Bandwagon Approach to Persuasive Writing
Everyone wants to be part of the crowd, and no one wants to be left behind. That's the thinking, anyway, with the bandwagon approach to persuasion. A common approach in advertising, bandwagon works on the human psychology of wanting to belong. As such, the bandwagon approach is often effectively used in persuasive writing.
Bandwagon is a fallacy, or mistake, in argumentation. Related to the emotional appeal in persuasion, or pathos, the bandwagon approach involves convincing a readership that the majority of people agree with the writer's argument. This technique suggests that just because a large majority of people agree, the reader should, too.
The term comes from the phrase "jump on the bandwagon." Historically, the bandwagon literally was a conveyance of the band attached to a circus; this wagon was also used to ferry successful political candidates and their followers during the campaign. The term is now associated with the idea of attaching yourself to a movement that looks likely to succeed.
Social forces and public opinion have power over people's attitudes and behavior. Therefore, the majority opinion represented by the bandwagon approach exerts social pressure. Ad writers recognize this and use the bandwagon appeal by writing persuasive statements like "Join the thousands who have chosen to switch to the better network." In this example, the ad is asking you to join – to jump on the bandwagon. In fact, the original Latin term for bandwagon, "Ad populum," means "to the people." This relates to the social pressure of people's yielding to the majority rather than their own internal logic.
Writers have more than one method of using bandwagon in persuasive writing. For one, writers approach the technique by equating the popularity of an idea with what is right. However, popularity has nothing to do with the truth of an idea. Conversely, writers suggest that not doing something yields a negative result, such as being left out of a desired group. With this approach to bandwagon, writers create a sense of fear in the reader for going against the popular opinion. The most obvious approach is the use of peer pressure, the idea that "everyone's doing it." That approach relates to the social pressure popular belief has over an audience.
Commercial writers frequently use the bandwagon approach. For example, they make statements like "Over 5 million people have called…," adding the name of a company. This approach works because of the social pressure of majority opinion. However, people use this approach in other persuasive writing as well. For example, an author states, "Everyone is doing whatever it takes to make himself happy. When you recognize that, you don't feel guilty for doing what everyone else is also doing." This approach works because the author argues that what everyone is doing is correct, equating popularity with truth. Review writers use it when they inform their audience that a book, song, etc. has been number-one for several weeks, adding "Check it out." If the readers do not, they risk being left behind.
Nadia Archuleta has a B.A. in English writing. She spent five years working abroad and has traveled extensively. She has worked as an English as a Foreign/Second Language teacher for 12 years.