Most Common Logical Fallacies In Advertising That Make You Buy Stuff

Dhir Acharya - Feb 23, 2021


Most Common Logical Fallacies In Advertising That Make You Buy Stuff

This post explains some widely used logical fallacies in advertising that help companies sell products to you, so next time, you can avoid being fooled.

Using people’s biases and logical fallacies in advertising helps marketers sell stuff to us, even at exorbitant prices. However, not only companies but also other people can take advantage of this inbuilt flaw for their own good. So, what are some examples of logical fallacies in advertising? Let’s find out.

Ad hominem

In English, “ad hominem” means “against the man.” This fallacy refers to the act of attacking a person’s character rather than responding to their argument. This fallacy is seen in the tech world as well like when people debated Windows versus Linux. A common argument made against Windows was that Bill Gates got rich from it or that he stole the idea from someone, but these arguments are irrelevant to whether Windows was better than Linux or not.

The ad hominem fallacy is sometimes used between companies as well, commonly in ads, and they can even make fun of their components’ user base.

Logical fallacies in advertising
Logical fallacies in advertising: Ad hominem

Strawman

This is a tactic often used in an argument in which a person builds a flawed argument on behalf of the opponent then counter it and point out the flaw. This gives people the illusion that they have won.

This type of argument is the most common of all, often used by fanboys in a tech debate. For instance, a person could say “I love using WhatsApp to stay in touch with my friends.” In response, the opponent can say, “But Facebook owns WhatsApp and it’s used for spreading fake news. So you are willing to support a firm spreading fake news? I’m not, so I use Telegram.”

Halo effect

Continuing with the list of fallacies in advertising, this effect happens when one uses one trait of a thing or a person to make an overall judgment of that thing/person. In the tech world, this effect is often a case of perception. For instance, a firm may use its expertise in a field to falsely claim it has expertise in another.

Sometimes, however, companies don’t do this but users perceive it on their own. A classic example of this effect was when the success of the iPod boosted the sales of other Apple products. The iPod was considered cool, so the public thought other Apple products were cool as well. Not that Apple products are not good, but in this case, consumers were obviously influenced by the Halo effect.

Logical fallacies in advertising
Logical fallacies in advertising: Halo effect

Causal fallacy

A slippery slope is a fallacy often used negatively while a causal fallacy can be either positive or negative. In this case, the fallacy is drawing conclusions from an event and extrapolating them to another event.

  • Slippery slope: this is where an incident or hypothetical scenario is followed by more hypothetical scenarios. The fallacy is completed when the extrapolation ends up with an extreme scenario.
  • Post hoc ergo propter hoc: this is where an event is claimed to be the cause of something else, which is often used positively in marketing. For instance, an adventurous man does extreme sports then drinks a soft drink before or after their activities to equate an adventurous spirit with the product.
  • Cum hoc ergo propter hoc: the fallacy here is to find two things occurring together then use that for assuming causation. This fallacy is usually used to misrepresent a bogus position as scientific or create tenuous links.

Appeal to authority

This fallacy is simple, suggesting that people should listen to a reputable person without demanding evidence. Normally, it’s good to cite authorities in an argument, but doing so without presenting evidence or the authority is irrelevant to the field, or presenting people with questionable authority are examples of this fallacy.

A common example is toothpaste advertisements saying “9 out of 10 dentists agree that…” However, because multiple toothpaste brands have used this tactic, it’s clear that they are all lying. Still, it’s appealing to get a toothpaste recommended by dentists.

At the same time, companies also use disjointed authority, like a film start promoting a water purifier. While it’s not wrong to use this tactic, people should keep in mind that film stars may have no understanding of water purification.

Logical fallacies in advertising
Logical fallacies in advertising: Appeal to authority

Tu quoque

The next name we want to mention on the list of logical fallacies in advertising means “you too” in English. Basically, this fallacy focuses on hypocrisy while ignoring the point being made.

For example, when a fat person says exercising is good for health and helps control weight. In response, one may say that a fat person is a hypocrite and should not opine on the matter. While the person is fat and hasn’t exercised enough to lose weight, their argument is not wrong.

On the other hand, in the tech world, the Tu quoque fallacy is often more me quoque. For instance, when Apple released the iPhone X, some people love the notch but some hated it. Nevertheless, many manufacturers have since used the same design as the iPhone is considered a high-end, high-quality product. So, mimicking it may bring that goodwill to their products too.

Apart from the ones listed in this post, there are many other logical fallacies in advertising on a daily basis. Through this post, we hope that you will start to think about fallacies and be more rational when seeing advertisements or when arguing with someone. This will significantly help you avoid being fooled.

>>> Jeff Bezos Led Amazon To Success With These 14 Principles

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