The influence of advertising in everyday life is greater than many people realize. This is because the effects of advertising often work in subtle ways, to the point that many people do not even realize they are being marketed to when they alter their behavior after encountering advertisements.
Advertising is such a powerful psychological tool that an entire field of study dedicated to unlocking how advertising influences consumer behavior has been developed and continues to be explored today. A company that can influence people through advertising is a company that turns a profit.
Advertising influences people by altering what they think or feel about a product, and encouraging them to purchase it.
Advertising is a component of marketing. Although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Marketing is the broad process of researching consumer needs, collecting and evaluating data related to those needs and developing multifaceted strategies for reaching consumers, of which advertising is a strategy that is used. Advertising, on the other hand, strictly refers to the process of reaching potential customers in an effort to make sales.
A quick look at a group of advertisements will show that they use similar language. Many advertisements are direct response advertisements, which are ads designed to make the viewer take a specific action now. Words and phrases often used in direct response ads include:
- Buy now
- Book now
- Click here
- Get started
- Try now
- Start your trial
- Schedule your call
Specifically, the portion of an ad that pushes for an immediate action is called the call to action. The call to action is a critical component of any ad because it drives the viewer to take action. A call to action only works when the ad’s viewer feels that taking action is in her best interest, which a company can achieve by using persuasive language in the rest of the advertisement. This might be a testimonial from a previous buyer, an infographic showing the product’s benefits, an image of the product or service in use or a bulleted list of the product or service’s benefits.
Another effect of advertising is educating consumers about specific products and services. This can be part of the persuasion written into an ad. A consumer cannot know that buying a product is in his best interest if he does not understand the product. In an advertisement, a company can influence prospective buyers by demonstrating how the product works and how it can solve the problems they face or at least provide some relief for those problems.
For example, a dog owner who previously thought there was no solution for his dog’s anxiety can learn through a weighted dog vest ad that there actually is a solution, and that solution is the gentle pressure provided by the weighted vest.
At its core, the influence of advertising in everyday life is the power to alter what consumers think and feel. A successful ad cultivates desire within the viewer and makes her want to buy a product while minimizing any doubts she has about the product. Ultimately, the goal of minimizing doubts is eliminating the chance that she will feel buyer’s remorse and return the product, leave a negative review of the product or simply stop patronizing the company that produced it.
An advertisement might counter potential doubts in the customer’s mind by mentioning a money-back guarantee or by offering a free trial. By doing this, the advertisement acknowledges the prospective buyer’s hesitation surrounding making a purchase, particularly if it is a large purchase, and assures her that she will only spend money on the product if she is completely satisfied with it.
Beyond how advertising influences consumer behavior, advertising can make shopping easier. This directly relates back to influencing consumers’ actions because when shopping is easier, consumers are more likely to come back to a retailer for future purchases. At the simplest level, advertising a specific product lets consumers know that a retailer carries that product and that they can go there to purchase it.
Advertisements can also state exactly what a product does and which needs it fulfills so consumers can determine whether they need the product. When shopping for hair care products, a buyer might be confused by the sheer number of products he encounters. An advertisement showing that a specific product was designed for his hair texture can make his decision easier because he trusts that the product will work for his hair.
Another important aspect of advertising is that it communicates a product or service’s price as well as its relative value. An ad might push viewers to take advantage of a short-term promotion where they can get a $300 gutter cleaning for only $199 or might communicate that at a specific store, they can buy designer clothing for half the price they would pay for the same garments at other retailers.
Effective advertising does not just tell consumers what they will pay for a product, but it also communicates how the price they will pay relates to the product’s value, often showing them that they are saving money by making a purchase.
Some ads do not hinge on the prospect of saving money but advertise that the product is worth its high price tag. The effects of advertising a high price tag include signaling to higher-income buyers and promising a luxurious experience that only some buyers get to enjoy.
Whether it is more advantageous to a company to advertise a product’s high price tag or tell consumers they are getting a great deal depends on the company’s brand. Some brands connect with their clientele by promoting themselves as a low-cost option to fit any budget, whereas others position themselves as upscale, exclusive services and goods that command a high price. Brands in this latter category can actually become more successful by showcasing in their advertisements their high prices and the exclusivity that accompanies them.
As a key part of a company’s marketing strategy, one role of advertising is to communicate the company’s brand identity to its target audience. However, advertising cannot achieve this goal alone. Branding, a fundamental aspect of marketing, plays a role in advertising by determining the direction and overall feel of a company’s advertisements.
For some brands, advertisements that compel viewers to take immediate action are not as effective as advertisements that focus more on informing viewers about what the brand offers. An example of this might be a financial planner who might instead use an ad to illustrate the benefits of working with a financial adviser, gently suggesting that the consumer schedule a consultation when she is ready to learn more.
In contrast, a car dealership running a weekend-long promotion would use an advertisement that emphasizes the savings of which buyers can take advantage only if they buy a car before the weekend is over. From these advertisements, the consumer knows that his relationship with a financial planner is a slower-paced, longer-term one than his relationship with the car dealership, which is a quick, transactional interaction that he can only get if he acts immediately.