Are Technological Terms Seductive? The Effect of Technological Terms on Persuasion

Keli Saporta


Most claims in marketing communication take the form of causal claims stating that using a certain product (the cause, e.g., "Fresh Air, the electronic device") produces a certain benefit (the effect, e.g., "purifies the air at home"). Marketers acknowledge (and studies show) that providing an explanation on the mechanism by which the product produces the effect fosters persuasion. Yet, instead of providing the specific mechanism (e.g. "it purifies the air at home by reducing dust parcels in the air"), they often use general technological terms. Thus, instead of explaining, "Fresh-Air purifies the air at home by reducing dust particles in the air," they "explain" that the product purifies the air by "applying a new algorithm." We call explanations that use general technological terms pseudo explanations, because they follow the same structure, but they lack the crucial element that enables persuasion—they are not content specific.

Although using pseudo explanations is a common practice in marketing, no studies have examined if they affect persuasion. In two studies, we exposed participants to causal claims for various products in several formats, and asked them to indicate the probability that they would purchase the product if they needed it. Generally, results show persuasion was the same for pseudo explanations as for the claim alone, when both were less persuasive than mechanistic explanations.

Consumers are sensitive to the fact that pseudo explanations do not really explain the mechanism. Thus, whereas pseudo explanations do not affect persuasion, mechanistic explanations do.

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Business and Management Studies     ISSN 2374-5916 (Print)     ISSN 2374-5924 (Online)

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