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At a psychological level, what is it exactly that makes you choose one brand over the competitor? What might seem like a simple choice really has more to do with methods of persuasion used by advertisers to make consumers feel a certain way about a product.
In advertising, there are a wide variety of ways to catch the attention of your audience. These appeals can be broken down into emotional and rational approaches. It is up to the marketer to know which type of advertising appeal will be most effective in leading the target audience to action. Here are 23 major advertising appeals and examples of how they are used by top companies.
Appealing to your audience’s emotions can be achieved through strong imagery, impactful text or powerful music. An emotional advertising appeal depends more on feelings and perceptions than logic or reason to provoke action.
This print ad by Gillette not only uses mixed media to catch attention (sandpaper in a magazine), but also appeals to personal concerns of fathers. The ad states that research shows how important skin-to-skin contact is for infants and questions what kind of razor-smooth finish they want to share. While the personal appeal is directed toward new fathers, those without children will still understand the message of quality.
People are motivated by what others are doing around them. In this IKEA ad, there is a clear reference to the insanely popular TV show, Game of Thrones. This year, the head costume designer for the show revealed how Jon Snow’s cape is actually made from affordable IKEA rugs. The ads appeals to consumers’ need to feel part of something or included: Even the Game of Thrones tries to stay within budget by shopping at IKEA, like everyone else.
Using strong visuals, ads can draw on hidden fears. Some ads draw on personal fears, while others draw on a sense of loss. In this graphic ad, fear of losing something awesome may motivate people to take action and help save the forests.
Humor can bring relief to what might otherwise be a mundane and expected ad. The right type of humor will grab attention for organic engagement from your audience. Humor can be risky, so businesses really have to know themselves and their audience before committing to something that could bring negative attention if there is a misunderstanding. Virgin Mobile is always pushing the boundaries with sex-charged jokes and this bus humor is right up their advertising alley.
We all know that many of the professional athletes, actors, actresses and celebrities that push products aren’t necessarily an important part of the product, but the effect is still felt. Mila Kunis hardly has much to do with Jim Beam’s brewing process, but she is a strong endorser of the product. Beautiful, strong, and believably familiar with her whiskey, the actress puts her stamp on the brand and adds authority without being in the industry as any kind of professional.
Celebrities, athletes and big-name influencers are used quite often to endorse products in order to stir popularity despite having nothing (or little) to do with their creation, direction or knowledge of the industry. The ad world (or sports world) may never forget how Joe Namath endorsed pantyhose he admittedly did not use.
One of the best known advertising appeals is that sex sells. People use sexy models and “sexy” product shots that will make the viewer emotionally excited. From Victoria’s Secret to Hardees, brands have used unabashed sex appeal to sell products and services.
Because this is often an abused appeal in ads, companies like Hardees have changed course with a “Food Not Boobs” campaign. Brands like Calvin Klein and Levi Jeans, focus on a more grounded sexiness to show the value of their product (which makes more sense than trying to sell sexy fast food).
A sense of romance can take people back to a nostalgic moment that evokes emotion. Romance does not necessarily have to do with relationships, but rather a sense of powerful feeling that is inspiring and idealized.
This Lowe’s ad may show a romantic relationship, but it is the sweet nostalgia of the two childhood sweethearts that really draws viewers into the storyline and the value of what Lowe’s products offer: building a home, not just fixing up a house.
People often don’t want to age and certainly don’t want to feel old. In this Snickers commercial, the young person is feeling old age, misery and crankiness from hunger. Not only does this appeal to maintaining an active, happy youthfulness make younger audiences find an attraction to the candy bar, it also makes an appeal to the older audience by showing the contrast. Snickers makes you feel young and energetic once again by solving your hunger needs.
A common advertising appeal for older adult audiences is to photograph and highlight models who are younger than the target audience by several years. Youth appeal is apparent in ads that offer medications aimed at older adults, adult diapers, erectile dysfunction solutions, hearing aids, dentures, emergency call buttons, living community centers and other products or services for the elderly where the chosen actors are often much younger than the actual target audience.
Jeep has long focused on adventure as a big part of their brand. Ads like this encourage people to join in as a part of the brand club to experience something new and exciting. Travel companies, active brands and car companies often focus on a sense of adventure to highlight what their products or services can really bring to the table.
Another noteworthy example of appealing to our sense of adventure is this VR experiment by Sweden’s state lottery, Lotto. Through a unique and exhilarating 5-D experience, it allows participants to go beyond virtual reality and actually feel what it would be like to jump off a cliff or walk through the world’s most beautiful beaches. Set up in a hanger in Stockholm, the experiment uses fans, aromas, heat and artificial sensory experiences to create an adventure that is as close to real life as possible.
Buzz is particularly helpful for increasing brand awareness and creating anticipation and excitement for the product or service you offer.
When the Baywatch movie was about to be released, a very special kind of marathon (0.3km) was held in slow motion. The hilarious result of people moving slowly, sexily and dramatically towards the finish was attended by a large crowd excited about the reunion release.
This same advertising appeal is often the reason companies produce promotional materials, like pens, bumper stickers or keychain lanyards. Companies often place their logos all over their clothing or disposable products (like Starbucks coffee cups) to help showcase just how popular their products are.
Music can make or break an ad by setting tone and mood just as quickly as imagery. The snappy music that backs this Kohler TV commercial adds a happy energy that wouldn’t have been achieved by bright colors and quick shot transitions alone. The music here makes the user feel excited and inspired to imagine what the product could do in his or her life. The right music can add to the emotion of an ad and encourage a faster purchase decision.
Getting a message across may depend on your ability to get someone to identify with a problem they’ve never actually had to deal with. Some brands and most public service advertisements depend on the ability to evoke the emotion of empathy and understanding in those they need to care about their cause, as is done in this ad by the Safe At Home Foundation. Empathy helps people picture the problem in a personal way so that they can understand the consequences for someone else.
This type of advertising appeal communicates a sense of empowerment to turn dreams into a reality. In this Lego ad, the clear connection is that Lego helps children imagine, solve problems and work toward a better future. This was part of a campaign that included similar fireman and rockstar images in ads that were placed at strategic schools, playgrounds and museums where parents frequently take children.
Starbucks has been a prime example of brand appeal to the masses, along with luxury brands, like Dior or Jimmy Choo that appeal to higher end consumers. People pay additional money to be a part of a brand that they feel carries a certain kind of status, inspiration, value or quality. Usually these same items can be purchased for drastically lower prices if they are generic or unbranded, but brand appeal allows companies to add additional cost to their products because of packaging, labeling and other branded aspects that really have nothing to do with product quality or type.
Coffee connoisseurs actually complain that Starbucks coffee roasts taste burned, but the company was able to increase the typical price of a coffee by offering tons of customizable drink choices, a quality feel in branding, employees that bought into the brand, and a relaxed environment (including offering free wi-fi to customers very early in the game).
On the other side of the advertising spectrum lie rational appeals. Many ad approaches are based on objective facts, logic and reasoning. Rational appeals can be very useful even with emotional subjects, helping target audiences identify the value of a product in an indisputable way. While emotional appeals are powerful, they can sometimes become manipulative; rational appeals are typically more authentic and can create a sense of authority around a brand.
People are most strongly motivated when they have a problem that needs to be solved that causes them regular and noticeable pain. Often, people have already identified and expressed a desire to solve the pains most apparent in their lives or workplaces.
In this IKEA ad, the pain of the viewer is apparent in the shelf they need but do not have. Rather than focus on the product they are selling, IKEA focuses on the solution they are providing. Brands can often sell more effectively if they are able to identify a pain that can be solved by a product or service they offer.
Coke boosted their brand appeal with a limited time campaign that personalized bottles with names and titles. People rushed out looking for the names of their family and friends to keep, photograph or gift. While the scarcity was part of the appeal, Coke took this campaign a step further by allowing customers to personalize their own Coke bottles and even search their website to see where (or if) their names were on bottles somewhere in the US. Scarcity increases the feeling of value and makes the customer rush to make an impulse buy.
What happens when leading men stand in a woman’s shoes? This clever ad changes Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Carlos Slim into female versions of themselves (Marla Zuckerberg, Billie Gates and Carla Slim). The real message is rooted in statistics that highlight wage inequality between the genders. Use of proof and statistics can appeal without question to those who are more rational in their approach.
When you think of testimonials, you probably think of the traditional video of people talking highly of your brand or products. While this is great and can be incredibly effective on social media, there are ways to think outside of the box with this advertising appeal. Doritos held a commercial contest for their Superbowl ad spot for ten years in a row, highlighting their fans’ love. Not only did the competition get people motivated to engage with the brand, it showcased the product’s value in a unique way. “What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar” campaigns added a similar interactive twist to the testimonial appeal.
You can also highlight what sets your brand apart with a stark comparison between your product and the competition or how life would be without your products. In this IKEA ad, there is a clear contrast between those who “unboxed” their balconies with IKEA style products and the neighbors surrounding them. The stark contrast in this ad creates an unquestionable appeal to express personal style and create a living space that no one else is taking full advantage of. Contrast can be a subtle way to prove your brand is a level or two above the alternative.
There is no question that these nice, patent-leather work shoes were chosen for a reason: status. The point of this ad was to get the viewer to identify the product with a certain class. While the manufacturer is actually selling a car, classy shoes (clearly abused by a love for the acceleration pedal) give a status appeal that is somewhat subliminal in its messaging. Apartments, furniture stores, fashion brands and many other companies also lean on a level of status to appeal to consumers concerned about where they are at, how they are viewed, and where they are headed.
Not everything about your brand is ideal. Transparency can help show a realness to your brand that appeals to customers because it is authentic. Volkswagen caught people’s attention in the Netherlands when they showed the flaws in one of their car models in order to advertise a new third-row option. Stunt doubles were suspended behind the car to show the additional room that the new Tiguan Allspace could offer.
There are many products and services that depend on beauty for a rational purchase choice. Product shots, for example, have to be well lit to provide rational customers with the best opportunity for comparing and choosing the product right for them. This catalog from West Elm features beauty shots of every item—perfectly staged, lit and accessorized. Beauty shots help the potential buyers see the full potential of an item.
Many fashion brands use beautiful models that are further Photoshopped to help highlight the product without the distraction of human flaws. In food photography, it is common to shoot images of food in the most appealing way possible to increase a desire for the product without handing out actual samples.
Expressing a reality can help people connect with a message. In this print ad for Lane Bryant, the common expectations for beauty are completely ignored. “I’m No Angel” is a campaign that goes against everything Victoria’s Secret built with the VS Angel runway shows and line.
Cosmetic or fashion brands can get a lot of attention for focusing more on reality and less on the promise of perfection, like Dove did with its “Real Beauty” campaign. As people become familiar with photo-editing possibilities, they are often more impacted by a less-than-perfect picture.
Which of these types of advertising appeals have you identified in popular marketing campaigns or ads? Which have you used in your own marketing efforts and promotional material? Let us know in the comments section below.
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