What goes into creating a great ad? Whether the audience is aware of it or not, there’s a lot of strategic work behind the scenes to craft an ad guaranteed to resonate. As part of this process, advertising pros use some common advertising techniques.
While we’ve all seen these advertising techniques in action, we’re usually not conscious of them. In really great advertising, we’re so captivated by the message we don’t notice the techniques at all.
Let’s look at the advertising techniques that brands turn to most often and explore why they are so effective.
Advertising Technique #1: Color Psychology
When you look at an ad, the first thing that hits you is probably the design, including the color. It happens so quickly that it’s unconscious. Before you digest any specifics of the content, the color scheme has already conveyed a lot of information.
That’s why so many advertisers invest time in getting to know a thing or two about color theory and psychology. It’s a rich, fascinating topic, with a history dating back to ancient Egyptian and Chinese cultures.
Want to understand how color influences the way we perceive a brand? Let’s examine two Instagram grids side-by-side. Both are for financial advisory companies that offer robo-advising, primarily aimed at a millennial or Gen Z audience.
While Betterment’s value proposition is making investing more accessible to all younger people, Ellevest focuses on women investors. Now, looking at their grids side-by-side, can you see that in their color choices?
Betterment uses greens, blues, and charcoal greys. The colors project calm and stability and skew masculine. With simple, uncluttered imagery, they intimate that investing with them is easy and approachable.
Ellevest, on the other hand, has a distinctly feminine palette — mauves, mints, and ochres — but it doesn’t cross into “girly” territory. The colors say, “We treat women investors like the grown-ups they are.”
Audiences glean a lot from colors even before delving into the meat of the content itself, making it an effective advertising technique that can build the foundation for many ads and marketing campaigns.
Advertising Technique #2: Repetition
Repetition is an advertising technique that can be used on the micro or macro level. There may be repetition within a single ad, a single campaign, or across all marketing materials for a given brand.
In this Valentine’s Day Instagram post, Coca-Cola repeats its logo on several bottle cap-shaped circles that combine to form a heart. That’s repetition on a micro level, within a single ad.
Then there’s repetition on the macro level. When you hear the brand name “McDonald’s,” can you immediately conjure up the slogan? You might even be able to sing the jingle, “Ba-dah-ba-ba-bah, I’m lovin’ it.”
The power of repetition ties in with the concept of the Marketing Rule of Seven. This well-known marketing principle states that most people need to interact with a brand seven times before purchasing.
Repeating messaging across channels — from social media and your website to print ads and direct mail — helps you reach seven touchpoints more quickly and keeps you top of mind with those who are already very familiar with your brand.
Advertising Technique #3: Bandwagon
They taught us about the dangers of peer pressure in our teen years. We got that warning because the urge to fit in with the group is strong. Psychology has a formal term for it: conformity. We do things because we want to be part of the in-group.
That’s why the bandwagon advertising technique is so effective. The core message of this technique is, “Everyone else is doing it. How about you?”
Think back to the Ice Bucket Challenge. That campaign used the bandwagon technique to brilliant effect and for a great cause: To help find a cure for ALS. The videos were a public display of everyone — from your favorite celebrity to your college roommate — getting involved in this charitable challenge.
Built into the challenge itself was a callout to get others to participate. After someone dumped icy water over your head on camera, you invited a handful of people to step up next.
Everyone wanted to be a part of this viral phenomenon, and in the end, the campaign raised more than $100 million to fund ALS research.
Advertising Technique #4: Nostalgia
Every generation has its defining cultural touchpoints. 1990’s kids likely have a special place in their hearts for The Spice Girls and Beanie Babies. Children of the ‘60s might reminisce about lava lamps and I Dream of Jeannie.
Nostalgia marketing taps into that fond remembrance of the past. Take, for example, DoorDash’s 2021 Super Bowl commercial. The spot features Sesame Street muppets and Hamilton star Daveed Diggs singing a remix of the “People in Your Neighborhood” song, which we all remember from childhood.
DoorDash, founded in 2013, uses a song we recall from decades ago to sell its app to consumers.
The nostalgia advertising technique may be especially effective during difficult times, like a recession or pandemic. When people are facing hard days, it’s calming to see something familiar that harkens back to simpler, happier times.
Advertising Technique #5: Storytelling
Storytelling is an advertising technique that has generated a lot of buzz in recent years. Essentially, it is the art of creating a narrative around your business, product, or service in a way that makes it more accessible and relatable to your audience.
Patagonia is an outdoor clothing retailer, but you don’t see pictures of camping gear or hiking shoes on its homepage. Instead, you land on a link to a story about slavery and black bears, a way to honor Black History Month while remaining connected to its mission as an outdoor apparel company.
Activism is so woven into the fabric of the company that you see a tab for it in the navigation bar, right after the “shop” tab. These elements are all part of a story, signaling that Patagonia is a mission-driven company that exists to champion larger values of environmentalism and equality.
Advertising Technique #6: Social Proof
When it comes to trying a new product or service, people can be hesitant to take the leap. Even if your marketing game is strong, deep down, all consumers are savvy enough to know that brands want to make themselves look good. Some question whether or not they can trust the messaging they see directly from a brand.
That’s why social proof is so powerful. Social proof is about letting others speak for you. Whether in the form of Google My Business or Yelp reviews, testimonial videos, or case studies, social proof allows your audience to see you’re not the only one who thinks your brand is great. Other people agree.
Advertising Technique #7: Endorsements
A staple of mid-late aughts television programming was Proactiv commercials featuring teen celebrities. From Jessica Simpson to Justin Bieber, it was hard to turn on the screen without seeing one of these endorsements.
And there’s a reason this advertising technique remains popular: it works. In those days, Proactiv was a mail-order-only product (before DTCs and subscription-based services were all the rage), so the brand’s one way to make a big impression on customers was through its star-studded television spots, magazine ads, and endorsement deals.
Today, we see this advertising technique all over social media. Take this collaboration between McDonald’s and Colombian singer J Balvin. Balvin appeared in advertising and created branded t-shirts for the fast-food giant.
For many in Gen Z and Gen Y, internet personalities have replaced Hollywood A-listers in the pantheon of celebrity. When partnering with social media stars, a brand can tap into influencers’ existing networks to grow its reach.
Advertising Technique #8: Appeal to Reason
This advertising technique is as straightforward as it sounds. Advertising that relies on facts, figures, and statistics is all about an appeal to reason.
This technique is beneficial in fields where safety and trust are a primary concern: think pharmaceuticals, healthcare, auto, and insurance.
Consider this television spot for the asthma drug FASENRA. While people with asthma may benefit from this drug, it’s different from other treatments and comes in an injectable form — consumers want to feel confident that it’s safe and necessary before they begin using it. The ad gets into the specifics of what the drug does to calm those fears.
Throughout the one-minute spot, the drugmaker, AstraZeneca, shares numerous facts and figures to build its case and give consumers a clear picture of the risks and benefits.
Advertising Technique #9: Emotional Persuasion
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the appeal to reason, we have emotional persuasion. This advertising technique aims to provoke a strong emotion in the audience. This emotion may be a positive one, like joy or giddiness, or something negative, like anger or fear.
This ad from NYC Health about the dangers of smoking demonstrates emotional persuasion perfectly.
The image is upsetting. It’s a grim reminder of the many risks of smoking, and the haunting image may just flash across your mind’s eye the next time you think about picking up a pack of cigarettes.
And that, of course, is the entire goal of emotional persuasion.
Advertising Technique #10: Promotions
Promotions are one advertising technique you’re consciously aware of when you see it in action. The entire purpose of a promotion is to announce itself, and with the advent of social media, we see promotions becoming an even more frequently used technique.
Social media contests are a great way to quickly and easily launch a promotion. Here’s one from bareMinerals in the UK. In social giveaways like this, the brand typically asks that you follow them and tag a friend or two in the comments for a chance to win.
This tactic allows the business to tap into its followers’ networks; the hope is that some of the friends-of-friends who wind up tagged in the comments will start to follow the company on social and, eventually, become customers.
Which Advertising Techniques Will You Use?
There are dozens of advertising techniques out there that can help you improve your messaging, gain positive attention, and build a stronger brand. And these techniques work across channels, from digital channels like social and email marketing to analog options like print ads and radio spots. No matter how you choose to reach your audience, employing the appropriate advertising techniques ensures viewers will remember your brand.