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Familiar faces in advertising
Prestige appeal is not always limited to the illustrious.
Part of prestige's effectiveness is derived not only from the fact that the illustrious are famous figures but from the fact that they are familiar faces. The faces of famous athletes, film stars and musicians are all familiar to us. According to our tastes, these people are, indeed, looked upon almost as personal friends; we feel that we know them intimately.
Recommendations from friends, from people we know well and whom we trust, influence us far more than recommendations from other sources. Hence familiar faces in advertisements are extremely effective. As a consequence, there have emerged a number of universal 'figures' that everyone knows and loves. A scan of any magazine will find photos of the pleasant-faced call centre operator, the loving mother and infant, the healthy happy child, the smiling blue-collar worker, the 'warm' yet serious and caring doctor, the trio of attractive young women, the 'Joe Average' man with an attractive woman or two touching him, and a hundred others.
All of these figures have been brought to life to lend suggestion to the backing of prestige. Together they are almost irresistible; hence the conclusion known to all advertisers that an advertisement is most successful when it combines the most skilful suggestion with the greatest prestige appeal.
Side note: And yes, sex still sells! If in doubt, look at the cover of any Cosmopolitan or other women's magazine. Every cover of every issue will have the word 'sex' on it somewhere.
Interestingly, psychological studies have shown that not just men but even women prefer to look at images of women rather than men in adverts, leading to the conclusion that if you can somehow legitimately (or even not-so-legitimately) use an image of an attractive woman when advertising your product or service, you will draw more sales or enquiries.
Habits of thought can be forgotten by the conscious mind and yet still continue to influence our behaviour because they are remembered by our unconscious mind. The effect of suggestion is to build up a habit of thought for which we are not directly, or consciously, aware.
Advertisements produce these habits of thought in great numbers; indeed, their whole purpose is to so indelibly condition our unconscious mind that whenever we need a product or service our unconscious mind immediately supplies the name of a particular brand.
Suggestion is the basis of all successful advertisements, and I have drawn a clear distinction between advertisers whose business is reputable and whose articles are sound on the one hand, and advertisers whose business is not reputable and whose articles are unsound on the other.
So, as far as reputable advertising is concerned, the psychological art of suggestion is positively an advantage, for it keeps our target audience consciously and unconsciously reminded of products and services which will most appropriately satisfy their needs.
It is only when suggestion is used by unscrupulous advertisers that the consequences are undesirable.
If, through some sudden change in human nature, 'suggestion' were to lose its power over us, advertising would be revolutionized: but the change would disastrously affect those advertisers whose chief object was not to satisfy valued customers but only to take money from a gullible public.
It is because we are so open to suggestion that the unscrupulous advertiser can survive, and we do a powerful service to our business and to our industry, as well as our target customer base, if we strive to limit the power the unscrupulous use of suggestion exercises over us all.
I have talked about advertising at this length because it furnishes a particularly clear example of the way in which the psychological art of suggestion is used to prevent us from thinking clearly and honestly.
Advertising is, of course, only one of the ways in which suggestion is used in our lives. Indeed, suggestion backed by some sort of 'prestige appeal' is exploited in every argument, and is, in fact, one of the most unfair tricks of dishonest argument.
Suggestion and prestige appeal are also used extensively in politics. The speeches and manifestos issued by candidates at political elections are immensely 'suggestive'. You remember that I defined the essentials of suggestion as simplicity , assurance and repetition ; these are the three things a political candidate must strive to achieve. He or she is not, of course, always sufficiently skilful to achieve them, or indeed to maintain them when achieved. But the political candidate whose ideas are most simply expressed, conveyed with the most assurance, and most frequently repeated, is, other things being equal, much more likely to be successful than any other. These factors are the basis of all successful political marketing.
Of course, seasoned political candidates know how to make you think they are saying something more profound than they actually are through the use of these very same methods, with a little twist.
Reports I have written:
Measuring the impact and ROI of social media - for Ark Group
Making Social Media work for your business - for Ark Group
Social Media: The New Business Communication Landscape - for Ark Group
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation - for Melcrum Publishing
Contributing author to How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues - for Melcrum Publishing
Contributing author to How to communicate with hard-to-reach employees - for Melcrum Publishing
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