Business psychology: How to influence an audience?

We often see celebrities in advertisement, for a very good reason, as role models for in- group cultures they have a huge influence factor on individuals who identify themselves in the same in- group. They have a great influence on what is accepted, and not accepted as a social norm.

The content of an advertisement can be loaded in an informative, persuasive or influential way.

As a first step in developing an advertising campaign, marketers need to decide what precisely they want to influence with their advertisement or commercial. If they want to improve brand awareness or would like to persuade people to buy a particular product. 

If their persuasive aim is to get the consumer to buy a particular product, they should use various methods and techniques. As such to put forward a suggestion, the methods developed by Fishbein and Ajzen, to assess whether the targeted behaviour is mainly determined by attitudes, subjective norms or perceived behavioural control. 

It is no use in trying to persuade people of the positive qualities of a product, if they are unlikely to buy it because their partners or other family members do not want them to buy it. People who are close to each other are normatively influenced by these subjective norms, which is normative social pressure.

Or even if the consumer cannot afford what is advertised for. This perceived behavioural control of the ease or difficulty preforming a task, interferes with the cost/benefit approach of an individual. (This I will later mentioned, you can find other articles in the cognitive section within business psychology below.)

As an example we can look at the area of food choice, the subjective norms within a family has strong impact on the families food preference, also the lack of skills in preparing specific dishes. Even when it comes to seafood’s health advantage, seafood is often not bought because of family dislike.

A Scandinavian study suggests the reason is often because, the persons responsible for cooking often do not know how to prepare seafood dishes (Scholderer & Trondsen, 2008). As we also now see an increase in food distributors favouring content that also teach people to make food, such as recipes, food blogs, how to videos and food shows. A good example of creating content, and at the same time informing the consumer how to consume. 

When buying expensive goods such as cars, furniture or even houses. Perceived behaviour control might often occur, the control beliefs will often concern financing. Sometimes people also fear that they are unable to make the right choice due to lack of knowledge. For example, lack of knowledge about wine or computers might prevent people from buying these goods, even if they would like to do so. Making it clear about affordable ways to pay, and easy accessible information will increase the chance of the individual calculating it as a beneficial situation, and will be more likely to show purchase behaviour. 

The advertisement practitioner should target the behavioural outcome, if it is normative or control beliefs or a combination, identifying the beliefs of those the advertisement targets. The beliefs towards the product are different in those who own the advertised product category, or subscribe to similar services then those who do not intend to consume the product at all. Such beliefs are likely to strongly influence the purchasing decision, and can be important to identify. 

As an example some people stay with an expensive phone company instead of changing to a cheaper one, because of lack of knowledge resulting in the worry that changing company will involve a great deal of effort and also result in a disruption in their phone service. Im sure you can recognise yourself in some similar behaviour?

By persuading people by offering a better deal will rarely be effective. Convincing them that the changeover would be easy and without risk of disruption, at the same time cheaper, could increase the chances of reaching the individuals cost/ benefit approach toward the situation in favour of the advertisements purpose. A focus on one of the factors would most likely not persuade to change company. These are among few and simple approaches in making a successful advertisement. 

In the cognitive section below, we will go shortly in on the cognitive effects these techniques have on an individual. 

Cognitive factors in PR, advertising and marketing

An advertisement works in the way that it affects with the individuals concept of the self, and the desire and need for social acceptance in its own social groups or in- groups. By referring to peoples self concept, and what their inner desires are. As mentioned earlier schemas are the way the brain stores and sorts information, as mental shortcuts. Negative or positive emotions loaded towards the schemas created or connected to the schemas as a reward/punishment system, creating a individual value system. 

What is important to the individual? Awareness of what generates positive emotions. Social factors are of importance to most individuals, social acceptance and belonging is of a great benefit in this reward system. Therefore also high in value on the individuals value system. Normative and persuasive influence therefore affects the individuals motivations and behaviour. Doing so by seeking social acceptance, and belonging to the various groups the individuals concept of self identifies itself with. The individual then unconsciously measure the existing schemas developed. Seeing costs and benefits of the new information received. Based on schemas already existing, and the value system the individual makes a decision by calculating potential benefits and costs related to what is valuable for the individual. Calculating on the potential highest outcome of positive emotions, based on the existing schemas of experience. 

When receiving information, this information can be received in different ways. And it is this cognitive approach thats targeted when manipulating people, especially in PR, advertisement and marketing approaches. Understanding Normative and persuasive influence, mental schemas and the mental shortcuts is essential.

Mental shortcut processing: Central and peripheral

As an example to the theoretical approach above, we can see an example in the purchase of a car. It is a expensive investment for most individuals, and therefore also has a high level of potential risks in the outcome of benefits upon purchase. If the individual has a desire for owning a car, and sees an advertisement connected to his desire. He is more likely to follow the central route of information which requires higher level of involvement, time and energy spent on processing the information. Often processing information of facts, and the use of logics to make a decision upon costs and benefits involved. This mental processing route often leads to more permanent attitude change. 

If low level of interest, individuals tend to take the peripheral route of information. It requires less energy spent on processing the information. And instead of looking at facts, the individual tend to be more focused on superficial cues, like colours, music connected to the message or an attractive speaker. Most of the peripheral route are more temporary in attitude change. Either of these routes calculated via the individuals idea of what is valuable to the person, with the approach of cost and benefits depending on the mental schemas. And will motivate the individual towards behaviour of investing in the product or not.

Using and understanding these among many other factors of crowd psychology, and how your and others decision making behaviour operates. That is essential to manipulate others. And also central to understand how to not getting manipulated. Understanding normative and persuasive influence, and mental shortcuts our brain does to process information. Could be a very good fundament to understand in your strategies in reaching out in marketing, advertisement and PR.

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