Message Content in Marketing Communications


Message content deals with what is said in a message and how it is said. There are five common content topics that have great relevance for marketing practitioners: 1) fear appeals; 2) the use of humor; 3) the role of music; 4) sex appeals; and 5) subliminal messages. Advertisers, salespersons, public relations spokespersons, and other marketing communicators use all of these message styles to varying degrees in hopes of gaining attention, achieving impact, and ultimately producing sales.

Fear Appeals: Companies sometimes use fear appeals in attempting to motivate customers to action. The underlying logic when using fear appeals is that fear will stimulate audience involvement with a message and thereby promote acceptance of message arguments. The appeals may take the form of social disapproval or physical danger aside from the basic ethical issue of whether fear should be used at all, the fundamental issue for marketing communicators is determining how intense the fear presentation should be. Numerous fear-appeal studies have been performed by psychologists and marketing researchers, but the fact remains that there still is no consensus on the “optimum” level of fear. Some Neither extremely strong nor very weak fear appeals are maximally effective. It seems that appeals at a somewhat moderate level of fear are best.

Humor: Politicians, actors and actresses, after-dinner speakers, professors, and indeed all of us at one time or another use humor to create a desired reaction. Salespeople and advertisers also turn to humor in the hopes of achieving various communication objectives. Whether humor is effective and what kinds of humor are most successful are matters of some debate among marketing communications practitioners and scholars.

Despite the frequent use of humor in advertising, relatively little is known in a definitive scientific sense about its effects on customer behavior. However there are some generalizations:

  • Humorous messages attract attention.
  • Humor can inhibit consumers’ understanding of the intended meaning of a message.
  • Because humor is a pleasant form of distraction, it can produce an increase in persuasion by effectively “disarming” receivers’ natural selective perception and reducing their tendencies toward counter arguing with persuasive selling claims.
  • Humor tends to enhance source credibility, thereby improving the persuasive impact of an ad message.
  • A humorous context may increase liking for the source and create a positive mood, thereby enhancing the persuasive effect of the message.
  • To the extent that a humorous context functions as a positive reinforce, a persuasive communication placed in such a context may be more effective.
  • The effects of humor can differ due to differences in audience characteristics. Advertisers must use humor carefully since consumers display a variety of tastes in what is humorous and what is not.

Music: celebrated musicians, as well as, non-vocal accompaniment and unknown vocalists are used extensively in promoting everything. Music performs useful communication functions such as attracting attention, putting consumers in a positive mood, and making them more respective to message arguments. Although music’s role in marketing is an increasingly understand subject, a few recent studies have begun to demonstrate the roles that music performs. Music is an unconditional stimulus in an effort to influence experimental subjects’ preference.

Sex Appeals: Sex appeals in advertising are often explicit. The use of explicit sex was unthinkable just a few years ago, it now represents part of a new trend toward more sexually explicit advertising. Sexual explicitness is prevalent and overt in some countries. Whether such advertising is effective and under what conditions it may be effective remain largely unexplored issues. Complicating the matter is the fact that sex in advertising actually takes two forms: nudity and suggestiveness. It is uncertain which form is more effective. There are several potential roles. First, sexual material in advertising acts as an initial attentional lure and also holds attention for a longer period, given that the models are attractive or the scene is pleasant. This is called the “stopping power” role of sex. A second potential role is to enhance recall. Sexual content or symbolism will enhance recall only if it is appropriate to the product category and the creative advertising execution. Sexual appeals produce significantly better recall only if the advertising execution has an appropriate relationship with the advertised product. A third role performed by sexual content in advertising is to evoke emotional response such as feelings of attraction or even lust.

Subliminal Messages: the word subliminal refers to the presentation of stimuli at a rate or level that is below the conscious threshold of awareness. Stimuli that cannot be perceived by the conscious senses may nonetheless be perceived subconsciously. This possibility has generated considerable concern from advertising critics and has fostered much speculation from researchers.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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Advertisement as a Symbol Package


Advertisements should not be thought of as things apart from the needs of the advertiser. Hence the function-oriented term ‘marketing message’ to suggest the motivation behind the ads. But—there is more.

The effects (if any) that ads are going to have on people are by no means certain. One way of explaining this is by thinking of the finished advertisement as a “symbol package,” using words, pictures, sound, and so forth in an attempt to establish some shared meaning between the creator of the advertisement and those who receive it.

The primary task facing the TV creative man is how best to get at people’s feelings. How can he communicate convincingly with what psychologists call the third ear, with the levels of intuition far behind reason—where the scales of judgment are weighted by feeling and primitive perceptions. This is the “open sesame” to believability and persuasion. The intellectual elements—the facts and the arguments—are just a superstructure on the process (often the subconscious process) of achieving conviction. The creative mind in TV advertising has to work with both logical and non-rational symbols. This is, after all, what a product image is—the total set of attitudes, the halo of psychological meanings, the associations of feelings, the indelibly written aesthetic messages over and above the bare physical qualities.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Smart People Add, Foolish People Take Away


The most important way we learn is by thoughtful observation. Lessons that teach us success fundamentals are available in every encounter with other people.

Consider this example. You visit a candy store and order a pound of unboxed candy. The person behind the counter puts a big scoop of candy on the scales, maybe 20 ounces, and then begins to take away your candy, piece by piece, until the weight is exactly 16 ounces.

How do you feel? Cheated. Subconsciously, you perceived the big 20-ounce pile of candy as your candy. Now, as the person behind the counter takes some of it away, you feel your candy is being stolen.

Intelligent people behind the counter use the add-to approach. They put a relatively small amount of candy on the scales, maybe 10 or 12 ounces. Then, they add a few pieces until the scale shows 16 ounces. Subconsciously, this makes you feel good because you perceive you are getting extra candy.

Sixteen ounces are still 16 ounces. But the way a pound is counted makes a mighty big difference. To be sure, computer personnel must be careful in weighing merchandise. The point is that never make the customer feel cheated.

Successful business search for creative ways to use the generous add-on tactic to increase sales. The magazine subscription that includes a free pocket calculator, a remote-control device that comes free with the purchase of a television set, and the two-for-the-price-of-one sale by a drug chain are examples. People like you and buy from you when you give more than they expect in exchange for their money.

Evidence that generosity, the add-on approach, works wonders is overwhelming. Nevertheless there are still many businesses that believe success is spelled CHEAT. Store that advertise non-existent appliances at a ridiculously low price and then try to browbeat and intimidate the customer into buying a much higher priced product are common examples. Observe such scoundrels only to learn how to succeed.

You can use the “add-to” principle in every facet of life:

  • Give unexpected, extra service to your employer and you become a candidate for more pay, for more fringe benefits, and for promotion.
  • Put something extra into your assignment at school and get a better grade.
  • Give more time to your kids and get more love and cooperation in return.
  • Show respect to the parking lot attendent and your car gets better treatment.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight