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Group Assignment 4 Discussion: “The Persuaders” Documentary
1. When creating an ad for “Song Airlines,” Spade says that he did not want to make
the ad a “literal delivery of a benefit.” What does he mean by this and why is he
trying to avoid it?
Spade’s motive is to employ the devices of ethos and pathos. He wants to establish the
credibility or spirit of the product by implementing brand association. He also wants to
appeal to the emotions and imaginations of Song Airline’s intended audience—women.
When Spade says he does not want to make the ad a “literal delivery of a benefit,” he is
making reference to an exact or precise availability of an expected reward such as
reduced airfares, better service, or plusher seats. In other words, Spade doesn’t want the
ad to convey the message that the consumer will receive exactly what they’re paying for,
but that they will gain something extra that other airlines don’t offer. As Rushkoff
suggests, “Spade is proposing to downplay the airline’s new features in favor of
something much more intangible: its soul” (The Persuaders: "A High Concept
Campaign" 9:59). Spade’s advice is to detract from the physical attributes of the airline,
and to offer what appears to be something that “money can’t buy” but he intends to
promote an experience. Downplayers, as our text describes, is the “attempt to make
someone or something look less important or less significant” (Moore and Parker 138). In
this case, Andy Spade wants to try to create the illusion that the actual benefit of flying
with Song Airlines is not is not that the airline actually offers—but he wants to connect
on a more emotional level. The aim is to create a new type of “culture” with the airline,
and to convince the consumer that he/she needs to be a part of it.
2. Why is studying cults useful in understanding persuasion and how to market a
In emotional branding, studying cults allows marketers to be more empathetic and gain
greater awareness about ways in which the loyalties of potential consumers can be
influenced. In the film it was mentioned how companies like Nike, Starbucks, and Apple
do more than sell a product, but that they have created a brand and their approach
marketing in ways which stimulate the transference of ideas. As Rushkoff indicates, these
companies were able to draw on the idea “… that a brand could forge an emotional, even
spiritual bond with today's cynical consumer” (The Persuaders: "Emotional Branding"
1:58). The products they ‘pushed’ began to transcend beyond running shoes, coffee, or
computers, and made their way into the lives of the consumers. Advertisers understood
that the brands had a global impact because of the marketing approaches. One example is
the “Saturn Homecoming” ad presented in the film, which stimulated an idea of
“bonding” for Saturn owners and potential buyers. Rushkoff further asserts that, “the
object of emotional branding [is] to fill the empty places where non-commercial
institutions, like schools and churches, might once have done the job” ( 5:48). We are
able to see how persuasion through visual imagery is another popular marketing strategy
in which advertisers use images to sell a product or generate an idea. For instance, the
Nike “swoosh” logo, the image of sweat pouring down an athlete’s face in a television ad,
even the sound of a runner breathing while running. Our text states that, “Adding the
right music or other sounds to a video only enhances its power to persuade” (154). Cults
are also known for their use of music and symbols to inspire enthusiasm.
3. The French advertising guru Clotaire Rapaille believes that the power of words is
not in their literal definitions. Where/how do words acquire their meanings and
associations, according to Rapaille?
Marketing research guru, Clotaire Rapaille was once a psychiatrist whose training
involved working with autistic children. So, he has probably studied ways in which the
mind works. Our text indicates that, “Words and expressions have more than a literal or
“dictionary” meaning. They also have what is known as emotive meaning or rhetorical
force...” (136). We are able to use rhetorical devices to affect certain feelings and
emotions; and we are able to recall specific emotions as they pertain to certain words. As
Rushkoff provides, “Rapaille claims that there are unconscious associations for nearly
every product we buy buried deep in our brains” (The Persuaders: "The Science of
Selling" 3:33). According to Clotaire Rapaille, words meanings and associations come
from people’s initial interpretation of them. Rapaille expresses that, “the first time you
understand, you imprint the meaning or this word, you create a mental connection”
(3:48). Sort of like associating a field of flowers with the scent of springtime, or the scent
of fresh baked cookies with Grandma’s warm smile. As children when we begin to
associate certain words with people, scents, sounds and objects the image and emotion is
established in our minds.
4. Rapaille wants to know more about the “reptilian mind” of the consumer more than
the “mammalian mind.” Why does Rapaille find the reptilian mind more important
when it comes to persuasion?
When it comes to persuasion, Rapaille feels that all purchasing decisions lie at the primal
core, “… past reason, through emotion…” ("The Science of Selling" 5:24). In search of
“primal urges,” he is in pursuit of what he has named “reptilian hot buttons” or what
controls the consumer’s emotions and passions to force them to act. In a focus group,
Rapaille wants the people in the group to move past responses they feel are logical, and
he appeals to the emotions of the participants by getting them into a mindset in which
they respond by feeling the need to please a child, then he turns off the lights and gets the
participants comfortable—almost into a just-waking state mindset because he wants them
in what he calls the reptilian mind state. As Rapaille divulges, “My theory is very simple.
The reptilian always win” (7:24). Rapaille doesn’t want the participant’s responses to be
based on emotions, but rather that of a primitive instinct. He doesn’t want them to think
too hard, and he wants impulsive responses. According to Rapaille, traditional research
marketers “think too much” (Rapaille). The key, he says, is to “unlock the code.”
5. Rapaille once told a French company that “In America, the cheese is dead.” Frank
Luntz says that he watches a lot of television to find the “pulse” or “vibe” of
Americans. What main point about the effective ability to persuade are they both
The main point that Clotaire Rapaille and Frank Luntz are making about the effective
ability to persuade has to do with the specific needs of audiences in different cultures.
Rapaille’s rhetorical analogy that, “cheese is dead in America” is a comparison being
made between the different marketing styles to take toward the French in contrast to that
of the Americans. Our text states that a rhetorical analogy can be used to relate increase
the comprehension of something others may not be informed about (146). Rapaille
provides the assessment that, “The French like the taste before safety. Americans want
safety before the taste” (Rapaille). The taste of the cheese is more important to the
French, and how long it can be kept is of greater import to Americans. In The
Persuaders, Frank Luntz imparts his view of American culture with, “I have to know
what they're watching, I have to know what they're listening to, and I got to know why”
("Giving Us What We Want" 0:57). Luntz feels it the way to market is knowing and
understanding what the American people place as a priority in their lives—and that is
television and music.
Frontline: The Persuaders. By Barak Goodman and Douglas Rushkoff. Dirs. Barak Goodman
and Rachel Dretzin. Perf. Douglas Rushkoff. 2003. Video.
Investopedia.com. Fortune 100. 3 May 2015. Web.
Moore, Brooke N and Richard Parker. Critical Thinking. 11th. New York: McGraw-Hill
Education, 2015. Print.
Rapaille, Clotaire. "Interview Clotaire Rapaille." Frontline: The Persuaders. 9 November 2004.