic by looking for the small print or other visual elements or warnings. Think about how the message may be altered if such elements are moved, expanded or enlarged.
This is about saying nothing about the things that go against a message or claim.
Free choice requires the seeker being in possession of all the facts, knowing all the options available to them and fully understanding the whole situation, along with advantages and disadvantages of all options. This allows them to weigh up all the factors in play and make an informed, educated decision.
Seekers can protect themselves from this kind of tactic by considering what is missing from the message. They should consider points of view or interests that are not mentioned or that make up a small percentage of the overall message.
Receivers should be aware of their own biases and prejudices. They can often filter out aspects they don’t want to hear or admit to themselves, because it goes against their existing belief system.
Alternatively, they may want to believe a claim because it supports their existing beliefs, without seeking any supporting evidence to back the claim up, resulting in them falling into what is known as “the confirmation trap”. The best defence against the confirmation trap is to look for evidence that disproves a belief rather than one that confirms it.
This involves creating uncertainty around information that seekers may already believe or know. This could include presenting contradictory information or discrediting existing beliefs.
Seekers can protect themselves from this kind of tactic by looking out for complex or obscure information that creates uncertainty in them.
Hugh Rank also advocates the following sales structure:
1. Hi – 2. Trust me – 3. You need – 4. Hurry – 5. Buy
- Hi – comprises internal and external attention getting strategies. This is about capturing the attention of the audience and keeping it long enough to deliver the sales message, using physical, emotional and cognitive attention getting elements.
- Trust me – is about building confidence using expertise, sincerity and benevolence.
- You need – this is about stimulating desire via product centered or audience centered sales messages.
- Hurry – urgency stressing is designed to cause an emotional reaction in the audience so they feel compelled to take action without delay.
- Buy – encourage response seeking behaviour by informing them what to do now, using a frictionless call to action. Make it as easy as possible for them to take action.
This structure is similar to the well established Attention, Interest, Desire, Action (A.I.D.A.) framework. You can find out more about it here.
By understanding the underlying structure of persuasive marketing messages we are able either protect ourselves from falling foul of them in our role as benefit seekers, or use them to sell things in our role as benefit promisers.
Check out our Ultimate Marketing Guide for some in-depth marketing information.
We’d love it if you were to join our subscribers list, so we can send you exclusive extra content, not available on the website. We have some great marketing and business related models, diagrams, cheat sheets, and articles, and content upgrades that we’re sure you’ll find informative. Unsubscribing is as easy as clicking a link at the end of each email. We never share email addresses with third parties or spam recipients.
Thanks for dropping by.