What Is Rational Appeal in Advertising?

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An advertisement that has rational appeal encourages consumers to buy or to act on a cognitive rather than emotional basis. It focuses on elements such as statistics, quality, price, performance and specifications, creating fact-based justifications. Consumers respond to this kind of campaign based on their perception of facts, hard data and logic. Five common strategies are used in rational appeal advertising campaigns.

Generic Campaigns

  • Generic campaigns typically work best for companies or products that have a brand leadership position or dominate a market. They do not need to claim that the product is better than the competition, as the consumer already has a positive perception of the company and its products. This perception transfers over to the advertising campaign, adding value to it in the consumer's mind. This can also work across brands. A computer manufacturer that uses the "Intel Inside" trademark on a campaign may get a positive boost, as consumers recognize Intel as a leading chip manufacturer.

Pre-emptive Campaigns

  • Pre-emptive campaigns get messages into the market before the competition, making claims that products have a specific advantage. To bring in maximum benefits, this claim will be the first of its kind. Competitive companies may make similar claims in the future, but these later claims may have a reduced rational value. For example, Gillette created the famous "the best a man can get" phrase for advertising campaigns. If a competitor were to make a similar claim, consumers might view it as a copy. They would know that the phrase "belongs" to Gillette and may then perceive the competitive product as being of less value.

Unique Selling Proposition Campaigns

  • Unique selling proposition, or USP, campaigns present a statement or claim that no other company or product can match. This approach uses facts that are open to scrutiny, which adds value to consumer perception, as people trust facts. In the 1960s, for example, Avis started a campaign that used its position as the second-biggest car rental company. The campaign phrase "We try harder" successfully played on Avis' second-place position, inferring that it had to do more for its customers because it wasn't the market leader. No other company could take that position, as it was unique to Avis.

Hyperbole Campaigns

  • Hyperbole campaigns focus on a feature, benefit or selling point, but they do not have to back these claims with data or proof. They may make greatly exaggerated assertions, but their rational appeal comes from their underlying focus on something that consumers view as factual. For example, the company that produces the energy drink Red Bull uses the phrase "Red Bull gives you wings" in advertising campaigns. Consumers do not believe they will actually grow wings by drinking Red Bull, but they understand the meaning behind the hyperbole, accepting that it means the drink provides energy.

Comparative Campaigns

  • Comparative campaigns make a direct or indirect comparison between two products, services or companies. These campaigns aim to convince consumers that the company running an advertisement is superior to the other in some way. One of the most famous examples of this strategy is the long-running "cola wars" between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The "Pepsi Challenge" campaign, for example, showed consumers take a blind taste test to see whether they preferred Pepsi or Coke. Unsurprisingly, the consumers featured in the ad preferred Pepsi, giving evidence to campaign viewers that it might taste better to an objective judge.

References

  • Photo Credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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