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Influence: How to design your message

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Marketing is about reaching relevant recipients with your message. Influence occurs when the message permanently or temporarily changes the attitude of the recipient. In this post, we will show you how you can design your message to increase the chance of influencing the recipient.


There is no perfect template for every message

Your message is unique. Even if you are in an industry with many competitors, your company will be unique. Good marketing finds the unique in you and positions you in relation to the competition.

Being unique means that you should design your message uniquely. At least if you want the most possible effect from the recipient – and you want that, right?

Here you can read more about digital strategy and what impact it can have on customers. 

Influence theory for shaping your message

There are many theories and rules within influence one can use to shape one’s message. One of our favorites is the ELM model (Elaboration Likelihood Model).

The ELM model explained in a practical way

As the name suggests, the theory is about how likely it is to reflect on the message. Furthermore, the model says that there are two ways to influence:

The central route to persuasion applies when the recipient has the motivation and ability to reflect on the message.

2. Peripheral route to persuasion applies when the recipient has low interest and ability to reflect on the message.

Before we move on, it is important to note that which route the recipient goes is not either or. The route to persuasion can be anywhere between the extremes central and peripheral. But for learning, we focus on the extremes.

Which route is best suited to influence the recipient?

Central route provides a stronger and more lasting change of attitude (influence) compared to peripheral route. This does not mean that central route is an obvious choice.

If you focus on the central route and the recipient does not have the interest or ability to reflect on the message then it is catastrophic.

When it is right to design the message based on central route

If your business sells complex services that are high in price, it is a strong indicator that central route is the right path to take. If the decision maker is going to buy services from you, it will be natural to think that he or she will be very motivated to reflect on the message.

If the decision maker makes a wrong investment and loses significant capital to his firm it will mean trouble.

Another example where central route is the right way to go is if you know the recipient is very interested in what you are offering. Motorcycles are a good example where a large proportion of the customer group appears to be very interested in their hobby.

Therefore, it is likely that they will be very motivated to reflect on your message.

When it is right to design the message based on peripheral route

If your product is something customers can buy without worrying about the economy, the peripheral route is the right choice. The reason is simple: the recipient is probably not motivated to use a lot of mental capacity to consider a purchase that does not reduce their financial freedom. If they buy wrong, it’s not that bad.

An example might be chocolate. You may have a favorite chocolate, but you take the chance to try a new chocolate if you see a tempting packaging?

Ability to evaluate the message

Common to both routes is that the ability  to assess the message will be a decisive factor for which route we should choose to design the message.


Ability goes on mental capacity. A recipient who is doing Christmas shopping at a busy mall with 3 kids in tow will probably have a low ability to assess the message. This receiver will probably go the peripheral route to influence

A recipient who has started the day with a good cup of hot coffee and sat down in the office will probably have a high ability to assess the message. This recipient is a good candidate for central influence.

How to use the ELM model to shape your message

Now that you have an introduction to what the ELM model is, we can show you how you can use this new knowledge in your marketing.

Content on message – central route

  • You can write longer texts since the recipient will be motivated to read your entire message and evaluate it
  • Build good arguments that challenge the recipient since he will reflect on your message
  • Use numbers and statistics to substantiate the arguments

Channel for messages – central route

  • Choose channels where you can write longer texts such as a blog post or your website
  • Avoid channels where the recipient probably has a low ability to reflect – for example a billboard along the E6

Content on message – peripheral route

  • Keep the message short and concise
  • Use Cialdini’s principle of conformity  by, for example, adding “Our most popular product” to the message
  • Design the message so that it stands out with the help of pictures or headlines

Channel for messages – peripheral route

  • Choose channels where the recipient is close to the point of sale, for example an advertising space at the reception of the hotel
  • Choose channels such as where the recipient consumes a lot of different content in a short time – Facebook

Here you can read more about messages and the importance of having good content in content marketing. 

A taste of what the ELM model and other influence theories can do for you

This is of course a very simplified approach to ELM, but it is a practical approach that you can use today. If you want to know more about the details of ELM, a quick Google search will give you days of reading material.

We hope you learned something, and that you will benefit from it in your marketing!

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