Throughout history, successful marketing and advertising has hinged on making emotional connections with the audience. Good marketers know how to utilize psychology in effective ways, transforming their products into symbols of enjoyment, security, or comfort.
In this article, we will explore some of the most effective uses of psychology throughout the history of modern advertising and marketing.
Persuasion; connection; memorability; emotional symbolism. These are just a few of the words that can be used to describe some of the greatest ads of all time.
We look back on “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” and think of the Hilltop Singers, in 1970s orange-tinted bliss, swaying and singing under the sunlight. What we may forget is the profound psychology of the ad; not only is Coke sending its message to the worldwide masses, with a diverse array of ethnicities represented in its commercial spot—it’s also creating a sense of community around the very act of drinking Coca-Cola.
People’s desire for community and connection isn’t the only psychological trait to be utilized in marketing throughout the years. Sometimes, something as simple as word association can put a brand on the forefront of its customers’ minds.
Join us for this fun exploration of some of the most successful (and memorable) uses of psychology in marketing and advertising.
De Beers, “A Diamond is Forever”- 1947
In America today, more than 75 percent of brides wear a diamond ring. The diamond, as a symbol of engagement and marriage, is as ubiquitous in American culture as apple pie.
But it wasn’t always so.
Diamond sales plummeted steeply during the Great Depression and the years following; in the 30s and early 40s, Americans saw the purchase of diamonds as wasteful, and brides requested engagement presents like washing machines and automobiles. Diamonds were simply not a part of the average American mindset on engagement rituals.
When Francis Gerety was hired as a copywriter for the N.W. Ayer Advertising Company in 1943, she was assigned to the account of the De Beers mining syndicate, which was on the hunt for ways to increase diamond sales in the U.S.
In 1947, in a casual meeting with her colleagues, Gerety put forth the now-iconic tagline “A Diamond is Forever.” It was an immediate and incendiary success, for both Gerety and De Beers, so much so that they’ve continued to use it for nearly 70 years. In 1999, Ad Week voted it the greatest tagline of the 20th Century.
The psychology of the ad series is undeniably powerful. In four perfect words, Gerety is able to tie the purchase of a diamond to the earnest pursuit of eternal love. Gerety and N.W. Ayer Advertising almost single-handedly assigned emotional value to a diamond ring--and made the diamond an invariable element of American engagement and marriage.
Within two years of the ad’s launch, diamond sales in the U.S. had skyrocketed. At one point in the 1980s, De Beers owned 90% of the market share on diamonds.
KitKat, “A Kit-Kat and Coffee”-2007
In 2007, with sales declining and few ideas to replace their “Give Me a Break” campaign, KitKat was at a crossroads. Investors were reluctant to offer money for TV spots; creativity was at a serious low.
Because recent research had shown that many consumers paired their KitKats with a hot beverage, a new idea began to slowly take shape: enjoying a KitKat with your coffee.
The company created the tagline “A Break’s Best Friend,” and composed radio spots lauding the delicious combination of coffee and KitKat candy bars.
The psychology lies in word association—the alliteration is masterful, and catching people on the radio during their morning commutes or on their lunch breaks, right as they head to the convenience store or gas station for a Cup of Joe, is powerful and effective.
Sales increased, visibility increased, and KitKat’s success even earned a case study in a bestselling book by Wharton Business School Professor, Jonah Berger.
Coca-Cola, “Share a Coke”-2011
Launched in Australia in 2011, the “Share a Coke” ads have become icons of the 21st-Century in advertising.
In a time when personalization and self-expression is one of the cornerstones of marketing success, Coke’s “Share a Coke” campaign hit a huge homerun; Coke was able to reverse a longtime downward trend in their sales, posting a 2% sales increase just a few months after the campaign’s launch on American soil.
The psychology of the campaign is clear, warm, and fuzzy. You’re in the convenience store, and you spot a Coke can featuring the name of yourself or someone you love. Not only are you compelled to buy the Coke as a memento, you’re also associating the Coke brand with the people you love, as well as the act of sharing something with them. Coke has the most iconic design in the history of advertising; bringing its consumers personalized iterations of that design was the most lucrative idea the Coke team had produced in over 10 years.
The idea was so successful, in fact, that Coke brought it back for a limited time long after its initial run.
What are some of your favorite uses of psychology in advertising? Which campaigns have inspired you or made you feel excitement for a product? Let us know in the comments!