Less-than-Perfect Appeal (Advertising)

What is the Less-than-Perfect Appeal?

The Less-than-Perfect Appeal is one of roughly twenty advertising strategies that marketing professionals use to persuade people to buy a product, pay for a service, donate to a cause, or otherwise be persuaded. The Less-than-Perfect Appeal seeks to make consumers feel inadequate or otherwise dissatisfied with their present self, encouraging them to buy a product that will enhance who they are in some way.

When Should I Use the Less-than-Perfect Appeal?

The Less-than-Perfect Appeal should be used cautiously as there are a host of ethical considerations when your goal as an advertiser is to make someone feel like they’re not perfect or they need to change their present self to be better. Less-than-Perfect Appeals are really common in advertising health and beauty products, like weight-loss supplements, dieting regimens, anti-wrinkle cream, and so forth. But just because the Less-than-Perfect Appeal is common (and fairly effective), it doesn’t mean that it’s ethical. Use the Less-than-Perfect Appeal when you have a product or service that will genuinely improve someone and be careful not to make people feel worse about physical or mental characteristics that don’t necessarily need improvement.

How Do I Apply the Less-than-Perfect Appeal in Advertising?

When using the Less-than-Perfect Appeal, the typical method is to showcase how a product will improve someone’s current self (a self which is identified as being less-than-perfect). Use imagery that showcases a person in such a way that your target audience can relate to. You can show images that are not desirable (and, hence, something people want to overcome); show before and after images, showing improvement; or showing “ideal” people that your target audience can aspire towards. (Again, note that showcasing “ideal” people is a bit problematic, since no person is actually perfect; be careful to not intentionally propagate low self-esteem).

Examples of Less-than-Perfect Appeals in Action

*Note: The examples below show both good and poor uses of the Less-than-Perfect Appeal. You can see how some advertisers use this appeal in negative ways.