One goal of advertising is to attract attention to a company and its products and services. Another goal is to persuade or entice consumers to make purchases. In advertising, businesses and advertisers often use elements intended to manipulate consumers toward these ends. Similar to brainwashing, certain techniques in advertising can compel a person’s brain to build associations it wouldn’t normally make, retain information viewed or heard that a person might not normally find important enough to remember, and act in impulsive ways.


One primary method business owners use to manipulate consumers is to repeat a word, phrase, image, idea or sound in their advertising so often that the consumer automatically associates it to the company, product or service, and vice versa. For example, you might repeat the same company slogan across all forms of advertising you use including radio and TV spots to overwhelm the public with the same message and create previously non-existent associations.


Advertisers also use music, songs and sounds to build associations. They use the same song across radio, TV and online video advertising or pick a song with lyrics that match the company or product. Additionally, certain sounds have meanings that we already associate with them and can cause a consumer to react on impulse. For example, the sound of a steak grilling in a TV restaurant ad might cause a viewer to feel hungry and, in addition to the visual elements of seeing a steak cooking, prompt him to eat at the restaurant advertised.


Color association is another advertising brainwashing technique. Although businesses have specific colors associated with their brand, the manipulation often goes a step further. For example, an online ad might show a red appliance with features the advertiser wants the consumer to remember colored red and described with red text. The final message might also be red. The red color is dominant color and says to the consumer, “Stop! Look at me.” It also serves as mnemonic device -- its attractiveness combined with repetition makes it more likely that a consumer will remember the product associated with it or think of the product when he sees red elsewhere.


Advertisements also play on emotions. For example, a car carrier company's TV spot might show a giggling baby in the company's latest carrier. A parent watching the commercial with a baby who often cries during long drives might connect subconsciously the brand or type of carrier with making his baby happier. An insurance company might create a commercial that shows a worst case scenario and then play on viewer fear by showing two outcomes -- a bad outcome for the person who doesn't have the company's coverage and a wonderful outcome for the person who does.


Businesses also manipulate consumers through insertion of products into popular entertainment, such as TV shows, films, theater productions and video games. Product placement is a form of stealth exposure and endorsement advertising in which consumers often don’t recognize they’re seeing a paid advertisement or that it's manipulating their buying habits. For example, a TV viewer who watches a character consuming a specific soft drink might not even think about the product during viewing. The brief exposure though to the product, and casual endorsement by his favorite TV star or show, might build enough familiarity that when he's thirsty, or sees the drink on a store shelf, he remembers it and decides to try it.