Monday, October 19, 2009

Familiar Phrases and Persuasion

By Suzanne Hedberg

When talking about current familiar phrases, it is impossible to do
so without also talking about how advertisements have an effect on our
speech. In today's society, people are exposed to many common phrases
through the internet, television, radio, newspapers, and magazines.
Nearly every major company has adopted a phrase, theme, or jingle.
Many people would be able to recognize Obama's "hope and change" theme
in the 2008 presidential election, sing the jingle to, or identify State Farm Insurance Company's
phrase, "Like a good neighbor…" These phrases are meant to persuade
the audience to utilize the company, or, in Obama's case, vote for the
candidate. Everyday phrases such as these are examples of how the
elaboration likelihood model works in our everyday lives.

The elaboration likelihood model holds that there are two "routes" to
persuasion - the central route and the peripheral route. Garth S.
Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell maintain that "motivation to engage in
persuasive transactions is related to attentional factors, message
quality, a person's involvement in the issue, and a person's ability
to process persuasive argument" (Jowett and O'Donnell, 2006).
Attitude change that stems from purposeful evaluation, logic, or
elaboration is the central route to persuasion. It creates an
enduring attitude related to behavioral intention. Generally phrases
that are easily picked up on are due to peripheral cues which are
driven by the attractiveness of the argument. The attractiveness of
the slogan or phrase makes it easily picked up and remembered. It
does not require the audience to weigh the pros and cons and evaluate
the product. The peripheral route of persuasion is most often used
in advertisement. Most ads are short (one minute or less) and are run
multiple times in order to get the phrase across to the audience.

Repetition is a common tactic in all persuasion and would not be
effective otherwise. If, for example,'s
commercial ran once on television and never aired again, this would be
ineffective. The goal of any company is to have name recognition so
the company can make itself known and remembered (Rank, 2008). Our
everyday lives are flooded with repeated commercials and ads that
flash their phrase in hopes it will by catchy to their audience, be
remembered, and therefore be persuasive.

In our notes, Erwin P. Bettinghaus and Michael J. Cody say,
"persuasion involves [a] conscious effort to influence" (J. Fisher,
personal communication, September 18, 2009). When discussing
persuasion as a conscious effort in regards to phrases shared within a
group, I must disagree with Bettinghaus and Cody. Our everyday
actions and phrases often have an effect on others, whether it is
intended or unintended. Take for instance a phrase that one friend
often says to another. More than likely, if the two spend enough time
together the second person will pick it up. This is not because the
first was persuading her to do so, but because groups often share
similar values and similar senses of humor. Additionally, the
unintended receiver effect does not follow what Bettinghaus and Cody
claim about persuasion either. Merely talking about a product to a
group of friends and someone overhearing and going out and buying the
product does not constitute as a conscious effort to influence others.

The internet, television, radio, newspapers and magazines all offer
phrases which are either remembered and repeated by the public -
offering an example of effective persuasion - or forgotten by the
public - offering an example of ineffective persuasion. The
elaboration likelihood model shows us how we are persuaded by
advertising or campaigning. Persuasion does not only occur in
advertisements presented daily in media outlets, but also in circles
of friends who merely share common phrases with each other. Maybe
next time a phrase comes along you won't be so easily persuaded. Or,
maybe the's jingle will just get stuck in your

Works Cited:

Fisher, J. (2009, September). Intentionality and persuasion. Course notes.

Jowett, G.S. & V. O'Donnell. (2006). Chapter 4. Propaganda and
Persuasion Examined. In Propaganda and Persuasion, 4th edition (pp.
161-202). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Rank, H. (2008). The abcs of tv ads. Retrieved from

No comments: