What exactly is an appeal to emotion? When is this used and why does it get used? How effective is it? Is it dangerous to be persuaded through your emotions? Are there other ways to use persuasion other than through the emotions? This lesson explores this powerful strategy.
What Is an Appeal to Emotion?
Appealing to someone’s emotion is the attempt to play on their emotions as a way to win an argument or persuade them to agree or to do what you would like them to do. This is a known logical fallacy and it hinges on a number of lesser fallacies, all having to do with individual emotions.
The practice of appealing to the emotions can be traced back to classical antiquity and the practice has been discussed by oraters and philosophists of the time, which works have survived and come down to us.
Often, the more effective way to persuade a person to your way of thinking certainly is to appeal to their emotion. This is scientifically-proven and is one of the ways information gets slipped through into a person’s mind via the subconsious. The Mass Media, as much as many would deny, systematically does this in every venue it controls. We see it on our televisions, in books, magazines, news outlets, sports, music and other entertainment outlets, religion, politics and advertising. It goes without saying that we encounter appeals to emotion every day of our lives when we talk with others.
It is known to be the most effective way into a man’s heart. Why? It bypasses the cognative, thinking mind and therefore becomes the back door to the person’s heart. Very often, persuasion comes through these appeals even without the recipient’s knowledge
What’s Wrong with the Logical Approach?
When I say “logical” approach, what I am saying is using rationality as opposed to playing on the emotions of the person I am conversing with. In the advertiser’s mind, the logical approach is nowhere near effective as it would be to appeal to a customer’s emotion. The same is also true when it comes to things besides commerce, hence, politics, religion, theory, and just about anything that is discussed under the sun.
It is in our nature to take in information through stories rather than a barrage of facts. Prose is always far less colourful than poetry. Albeit, many disciplines and arguments cannot be presented except through logic. Consider certain academic topics such as mathematics, programming, science, business education – things that are built solely on data and data processing. This is also true for topics that rely heavily on fact.
The cognitive mind analyzes, scrutinizes, takes its time to think things over, tends to lean towards being more objective, discriminate, judgmental, rational, and sober. This can and often leads to objectivity, a more critical stance towards the information presented, skepticism and ultimately cynicism.
Economists and especially most advertisers argue that sales fall when the customers are allowed to think with a cloudless mind, that is clearheaded. It is then, their prerogative to avoid this scenario and close the deal before the customer begins to go past the emotional state and enter the state of rationality towards the information presented.
Appeal to Emotion in Advertising
It is indeed an art to be able to persuade (or better said, influence) a person into purchasing something through the cognitive approach rather than through emotion, and this can be done and is in fact done. However as has been discussed above, it is far easier to play on the emotions of your audience than it is to discuss facts and figures about a product.
This is where customer seduction takes place. It is often taught that a product’s benefits rather than its features should be pointed out because benefits will do more to arouse emotion whereas features would stimulate cognitive thinking. It is why you see shapes, colours, design and comfort inside an automobile in an advert than you would a peek into the engine compartment. The features would include what the automobile does and how its mechanical characteristics whereas colours, shapes and scenes of comfort bring about sensory benefits that invoke emotion.
In an advert for a hair-colouring agent known as Just for Men, says nothing whatsoever about the product and what it does. Lionesses go for the males with the dark manes. This single phrase, along with an image purporting this work together to rouse sexual emotion in men. There was no need to say what the product does. This alone is enough to get men to buy the product. Is there anything in the advert? No. There is no logical reasoning in the advert at all. The creators of the advert were aware of observations of lion behaviour during a study done years ago and used this, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the product. Here is a short list of lesser logical fallacies within the larger spectrum. These include:
- Fear – I can lose my job if I don’t get this. This product will be gone if I don’t act now! (scarcity)
- Rationality – This is used when benefits have been played out, when the customer does look at practicality.
- Inclusion – This is the same thing as Bandwagon. Who wants to be left out?
- Humour – Joking, storytelling, laughter invoke the emotions of joy and happiness.
- Sensuality – What we see, hear, touch smell and taste. All of these most certainly invoke emotion.
Appropriate advertising balances out emotion and cognition and this provides, not only sales, but trust and makes for the best business practices. There are such things as too much appeal to emotion and too much appeal to the rationale.
We’ll Get You to Buy ANYTHING!
Unfortunately all emotion and not cognition still works very well and this type of advertising is often found in rogue offers. It is true that much of the commercial advertising we see is 100% reliant on logical fallacies even though the products nor campaigns can be considered rogue.
However unscrupulous marketing, (i.e.scamming) is heavily reliant upon appealing to the emotion and other logical fallacies not mentioned here. You find Bandwagon (being where the action is,) fear (being left out,) storytelling (sympathy in rags-to-riches stories and sensationalism (Indiana Jones-like stories,) flaunting of wealth (excitement about being wealthy)
These marketers couple excessive appeal to the emotion with lies and misinformation, a most destructive combination, in fact most destructive in that this type of consumer fraud results, according to known reports, up to 5 million dollars annually from online business opportunities and investing alone! These are amongst the type of operations which I have already shown in these lessons and have reviewed. The problem is staggering. Because of the conditioning of television Hollywood and other media outlets, consumers in the United States alone are highly vulnerable as they become less in tune with what’s real and what isn’t.
There will be a complete lesson on sales videos where some of these will be shown and discussed. Again, links will be provided to the reviews from which they belong. The lesson will present select videos and what to watch for within each. This should help you recognize where the issues lie in these videos and in the future, protect you from getting stung by such nonsense. If you are not wary, if you are not informed, if you are not taught, and you allow yourself to be controlled through your emotion, you stand the chances of being robbed by one of these scams.
In acceptable levels, appealing to others’ emotions is normal and indeed human behaviour. It becomes a problem when too much of this is done, especially in advertising. The technologies we have today and that promoting to consumer audiences has been brought down to a science (quite literally) medium used today is extremely powerful and should not be taken for granted or underestimated. It can be and often is extremely harmful. One of the most powerful mediums we have has always been video. We will be devoting Lesson 5 to the power of this medium and in it you will learn what to look out for. I hope that you are, not only enjoying these lessons, but that you are actually gaining from them.