The Psychology of Advertising

written by Anupriya Jain under Dr. Anu Goel for merinews

Published at

I know all girls are trained since childhood in how to behave with their in-laws, and what kind of mother they should be. But is that all life is going to offer them? A life of marriage, where they cannot live beyond their children, where every desire of their little ones is considered a priority over anything they need?

I came out of the Croma store feeling more harassed than happy. And the worst part? Whatever the brand name, the product remained almost uniform throughout. And that’s when it hit me. When all the companies are essentially manufacturing the same product, how do they manage to convince customers that theirs is somehow better? If the answer is advertisements, then what goes into making those advertisements? How do advertisers know what is ‘appealing’ to a large mass of heterogeneity? Now, if the answer is psychology, what theories or principles are used in creating advertisements? What is the impact of such advertisements on consumers and how successful are they in accomplishing their final goal – of making the consumer buy the product?

Psychologists have carried out a number of research studies to examine the various strategies that have played a role in influencing consumers or which can affect consumer behavior in a certain positive or negative way. Here are a few helpful examples:

1. The buzzword
Buzzwords are words of popular usage, the very sound of which gives a clear indication of what they want one to feel like. Buzzwords solicit an emotional response from consumers, creating associations with the product and evoking them the next time the consumer goes shopping and sees the product. Example: Using the buzzword ‘silky’ for chocolates, and hair, etc.

2. Trials
The ‘Try before you buy’ technique always works with consumers as it is a risk reversal approach. Psychologically speaking, every consumer feels an approach-avoidance conflict while shopping. If you help the consumer minimize his avoidance fears, he is more likely to buy the product. Example: Little trial sachets of shampoos are attached to newspapers along with their ads that act as an effective medium of advertising.

3. Testimonials
Validation of one’s choice is an important aspect for a consumer. If an advertisement has common people saying ‘It worked for me,’ you feel safer and nicer and belonging to the group if you use the same product.
Example: The various ‘Dove’ ads showing real women is an example of such a strategy

4. Celebrity endorsements
Bandura’s concept of Modeling gives us the reason for increased sales when a celebrity starts endorsing the product. Not only does it make the ‘fan’ get a feel-good factor out of it, it also attaches high credibility to the product. Example: The sales of the washing powder ‘Ariel’ increased substantially when ex-IPS officer, Kiran Bedi started endorsing it.

5. Conformity
More than even celebrity endorsements and testimonials, what attracts a consumer the most is if his friends and family are also using the same product. This conformity to virtual or ‘perceived’ in-group norms makes the consumer buy the product. Example: Facebook is the biggest example of this strategy, where they notify ‘XYZ likes this company. Like it too!’

6. Compliance
One of the many reasons given for compliance by psychologists is the ‘Deadline Technique’. Giving consumers a deadline, short-time frames or limited supply prompts action. It is also called time-pressured advertising. Example: Typical of ‘Offer valid till stocks last’ OR ‘Diwali Dhamaka: Only applicable during the festive season, so hurry!’

It seems foolish that we fall for such obvious strategies. But one mustn’t lose heart. The fact remains that a skilled advertiser wraps the advertisement so beautifully in his creative and enticing visuals and audios that it becomes very difficult to take a step back and rationalize whether we really need that product or not. So the next time you go shopping, try and make an informed choice. And if the benefits look too nice, well, then give in!


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