Behaviour and Psychology Persuasion and Influence

Being Persuasive: Advertising’s Foolproof Formula


Thanks to researchers like Robert B. Cialdini we have a great understanding of the principals that drive behaviour and how we can take advantage of these principles to become more persuasive. However, sometimes, you can get a little stuck in turning these principles into action. If you want to influence and persuade others, you need look no further than the advertising industry. Advertising executives make a living crafting influential and persuasive message to nudge their recipients in the right direction.

Advertisers and copywriters (persuasive writers) have followed the principles of AIDA for decades. AIDA is a great framework for building a persuasive message. AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

The model is robust, but based on my own experience as a marketer, is incomplete. The true model for persuasion looks more like this – Attention, Interest, Desire, Commitment, Action and Satisfaction. The examples given below will be from an advertising perspective, but I trust you are able to adapt these to other situations.


If you want your message to have an impact on your readers, it must first get their attention. Writers can do this with a hard-hitting headline or lead paragraph that hits the nail directly on the head or you can even begin your letter with a captivating question. For instance, “Do you want to cut your electricity cost by 45%?”

An appropriate headline for a campaign promoting a weight loss program might be: “Now, you can lose 15 pounds in 2 weeks without having to starve; and it’s easy and affordable!” This headline not only solves a problem, but also offers a quick and easy solution that keeps in mind the price-sensitive consumer.

Your reader will be interested only in knowing “What’s in it for me?” “Why should I invest my time in reading on?” If you let him know instantly, at the beginning of your letter, he’ll keep reading the rest of the material. And that’s half the battle won. In any case, he will rarely reach the third paragraph, so the impact has to be instant. The crux of the matter should be explained at the very beginning.

If you’re delivering a speech or sales pitch, these rules still apply, ensure that your opening statement cuts through the noise and grabs attention.


You must clasp the listener/reader’s interest by showing him why he needs your product or service. You have to create a want for your product or service. Let him know how his life will become easier with your product. Show him what he is missing by not even trying the product.

Here, you’re required to prove your trustworthiness. You can rest your case by using testimonials or case histories. You can provide the communication details of users who have benefited from your product. Always remember that you know everything there is to know about your product, so “stale news” to you can be “fresh news” to the other person.


Now you’ve got the reader’s attention and hooked his interest. Next, you’ve got to create desire. Tell the reader how exactly he’ll benefit from your product. Link the benefits to the reader’s daily life. Get him to realise how your product can benefit him, how convenient it is for him to get it, and how comfortable life will be for him afterwards. This part of the process should focus on emotions and wants.

Generalities are less convincing. Specific details are far more believable. For example, when you want to sell books on lowering employee theft – “By the end of this quarter, you could see your percentage of employee theft drop by more than 37%. Imagine the spectacular effect it will have on your bottom line!” If it is selling a weight loss program – “Within 3 weeks you will have lost 15 pounds. Imagine the compliments pouring in from your spouse. Think how gorgeous you will look in that new swimsuit!”


This is the part where they decide they are going to take action. Readers are aware that so far, their thoughts have been based on emotions, so to ensure conviction, use a few logical statements as; it will back-up with facts that taking action is the right decision. Reinforce the logical benefits of taking action, whether it is price, time or convenience.


What do you want the reader to do next? Send in a reply card? Order the product or service? Call in asking for more information? Schedule an appointment? Notify him accordingly. It is amazing how many sales letters do not inform the reader about the subsequent step. They consider that the reader is a mind reader. But usually this is not the case.

You’ve worked hard so far. You’ve gotten his attention, hooked his interest, created desire.  Isn’t it appropriate to ask for action? Don’t presume that your reader knows what to do next. As a support to getting the preferred action, you must always incorporate a reply card with your letter.

The P.S. is one component of a letter that at all times gets read. Use your P.S. to emphasize your most compelling benefit or restate your guarantee. Don’t waste it on merriment. Used wisely, it could be the final prod that tilts the buying decision in your favour. So be specific and give the final spurt


Satisfaction has more to do with the product itself than the advertising process, however the truth or claims of your writing have a huge impact on the end satisfaction of the customer. The goal of most advertising is to satisfy the customer so they become a repeat customer and give referrals to a product or service.

If you’re interested in learning more about persuasion I highly recommend:

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