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Serene has been writing for several years in many forms and facets. She loves the written word and a well executed story. She has a deep passion and love for all things literary and worldly. Professional and personal content creator. Incredibly diligent as well as thoughtful, easily follows instructions, but can also do the required research necessary for any given project.

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Writing Sample

Visual rhetoric, the psychology of marketing and why we buy


In our current society, driven by consumerism and spending, it is no wonder that the marketing budgets of many successful companies reach astrological levels. A sound marketing campaign is a patented way to insure that products sell and they sell quickly. There is a method to this buying madness, and marketing plays an integral role. It stands to reason that the iPhone or the flatscreen wouldn't be the worldwide commodities they are, without the way marketing has appealed to consumers, and incited something very specific in them- thus, compelling them to buy.


Gone are the days where radio commercials or standard billboards would have a catchy slogan and still frame photo. While these tactics worked for their time, our technological advancements have made them obsolete. What has not gone out of style though, is the way that visual rhetoric, coupled with targeted marketing strategies, and highlighting what propels an average individual to buy, is such a dynamic combination. The right picture with the right set of words, combined with the novelty of something, is a sure fire way to incite a sale.


Based on a study done at Columbia, many of us are visual human beings. Meaning we experience most things with our eyes. Even before our minds and our emotions take hold of the information we are observing, we have to first see it. The way that an image- now often a video- can change the trajectory of our moods, and even our days, can definitely impact a potential buyer. Images in general don't have to tell us the truth; what they do is frame a specific scenario that resonates with the viewer. Visual rhetoric always tells a story and has an argument, and without being vigilante in questioning what the story could mean, we subconsciously get swept up in it. With how consuming and widespread the internet is, it's no wonder that the visual rhetoric of old, has now permeated these mediums. Scholars are increasingly fascinated by how what we see, and the use of our technological devices, promotes and informs what we buy.


How visual rhetoric works:


  • uses images, storyboard, and/or video to paint a specific picture through framing with the intention of being persuasive

  • it gives the story context- there is usually a beginning, middle, or end- there is an argument behind it

  • incites an emotional or intellectual response from the image

  • it uses our natural cognitive process of visual thinking to convince us of something


This essentially means that we see a story play out in front of us in a specific fashion and the outcome is ideally that we feel an irrevocable need for the product or service. Whether we desire the product because it's functional, because it's affordable or because it's trendy, doesn't really matter. All that matters is we come away from the visual engagement with a sense of want. The psychology of marketing, and why visual rhetoric is used, delves further into this systemic formula that has been proven to be deceptively effective.


Based on a Psychology Today study, the psychology of marketing plays on very specific human emotion: need and want. These are the differences between purchases that are imperative for survival: groceries vs. purchases that are for fun or belonging: the latest smart phone. This is also why you see more marketing advertisements for the ladder. People have to eat, but they don't necessarily have to own the latest piece of technological advancements on the market. Yet, it doesn't always seem that way. The psychology of marketing plays on our emotions and our intellect to prompt us to buy. Any story that pulls at the heart strings or incites a laugh, are amazing ploys that trap us into becoming emotionally engaged with what we are witnessing. This is why so many big budgeted commercials- think Superbowl- use marketing tactics that include emotionally charged content.


The psychology of marketing semantics:


  • marketing is designed to make you feel something

  • it is structured to activate your needs and desires

  • it plays heavily on your emotions- sadness, humor or acceptance


We buy for so many different reasons. We purchase things based on need and convenience. For a long time, the Amazon Kindle didn't really take sell much because so many people where so used to the feel and weight of a book. The idea that something could take it's place, plus hold hundreds of different titles, all in a sleek device, seemed like a foreign concept. Slowly but surely, however, the convenience of the Kindle and what it had to offer propelled more and more consumers to buy it. That coupled with users singing it's praises, by word of mouth and reviews, the Kindle has now become one of the fastest selling products on Amazon.


That is specifically an example of something that is streamlining the average reader's experience and making life so much simpler. Sometimes marketing kicks in and makes us want to buy something simply for the desire to possess it's newness. Apple is almost genius in their marketing strategy, because they traditionally use ordinary people to sell an extremely expensive and trendy product. Apple commercials are notorious for this tactic. They use regular people, a sentimental score and the device, to show all the ways in which it connects us to the people we love. This evokes strong emotions regarding togetherness, family and connection. Not simply technological connection, but the ability for two people, regardless of location, to connect to the one's they love and are closest to. That's powerful. So ultimately we buy for a myriad of reasons.


Why we buy:


  • to streamline an experience- for convenience

  • to increase social capital- to meet trend expectations

  • to enjoy new found technological advancements and features

  • to coat negative feelings.


What is imperative to realize, is that getting to the point where cash or credit card is in hand and the decision to purchase has been made, doesn't happen in a vacuum. Visual rhetoric and the semantics behind marketing play a huge role. Companies don't devise and brainstorm on marketing plots arbitrarily. They bring in top tier analysts and marketers who know exactly what resonates with the target audience based on metrics, data and current climate. Consumerism is a science. It is a formulated practice that we have bought into hook, line and sinker. The real kicker is that sometimes we aren't even cognizant that we are being maneuvered and persuaded in such a fashion. Being more mindful and aware of the information we ingest on a regular basis, and how they influence our emotions, is definitely the first step.