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Psychology of online advertising: How companies persuade you to shop

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  • 5 min read

Advertisements are everywhere. Whether you’re watching your favourite YouTuber or casually scrolling down Instagram, you aren’t safe from an onslaught of sponsors and paid promoters.

In this day and age, online advertising is almost an art and only the strong survive. Consumers’ selection of brands has now replaced the natural selection of species. Every advertiser will try to maximise the impact and sales of a campaign.

We live in a world with a constant influx of data. As a result, advertisers no longer need to fire in the dark and hope something sticks.

Instead, they research and employ strategies that resonate better with the consumers. Pretty often, this involves psychology – using careful tactics to make you believe you want something more than you do.

Both consumers and promoters need to know how to make adverts as compelling as possible. Consumers, especially so, because this knowledge enables them to protect themselves against targeted marketing. Let’s talk about some of the characteristics of an effective ad.

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Plays to emotions

Humans are emotionally driven animals. We have reached the level of self-awareness where a good proportion of advertisements are made to attack where you’re weak.

You may be familiar with phrases such as “limited time only,” “you deserve this,” or “better, stronger, faster”. Each of these hooks makes the advertisement more appealing to a specific range of people.

Psychology of online advertising: How companies persuade you to shop

For example, many teenagers and young adults have a “fear of missing out (FOMO)”. Yet, in a trend-driven world, there’s no predicting what could become big and consequently inaccessible.

Advertisers capitalise on this fear by using phrases like “Hurry! Available till stocks last” and “Only a few left”. Thus, they subconsciously induce you to want to be among the elite who own this exclusive item.

Using big data, most platforms know precisely the sort of content you like. As a result, they tailor their campaigns so that you are doubly susceptible to clicking on the link.

Not only do you already want the product, but you are also tricked into thinking it is the best possible match for you.

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Remoulds memory

Memories change infinitesimally every time they are recalled. They are highly malleable and undergo reconstruction very often. Our minds tend not to notice small changes and continue to think of the altered memory as “real”.

In a study conducted by Disney, a group of people were asked if they remembered meeting Mickey. After watching fake advertisement videos, over 90% of them reported with greater confidence that they had.

This property of memory is especially advantageous for advertisers. For example, consumers may have had bad experiences with a particular product before. As the campaign evolves further, it may override this memory with positive connotations presented by the ads.

Furthermore, advertisements that elicit positive reactions in the audience leave a lasting impact. While shopping, if the consumer does not already have a brand in mind, they are more inclined to pick the product whose ad made them laugh or smile.

Effectively places text and images

This is perhaps an essential marketing technique. Our brains naturally find patterns and perceive some orientations as more natural than others.

Generally, most ads place images to the left and text to the right. This is because the right hemisphere of your brain controls the left visual field and is better at interpreting pictures than words. However, the left hemisphere is better at interpreting words, vocabulary, and language.

Psychology of online advertising: How companies persuade you to shop

Some methods of positioning objects have a better impact on the mind than others. First, packaging needs to be removed. Next, the projected part of the object should face the right-hand side. Finally, the item’s opening should face the viewer, appearing as if it is ready for use.

For relevant products, attractive models should be used. This increases the ad’s potential to be eye-catching. It is better if the models look towards the text as our eyes subconsciously follow their line of sight.

Rhymes and patterned flow of text are more appealing to the reader than plain, official language.

Different colours evoke different emotions. Therefore, designers carefully choose the colour palette of the ad, keeping in mind the platform’s design and the required reaction.

Advertisers use these techniques and many more to promote their content with maximum possible efficiency. Though subconscious manipulation is not easily detectable, it is one of the most potent ways of exerting influence.

Hopefully, armed with this knowledge, you are a little less susceptible to targeted marketing and can make better consumer choices.

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Akshaya R

Akshaya R