How do you change people's attitude? This is an issue you must address at some point during an ad campaign, a sales pitch, or when you are trying to get people simply to feel better about your product.

In the hierarchy of communication effects, achieving a good brand attitude comes after getting a consumer's attention and giving him or her knowledge about your brand. But knowledge isn't enough, because people must ultimately like your product to buy it. Getting people to like your product is just a layman's term for what we call a good attitude.


How to achieve a good brand attitude is, in fact, rather complex. But to make it simple, we can break it down into some basic steps. The first step is to determine whether what you sell is a high involvement or low involvement product.

Think of a high involvement product as one that is risky and important for customers. If you sell a product that is mission critical to a customer (that is, if it doesn't work, the customer's business doesn't work), then it is clearly a high involvement product. Alternatively, low involvement products are not that important or risky to customers.

A decision must be made about how you will influence the customer's attitude. Two broad ways exist for doing this. One is through a rational persuasion approach, the other is through an emotional appeal. In fact, you see these different types of approaches used all the time in television and print advertising.

How you make this decision depends on what you know about your customers. If you were trying to change an engineer's attitude, for example, a rational approach would typically (but not always) be best. An artist might be approached more with an emotional appeal. The more you know about your customers, the easier this decision will be. The importance of this is described in the tutorial on describing customer segments.

With an understanding of the nature of your customer's involvement and the approach you will take, it is relatively easy to see the different strategies that should be used to achieve a good brand attitude. These are listed in the table below, and they are all based on research in persuasion and marketing.

As an example of what the table says, consider trying to change the attitude of a customer who is very involved in the product and appears susceptible to rational persuasion. You should use multiple facts, expert and credible sources, scientific evidence, etc.

By looking at this table you can easily see how so many companies (especially Internet companies) who try to make fun ads with lots of music are assuming they are selling a low-involvement product to people who want an emotional appeal. But are they? Not always, and this suggests they won't do a good job persuading customers to like their brand.

Rational Persuasion
High Involvement
  • Convey multiple facts that illustrate the basic message
  • Use expert/credible sources
  • Present scientific evidence
  • Use 2 sided appeals
  • Present weakest arguments first
  • Use comparative advertising
  • Use dramas
  • Use sources similar to your customers
  • Try to create empathy and a vicarious emotional experience
Low Involvement
  • Don't use comparative ads
  • Use one-sided appeals
  • Use credible/expert source
  • Present strongest arguments first
  • Use a large number of arguments
  • Draw a conclusion
  • Create a likable ad via the use of music, celebrities, humor, attractive visuals
  • Use likable sources


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image of Debbie MacInnis

Dr. Deborah J. MacInnis is the Charles L. and Ramona I. Hilliard Professor of Business Administration at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, and a co-author of Brand Admiration: Build a Business People Love. She has consulted with companies and the government in the areas of consumer behavior and branding. She is theory development editor at the Journal of Marketing, and former co-editor of the Journal of Consumer Research. Professor MacInnis has served as president of the Association for Consumer Research and vice-president of conferences and research for the American Marketing Association's Academic Council. She has received the Journal of Marketing's Alpha Kappa Psi and Maynard awards for the papers that make the greatest contribution to marketing thought. She is the co-author of a leading textbook on consumer behavior and is co-editor of several edited volumes on branding.