Are you ready for some football?! The most watched program in American history will be on this weekend. That’s right, Super Bowl 50 is here. Not only is this weekend a chance to showcase the two premier teams in the NFL, but it also gives us a glimpse at the strategic and calculated persuasive techniques that major corporations have been drawing up the past year. (The price of advertisements increased by $500,000 for this year’s Super Bowl and now sits at $5 million for a thirty-second spot.) For some people, they watch the ‘big game’ solely for the commercials. That’s because many companies take the route of using humor, like Kia, Hyundai, and T-Mobile did this year. On the other hand, Budweiser and Colgate went the opposite way and used their ad time as calls to action on drunk driving and wasting water. Both humor and calls to actions are techniques that are used to create a positive perception of the product being advertised; because of that, I thought it was worth exploring positivity and the role it plays in persuasion.
Positivity is not a term that is often associated with persuasion, since persuasion is essentially the art of getting people to think, feel, or do something you want. For McDonalds and Coca Cola, two major marketers in America, the ability to effectively use positivity was a marketing ploy on full display during Super Bowl 49. Both companies have seen their profits diminish as Americans look for healthier alternatives. Because of this negative association Americans are establishing towards both companies, they decided to use positivity as the focal point in their advertising. With Coca Cola’s #MakeItHappy campaign, and McDonald’s ‘Pay With Lovin’, it was evident that both companies are trying to restore the perception of their products. Coca Cola identified long ago that it would need to create a positive marketing campaign to make up for its high calorie product. When explaining the marketing strategy for Coca Cola, Andy McMillan, who is the Vice President and General Manager of the company stated, “Coca-Cola has always stood for optimism, uplift and inclusion… and these core values have been a common thread in our advertising through the years.” Although both marketing campaigns were admirable, the data showed that they did not improve slumping sales for either company.
Advertising aside, persuasion is used in our lives on a daily basis. As parents, teachers, coaches, and friends, we know that persuasion plays a role in our everyday interactions. For example, I’ve coached girls’ JV basketball for the past four years. Over that time I’ve compiled a stellar 0-38 record. (The Philadelphia 76ers have nothing on me.) The ironic thing about this is that over the past four years my team has continuously grown in size. I attribute that to one specific reason: I only use positive and reinforcing persuasive language as I coach. It’s not easy. One must be careful with the words and phrases used. Persuading the girls to play hard, even as we stare at a scoreboard which shows we are losing by 40 is a challenge, but we perceiver. I credit learning about connotation, which is the emotional weight of words, for this. Being clever with words, and infusing our vocabulary with compassionate and empathetic speech, allows us to effectively connect with our intended audience. By using our words wisely and keeping a positive tone, we increase our ability to persuade and motivate our audience.