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.

I buy what I am… I am what I buy

I would like to share with you an experience I had during the process of purchasing a car, an experience like no other I had felt before, an experience where I began to loose site of myself and become someone different. Let me start off by saying that before I actually decided to buy a car of my own, I had no interest in cars what so ever, I mean seriously a less than zero…fall asleep at the mention level of engagement. But what I found was that when it came to buying a car for myself, I was obsessed. It was all I could think about, day in day out I would just sit in front of the computer searching Gumtree, Carsguide, Trading Post and every site in between.

Why was I so obsessed? I mean it was just a car to get me from A to B, but at the time it was so much more. This was my very first car, an expression of who I was as a person, a symbol of my individuality, maturity and freedom. I couldn’t just get any car I had to get the one that was right for me and although I hate to admit it the greatest concern at the top of my list was appearance. Not just the car but the way I appeared owning it. I wasn’t in the market for a car I was in the market for a statement.

The desire for self worth is known as an Ego or Self Esteem need and the desire for the recognition, respect and admiration of others is a Social need (Lantos 2010). These were the needs I put first when looking for my car.

According to Abraham Maslow there are 5 types of needs that operate in a hierarchical order. Physiological needs (e.g. hunger, thirst) come first, followed by Security needs, Social needs, Self-esteem needs and finally Self-actualization needs (Fred van Raaij, Wandwossen 1978).

“The purchase display and use of goods communicates symbolic meaning to the individual and to others” (Sirgy 1982, p.287). The way in which we give a product symbolic meaning is through the process of Personality Branding.

Brand Personality is a set of human characteristics that are attributed to a brand name. A brand personality is something to which the consumer can relate, and an effective brand will increase its brand equity by having a consistent set of traits. This is the added-value that a brand gains, aside from its functional benefits (Monger 2012).

In my car search I  knew from the get go that there were certain brands I didn’t want to buy because I attributed  them with personalities that differed from the image I wanted to create for myself. In the end I bought an Audi because the brand to me symbolized prestige and sophistication as well as quality. And although after the purchase I once again don’t give cars a second thought, I still love my Audi.

Egotistical need officially satisfied >:)

Here she is in all her glory

Here she is in all her glory

Fred van Raaij, W & Wandwossen, K 1978 ,’Motivation-Need Theories and Consumer Behavior’, Advances in Consumer Research, vol. 5, pp. 590-595.

Lantos, G 2010, Consumer Behavior in Action: Real Life Applications for Marketing Managers, M.E. Sharpe, New York.

Monger, B 2012, The Personality of Brands -Using Effective Brand Personality to Grow Your Business, Dr Brian’s Smart marketing, weblog, 30 May, viewed 31 March 2014, <;.
Sirgy, J 1982, ‘Self-Concept in Consumer Behavior: A Critical Review’,
Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 9, no. 3, p. 287.


To Buy and What to Buy… That is the Consumer Question

The Marsh-mellow test was a study conducted over 40 years ago by PHD Walter Mischel. The study gave an insight into our abilities to deny instant gratification and practice will power. What it showed was that the brain could be broken up into two systems, The Cool and The Hot system. The cool system is cognitive in nature. It’s essentially a thinking system, incorporating knowledge about sensations, feelings, actions and goals — reminding yourself, for instance, why you shouldn’t eat the marshmallow. The hot system is impulsive and emotional. The hot system is responsible for quick, reflexive responses to certain triggers — such as popping the marshmallow into your mouth without considering the long-term implications (Metcalfe & Mischel 1999)

So what does this have to do with the Consumer Decision Making Process?

When it comes to making decisions every consumer, no mater what the product, goes through a process of evaluation and elimination. Unlike the children in this video however, who struggled to wait for the ‘better deal’, adult consumers are constantly calculating the costs and weighing up the benefits of the products they buy without even knowing it. They are always after that ‘better deal’.


This is known as the Consumer Decision Making Process and it operates in 5 steps:

1: problem recognition,

2: information search,

3: evaluation of alternatives,

4: purchase decision,

5: post purchase behavior.


Our level of involvement with this process depends on the level of perceived risk that comes with purchasing a product. For example buying a chocolate bar at the check out is an impulsive decision that plays more towards the ‘Hot System’. It’s an emotional and irrational decision that you don’t really have to think about. Whereas Buying a car is a cognitive decision that plays on the ‘Cold System’. To us there is a high risk of making the wrong choice and so we heavily evaluate our options and hold out for the better deal (Tsiros & Mittal 2000).


The 6 types of Perceived Risks are:

Financial Risks- product not worth the money spent,

Functional Risks- product does not meet a need/ do what it’s supposed to,

Physical Risks- product not safe,

Social Risks- purchasing product causes embarrassment,

Psychological Risk- wrong choice causes low self esteem,

Time Risk- time spent evaluating not worth it.

It is the role of the Marketer to not only generate awareness of their products but to create the perception that their products live up to consumer expectations and won’t invoke any of these risks. They are trying to make sure you do not eliminate their products from your choice pool when processing your purchase decisions ( Court et al. 2009).






Court, D,  Elzinga, D, Mulder, S & Vetvik, J 2009, ‘The Consumer Decision Journey’, McKinsey Quarterly, vol. 1, viewed 24 March 2014,


Metcalfe, J & Mischel, W 1999,  ‘A hot/cool system analysis of delay of gratification: Dynamics of willpower’, Psychological Review, vol. 106, no. 1, pp. 3 –19.


Tsiros;, M,  Mittal, V 2000, ‘Regret: A model of its antecedents and consequences in consumer decision making’, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 26, no. 4, p. 401.

Consumer Research

“It is not the voice of the consumer that matters, what matters is the mind of the consumer.” (Hodgson 2004)

Consumer research is the investigation into the driving forces behind customer behaviour, consumer psychology and purchase patterns. Consumer research can indicate potential problems, highlight needed changes, help determine new products and services and help develop advertising strategies (Acevedo 2010). To me this all makes perfect sense because when you think about it the best way to cater to a customer is to understand them and how can you be expected to understand someone without first looking into what makes them tick?

The problem is however that in today’s faced paced, action packed, activity overloaded society it can be difficult to get people to stop for even just a minute to conduct research. And we are all guilty here; I mean seriously how many of us would give up an hour of our day to do a survey or an interview. Personally, I cross the street or try to avoid eye contact when it comes to those sorts of things.

It seems that nowadays in order for a company to get a little information out of someone they have to offer something in return. That’s why free samples and competitions are a great way to generate a response and receive a lot of information without the consumer really noticing. One of the best examples of this I can think of was the Smiths ‘Do Us a Flavour’ campaign.

Smiths was noticing decline in sales and wanted to introduce a new flavour. Before they came to a decision about what to introduce they had the brilliant idea to ask customers directly what they wanted through a competition. The initial stage of the campaign saw the brand ask consumers to suggest potential flavours, attracting nearly 315,000 entries. After that people could then vote for the top entries. “All four finalists won $10,000. The overall winner, Aline Pascuzzo, for her Caesar flavour, was also awarded a further $30,000 and received 1% of sales revenue” (mUmBRELLA 2009).

What was good about that campaign was that it gave an honest and direct depiction of consumer wants. Focus groups on the other hand offer a chance to get a deeper understanding of consumer psychology but they don’t always get such a straight forward response. Daniel Gross (2003) strongly challenges the effectiveness and value of focus groups for informing product development and marketing. He draws attention to the mismatch between what people say about product concepts in focus groups, and the way they actually behave when it comes to making purchases.

In the end consumer research can be quite costly on a company but in turn it can save them millions by saving them from making the wrong marketing decisions through a lack of customer understanding. 


Hodgson, P 2004, ‘Is Consumer Research Losing It’s Focus’, Userfocus, 1 June, viewed 17 March 2014, <;.

Gross, D 2003, ‘Lies Damn Lies and Focus Groups’, Slate Magazine, 10 October, viewed 17 March 2014, <;.

Acevedo, L 2010, What Is Consumer Research?, Ehow, weblog post 19 July, viewed 17 March 2014, <;.

Smith Unveils Ceaser Salad as New Flavour Following Public Vote 2009, mUmBRELLA, viewed 17 March 2014, <;.