Imagine the scene. It's the summer of 2015, exams finally over, a copy of Vogue in hand and three months of freedom stretched out before me. Having slaved away at the local cafe in between deadlines, I was ready. Not to finally pay my own rent (thanks Mum, I owe you one), but to chuck all I'd earned at an all-inclusive week of sun and cocktails in some European hot-spot that, let's face it, I'd never heard of before. Lazing in front of the TV, I remember the below advert catching my eye. I mean, who wouldn't be drawn in by cheap, hassle free flights to Europe?
Obviously, the advert has a point it wants to get across and I guess it goes a little like this; 'fly Ryanair; we're simply better than the rest'. By not explicitly pointing out this intended message, Ryanair really got me to consider using their company to book the flights for my last getaway before adulthood. This 'omission of explicit conclusions' technique suggests that letting an audience reach their own conclusions is far more persuasive than when the conclusion is spelt out for them.
Ahearne, Gruen and Saxton (2000) demonstrated the power of this simple, yet highly effective persuasive technique. As part of a bigger study, students who happened to go to two Midwestern universities looked over nine different paper adverts. The experimental advert compared two different CD players in its ploy to persuade people to buy a Nexcen CD player. Participants were randomly allocated to one of two conditions.
In the 'open-ended conclusion' condition, the CD advert invited the students to consider the differences between the two products and decide for themselves which one was the best to buy. In the 'closed-ended conclusion' condition, the advert clearly told the students to buy the Nexcen.
When later asked how much they wanted to buy a CD player - and perhaps more importantly, which one - the students who viewed the 'open-ended conclusion' advert (M = 3.2) wanted to purchase the Nexcen more than those who saw the 'closed-ended conclusion' advert (M = 2.8). The take home message here is simple: you're more likely to want to buy a product after being made to think about the conclusions you should make rather than if someone else has done all the hard work for you.
The results are depicted below.
As the participants of Ahearne et al. (2000) would predict, by making me figure out on my own which flight company I thought was best, Ryanair almost effortlessly made me want to book my flights with them. It makes me feel a little better, knowing I'm not the only one quite so easily convinced!
Ahearne, M., Gruen, T., & Saxton, M. K. (2000). When the product is complex, does the advertisement's conclusion matter?. Journal of Business Research, 48, 55-62.