The Art Of Persuasion

Perception is the recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli based chiefly on memory. It is the neurological processes by which we create a meaningful coherent picture of the world. Everyone has a different perception based on our inherit predispositions, past experiences, expectations and motives (Kirmani &Campbell 2004). So when we are exposed to certain stimuli the way in which we perceive that stimuli will be completely different to someone else. When it comes to our perception of advertisements, brands and products, however, how much of our perception is our own?
Advertisers are masters of persuasion. They subtly weave slogans and images into our everyday lives, most of the time without us even noticing. This is called subliminal messaging, where weak or rapid stimuli is received below the level of conscious awareness (Kazdin 2000). When you walk down the street, think about how many advertisements and products you are exposed to without consciously being aware of it. On average advertisement exposure ranges from117 to 285 for men and 161 to 484 for women (Britt et al. 1972). The difficult part is making us notice these ads in such an overloaded visually stimulating environment and most importantly make us recall them.
We filter out most of the stimuli that surround us. Some of those stimuli, however, have properties that make us more likely to pay attention. For example, when a stimulus changes, we notice it. A light in a room goes off.  While the light was on, it was a sensation to us, but we did not perceive it. However, when it went off, we did perceive it. Advertisers use techniques such as novelty, newness, intensity, contrast, size, color and position to make their chosen stimuli stand out from the rest.
Not only are advertisers good at getting us to notice these ads but they have a solid understanding of what makes us tick. They know which colors induce which emotions, they know what images create what associations, they even know the path our eyes travel in when scanning a poster or an image. Essentially they know how to make us feel about certain products and how to successfully manipulate our overall perceptions.
Take this advertisement for example
There is a hierarchy of stimuli within this picture that advertisers want you to notice in a certain order, to generate a desired perception. Notice how the light draws your eyes to the face in this image. Faces grab attention and facilitate emotion. See how the message is placed in the bottom right hand corner, this is because advertises know the human eye inevitably lingers there after viewing an image, they want this slogan to be the last thing you see and take in. Pandas are a symbol of cuteness and vulnerability, you feel sorry for things that are cute and vulnerable, just as the marketer intends. Blues and greys make you feel sad, this advertisement wants to evoke a strong sense of sadness.
Here is an ad that attempts to make the same message however this marketer has gone for shock and gore to grab attention and plays strongly on emotion.
Britt, H & Adams, S & Miller, A 1972, ‘ How Many Advertising Exposures Per Day?’, Journal of Advertising Research, vol. 28, no. 4, pp.3-9.
Kazdin, A 2000, ‘The Science of Subliminal Messages’, Encyclopedia of Psychology, vol. 7, pp. 497-499.
Kirmani, A & Campbell, M 2004, ‘Goal Seeker and Persuasion
Sentry: How Consumer Targets Respond to Interpersonal Marketing Persuasion’, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 573-582.