#20 Art of persuasion: balance between concrete & abstract

People experience a heightened sense of engagement when they process information that fits with their goals. When the level of abstraction fits the goal, people understand messages better and are more easily persuaded.
— Journal of Consumer Research 2009, Angela Y. Lee, Punam Anand Keller, Brian Sternthal

What types of messages are most persuasive? For example: would you be more likely to buy a TiVo if an ad described it as offering you freedom, or if it explained how you could replay sports events?

Whether shoppers are more persuaded by abstract or concrete benefit information depends on their goals.

  • When shoppers aim to fulfill aspirations and satisfy achievement goals, more abstract messaging stimulates purchase.
  • For shoppers who sought to fulfill their responsibilities and satisfy security goals, concrete messages were more persuasive.


Get clear about what your product stands for. Identify shoppers’ goals for using your product. Communicate directly from your essence to their goals.