Cool Ways Advertising Executives You Into Buying Things: Top 10 Advertising Tricks and Techniques
Advertisers are sneaky tricksters who get you to think, see, and buy things without you ever even knowing you’ve been deftly manipulated into making a purchase. For more than a century, the art of product placement, graphic design, and subliminal messages have convinced us to buy more than we ever intended and to spend more than we ever wanted. The popular television show “Mad Men” presented a romanticized view of the advertising world, but the steps advertisers take are often grounded in scientific research.Those advertisers aren’t just guessing and making things up when they’re convincing you to buy. They’re using tried-and-true and proven methods to trick you. They use everything they can from manipulating the visual design of their products to creating special retail environments designed to convince you to buy something when you never even intended to take your wallet out of your pocket. Here are some of the coolest ways advertisers work their magic on you.
10. Advertisers Confuse and Bewilder You Into Buying
If you look at the layout of a grocery store with a critical eye, you might think that a team of monkeys decided where to place products. However, it’s no accident that you can never find anything in a grocery store. Companies know that if you’re focused while you shop, you’ll be less likely to make impulse buys or make purchases you didn’t intend to make while wandering the aisles of the store. Imagine that you’re trying to find a can of beans, and you walk into the canned vegetable aisle to find them.
Grocery stores can place certain foods in aisles where you’d never expect them, and your search for that special item often comes with an additional purchase you never intended to make. Maybe you noticed the tortillas were on sale while trying to find the canned corn and decided to buy a bag. To further confuse you into buying more than you intended, stores will also create interruptions designed to make you forget about finding a great deal on something.
A study conducted at Stanford University found that people who were interrupted when engaged in a task were more likely to engage in “risk-taking” than an individual who was allowed to conduct their business in peace. As far as buying is concerned, this risk-taking comes in the form of buying the product you were considering before you were interrupted even if it was more than you wanted to pay. Rather than remembering to get that calculator out, you forget that you didn’t actually check to see whether the large can of corn was a better deal that the small can.
9. Salespeople Mimic You to Make You Spend More
Did you grow up with a younger sibling who used to mimic your every movement just to annoy you? Or, were you the sibling who liked to annoy your brother or sister by mimicking their movements, speech, and tone of voice? Well, apparently those simple gestures and mimicry could get you a job as a salesperson because of how mimicked behavior influences a person’s decision to buy something. A study published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services found that forming personal bonds between shoppers and salespeople was an effective way of increasing sales.
The experiment featured four salespeople in a retail store who were told to mimic customers to see if that behavior could influence a person’s decision to buy something. Not only did mimicking customers ensure a higher overall sales rate, but the experiment also showed that people became more susceptible to a salesperson’s suggestions. Further, the customers were even likely to give the store and its salespeople high marks when evaluating their buying experience. This study built upon previous research that suggested people were more comfortable buying from salespeople who were very like themselves.
So, for example, a store selling clothing meant for a female demographic around ages 40 to 60 might hire saleswomen in that age range to improve the likelihood of a personal bond developing between the customer and the employee. Other research has even showed value in physical touch during the sales process, but only from female sales associates. A tap on the shoulder or a gentle nudge on someone’s back could lead to higher sales or more money spent. Like mimicry, tactile touch also improved a customer’s opinion of the store after making a purchase.
8. Advertisers Prey on Your Feelings with Round Numbers
There’s a good chance you know someone who always has to have everything organized and neat, and they probably hate messes and leaving things out of place. Maybe this describes how you feel, and you hate it when things look messy. Overall, it would appear that many of us have these same feelings when it comes to rounded numbers and shopping. It’s very common for consumers to look for the lowest price on a product, but the results of a study aspublished by Science Daily revealed that people actually have feelings regarding prices with rounded numbers.
Originally published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the study showed that consumers were actually drawn to rounded numbers on prices when a purchase was “feeling” based rather than one based on research. For example, buying a birthday present for someone and seeing a price of $100 rather than $96.78 would make someone more likely to make a purchase. On the other hand, a price with odd numbers in it would encourage a buyer to think about the price more and make a more informed decision as to whether it was a good buy or whether they could find a better deal somewhere else.
This study isn’t the only one to find that even the smallest changes in price can have a big impact on the likelihood that someone would make a purchase. In fact, studies have shown that increasing the price on a product can make people think it’s worth more even though no actual change was made to the product. From all accounts, humans notice even the smallest changes in price, but it’s not always a price in the downward direction that makes someone decide a product is an appropriate purchase.
7. Advertisers Design Anthropomorphic Products
One of the most fascinating ways that advertisers get you to buy things is through anthropomorphism. The meaning of the word is simple: it means to give human qualities to an inanimate object. And the way this concept influences product design is that people are more likely to buy something if some sort of personal connection can be made to the object. Giving a product human qualities helps a consumer form a better bond with something they’re about to buy whether it’s a can of soda or a bed sheet. An article on Wired explains this concept as described by a pair of social psychologists named Rick Baaren and Matthijs van Leeuwen.
The psychologists explain that many of the choices that people make are based upon unconscious feelings rather than rational motivations. Because of this tendency to act on subconscious signals, humans are quite vulnerable to being fed subliminal messages in advertising. Apparently, humans are introduced to anthropomorphic advertising at a very young age when things like blankets and childhood accessories are turned into cartoon characters. Then as adults, consumers act the same way they did as children by forming an emotional response to something that’s clearly inanimate like a household cleaning product or a vehicle.
It seems fantastic that someone could bond with an inanimate object, but just consider how children love their toys, particularly when they’re an action figure or a doll. Then, when someone tries to take that toy away, they have a significant emotional response to that loss. As adults, we form those same bonds with inanimate objects as if a bottle of detergent was a good friend or a barbecue was an old buddy from college.
6. Stores Offer “Handy” Baskets That Actually Lead You To Buy More
Advice columns are full of ways that you can spend less at the grocery store, and one of the most popular pieces of advice is to use a small, hand-held basket instead of a cart to do your shopping. The wisdom goes that you’ll buy fewer products because you’ll have less room to carry them in your basket. Well, apparently this advice is terrible because a new study reveals that the exact opposite of what you expect happens when you choose to use a small basket at the grocery store. Time Magazine shared the results of this European study that showed that shoppers make some rather bad decisions when they use a small basket.
The oddest part of the study is why we behave as we do when using a small basket. Apparently, the weight and inconvenience of carrying a basket influences us to make hasty decisions when buying products rather than carefully considering each purchase. Shoppers are more likely to buy products like candy and soda when they’re holding a heavy basket than they are when pushing a cart that doesn’t put any real strain on the person’s muscles. To come to this conclusion, the researchers actually conducted a number of studies. The first was to simply observe people who were shopping with carts and baskets and the sorts of products they were buying.
Another interesting study was conducted by giving shoppers a list that had choices of healthy items like fruit, as well as candy items, and the people holding small baskets were more likely to choose the candy over the healthy items than the people shopping with carts. So, when a grocery store provides you with a convenient basket, you might just end up buying more than you expect.
5. Holding an Item May Influence You To Buy It
Beautiful and colorful displays in advertising are common, but customers are often warned that they shouldn’t touch the merchandise for fear of having to buy it if something is accidentally broken. Interestingly, touching an item could actually have a positive effect on the likelihood that someone might make a purchase. According to research conducted by scientists at Ohio State University and Illinois State University, holding an item for just a few minutes could make someone more likely to buy something.
An article published at Ohio State University revealed that people who held an item for just a few seconds could form an emotional attachment to it. This attachment formed even if the object was something banal like a coffee cup. Apparently, a feeling of actual ownership of an item can occur after holding it for about 30 seconds. The results of this study show how essential retail stores are to companies who haven’t yet given up their “brick and mortar” stores for a fully online existence despite the incredible popularity and growth of internet shopping.
In the realm of marketing, this concept is called “multisensory design,” and it’s part of a style of marketing known as tactile marketing. This idea is influenced by a variety of scientific specialties including cognitive neuroscience and psychology, which help marketers create unique advertising campaigns that may not only influence the design of a product, but even the design of its packaging. When creating an advertising campaign that features tactile marketing, touch is often combined with sight and sound to utilize multisensory design. A product that looks good, sounds good, and feels good offers an unbeatable advantage for a business looking to convince a buyer to make a purchase.
4. Advertisers Use Special Packaging to Make You Buy More
Participants were offered a variety of drink menus with varyingly sized drinks on them ranging from 12 ounces to 32 ounces. When a menu with bundles of small drinks was offered, participants ordered more ounces in total than they did when presented with the single, larger sizes. The researchers conducting the study concluded that reducing the size of sodas or other unhealthy items for the purposes of reducing overall soda consumption could have the opposite effect and encourage people to buy more ounces in the long run.
Soda manufacturers are already using this technique to boost sales. Soda and alcohol manufacturers like Coca-Cola and Heineken are offering small versions of their regular drinks. A recent statement made by Heineken revealed a dramatic increase in sales of their small cans. In fact, sales were so good that the growth of that size was outperforming growth in all other areas. Despite efforts in some cities, like New York City, to ban the sale of drinks over a certain size, companies can simply use the tactic of bundling smaller sizes while also enjoying a boost to overall sales.
3. Retail Outlets Use Snobby Staffers to Influence You to Buy
A pleasant shopping experience isn’t always the best way to get people to make a purchase according to some luxury brands. In fact, being rude to customers can actually increase sales, according to research results shared by the University of British Columbia. Originally published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the study was called “Should the Devil Sell Prada? Retail Rejection Increases Aspiring Consumers’ Desire for the Brand,” and it showed that ignoring customers or treating them rudely could actually make them spend more money. It’s hard to believe that treating anyone rudely would have a positive effect on sales, but there are some conditions that stores have to follow to make this practice a success.
For example, the store must present salespeople who accurately represent the brand cultivated by the store. A company selling luxury clothing would need to utilize employees dressed like what a customer would assume someone would look like when purchasing the company’s products. In the movie “Pretty Woman,” Julia Roberts’ character is treated rudely by a salesperson in a Beverly Hills store who believes she can’t afford to shop for expensive clothing. The movie features Roberts heading to another store to buy loads of expensive clothes only to return to the snobby store and rub their noses in it.
If this occurred in the real world, the aforementioned study means that a slighted customer could actually be inspired to make purchases at the very store where they were treated badly. To an onlooker, this series of events makes absolutely no sense, but the psychology of shopping and spending money apparently means that a pleasant buying experience isn’t always the best way to get someone to buy something.
2. Architects Carefully Construct a Buying Environment
It’s not just the packaging and brand design that lures you into a store to buy things. Today’s savvy marketers use absolutely every tool at their disposal to convince you to make purchases which means using every sense you have, including your subconscious, to make you stay in the store longer and buy things. One fascinating example of this technique is described in a blog about sales methods that describe how real estate agents will use freshly baked goods to improve the impression a buyer might form about a home.
Some retail stores are actually scenting their display racks to smell like citrus and flowers because research suggests those scents will wake you up and encourage you to stroll around the store longer and make more purchases. Further, marketers are also using your sense of sight by creating signs in colors meant to make you feel a certain way. For example, a sign in red might convince you to take part in a sale because of the sense of urgency conveyed by the color red. Retailers even try to make you feel comfortable and willing to negotiate by making the environment more comfortable.
A car dealership might provide comfortable chairs that will reduce your enthusiasm for driving a hard bargain. Mega retailer Apple directs its employees to leave the notebooks slightly closed to encourage customers to touch and manipulate the computers. Adding touch to the shopping process adds another layer to the traditional shopping environment and increases the likelihood of a purchase. Further, stores also provide music designed to augment their sales efforts. It’s why you always hear slow music in supermarkets and up-tempo music in fast food restaurants. Music influences your behavior, just like the things you touch and see in a retail environment.
1. Advertisers Use Special Language to Make You Think You’re Getting a Deal
Finding a bargain or sale is exciting for any shopper no matter their socioeconomic status, but the sale you find at your local grocery store isn’t always an actual sale. Sometimes it’s just flowery language designed to make you think that buying in bulk will save you significant cash. The really sneaky part about these “bargains” is that they don’t always save you money, and they encourage you to buy more to take advantage of that imaginary sale. For example, you might see a sale that says “10 for $10,” which makes you think it’s time to load the cart up with whatever’s on sale.
What the majority of shoppers don’t realize, however, is that you don’t actually have to buy 10 of an item to get them for $1 each. If you look closely, the store will usually print the phrase, “must buy 10” if you actually need to buy the number suggested on the price tag. Retail stores use similar pricing tomfoolery by dropping the dollar sign on prices to make you think something doesn’t cost as much as it does. Research published by Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research reveals price formatting impacts sales in restaurants.
By using a number only to denote price rather than a number with a dollar sign, restaurants saw a significant jump in the amount of money customers spent. The style has been adopted by many high-end restaurants, and the typographical choice has been seen as a stylistic decision by many customers. However, the true reason for the modification is due to the subconscious decision by customers to spend more. It’s pretty incredible that such a small change would encourage increased spending by customers, but that’s just one of the reasons advertisers and marketers are so good at what they do.
Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re being manipulated by companies every time you look at an advertisement, listen to a commercial, or walk into a retail store. You’re even being influenced whenever you surf a website or scan a magazine. The advertising industry is smart because it bases its methods of scientific research and evidence. One professor from Harvard Business School says 95% of a buyer’s purchasing decision comes from the subconscious. So, it’s not just the artistry of the graphic designers, and the jingles thought up by songwriters that get you to buy more.
Advertisers use every sense you have, as well as your incredibly malleable subconscious to convince you to buy things, and they’re very successful at what they do. Even with the knowledge of how advertisers work their magic, it’s hard to resist being influenced by your subconscious. The next time you stroll through a grocery store, will the ambient music, special lighting, and product displays win you over?