Marketing, is it just the new word for persuasion? | DMA

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Marketing, is it just the new word for persuasion?



We distribute our content, consumers see it and then they purchase. That’s what everyone thinks, but it’s nowhere near that simple, a certain level of persuasion is required. The way information is processed and accepted or rejected is a much more complex procedure. Knowing your consumers, allows you to select the correct approach to elicit the desired action.

Elaboration likelihood model

The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) was developed back in 1980 by Richard Petty and John Cacioppo and suggests individuals take one of two routes to processing a message; the central or peripheral. One is informational and structured, the other is a bit more fun!

The central route focuses on a high level of cognition where the individuals are heavily involved in the decision. For example, when making a high involvement purchase, such as a car, people are going to pay a lot more attention. This path focuses on credibility and quality of argument, so, for example, you’d be much more likely to believe Bill Gates when it comes to Windows advice than dodgy Dave from around the corner.

When taking this route there are a few key factors to consider. The source of the message, the credibility of the message lies heavily upon this. The integrity of the argument, is your message based on reliable statistics and information? If not, you are going to struggle on this route. This route primarily targets individuals with high intelligence.

The peripheral route is the opposite, instead of the credibility of the source, it values the attractiveness. David Beckham became an idol for millions of people as a footballer, and from here when he promoted products after his football career, he was deemed as an attractive individual. His relevance to the product and credibility isn’t relevant, for example what does he know about making aftershave? Not much but by putting his name on it sales go through the roof.

Within the peripheral route, statistical information isn’t as important, here individuals are deemed to have a much shorter attention span and must remain engaged.

The peripheral route of the ELM can be effectively applied to the retail industry. An attractive individual, often in the form of an influencer, is the one who broadcasts the message in a simple form often across social media, to the receptive passive audience. Each of the variables can be manipulated to differing effect, but this provides the framework the industry operates in.

Hypodermic Needle

The Hypodermic Needle theory relates to targeting material to those who possess the power to affect others opinions as well. Commonly used through mass media, by injecting a certain message into the audience the desired response is elicited.

This theory relies on a passive audience where they are open and receptive to the information that they are ingesting. An active audience provides a stumbling block, where they may challenge the message they are ingesting. Due to this, organisations supplying low purchase involvement products, potentially FMCG, would be most appropriate to use this theory.

This theory is often employed as an awareness piece, highlighting a significant change in the brand or to a new product.

Two-step flow theory

The two-step flow theory works by targeting opinion leaders who then have the power to affect those around them. To put this into perspective, this theory uses a targeted approach towards specific personas, who will then share information with other people.

The benefits here are you gain an extensive amount of word-of-mouth marketing, which is highly effective, and potentially brand advocates. Consumers who actively recommend a product and discuss, display a higher level of brand loyalty. However, one key constraint is the increased level of segmentation and profiling that is required. When operating with a smaller target segment size, you need to be more effective to gain the desired results.

This theory is effective in the travel industry. It focuses on targeting one individual who will then spread the message. So for example, Disneyland highlight or the fun that the kids will have, so the kids pass the message on to the parents who then ultimately book the holiday.

Another example comes in the form of valentines day. Lot’s of advertisements will look to promote the thought of treating your other half, so you buy the product then pass the message onto your partner.


After segmentation, a clear path of where they start, what they’re receptive and how to elicit the desired action is what you need to drive your marketing activity forward. Knowing who to talk and how is only half the battle though, you also need to be able to deliver the messages when the customer wants them, meaning you’ll also need good journey automation technology to ensure this personalisation is delivered!

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