Flattery advertising uses compliments to entice a consumer to buy a certain product or use a particular service. It is sometimes criticized as an insincere form of marketing, but it is often an effective tool when targeted at the proper audience. Marketing experts have uncovered both an explicit and implicit consumer reaction to flattery advertising and have found that despite a shopper's outward explicit reaction against flattery, the implicit self-esteem boost is often enough to compel the shopper to make a purchase.

Basics of Flattery Advertising

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines flattery as "insincere or excessive praise." Flattery is understood to be one of the oldest and most commonly invoked methods of persuasion. The use of flattery in marketing or advertising techniques began as a way to make consumers feel gratified, generating a self-esteem boost sufficient to result in the purchase of the item or service. Flattery advertising that is overly insincere and clearly cynical generally leads to the opposite result: an insulted customer vowing to never purchase products from this particular seller.

Explicit Attitude

Experts have found that shoppers have both an explicit and implicit attitude toward compliments. For example, shoppers in a department store may be greeted by a saleswoman offering perfume samples to accentuate the shoppers' already exquisite taste. Many shoppers quickly decline this offer and scoff at the attempt at flattery. This initial, outward response is known as an explicit attitude. Market researchers have discovered, however, immediate and outward responses to complimentary advertising are not always indicative of the true psychological reaction to the sales tactic.

Implicit Attitude

A consumer's implicit attitude toward flattery marketing is a much better indicator of whether that consumer is likely to make a purchase. Even when the consumer expresses disbelief toward a compliment, she may experience an inner self-esteem boost brought about by an unconscious, automatic sincerity-measuring process. Consumers are generally unaware they are making these psychological assessments and may sometimes make purchases in response to the compliments, despite their explicit negative reaction to this technique.

Examples of Flattery Advertising

Flattery advertising works when it makes the consumer feel superior, more beautiful, faster or any other sought-after attribute. Common phrases include "you know a good deal when you see one," which implies that the consumer possesses heightened deal-spotting skills, or "you deserve it," which caters to the consumer's notion that he works hard and should have something to show for it. In a reverse attempt at flattery advertising, research has revealed that certain beauty ads aim to make consumers feel unattractive or average, prompting them to buy certain beauty products to enhance their appearance.