Monday, May 19, 2014

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5 Ways to Combat Counter-Arguments, The Barrier of Brand Persuasion


How do you persuade your customers that your brand will actually keep its promise? It’s a common challenge. You and your brand must convince a doubting audience that it will deliver on its value proposition, its higher purpose, its commitment to customers, its personality and much more.
There is a practical barrier to that goal: Counter-arguing. Customers hear the brand argument and voice their skepticism, perhaps just in their own thoughts. They counter argue against the persuasive efforts of the brand. The result is that persuasion is neutralized and, perhaps worse, negative brand thoughts are solidified or even generated by the encounter.
There are 5 ways psychologists recommend you can minimize counter-arguing:
A persuasive source
If Phil Mickelson is speaking about the powers of a new driver, consumers will be less likely to counter argue, because he is a credible golf expert, is likable and trustworthy. Counter-arguing would be against him rather than the brand and the logic of the argument. And who wants to argue with Phil Mickelson about the power of a new driver?
A refutational appeal
If the “other side” of the argument is preemptively introduced and refuted, it is less likely to come up as a counter-argument. So when Tesla was confronted with two or three incidents of fire, it could mention that fact and then explain the much larger incidents of fire in gas cars and how they actually threaten life. Bringing up the Tesla’s fires at the outset makes the counter-argument nearly irrelevant.
A sense of humor
During the energy crisis, when oil companies were disliked and disbelieved, Chevron was effective with a very humorous, lively ad using a cartoon dinosaur around the theme “We’re running out of dinosaurs” that promoted energy conversation. The use of a bouncy message with humor distracted people from their natural tendency to counter-argue.
A symbol
Symbols such as The Jolly Green Giant or the Pillsbury Doughboy can deliver or support a message and counter-arguing will be reduced. Why would you argue with such a familiar and friendly face? It makes no sense to argue with a cartoon, anyway!
A good story
Embed an argument supported by facts and you encourage counter-arguing. Embed it in a story and the story gets the attention. If an unknown blender firm had marshalled facts to support its position as a superior technology, it would have been greeted with skepticism. But when Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” campaign, which might be all time most viewed set of commercials in the digital space, put all sorts of things like marbles, wood, iPads etc. into the blender and treated them as another blending challenge, the fact that the blender was powerful and durable was obvious, and the audience was diverted from counter-arguing.
There is a natural instinct for a brand team to want to communicate the assets of the brand and offering and why it should be the preferred choice. One challenge to that approach is the direct, rational approach to engender counter-arguing, which can make the effort ineffective or worse.
Neutralize counter-arguments by some form of audience distraction and add cognitive activity that will inhibit counter-arguing.
David Aaker is a best-selling author and Vice Chairman at Prophet, a strategic brand and marketing consultancy. He blogs weekly at and can be found on Twitter @DavidAaker.
His next book, Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles That Drive Success is available for pre-ordering now. For a limited time, purchase 25 or more copies of Aaker on Branding andsave 42%Click here for more information.


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