Within the world of communication, there’s something called the elaboration likelihood model (ELM). It proposes that humans process information in one of two ways: The central route (in which they analyze in-depth) and the peripheral route (in which they quickly glance and make a judgment). While the central route takes longer, it is also lasts longer. We use the peripheral route to make quick choices on things that don’t matter as much. While the central route considers: “Do I like the brand’s values,” the peripheral route asks: “Do I like their spokesperson?”
How often do you watch a dull infomercial and completely tune it out? All the time, right? If it doesn’t apply to you, you aren’t motivated to learn all the benefits and risks involved the medicine. It makes sense that you’ve opted out of the central route and started checking your social media. But if you see a commercial with Flo from Progressive or the Mayhem guy from AllState, you might actually find yourself chuckling.
Why? Insurance is a pretty boring topic—and the advertisers understand that. Yes, sometimes the ads include new policy details or updates, but for the most part they use minimal information and witty banter to convey their message. Viewers use the peripheral route because the content is funny and light and before you know it: You’re a fan of whatever oddity you’re watching.
Following this theory, when you need insurance in six months: Flo or Mayhem will come to mind. You’ll probably know little about the company’s values or policies, but since they came to mind you’ll be inclined to look them up.
That’s the magic of the elaboration likelihood model, and how advertisers use it to cater messages to consumers. We humans make thousands of decisions every day, including 200 decisions just about our food. The way we process information depends on its hierarchy of importance to us, and the way brands are marketed depends on those routes of persuasion.
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