Propaganda Vs. Persuasive Communication: What All Marketers Should Know

You can’t talk about persuasive communication and not mention propaganda. Or to put it better, there is a very thin line between propaganda and persuasive communication.

Perhaps because there is hardly a one size fits it all marketing strategy, the thin line between these two strategies of communication keep growing thinner and more than ever before, we see a whole lot of propaganda in the business world today.

But the thing is, most marketing professionals barely know their communication strategy pass as propaganda. So, to marketers and communication professionals alike, below are five techniques associated with manipulating or persuading a target audience.


This is quite popular and self-explanatory. It is commonplace to find superstars in the ads of most companies. Giving out endorsement deals to celebrities and the celebrities in return promoting the brand is the new cool.

The logic is quite simple. Let a popular celebrity or well-known expert or average citizen give good comments on the value of a product/service or the wisdom of a decision. Political parties know that endorsements from celebrities can get them many votes, so they frequently deploy this tactic too.

Card Stacking

We see this whenever a brand showcases one side of an argument and completely ignore or playing down the other side. It is gathering facts and data to build a formidable argument for one side of the issue, while concealing or watering down the other side. A good example is when a tobacco company argues in its ad that a ban on cigarette advertising would kill many magazines and negatively affect the revenue of TV stations. It is frequently used in politics too. We see candidates talk over and over about the bad side of an opponent, while completely ignoring the person’s good side, all in a bid to cast opponent in bad light.

Plain Folks

This is very popular in politics. Jimmy Carter, a former American president, presented himself as a humble peanut farmer from Georgia. Goodluck Jonathan, a former Nigerian president, presented himself as candidate whose parents were so poor that they couldn’t afford him a school sandal and bag during his elementary school days. Barrack Obama also used this strategy in his 2004 Audacity of Hope keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston

The relatively unknown one-term senator from Illinois took the stage and introduced himself saying, “my father was a foreign student born in a small village in Kenya” … Later in the speech, he further described himself has a skinny kid, with a funny name who believes America has a place for him too.

In the marketing world however, it is used quite differently. We see the Plain Folks appeal when brands use average citizens or families to testify to how good a service/product is. It works alongside the testimonial strategy.


This technique associates a product, service or brand with something that has high status, visibility or credibility. When a brand sponsors say the world cup or Olympics the brand is putting this strategy to play. Ditto for a national team or football club or a president who snaps a picture using the national flag as his/her backdrop or background.


The essence of this strategy is to make the target audience feel every other person except them have bought the product or subscribed to the service. The idea is that if it is good for them, all those who have bought the product, it is good for you, the only person who is yet to do so.

In politics, for the want of being on the “winning side”, some electorates vote for a party that seem to be the majority, even when they do not totally agree with the manifesto or agenda of the party.