Persuasion is Pervasive: Do You Know Which Route to Take?

Mass Media

When crafting a message, especially when we’re trying to illicit a response or action, it’s important to understand more than just how to craft a good headline - you must master the art of the persuasive appeal. It is in essence the nature of the game, especially when it comes to messaging and advertising.

Reflecting on the elaboration likelihood model, this theory provides insight into how we as humans receive and respond to the information we’re provided. It's really quite simply explained in the video below.

Persuasion has one of two pathways: the central route and the peripheral route. Ultimately the length of the lasting persuasion is what depends on the pathway taken.

The graphic below shows an easy to grasp breakdown of these two routes of a persuasive message. I’ll break it down further below.

Central Route:

When one goes the central route, it is one that is decidedly more logical and data driven, and it is one that involves high-involvement in processing the message. The persuasive message is built on facts and logic to build up support for the message. It is important that the audience itself is analytical and able to process the analytics and information provided. Often the change in attitude is a lasting one and leads to lasting changes in behavior. The change is resistant to fading and attacks by counter messaging.

The central route is often taken with big ticket purchases; think buying a house, or a car, or even a laptop. It's a time when the consumer spends a lot of time taken to research and use logic and analytics to evaluate a message or purchasing decision.

The Peripheral Route:

This route is more indirect and requires much less processing than its logic-based counterpart. As a direct contrast to the central route, this route is built off positive imagery and uses positive characteristics and emotions, as well as celebrity endorsements and just the general overall attractiveness of a message to make the persuasive message resonate. It's based more on the superficial than logical reasoning. With the peripheral route, the change in attitude is often a temporary one and is susceptible to fading and being influenced by other competing messages.

This route is taken most easily and could include a new lipstick purchase, or new video game purchased based off the cool looking ad/game-play trailer. There is low-processing involved, and we make these purchases based on feelings, looks, or associations.

The Conclusion:

Ultimately if the persuasion is meant to be long-lasting, such as a change in behavior, you will want to approach your persuasive message with a central route. For example, if you’re trying to persuade about climate change and going green for the environment, this message would be a central one. If you were trying to get a sale of Maybelline mascara, that message would be a peripheral one and one based off imagery alone. That attitude would be susceptible to fading and competing ads in the future.