When done effectively, advertisements can become a fundamental aspect of our culture. Slogans like Subway’s “Eat Fresh” or Nike’s “Just Do It” have ingrained themselves into our collective psyche, simply because they appeal to a mix of human emotions. By engaging our sense of humor, our rational thought, our sexuality or our fears, advertising draws consumers in by appealing to a wide swath of reason and emotions.

Appeal to Humor

Some of the most talked-about advertisements are funny. The Snickers brand, for example, has become a master of humorous advertisements with its “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign. The commercial launched during the 2010 Super Bowl with actress Betty White, who was then 80, and has since featured a variety of celebrities and comedians, including Joe Pesci, Aretha Franklin and Willem Dafoe. The campaign has been successful—or, it “has legs,” as they say in advertising—simply because it’s silly. Humor in advertising appeals to a fundamental aspect of human nature: we tend to buy things from people (or companies) we like, and using humor simplifies this process.

Appeal to Sexuality

As they say in advertising, sex sells. From cars to perfumes to clothing, there’s no doubt that brands routinely pitch their products by appealing to our sexuality—whether directly or by taking a subtler route. Victoria’s Secret sells lingerie by featuring scantily clad models dancing around in their underwear; Viagra uses innuendo to imply what’s “about to happen” if a man uses the product. Then there's Abercrombie & Fitch, which came under fire when the company used teens and young men and women in a variety of sexualized poses to sell their clothing, and Carl’s Jr., which ran a famous ad featuring semi-clad celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian wolfing down their giant burgers. While the jury is out on whether sexual advertisements actually lead consumers to purchase goods based, one thing is clear: they certainly get people talking.

 Appeal to Fear

Sometimes, advertisers sell products or ideas by appealing to a consumer’s sense of fear. Subject matter can run the gamut from personal fears, such as having bad breath, to more widespread fears about the political or economic landscape. The use of fear, in fact, is a common tactic in drug and alcohol prevention and in trying to solicit donations to social causes or political campaigns. For example, the 1987 “This is Your Brain on Drugs” Campaign, which features an egg in a frying pan, is considered one of the most successful uses of a fear campaign—so successful, in fact, that it was revived in 2016 for a new audience. By targeting our inherent worries about what “could” happen, appealing to our anxieties and fears can be an effective form of advertising—provided they don’t go too far.

Rational Appeal

Some advertisements skip the “pulling on our heartstrings” methodology and instead, appeal to our rational thought. These appeals rely heavily on facts, statistics, features and benefits in the hopes that simple common sense will sway consumers. Car manufacturers, smartphone brands and healthcare products typically use this form of appeal. Think of toothpastes, for instance, that claim “nine of out of 10 dentists recommend this brand” or car manufacturers that proclaim that they received the “highest safety award for the third year in a row.” Research shows that rational appeals typically don’t engage consumers as intensively as those that appeal to emotions—which is why you often see rational appeals mixed with another style—think sexy people using smart phones or car safety features protecting a family in a crash. When it comes to advertising, a crafty blend of both facts and emotions is an effective way to draw in consumers.