If you’re a business owner, one of your main goals has likely been to make a positive difference to your customers. No matter which field you’re in, ethical marketing that encourages critical thinking should always remain a part of that goal.
A logical fallacy is a type of heuristic, a generalized “rule of thumb” that helps people make quick but often faulty decisions; consumers with busy lives tend to not recognize logical fallacies in marketing and their dangers. When you advertise your company’s services, you and your team are partly responsible for their negative effects.
Marketers and their teams aren’t immune from falling for fallacies, either! A lack of clear analysis can affect any area of life or work.
So, what are marketers — or businesses who work with marketers — to do? Familiarize themselves with logical fallacies and learn how to stop perpetuating them. By leaving tired tropes and half-truths behind, you’ll surely find new ways to be creative.
What is the appeal to emotion fallacy?
One of the most common logical fallacies in marketing is called an appeal to emotion. This happens when marketers rely almost exclusively on getting emotional responses from their audience for more sign-ups or purchases.
Emotionally-driven ads might:
- Play on fears. Some advertisements try to scare potential customers into making purchases. For example, an ad for financial services might portray the aftermath of a risky investment or lack of insurance accompanied by dramatic music.
- Only show happy actors to imply that, if viewers buy from the brand being advertised, they will become happier, too. It can also make them more likely to associate the brand with positivity.
- Get viewers to laugh. Humor can bring joy to viewers even before they have time to realize they’re being advertised to! It is a clever way to build even stronger positive connections.
- Use emotionally-charged words — often “power words” — to describe a service.
If emotional appeals did not exist in advertising, the industry would be a dull and restricted place — so how can we keep advertisements gripping and persuasive while reducing the effects of irrational responses?
Here’s how you can avoid unreasonable emotional appeals in advertising.
Emotions can make people aware of something they truly need or should be doing. However, consumers should always base their decisions on facts. That’s why, when advertising your services, you’ll also need to cite things like scientific laws, theories, and other findings that are widely accepted (have gained consensus) among qualified experts in a relevant field.
Another option involves peer-reviewed studies that have been replicated and have withstood the test of time — those that are reliable. Here are some things you can consider when browsing scientific research:
- Why was the study carried out? It may have been to generate income, test a product, or promote a current or potential government policy.
- What is the organization that carried out the study? Do they have expertise in their chosen field, and would they benefit from finding a particular outcome?
- What are the potential motivations and conflicts of interest from the study’s funding source(s)?
- How was the data gathered — through surveys with multiple-choice or open-ended questions, natural observation (in the real world), or lab testing?
- Is the data more quantitative (objective) rather than qualitative (subjective and descriptive)?
- Does the study reference and build upon existing research? This would be great to mention as well.
- Was there a big enough sample size of participants — at the very least, about 100 — that could accurately represent the demographics you’re marketing to? Consider whether many of them responded, or if there was a high drop-out rate.
- Most importantly of all, does the research measure exactly what it claims to measure? In other words, is it valid?
Sometimes, studies or informal user testing your own company has carried out may be adequate; just make sure to be transparent about where the data has come from.
Additionally, in an effort to “prove” something to your audience, you may feel the need to share true stories instead. Keep reading to learn why that may not always be the best decision.
What is the anecdotal fallacy?
In the service sector — Laurelow’s area of interest — human connection is especially meaningful. This field revolves around people, so it might make sense to weave in testimonials and quotes from real people that summarize how your services helped them solve specific problems.
When they’re brief and singular like this, stories are referred to as anecdotes: perfectly relatable fuel for advertising, but only when used responsibly.
The anecdotal fallacy happens when people come to far-reaching conclusions based only on anecdotes. Although individual differences are marvelous in many ways, they can mislead people into thinking that their or someone else’s experiences and reactions will be the same as others’ anywhere else in the world.
How can you share anecdotes that aren’t misleading?
By listening to and amplifying stories that demonstrate what reliable and valid research has to say. It’s often difficult for humans to relate to numbers and statistics, but once your customers can identify a face among the data, they’ll better remember what’s happening at a broader level and how your company fits into the equation.
What is the appeal to authority fallacy?
We’ve all heard it: something like, “Four out of five experts recommend…”
But who are those experts, and why does their opinion matter? This is where the appeal to authority fallacy comes in. It occurs when someone tries to convince consumers by citing an expert or authority figure.
The fact that someone is an expert in one area doesn’t mean they’re an expert in everything.
Let’s think about a field where the appeal to authority has some of the greatest risks: medicine. A “medical professional” has — by definition — been trained in the medical field, so hearing that they endorse a procedure developed to treat a specific condition seems acceptable at first glance.
However, the medical profession is a vast one like any other; having worked anywhere within it isn’t enough of a qualification for touting that practice. That spokesperson may not have an advanced degree, and they may not be an expert in the specialty of medicine under which the procedure is categorized.
Spokespeople who appear authoritative may also have a financial incentive to support your company that distorts their willingness to say “yes” to your brand deal, and even their genuine perception of your company’s effectiveness. This is clearly true if your company offers them monetary rewards, but also exposure to a much wider audience than they would normally reach, which may help their own business raise its revenue.
Don’t be discouraged, though; there are plenty of ways authorities can ethically support your marketing!
How can you prevent the appeal to authority fallacy from influencing your team and showing up in your marketing?
Evaluate the credibility of your sources before you persuade your audience to accept their arguments as fact. When considering any source, ask yourself and your team:
- Does this authority figure have education and experience in the field they’re speaking about?
- Do their opinions align with the consensus (widespread agreement) of other experts in their field? Unquestioning agreement certainly isn’t a part of the scientific method; experts should accept data wherever it leads. However, agreement among specialized experts about a topic they’re very familiar with may be a positive sign.
- Have I minimized the possibility of external rewards influencing them to support my brand when they would not have otherwise?
- Is it possible that my audience may misinterpret the kind of professional they are or what they have to say?
- If they’re referencing scientific research, is it trustworthy?
Whether you’re showcasing an authority’s opinion through a detailed review or a quick mention, these guidelines will help your business build a positive reputation.
What is the false dilemma fallacy?
Another common fallacy in marketing is called a false dilemma. This occurs when advertisers present two options as if they are the only possible choices.
Here’s another example: a hotel may compare a luxurious, event-filled getaway that guests can experience at their establishment to a dreary time away from home if they choose any other type of lodging nearby.
Since there are countless factors in buying decisions, buyers often see through false dilemmas since they don’t feel that marketers understand their complex situations.
How can you avoid setting up false dilemmas…
- Present all options in a nuanced way. Your differentiators should speak for themselves.
- Respect customers’ decisions to freely explore other services.
- Inform your audience through helpful, detailed blog posts and other promotional materials that aren’t exclusively brand-focused.
…and falling for them yourself?
- Consider the entire range of customers your company might appeal to.
- Test many options and iterations when building marketing campaigns or other branding materials.
- Be skeptical if a member of your team presents any “either-or” situation.
What is the bandwagon fallacy?
It’s understandable: you have plenty of customers and want to let the world know!
But should you?
Not in a way that makes people feel pressured to fit into the crowd.
As humans who have depended on each other throughout history, we intuitively predict that conforming to others’ beliefs, routines, and buying behaviors will benefit us. Sometimes, they do; however, the bandwagon fallacy of assuming that something is true or good simply because it is popular will never be the best option.
There are no bandwagons in good business practices.
If potential customers don’t jump on the bandwagon of trying out your services, their quality connections with others probably won’t (and shouldn’t) suffer. And, of course, your services aren’t any better just because they’ve been purchased numerous times.
You might talk about how they’re preferable because:
- Your entire business and its team have gained valuable experience, which translates to increased customer satisfaction.
- Most people who have tried your company’s services prefer them to other brands’.
- They have become more efficient along the way.
Additionally, establishing a brand identity is about distinctiveness: staying unique and noticeable. A business whose team members share common values while thinking for themselves — and encouraging their audience to do the same — has a formula for success.
How can we thoughtfully support your success? Get in contact with our creative marketing studio today for guaranteed professionalism.