The Information Age has long since passed; now we live in the age of ideas, of emotions. Ubiquitous information and knowledge shared online have changed the game. Simply presenting a rational argument for why a consumer should think about buying a product doesn’t work anymore. So advertisers have turned to emotions to attract consumers.

Consider, for example, this 2003 Hummer ad that tells women if they buy a Hummer H2 they can “threaten men in a whole new way.”

Another Hummer ad suggests women should “slip into something a little more metal.” Drawing on the femme fatale’s seduction line, “let me slip into something more comfortable,” the ad suggests both comfort, sex, and safety with the hint at metal armor. Price, value, or mileage and all those other rational reasons to buy a vehicle are nowhere in the pitch.

The emotional message—you can be sexy and safe, even in a big city—worked. A quarter of H2 owners were women, compared to less than five percent of those who drove Hummer H1s.

Sex doesn’t necessarily imply love, of course. But as a deep emotion, that’s what advertisers are looking for; they want you to love their brand or a product and be loyal to them beyond reason.

Sure, extraordinary performance has to be there along with trust and respect. But in the end, it’s an emotional connection created by the six persuasion shortcuts that matter.

Apple, Hallmark, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, among a few notable others, have successfully created emotional connections. But advertisers have played on emotions (and sometimes disregarded reality) since time immemorial.

“Thousands of stout persons have testified to the wonderful results obtained….From every degree of obesity they have gone down to natural weight and proportions via the Dainty-Form route”

The reducing craze of the early 1920s, pitched entirely to women predominantly in popular Hollywood fan magazines, promised they would be happier, more attractive, and more successful. Some went so far as to shame and humiliate readers if they were “corpulent.”

Before that time, ads offered information and tips for healthy eating. But “the democratization of desire and the cult of the new,” as described by historian William Leach in Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture, made an appeal to emotions through dissatisfaction and self-consciousness a workable new influencing strategy.

The reducing ads seldom mentioned Hollywood stars, but the association and authority was implied by placement in fan magazines where the stars’ lives and appearances were discussed. They were ideal figures (literally and figuratively), living proof, and examples of success.


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