Persuasion in a Digital Era

        Advertising is not a field for the light-hearted.  People are ruthless when they interpret a message they do not like.  Messages can tug at the heart strings, pull at your emotions, instill fear in your mind, draw attention to a worldly issue, or call people to action.  Life is a walking advertisement, and people are simply the pawns in the advertiser’s game to get you to feel a certain way.  Sometimes these advertisers fail and other times they succeed beyond what they ever imagined.

To grab the attention of anyone living in the digital era, advertisers and marketers need to do something that changes the game, stands out in the mind of the receiver, makes the interpreter take a second glance, or sets a new standard.  Today’s world wants to see something different or otherwise the ad is simply lost in the crowd.  Sometimes the best ads are the ones that break the barrier (so to speak) and challenge what we accept as acceptable.

The purpose of this case study is to analyze four potentially successful persuasive advertisements.  Each advertisement utilizes a different technique (other than visually appealing) to attempt to persuade their target market.  In this study, we will analyze persuasive advertisements which use elements of Elaboration Likelihood Model, Charles Larson’s Persuasion: Reception and Responsibility in Cultural Images and Myths, the Narrative Paradigm, and the Cognitive Dissonance Theory; in order to, persuade their expected target market through visual imagery.

Chobani’s Nothing but Long-Term and the Elaboration Likelihood ModelChobani is Natural

Chobani is a company that started as a small business with a team of five people and has grown to employee over 1,200 people in under ten years.  Their primary target for the company is college graduates, who are typically young business professionals between the target ages of 24-40; they probably have one child or more with a household income of at least $75,000.  The typical non-sale price for a single cup of Chobani is roughly $1.20 (that is low balling).  When you break down their target market for this ad and the psychographics they are targeting it comes down to healthy eaters, those that are concerned with eating natural and outdoor families.  Most likely this ad would succeed with more mothers over fathers because typically the women are doing the grocery shopping and looking for healthy options for their families, which are good for the body.  These mothers also want to know they are giving a good quality product to their child and Chobani offers that to its customers, with 2x the protein as regular yogurt and no fat in over half of their products.  You can also identify their products fat level by looking at the percent (0 or 2) that appears on both the front label and top lid.

This is a good advertising example of a persuasive message that utilizes the Elaboration Likelihood Model.  This ad utilizes both the central route and the peripheral route;in order to, advance the persuasion to buy Chobani.  Regarding the central route, this ad gives information and facts to allow the observer to reach their own conclusion about how Chobani is the best yogurt for your body.  Chobani is looking to gain customers for life, so the central route is the most effective.  But because the central route is the more complex route, Chobani knows it may not persuade everyone to be a long-term customer and create a long term change.   The central route is the most effective for this target because they are always looking for a healthy option that will better their families overall health.

But for those that are not persuaded by the central route, Chobani challenges the observers using the peripheral route.  They use the peripheral cue of authority claiming power over the subject matter (Greek Yogurt) to persuade the audience to buy their brand.  The company also shows a commitment to staying natural, unlike other like products, to persuade the target market to want to buy natural as well.

Nike a Cultural ImageEveryone Loses Games. Few Change Them.

Nike is probably one of the best known companies for creating ads that challenge everyone, not just the athletes, because in their words “If you have a body, you are an athlete”.  Nike targets anyone with a body to go beyond what they think they can do physically.  But for this specific ad, they are targeting the sports world; anyone who competes for something, whether individually or as a team.  You do not need to know the story of Oregon State to get a feeling about what they have done.  To me, I know the story, because in a sense, I lived it.  As an active collegiate sports competitor and drive to follow athletes that have the same passion to compete as I do, Oregon State was a prime example of that mentality.  Athletes are the primary targets of this ad because they understand what it means to lose a game.  They know the feeling of lose, disappointment and the quest to get back on track.  The Oregon Ducks were having the season of a lifetime and came so close to being perfect but fell just one game short to Auburn.  Everyone can be motivated to get back in a game, but a loss can either come define you in a negative way or become a catalyst to spark you to get better.  The latter is what drives the true athletes to be better.

Nike made this ad to show the Oregon State team that they as a company were behind them, to not stop believing, that they had made a difference.  So in a sense there were two targets for this ad.  The Oregon State Ducks were one target, calling them out individually.  The second target was the athletes that may not have been a part of the team, but as mentioned above knows what it feels like to lose and have the decision to either rise up or allow failure to define them.  This persuasive message is persuasive because of Charles Larson’s Reception and Responsibility in Cultural Images and Myths.  It applies to the particular portion of his theory that includes the Value of a Challenge and Possibility of Success.  Athletes play the game because there is a winner and loser, everyone wants to win, but if everyone won all the time, the game would not mean as much.  The chance you may lose, offers the challenge that drives athletes to do their best.

The image may be simple when you first look at it, but it is persuasive because it makes the target think about things with a real example, as the Oregon Ducks are.  Some may not see football as life changing, some may not see it as important, but if you cannot relate to football, you can relate to the Value of a Challenge and the Possibility of Success in life.  You can relate it to your daily life, maybe you want to eat healthier but your favorite food is chocolate, so slowly you eat less and less chocolate and in time you are eating healthier.  Or maybe you want to quick smoking, the Possibility of Success can drive you to do better, it can force you to look towards a healthier life as the Goal (Value of the Challenge).   Sometimes just trying to do it is as important as doing it.  You learn from the challenge and that’s the most important part.

Apple’s Narrative ParadigmMac vs. PC

Apple has dramatically changed its advertising and marketing team in the last 20 years.  They adapted to meet the changing culture of the world.  They were one of the first companies (in my opinion) to drastically change their marketing to reach their target market and develop into the “it” technology brand.  Apple’s target market for this advertisement is a large range of people who are in the market for a new computer; however, it is generally the 18 to 30 year olds, typically the college students or young graduates starting out in the professional world.  If one looks deeper, this ad will succeed more with males than females.  The world dictates that males are more technology savvy than females.  However, on the opposite side of the argument could be the words appeal to the female because females tend to excel in organization more.  But Apple is not going to draw the women into reading the ad because the image on the ad is targeted towards men.  People buy Apple products for the name and the quality of the product.  Apple products often come off as a status symbol.  Do you have the Apple Suite of products that all sink up together, as this ad implies, if not you aren’t cool like Justin Long (the Mac guy).  The psychographics of the target market are artsy designers, those interested in starting their own business, individuals interested or working with technology, and those that think outside of the box.

This advertisement is a good example of the narrative paradigm because it tells a story.  Those seeing this print ad will remember the story that was told in the commercials, because it is targeted towards a younger generation who has grown up with television.  The story can be persuading to buy a Mac because as the print ad states, a Mac is ready to go out the box, no loading software and other things like a PC.  In the commercials you get the verbal narration; however, since this is a print ad you can only get the nonverbal elements of narration.  Take the body language for instance, the PC guy looks friendly and very serious while the Mac looks laid back and cool.  Their clothes have two very different styles and to the target a Mac is more relatable, he looks as if he could be a young guy that maybe is in college or just graduated.  Apple lists good reasons to purchase the Mac and lets the message make sense to the observer.  For some people, Apple is the brand they always buy, they value it and are consistently brand loyal, and this ad touches on that buy bringing up the Apple iPod in the text.  In this add the use of imagery draws in the target market and encourages them to read the message about what a Mac can do for them…make their life easier. Pro-Choice

Cognitive Dissonance in Pro-Choice

This image is targeted toward women.  These women may be pregnant, just had a baby, wanting to get pregnant, or not pregnant at all but in general they are women of the modern generation below the age of 40.  Abortion is a different topic than it was 30 years ago.  Pro-Life and Pro-Choice is a huge debate, but more women feel strongly towards the idea of choice now than ever before.  The target audience believes that this is not a choice for a man to pass judgment on.  There are different scenarios to which can be applied to any situation, but this image is telling the world that she and her baby are Pro-Choice; she made the decision to keep her baby.  The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the woman’s belly and the message it is trying to convey, every person deserves a choice.  Women are more susceptible to this message because they are the ones that will carry a child, and ultimately make the end decision.  Some women may feel more strongly at times to this message if they have had an abortion or are currently pregnant; this debate will continue to be a hot button issue for many years to come.

This picture creates a cognitive dissonance and instills the sense of guilt in its viewers if they do not feel the same way about Pro-Choice.  It can create the sense of guilt within an observer if they are Pro-Life because Pro-Life means choosing to keep your baby and sometimes Pro-Choice can end in an abortion.  The observer who is Pro-Life may have assumed that anyone who is Pro-Choice will choose abortion but the woman in the picture made the choice to keep her baby, creating a sense of guilt.  Not all people who are pro-choice will choose to abort their baby, but it’s the sense that they have the choice to do what is right for them that makes them choose their side on the long-term issue.  The woman in this picture is saying that her baby will always have the choice.  Those pro-life observers can also feel embarrassment for the same reason listed above.  The fact is that Pro-Choice does not always mean abortion, it can mean life too.  The Pro-Choice party simply wants the choice to choose what is right given the situation.  Unfortunately; in order to, make those Pro-Life people feel better about themselves they may devalue this picture by reducing the credibility of the source or misinterpret the message by claiming that since she kept her baby she is really Pro-Life.  They may also rationalize for the same reason, that she kept the baby so she must be Pro-Life.  Observers can also justify how the baby has not been born yet, so it has not made its choice whether is pro-life or pro-choice.


Some of the best marketing teams spend months on development of their marketing campaigns.  Everything has a purpose in an ad and in order to be effective they have to have a set target market.  Selecting a target market for a given company or product can be one of the most challenging aspects for a company, but it is key to a campaigns success.  As we have seen through the Elaboration Likelihood Model, Charles Larson’s Persuasion: Reception and Responsibility in Cultural Images and Myths, Narrative Paradigm, and the Cognitive Dissonance Theory, marketers use a variety of techniques to target their desired audience and create a persuasive message that lasts in the observers minds.  Through the use of the Elaboration Likelihood Model, the advertiser creates a message that appeals to their target using both the central and peripheral routes.  With the central route, the marketers use facts and information to allow the receiver to come to the conclusion that their product is the best for them, with the ultimate goal being to create a long-term customer.  Using peripheral cues such as authority and commitment to creating the best product, the sender aims to have the message set into the receiver, enough so that they try the product.  Charles Larson’s Persuasion: Reception and Responsibility in Cultural Images and Myths,allows the sender to show the receiver that everyone has the ability to succeed but it’s the challenge that drives human nature to compete and be persuaded to do something.  By using the Narrative Paradigm, the sender allows the receiver to make their own judgment based on good reasons listed by the marketer with ultimate goal of being as clear as possible for the observer. Lastly the marketer can choose to use the Cognitive Dissonance Theory.  This theory challenges the viewer and uses what makes the reader question their beliefs and morals against them; in order to, persuade the audience to think about things differently.  The theory is known for making people uncomfortable. The four theories observed in this case are just some of the strategies marketers use to persuade their target audience and achieve the desired response.


2 thoughts on “Persuasion in a Digital Era

  1. Hi, I really liked your analysis. I was wondering if you could provide me with the exact link to the chobani greek yoghurt?

    Many thanks,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *