Message factors

It is important to understand what components make up a persuasive message. This article discusses three sets of message factors; (1) message structure, (2) message appeal, and (3) message code.

Message structure message structure refers to how the elements of a message are organized. Four structures that have been extensively studied are messages sidedness order of presentation conclusion drawing and repetition.

Message sidedness

A message can be either one sided or two sided. A one sided message is one in which only the strengths of the communicator’s position are described. For example, advertisements for BMW automobiles often only address their advantages and don’t mention any of their possible weaknesses or the possible advantages of competing cars. A two sided message, on the other hand presents the strengths of the communicator’s position as in the one sided message, but it also either admits to weaknesses in the communicator’s position or to some strengths in the opposite position. In a marketing context , the typical method of implementing the two sides approach would be for the spokesperson to mention one or two weaknesses in her company’s products or to admit to one or two strong features of competitors’ products. Cases include Listerine which claims effectiveness but admits to less than perfect taste. Another example of a two sided message is shown in a direct mail advertisement sent by Publishers Clearing house.

Two questions arise regarding message sidedness. First why would anyone want to admit to weaknesses in his or her on product or mention the strengths of competing products? Second, is the one or is the two sided message approach more effective? Insights into the first question are found in discussion of the second. Either approach might be more effective than the other depending upon the message and conditions under which the message is presented. Relevant issues that have been suggested are: (1) the audience members initial opinions on the issue. (2) their exposure to subsequent counterarguments or counter information (3) the audience’s educational level and (4) characteristics of the message itself.

Regarding the first condition a one sided argument may be more effective when audience members are already in agreement with the communicator’s position. The rationale for this is that a one sided message will tend to confirm what the audience already believes and therefore foster cognitive responses by these consumers in the form of support arguments, which will reinforce their initial position . a two sided message can be more effective for an audience not in initial agreement with the communicator’s stance because the audience tends to view the communicator as more objective and honest (credible) since he is admitting to the merits of the audience’s initial position. This approach will minimize the audience’s use of counterarguments because the communicator is now perceived and trustworthy. Fewer counter arguments should they result in greater acceptance of the communicator’s message. This line of reasoning is derived firm what has become known as inoculation or immunization theory. In essence this theory holds that, just as people are inoculated with vaccines composed of weakened diseases cultures to increase the resistance to diseases exposure of audience members to weakened forms of counterarguments will tend to immunize them from generating their own and perhaps stronger form of counterparts.

Arguments regarding the second issue mentioned above – audience exposure to subsequent counterarguments or counter information –c closely parallel the line of reasoning just used regarding cognitive responses.

A third issue mentioned above for determining whether to use a one sided or two sided message is the educational level of an audience. Some evidence suggest that two sided messages are more persuasive for better educated audiences, whereas a one sided message may be more effective in changing attitudes of less well educated audiences because better educated people generally are more perceptive in seeing both sides of an arguments anyway a communicator may gain more in admitting the strengths of opposing views or weaknesses in his own position. As we have just argued by doing this he is established as being more objective and credible in the minds of his audience. This will tend to reduce counterarguments by the audience which could be harsher than what the communicator is likely to address in his two sided appeal. Less educated people are not as capable of seeing other sides of an issue and therefore are more likely to accept the arguments that they hear. To present both sides might confuse them or provide negative information about the product that they would not have developed for themselves. Therefore, a two sided approach does not appear attractive for such an audience.