July 30, 2019 Last updated July 29th, 2019 1,595 Reads share

The Psychology of Advertising: It Starts at Home

Psychology of AdvertisingImage Credit: Deposit Photos

Family communications can teach us valuable tips on developing successful advertising campaigns  

In today’s world, advertising and marketing are more important than ever due to market competition. Advertisers have to pay specific attention to the message they are relaying and who they are trying to reach. One advertisement often reaches multiple generations, both parents and children. Below are some helpful tips and insight to consider when you’re creating your next ad campaign.

Who is getting the most attention?

You would think that children would be fighting the strongest for attention, but don’t forget parents are prone to acting childish too. The advertising campaigns that happen in our daily lives and under the roofs of our homes require a tremendous amount of resources. When those moments are properly filmed, they can serve as great reality TV.

A baby cries, advertising the need for food, to be held, etc. Meanwhile, a toddler also feels the need to meltdown, advertising how unfair it is that the baby’s advertising is more effective. The parents meanwhile advertise how exhausted they are to one another with loud sighs and postures that’d play better on “The Walking Dead” than in the living room. These elaborate ad campaigns are designed to sell the other family members on the importance of each other. Because families spend so much time together, their own personal ad campaigns often become so irritating that they cause disturbances. For the same reasons that you wouldn’t want to watch the same commercial 135 times, you can see why families struggle with giving one another the attention they desire.

A failed ad campaign on the behalf of a child trying to earn their parents’ attention can result in a disorder that Billi Gordon Ph.D. elaborates on in his Psychology Today article:

From our beginnings as babies, we explore complex transactions with our families as we try different ads to see what works best. We learn the hard way that things change. As we grow older, crying alone no longer results in a sale. People eventually start ignoring us.

How does this translate to your business?

Think about advertising freshness and how important that is. If you find yourself repeating the same advertisements and expecting the same results, you may be behaving like a toddler that is crying like a newborn. What worked last year may not work again today. Running the same commercial over and over again becomes annoying quickly. Freshen up your ad.

Now that doesn’t mean this strategy is guaranteed to work better. However, it does mean that you’ll at least stop running the old ad that everyone is sick of. Keep running the same ad and people will likely tune you out.

Here is a good example of that transition within a family setting. Suppose that you always say, “I work really hard and I just need time to relax.” Let’s assume that this ad, despite repeated attempts, is not returning results. Now suppose that you update your ad’s language to the following:

“I’ve accomplished ______________ today, including ______________, ______________, and ______________ and I would love a moment to unwind. I am happy to return the favor in fifteen minutes.”

The same essential message is being delivered, but the second is interesting, more thought out, more performative and empathetic and so more likely to result in a sale. The first is boring, repetitive and predictable. Remember, advertising is about entertaining your audience and holding their attention.

Karl Greenberg, author on the Media Post, references a survey:

[of] 1,000 consumers and marketers, the study showed that just about all consumers, rather than being likely to turn a cold shoulder, actually want to engage with brands. Brands that don’t vary the message turn people off. Half of consumers in the study said if they see or hear the same ad over and over again, it makes them shut out the brand.

How do kids advertise?

Toddlers are advertising geniuses straight out of “Mad Men.” A toddler will negotiate with you based on what you pay attention to. If you don’t want a toddler climbing on the couch, well guess what? That’s where they’ll spend most of their time. Why? Because they are advertising successfully. They instantly grab your attention by climbing on the sofa, and they can then get you to give them something in exchange for not doing that anymore, and even if that doesn’t work, at the very least they got your attention.

Toddlers are such great advertisers that their parents will research how to better negotiate with them. James Lehman, in his article “Living with Little Lawyers: Don’t Over-negotiate with Your Child,” describes a typical bedtime conversation:

“the over-negotiating parent will say, ‘It’s time to go to bed. It’s 8 o’clock.’

And the child says, ‘Oh Mom please, this show’s really important, can I just stay up until 8:30 tonight, I just want to watch the end,’

The mom says, ‘No, you have to go to bed now.’

The child continues to argue: ‘Oh please, please, you never let me do anything. Just ten more minutes.’

The mother relents: ‘OK if you promise not to give me a hard time.’

And the child says, ‘Thanks, Mom. You’re the best.’

The parent goes back and forth with the child when really, there’s nothing to negotiate here. Let me be clear: the more you give in to negotiating with your child, the more you’re training your child not to accept your limits.”

From my perspective, the child in this example is simply a better businessperson!

This kind of behavior, advertising to others through doing the “wrong thing” persists through life. Sometimes, later in life when someone is struggling, they will advertise in a violent, often self-destructive way. Call this a cry for help. These very serious advertisements are designed specifically to draw as much attention as possible.

Creating successful ads

Ignoring unwanted ads is a necessary skill. Remember, ads require energy. As a kid, it’s protesting, as an adult in a business setting it can mean literally managing a million dollars in pay-per-click spend, or a simple print ad in the local paper. Either way, an ad that doesn’t earn someone’s attention is pointless. If you don’t like someone’s ad, consider simply ignoring it. If your ads aren’t converting, switch them up.

Get creative – or hire someone to get creative for you. Even better, hire someone to get creative with you. You’d be surprised what a session or two with a copywriter or digital advertising expert can generate. It doesn’t need to cost you Park Avenue money to get good, creative results. Think now about all the creative people you know who are good writers, actors or artists of another stripe. Book their time and brainstorm. Think about your audience and what would grab their attention. And try it.

As an entrepreneur or business owner, get ready to switch up your advertising often! It is a continuous puzzle to be solved. If you keep cranking out the status quo, people may be shouting at your ads out of sheer annoyance. Be open to attempt new things and be willing to receive criticism from those to whom you advertise. The sound of crickets or a ringing phone will tell you how you’ve done. Your audience may love or be indifferent to your ads. What works in the infancy of your business will probably not work as it matures. Your company will grow, just like your family, hopefully into messages that resonate with your maturity level.

Advertising – Deposit Photos

Kellen Kautzman

Kellen Kautzman

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