I see myself – Identification Theory

mirrorEarly in the 1960s, Identification Theory emerged (Kehlman, 1961) as a way of explaining how persuasion is linked to perceptions of similarity. Put simply, Identification Theory states that when people judge a message source to be similar to them, then this source has greater persuasive influence. This is, as Kehlman points out, because consumers (or people in general) attempt to satisfy their “self-defining” relationship with others, i.e. live up to their own “self-image” by anchoring what they do, say or think based on the influence of others they perceive as similar (this is largely similar to the idea of peer-groups as influencers).
The way this influence works by “classical” identification, where the person either perceives similarity between the influencer – or aspires to be like the influencer. For example, by when watching an advert featuring someone who is a successful teacher, this may influence teachers (and aspiring teachers ) more than someone who is a bank clark.
A different form of identification happens where the receiver and sender of a message are in a reciprocal relationship, i.e. they both identify their own self-images through the relationship of the other person. For example, a mother is reliant on a child for her self-image as a mother – thus identification with her role as mother (and therefore persuasion) can occur as a consequence not only of seeing an other mother (that would be classical identification) but also by seeing a child.
Lastly, people can be influenced by group relationships, i.e. seeing a group one does, or wants to belong to.

Identification theory can be found in manifold examples in marketing campaigns. For example, “slice of life” style advertising often uses identification elements. Similarly, advertising campaigns using ethnically diverse  consumers (or indeed consumers which are “targeted” but not diverse) are further examples. Identification theory also is the basic argument for localised marketing campaigns in an international marketing context, as “local” consumers (according to the theory) are more likely to identify with identifiable “local” spokespersons.
However, while identification is an important point – it is only one aspect of persuasion in an international context, and other forms of persuasion are equally possible…. stay tuned for more ( for example by subscribing to the blog feed in your favourite RSS reader: click here to access the feed)

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