Hugh Rank described a simple model of persuasion where he describes how BENEFIT PROMISERS (otherwise known as advertisers/ marketers) intensify certain aspects of their offering and downplay other aspects in an attempt to persuade BENEFIT SEEKERS (prospective customers) to buy from them as apposed 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 know Hugh Rank’s model of persuasion so you are able to defend yourself from the trickery used by marketers in their efforts to part you with your money. On the flip side, it can be equally as useful when devising your own marketing material, in your attempts to transform prospects to customers.
Intensify Downplay Schema Explained
We are all benefit seekers at times in our daily lives, playing an active part in the persuasion process as seekers. Consider two factors relating to our roles as seekers:
- #1 – Our perception of 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 advertisements and marketing messages we are exposed to, allowing us to break it into four smaller parts:
- Protection – keeping the good
- Acquisition – getting the good
- Relief – getting rid of the bad
- Prevention – avoiding the bad
Benefit promisers (advertisers/ marketers) look to take advantage of our benefit seeking by intensifying their own “good” and downplaying their own “bad” and more aggressively intensifying others “bad” and downplaying others “good” to further enhance their marketing message.
When they Intensify their own “Good”
The promisers or would-be persuaders try to increase the significance of elements of their message so that the seeker will take their message on-board. They do this by use of repetition, association and composition.
Repeating a word or visual pattern so that it will be remembered and/ or accepted. This leads the seeker to believe that something is true or important.
Look for/ Listen for: Repeated words, sounds, visual elements, patterns (through either direct repetition or repetition of similar words, sounds, visual elements, patterns)
Linking or connecting information in a text to something or someone that is desirable or something that is feared. This can be done through words, visuals, or auditory details. The connection may be directly stated or implied.
Look for/ Listen for: Ideas, words, visuals, sounds that may be symbolic of abstract ideas e.g. a maple leaf to represent patriotism, ticking clock to represent passage of time or urgency, use of allusions/ references to people, events, media, pop culture, etc. with which the audience may be familiar, or appeals to emotions instead of logic
Organizing or constructing a message in order to have a specific impact. The message (what is desired) may be directly stated or implied or its opposite may be stated or implied.
Look for/ Listen for: Notice where words, visual elements, and ideas are placed in a message/ text. Things that are at the beginning of text or paragraphs and things that are at the end tend to be the ones that are emphasized for readers or viewers. Note how much space or text the words, visual elements, and ideas take up.
When they Downplay their own “Bad”
The persuader tries to decrease attention on details or ideas so that the seeker (who could be a reader/ viewer/ audience) see specific information as unimportant or not worth consideration. They do this using 3 tactics; diversion, omission and confusion.
Distracting the seeker (reader, viewer, listener) away from information which may be a required part of the message. This may be accomplished by reducing the audience’s attention to a part of the overall message. E.g. an expiry date on a carton of juice.
Look for/ Listen for: Small or hidden text or visual element or warnings at the end or embedded in a verbal message
Think about how the message would be different if elements were moved, reduced, or expanded.
Saying nothing about the things that go against a message or claim.
Look for/ Listen for: Consider what is missing from the text or message. Consider points of view or interests that are not considered or make up a small percentage of the overall message.
Creating uncertainty or misunderstanding around information seekers may already believe or know. The message (what is desired) may be directly stated or implied or its opposite may be stated or implied.
Look for/ Listen for: Use of complex or obscure data. Words or visuals which ask questions or create uncertainty in the seekers.
Furthermore Rank advocated the following sales structure, which went like this;
1. Hi – 2. Trust me – 3. You need – 4. Hurry – 5. Buy
- Hi – which is made up of internal and external attention getting strategies, this is about getting the attention of the audience and keeping it long enough to hear the sales message, using physical, emotional and cognitive attention getting elements,
- Trust me – is about building confidence through expertise, sincerity and benevolence,
- You need – this is about stimulating desire via product centered or audience centered sales messages,
- Hurry – urgency stressing is aimed at causing an emotional reaction in the audience so they feel compelled to take action without delay,
- Buy – response seeking using a low friction call to 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.
Being aware of the underlying structure of persuasive marketing messages helps us appreciate how we may be hearing only the aspects someone else wants us to hear. We should listen with critical ears and be aware that the facts may be being manipulated in such a way as to get us to take a certain course of action.
Awareness is the best defence we have in such circumstances.
Check out our Ultimate Marketing Guide for some in-depth marketing information.
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