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Communication Appeals & Tactics
Strategies to win and woo your audience attentions.
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 by Steven R. Van Hook, PhD

Steven R. Van HookFirst you have to win your potential targets' attention amid a barrage of thousands of personal and commercial messages daily. Then you have to quickly convince the audiences you're worth their time and brain focus. 

Here are some basic ideas on how to do that, followed with a video clip demonstrating the concepts at work.


Motivational researchers tell us there are 12 basic human desires that are essential to all attentions, whether you're communicating face-to-face or through intermediary media.
The most effective communications may appeal to one or more of these desires. 

The more appeals you can work into an ad without over-reaching and overwhelming and overselling and alienating, the more attractive it might be.

Security. We all have a need to feel secure. We buy a home for security. We put money into a savings account, contribute to pension funds and buy insurance for security.
Possessions. We like to buy and own things. Some people might consider possessions as a measure of personal worth.
Imitate others. We buy many things just because we see others buying them. We don’t like to be different – it’s one of the strongest appeals.
Good health. We spend a lot of money on products and services to satisfy a desire for good health.
Sexual and romantic drives. Many personal grooming products, how-to books and services are sold with these appeals in mind.
Curiosity. We’re attracted to new products and unusual imagery. “New!” is a frequent appeal in advertisements. We are naturally interested in things outside the ordinary. This motivator may not necessarily sell something, but it does get attention.
Love of beauty. Tastes in “beauty” may vary between cultures and generations, but a desire for beauty – in music, art, literature, personal appearance, etc. – burns deep in us all.
Play and relaxation. We take trips, buy toys, join clubs and much more in order to satisfy this desire. The economy of some states and countries depends on tourism and our desire for play and relaxation.
Feel important. People will often buy all sorts of products and services because ownership makes them feel important.
Physical pleasure and comfort. We like comfortable beds, warm homes, bubble bath, lounge chairs, personal products and such that give us pleasure and make us comfortable.
Love of others. We buy many products for the people and pets we love.
Avoid discomforts. Often we spend a lot of money to avoid both real and imagined discomforts and inconveniences: e.g., insect repellants, service agreements, household products.


Once you've won a target's attention, then comes the challenge of completing an informed exchange. Communications may match and mix six basic tactics to connect your message for a closing endgame: 

The Straight Sell. A clear, simple presentation of product or service benefits. “Do you need this? We have it.” Billboards do this well, cause they need to sell quickly.
The Educational. For examples: explaining how a car’s braking system works; or offering detailed schematics of a product. 

The Testimonial. A credible endorser such as a celebrity or “hidden camera” interview, or notice or an award.
The Humorous. Attracts, entertains, holds, and sells the audience. If you can make them laugh, they’re going to like you, at least better than if you poke them.
The Dramatization. A demonstration of the product or service or message in action.
The Artistic. Use of creative imagery or music to attract the audience, while subtly promoting the advertising message.

The clip below demonstrates how these appeals and tactics might be applied to your communications campaign.

Marketing Appeals & Tactics

Steven Van Hook has taught MBA and undergraduate marketing 
and communications courses for colleges and universities in the 
United States and abroad for more than a decade.

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