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Manipulative Tricks of Advertisers

Updated on June 26, 2017
ValKaras profile image

Val is a life-long student of the psycho-philosophy of living, and a devoted practitioner of many techniques enhancing personal evolution.

We Are Not Flooded by Offers  -  but by Strong Suggestions
We Are Not Flooded by Offers - but by Strong Suggestions
Shopping Spree Is mostly about Buying what People Don't Need
Shopping Spree Is mostly about Buying what People Don't Need

How Suggestible Consumer Are You?

Have you ever felt compelled to buy something, then after bringing it home realized that you didn't need it at all? Maybe one of those highly suggestive TV adds did a number on your rational mind, sucking you into doing it.

Something like that is actually happening all the time without many folks realizing it. It has been a while that subliminal suggestions are prohibited hidden in the music you are hearing in shopping malls - those that were implanting into your mind some effective ads without your being aware of it.

Nevertheless, suggestion in one form or another remained the key ingredient in selling. And it may be doing even a better job than those subliminal ones hidden in music, while applying some principles that we are about to talk about.

Returning Policy Serves to Give You a Sense about Seller's Fairness. It Counts on Statistics of most People Not Returning Merchandise
Returning Policy Serves to Give You a Sense about Seller's Fairness. It Counts on Statistics of most People Not Returning Merchandise

Returning Policy

One of the preconditions in procedural hypnosis is to make the subject feel secure, by being told how he will "stay in charge at all times" during the session - which is a part of establishing that necessary positive rapport.

Getting someone's trust is crucial, because the last thing you want is him or her to cautiously weigh every of your words. He's got to be lulled into a sense of security, and that's nicely done with so popular "returning policy".

That feeling of "having nothing to lose" is bound to tip the scale towards buying in that moment of a short hesitation. Advertisers know that, and that's how the positive rapport gets established, that trust. It's also an additional point about the value of the product or service - as if saying "our product is so good that we can afford to give you this money-back guaranty".

Many folks use that advantage for a number of reasons, maybe wrong size, second thoughts about its "matching" something else, or because of a simple realization that they don't really need it, and they could use that money for something more important.

And yet, many more keep what they bought while finding all kinds of rationalizations for it - unless, of course, they are genuinely happy with their buy.

Discounts to Fool You

How many of you keep the track of price list of all those many items that you buy - of course, excluding groceries? For example, you see a pair of nice shoes and the price tag says $159.99, before : $249.99.

Do you fall for it without knowing that the old price was not $249.99? Many stores will play that little trick on you, apparently discounting the price, while it was never higher than that. Similar "discounts" are those with an ad like "buy one, get one free".

You can be sure that you are paying for both, because the wholesale price was so low that they are still making money. The store is never losing money by making you offers like that, and if you would care to shop around, you might run into something that you like at a lower price than that discount.

Empathy May Spell a Need

When it comes to those TV ads, hundreds of thousands of dollars invested into a single ad is telling you how effective they must be. Now, let's go briefly over some of the principles in TV advertisement.

Number one: it has to make you need that product or service. For that purpose you may see ordinary folks like you getting into some trouble because they didn't have this or that which, of course, gets instantly solved by buying it.

To a different degree, all of us are empathizing with others being in trouble, and it doesn't fail while seeing that poor idiot forgetting to make sure he had a good supply of this or that. So, by putting ourselves emotionally in his shoes, we register in our subconscious mind the importance of that product or service.

You Must Want It to Buy It

The next principle of advertisement is that it has to make you want it. That's where the phenomenon of association comes handy. Namely, along with the product being advertised, those creative marketers may present something else that you may want - like a playful kitten, a cute baby, a gorgeous girl in bikini, or a holiday resort.

In short, anything that will create a response of "I want that" in your mind. Then it spreads over to the product being advertised, so that the next time you see it in a hardware store, you won't be aware how that set of tools looks like that smiling face of that bikini girl.

This association thing may go much more complex in a man's mind, who, morally unable or unwilling to cheat on his wife - unconsciously - "has" that girl from the ad by having that set of tools.

I know it sounds quite silly, but unconscious can compute a lot of irrational mental constructs - including our nightly dreams that may not make any sense at all while somehow enabling us to discharge some accumulated energies in that visual fashion.

Advertisers Have to Create a Lower Discriminatory Frame of Mind in Us
Advertisers Have to Create a Lower Discriminatory Frame of Mind in Us

Being in a Suggestible Mood

Another, equally important principle is based upon catching you in a suggestible mood. That's where the sponsoring program plays the main role. Being all absorbed by the program actually means being in a light trance of hypnosis as far as your state of mind is concerned.

Nothing more and nothing less but good, old hypnosis, and you would never tell, right? Have you ever been so absorbed in watched something, let's say a suspenseful drama or a sports event, that someone around you had to repeatedly call you before you snapped out of it?

Well, advertisers are making a killing in sales by having us in that frame of mind, as that commercial - as much as we may consciously hate it - leaves a trace in our subconscious mind that we are not aware of.

Hearing It over and over Is Bound to Make It Effective
Hearing It over and over Is Bound to Make It Effective

Repetition - It's a Must

What works for every suggestion to become effective - certainly works for advertisements as well, and that is repetition. Someone said that a lie being repeated frequently enough is bound to become true.

Watch out religionists and politicians, I am coming to you with this one - as soon as I am done with ads about goods and services! Well, needless to say, that's the very mechanism of learning in us humans as well as in dogs.

Repeat anything for long enough, and it becomes a belief, a skill, or just a learned material. It's even scary how much wrong and useless information we are programmed with by our primary caretakers in childhood and society - just "thanks to" this factor of repetition.

And now, those advertisers are using it as well. Are they necessarily "bad people" for doing it? Absolutely no. We do benefit by many of those advertised goods and services. But then again, some others are a pure waste of money or effort or both. It's up to us to make a sober distinction.

In Politics as in Marketing

As announced, let's see how politicians are using the same four principles of advertisement that I mentioned. By the way, maybe there are more, but those four come to mind from my having fun observing their little strategies.

So, here we come with the principle number one - about making you need their leadership. For that they need a culprit, a boogie-man representing the problem, and, of course, the opposition is right there to serve that purpose.

While advertising themselves, they have to create this need of overcoming all perils and threats coming from the opposition's agenda, not even stopping at insults or something as stupid as their hair styles. So, don't forget, "it's a matter of an urgency for you to recognize all those shortcomings in the opposition, including hair, and it's nothing short of a survival need to you".

All Strategies Applied

To fast-forward a bit, because you can easily recognize the details of all four principles at work in politics, yes, they also make you want their agenda, with all those promises. And they organize those impressive conventions with a lots of cheering which get televised to impress all voters and put them in that suggestive frame of mind.

Lastly, they repeat their slogans, their promises, and their putting down the opposition until it all sits firmly in your mind as a conviction. The results of an election may have nothing to do with who is really a better candidate, but rather with who was more skillful in using these crucial strategies of advertisement.

Unfortunately, people are not only suggestible consumers, but also very suggestible voters. Remember that saying about the courtroom justice? A verdict may have little to do with justice, but everything to do with the dynamics of the trial and skills of prosecution and defense. Namely, just another aspect of advertisement.

The Height of It is for Its Visual Ad, and Bells Are Taking Care of the Auditory One
The Height of It is for Its Visual Ad, and Bells Are Taking Care of the Auditory One

Advertisement in Religion

I promised to say a few about religionists, I mean those hard core ones, or fundamentalists, as they get called, not those nice believing folks minding their own business when it's about their faith.

So, the same principles apply in their drive to impose their religion onto others. They play the guilt, fear of evil and punishment card to create that need. Then they attract you with rewards of immortality and unconditional love to make you want to join them.

To create that suggestive ambient they use those impressive interiors and exteriors of their holy places, plus the aroma of burnt frankincense oil which is a known mild tranquilizer. As for the element of repetition, they created all those rituals which have to instill the religious program into minds of followers.

The additional form of advertisement - quite smart and effective as well - is spreading the Word, in practical sense meaning "word of the mouth advertisement".

Now, am I calling them "bad" for such practices? No. They are not doing me any harm, and as far as I care, let everybody believe whatever they please.

Just My Layman Observations

In these preceding paragraphs I tried to bring to your attention - or to warn you, if you happened to take it that way, about four strategies being used in advertisements. I have no education in that field, so maybe my presentation looks incomplete to those who graduated studying all aspects of it.

However, like I say, these are my observations, incomplete or not. Also, it was not my intention to be anything like a whistle-blower, as my "whistle" is too small anyway, and my whistling only has that one purpose to entertain me while I am washing the dishes. Well, that's what I do in this household of only my wife and me. She cooks, I wash the dishes. If I tell you more of what I do, that may turn into an advertisement, and I don't think you care to hear about yet another one.

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    • ValKaras profile image
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      Vladimir Karas 13 months ago from Canada

      MizBejabbers - Yes, it's a big topic with many cons and pros that we could attach to the use of ads. My wife is like you in that respect - always curious about "what's new out there", which is also a great subject for conversations with her friends. I don't know if it's "typical" for men", but I've heard many guys being like myself - knowing exactly what I want, run into the store like a bullet and run out like one, never window shopping, always walking outside the store and listening to my MP3 affirmations while my wife is inside.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 13 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      The advertising industry in Britain will shake off its EU shackles before long, no doubt ("Thou must not sell this, that, the other... definitely not 'the other'), although there are still advertising 'mores' that we had before Brussels dug its claws in. The one 'holy cow' we've never killed on UK TV stations is religion. We've got CofE, Roman Catholicism, Mormon (believe it!), 7 Day Creationists and all the colours in the rainbow but the only religious group you'll see on the box here is the 'Sally Army' because they work for charity, beds and food at Christmas etc. Charities get a big chunk of the advertising industry here because the ad agencies can't do booze, tobacco and the other vices. Interesting, they can do dating agencies and after the 9 pm cut-off we have one ad (30 seconds to a minute) of two girls 'finding one another' and stripping off until they meet in clutches - a bit like hens' eggs. It did appear before 9 pm one night and there must've been a furore because the TV company kept to its brief after that.

      The music used in TV ads here tends to be pop or even rock or classical, depending on what's 'on offer'. Subliminal? Naah! We're not that sophisticated, at least not the TV-watching population. The upper echelons in society like to brag that they've got a set and they only watch the news or other 'intellectual' programmes. The rest of us - me included - don't claim to be clever. Many of us don't have the foldables to spend, certainly not on the cars that appear in ads. There are too many on zero-hours contracts for the ad-men to make a killing.

      And then there's the old psychological thing of watching too many ads in the breaks. You become immune... unless you can splash the (borrowed) cash.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 13 months ago from Oklahoma

      Interesting analysis.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 13 months ago

      As a former ad writer for radio back in its heyday, I'm glad that you presented both sides of the coin. There are three glaring areas in today's TV that I can point out that depend heavily on making the customer want the product even when they don't really need it: 1. car dealerships, 2. gimmicks and tools (the late Billy Mays was a master salesman at this), and 3. furniture stores. Of course I am award of all the controversy over subliminal advertising.

      But the other side of the coin, as a consumer myself and maybe it's because I'm a woman, I appreciate knowing when something I need goes on sale (like new winter boots), and better yet, something that I need is actually made and available. For instance, when we were remodeling and rehabilitating rental property, I enjoyed knowing about a new product that would make the job easier or better. Thanks for sharing.