No one likes to admit it, but we’ve all been drawn into purchasing a product or service by the subtle techniques advertisers use. Most of the time you may not even be aware of these efforts, but many of these tricks have been around for years and transitioned seamlessly from traditional advertising into the digital realm. Some, however, have been created specifically for digital platforms. Here are seven examples that may sound familiar to you:
Trick #1: Make You Believe in Ghosts
Have you ever been astonished by the number of followers a brand has on social media? To generate interest, some companies have created ghost followers—primarily fake accounts or bots—that deceptively drive up their follower numbers. This is done to make a brand seem more popular than it is. It’s human nature to be curious about something that’s popular, so those high numbers may draw your attention—and even make you a follower. It should be noted that social media platforms have banned such deceptive tactics.
Trick #2: Get You to Work for Them for Free
When products become “hot,” sometimes their brand identity follows suit. While you may wear Nike shoes because you find them comfortable for walking and running, you may also want others to know that you’re wearing them. Companies often make that easy to do, with large, distinctive logos that are immediately recognizable. When you’re so enamored with a brand that you’ll also wear a t-shirt featuring their name and logo, the company has achieved an advertising goal. Congratulations, you’re a walking billboard for them. You’re providing a service that they also pay ad agencies a lot of money for—but don’t expect a paycheck!
Trick #3: Make You Confuse Advertising for Entertainment
One way TV advertisers get you to pay attention is to tie their content in with content you’re already watching, e.g., the Super Bowl. Football- or sports-themed commercials featuring superstar athletes make the commercials seamlessly blend with the game and keep you in your seat. Advertisers logically surmise that, if you’re watching the game, you have an affinity for sports. Companies that market children’s products also commonly make their TV spots resemble the programming during which they air, e.g., animated shows.
Trick #4: Display a Price and Immediately Lower It
You see it inside apps, on web pages, in emails, and on the direct snail mail that arrives in your mailbox. The price says “$400,” but it’s crossed out. Underneath it, another lower price, “$299” for example, is displayed. That is ostensibly a good deal, but it may compel you to purchase something you didn’t want or to pay a higher price than you’d planned (say, $250 max) for the same product. Often, what the advertiser has done is artificially inflate the price up front to make the actual price they’ll charge you seem irresistible.
Trick #5: Manipulate Numbers to Manipulate You
There may be another reason behind this $299 price tag. The company marketing this product or service may have originally planned to charge you $300 but brought it down to $299 to make their price more appealing. When an item costs hundreds of dollars, does one dollar really make that big of a difference with consumers? Many times, the answer is yes. Seeing a price of $299 moves the product from the $300 range to the $200 range in the mind of the consumer. It’s instantly much cheaper! In actuality, it’s not, but that’s human psychology. The same tactic is used in grocery stores daily, often in the cent range rather than the dollar range, e.g., a can of peas for $0.99.
Trick #6: Use “Experts” to Get You to Buy Something
That man in a lab coat trying to recommend a pain reliever for you is probably an actor or a model, not a doctor, unless the ad specifies otherwise. You may see that same “doctor” appear minus the lab coat in stock photography libraries.
Trick #7: Gain Your Interest in Products That Don’t Exist
Were you ever intrigued by an ad for guacamole-flavored toothpaste, artificially intelligent Legos that move when someone is about to step on them, a mobile stationary bike, a skin cream made of Velveeta, or maybe a hamburger designed specifically for left-handed people? These April Fools’ Day advertisements eventually made it clear that the products weren’t real, but they might’ve had you going for a little while! More importantly, with every click of a curious onlooker’s mouse, these companies were driving traffic to their websites and social media accounts and creating priceless engagement and buzz around their brands.
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