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Snob Appeal

by Hans Bluedorn

Fallacious and manipulative reasoning can be found lurking everywhere in advertisements. One that is used commonly is the fallacy of snob appeal. This is where an appeal is made to the authority of the select few, the aristocrats. Nobody wants to think they are merely one of the vast crowds; they want to be in the upidey ups.

"Why read those boring email loops that everybody else does? You know you're better than that. You need more intellectual stimulation. Read the Logic Loop, be more logical than the rest."

The fallacy of snob appeal usually follows a strange but predictable path: agree with me and buy my product because hardly anybody else is. While it may sound like a lousy call for pity for a floundering business, it is really an appeal to everybody's natural urges to distinguish themselves from all the rest. It is an appeal to your inner snob.

But stop and think for a minute, maybe there is a reason why nobody else is doing it.

"Buy skunk brand perfume, you will stand out in the crowd."

Military recruiting posters rely on this, catering to those who want to be "the best of the best."

"Marines. Do you have what it takes?" (one wonders whether it takes the presence or the absence of something to sign up.)

Parents, who want distinguishing kids, fall into this trap as well.

"Use the classical approach. You're better than the average homeschooler."

Here is an example I found in an agricultural brochure:

"You don't own a common herd of Beef or Dairy cattle, so why consider planting a common ryegrass pasture? Your cattle investment is best protected by planting Southern Star."

Cigarette ads which show big pictures of tough cowboys sucking on their cigarettes are also an example of snob appeal. Everybody wants to join the ranks of the tough buckaroos.

The fallacy of snob appeal exploits our desires to be brought above the lower classes. We think that if we purchase the item, then greater glamour and prestige will be bestowed upon us.

Can you find any examples of snob appeal?

Hans Bluedorn

Copyright August 11, 2000, all rights reserved. 67071 views

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