Demosuasion®: Demonstration & Persuasion in Direct Response

One of the most powerful tools in any sale is the power of persuasion. The fundamentals of Direct Response advertising combine persuasion with highly effective product demonstration and accountability metrics to maximize efficiency.

David Ogilvy, heralded as the “Father of Advertising” said this of Direct Response Marketing in a 1985 speech to DMA attendees: “…I predict that the practitioners of general advertising are going to start learning from [direct response advertisers’] experience. They’re going to start picking your brains… Direct Response was my first love… and later, it became my secret weapon.”

Why was one of advertising’s most iconic moguls so sold on the future success of Direct Response so long ago? Ogilvy appreciated how Direct Response tells consumers very clearly what the product does, why they need it and how to get it; while backing it all up with measured, accountable data.

In my experience in Direct Response, I’ve seen the success of combining demonstration and persuasion, time and time again. The practice has evolved greatly in the past 30 years, but the basic fundamentals of speaking directly and clearly to the consumer to elicit a sale still hold true today. This delicate combination is something I call “Demosuasion® .”


First let’s take a look at demonstration’s role in Direct Response. The most successful direct marketing campaigns have typically employed effective product demonstration to generate initial demand for a product. Marketers gravitate toward products that do what they claim and have that “wow” factor in demonstration.

Think back to the first time you saw Billy Mays pour a scoop of OxiClean into the big glass bowl of rust-colored water, and in less than a few seconds, the water was clean and full of oxygenated bubbles. If we look back at what made products like this successful, it’s that they consistently demonstrated the product’s unique selling proposition and benefits, and gave consumers clear, precise direction on how they can get the product to achieve the same results.


There are two approaches to persuasion in advertising: Emotional and Rational. Rational persuasion taps into the consumers’ analytical side, while emotional concentrates on what consumers are feeling. If we break persuasion down a bit more, understanding basic human response is a key element to discovering how to communicate effectively with consumers.

The American Psychological Association published a report surrounding the research of Dr. Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., a renowned expert in the “science of swaying,” which studied the tactics of persuasion utilized by a wide range of salespeople from used-car dealers to Fortune 500 executives alike.

Cialdini categorized his findings into “Six Weapons of Influence,” each of them being grounded in the psychology of how people perceive themselves or others and what effectively drives human behavior (See Fig 1). Whichever creative approach an advertiser chooses to use, it is essential to create an immediate bond with the consumer in order to change or maintain an attitude, build a brand’s image and persuade customers to buy the product.

With the emergence of readily available technology and outlets such as YouTube, social networks, applications, etc., it is particularly important to understand the fundamentals of what motivates people to take action, and how to harness the powers of demosuasion® to effectively market a product. Marketers should understand that there is an art to communicating properly to your target consumer and the best bet for any campaign’s success is to partner with an agency that utilizes extensive research and experience to reach consumers in the most effective manner possible.

(As published in the May 2012 issue of Response Magazine)

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