The Secret to More Impactful, Standout Messaging for Your Business: The Elaboration Likelihood Model

Cognition Agency
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In today’s overly-saturated B2B markets, messaging that truly cuts through the noise couldn’t be more important. But, amongst B2B’s complex customer journeys and high-stake decisions, creating a unique value proposition isn’t a walk in the park - especially when faced with standing out against a stream of near-identical competitors. 

Enter, the power of psychology’s Elaboration Likelihood Model


What is the Elaboration Likelihood Model?

Showcasing the need to blend both emotional and rational factors within your brand messaging, the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) serves as a key blueprint for many successful marketing frameworks. 

The ELM was originally developed in 1980, by Richard E. Petty and John Cacioppo. It provides a crucial understanding of how individuals process and respond to marketing messages, with two primary routes of persuasion. These are the ‘central route’ and the ‘peripheral route’. 


The Two Powers of Persuasion

When people are highly involved and motivated, persuasion occurs via the central route. This is when they deem a situation as directly relevant to them, taking the time to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of a particular decision and comparing messages to existing attitudes. If their subsequent cognitive reaction is a positive one, this paves the way for influencing their beliefs and attitudes - a win-win for any marketer. 

However, if people don’t deem the situation as being highly relevant (or are simply pushed for time), they will be more easily persuaded via the peripheral route. That is, focusing on peripheral features of what they’re seeing as opposed to analysing the message itself. 

These cues can include campaign attractiveness and brand reputation, with messaging repetition being extremely effective - as evidenced by the Illusory Truth Effect. This is the tendency to believe false information is correct after repeated exposure. 

It significantly increases the likelihood that repeated messages will be perceived as accurate, providing marketers with a powerful tool in low-relevance scenarios to influence beliefs - even via the peripheral route where attitudes are less susceptible to genuine change.

How Can the Elaboration Likelihood Model be Used?

Forrester’s 2023 B2B Brand and Communications Survey found that 40% of respondents ‘struggle to make brand messages relevant to buyers’. And with Ironpaper’s survey of 159 B2B leaders finding only 8% deemed their messaging as ‘very effective’, it’s clear to see that many businesses are grappling to craft messages that truly cut through. 

Here’s how you can utilise the ELM to elevate your messaging impact.

Central route:

  • Provide rational evidence to your messaging claims, including supporting data, arguments and facts. 
  • Present your messages in a way your target customers will deem as highly relevant. This will ensure they will process your message via the central route. 
  • Achieve high relevancy by bringing more specificity to your messaging. Avoid generic phrases such as ‘boost your efficiency’ and ‘streamline operation’, and segment your audience where possible.  

Peripheral route:

  • Hone in on personal motivations. How will your product/service make your customer’s life easier? 
  • Pay attention to the look and feel of your brand messages and content at all times. 
  • Use social proof across your marketing channels, making sure this goes beyond simply having client logos on your website. 

To maximise engagement, aim to appeal to both the central and peripheral routes. Continue appealing to rational logic with substantive content, but don’t neglect the power of peripheral cues for that all-important differentiation. 

Keen to learn more?

See the ELM in action in our new guide: ‘4 Big Challenges for Brands in 2024 and How to Solve them Using Psychology’. 

Delve deeper into how the Elaboration Likelihood Model can help your messages stand out in saturated markets, and discover other key psychological principles you can harness to tackle 2024’s toughest brand challenges. 



Contact the team at Cognition Agency for all your digital marketing requirements.