Why advertising works

Posted on by Guy Cookson

Piccadilly Circus at night. Photo © Mike Clegg.

This year companies will spend over £22 billion on advertising in the UK.

Ads are everywhere – in the middle of our favourite TV shows, looming over us on billboards, sandwiched between updates from our friends on Facebook. They cajole us from newspapers, seduce us in cinemas, and help soundtrack our lives on the radio.

But despite this enormous investment people often claim they are not influenced by adverts, even good ones.

One reason for this is we hate to admit, perhaps even to ourselves, that we are not always rational beings.

We fall in love with the design of a car when watching a beautifully produced ad, but we tell people it has great fuel efficiency and a superb warranty after we buy it.

We post-rationalise our decisions to better fit our internal narrative.

We also forget why we come to make some decisions.

A lot of advertising is intended to plant the seed of an idea, rather than lead us to take an immediate action.

Advertisers know you might not be in the market for their offering right now and instead engage us through positive associations over a period of time.

When we do come to make a purchase we may not know where we got the original intent – and may come to believe we formed the rationale by ourselves.

Something else is going on too. Advertising does not just inform us about a brand, try to create an emotional bond, or nudge us towards an outcome. It sends an important signal.

Advertising costs money, and a lot of advertising costs a lot of money. Prospective customers know this.

When we see a brand campaign over a sustained period it provides reassurance that a company is credible.

If you are going to buy a games console, mobile phone, car or fancy coffee machine you want to know there will be games, apps, parts and support. You want to know there will be an ecosystem around the product.

You want to know the brand will still be around tomorrow.

Advertising is still one of the clearest ways a company can build trust.

And trust does not come cheap.

Think Small – an iconic campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle, art directed by Helmut Krone DDB in 1959.

This post was also published in newspapers including the Lancashire Post, Lancaster Guardian and Blackpool Gazette.

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This entry was posted in Behavioural Design, Brand, Brand Design, Design, Design Psychology, Digital, Hospitality, Hotfoot, Infographic, Lancashire, Lancaster, Marketing, News, Trends and tagged , , , on by .

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