Informational and Transformational Appeals

An informational appeal elaborates on product or service attributes or benefits. Examples in advertising are problem-solution ads (Excedrin stops headache pain quickly), product demonstration ads (Thompson Water Seal can withstand intense rain, snow, and heat), product comparison ads (Verizon offers better on-line Internet access Comcast) and testimonials from unknown or celebrity endorses (NBA phenomenon LeBron James pitching Coca-Cola and Nike). Informational appeals assume very rational processing of the communication on the part of the consumer. Logic and reason rule.

Hovland’s research at Yale has shed much light on informational appeals and their relations to such issues as conclusion drawing, one versus two-sided arguments and order of argument presentation. Some early experiments supported stating conclusions for the audience. Subsequent research, however, indicates that the best ads ask questions and allow readers and viewers to form their own conclusions. If Honda had hammered away that the Element was for young people, this strong definition might have blocked older age groups from buying it. Some stimulus ambiguity can lead to a broader market definition and more spontaneous purchases.

You would think that one-sided presentations that praise a product would be more effective than two-sided arguments that also mention shortcomings. Yet two-sided messages may be appropriate, especially when negative associations must be overcome. Heinz ran the message “Heinz Ketchup is slow good” and Listerine ran the message “Listerine tastes bad twice a day.” Two-sided messages are more effective with more educated audiences and those who are initially opposed.

Finally, the order in which arguments are presented is important. In the case of a one-sided message, presenting the strongest argument first has the advantage of arousing attention and interest. This is important in media where the audience often does not attend to the whole message. With a captive audience, a climatic presentation might be more effective. In the case of a two-sided message, if the audience is initially opposed, the communicator might start with the other side’s argument and conclude with his or her strongest argument.

A transformational appeal elaborates on a non-product-related benefit or image. It might depict what kind of person uses a brand (VW advertises to actives, youthful people with their “Divers Wanted” campaign) or what kind of experience results from the brand (Coast soap has been advertised as “The Eye Opener”!) Transformational appeals often attempt to stir up emotions that will motivate purchase.

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