Posted on 20 December 2012.
Consumers like to think that they make buying decisions with their heads. Some are adamant, even without provocation. But advertisers know better.
While at dinner parties and social business events, I’ve had more than one fork of food stall on its way to my open mouth as I tried to digest a stinging comment from someone I didn’t even know about how my chosen profession is “full of bad art without any real purpose”. “C’mon, you got a couple in separate bathtubs . . .out in the woods . . . holding hands . . . why would anyone in their right mind think that a commercial like that could sell a pill for Erectile Dysfunction?” My lack of response, coupled with raised eyebrows, is misunderstood as signs that I’m actually looking for another example.
“Or that gecko . . . selling car insurance. . . I know people like the little creature, but how many stupid people are there who would buy insurance because some lizard says they should?” (click this link to see the type of person I’m describing).
Well, a lot of people. And they’re not stupid. They’re, well, people. They’re human, and they react to human things that appeal to the most persuadable parts of their minds — their emotions. Rarely do we buy based on our intelligent minds.
Successful advertisements aren’t trying to win debates. They’re not even trying to be logical. Instead, they’re trying to cut through all of the clutter that has filled a viewer’s mind, connect with a need the viewer has, and associate the product or service with the successful fulfillment of that need. Logic has nothing to do with this, and neither does passing along valuable knowledge. Indeed, as proven in the medical community, having a whole lot of knowledge about a subject has nothing to do with how a person views the subject.
In research published by the Journal of Internal Medicine titled “Healthcare and Lifestyle Practices of Healthcare Workers: Do Healthcare Workers Practice What They Preach?”, it was shown that the lifestyles of healthcare workers were basically no different than the general population when it came to important medical concerns like weight control, binge drinking, and cigarette smoking. Amazing, right? Despite all of the facts and knowledge they have on these subjects, and all of the deadly reminders they see daily, healthcare workers act, in general, no different than those with much less knowledge of the dangers of these lifestyles. They’re fat, drunk and stinky just like everyone else.
Clearly, knowing the facts doesn’t sway people. Knowing that 60-something % of smokers will, in fact, die from smoking doesn’t stop people from smoking — not even healthcare workers. These people are choosing to follow unhealthy lifestyles, despite knowing clearly the risks they are taking. The decisions they make have nothing to do with knowledge.
What persuades people, what overrides all logic and rationale thinking in the minds of all people, is when a clear message gets wrapped up in an emotion that resonates within the population. How else can you explain a brand of flavored carbonated water selling for five times the price of a no-name brand? Logically, it’s just a drink; but emotionally, it’s so much more. Indeed, it’s “The Real Thing,” whatever that means.
“We’ve taught over 10,000 people how to play the piano in just three months!” has nothing on “Everybody laughed when I sat down at the piano, but then I began to play . . .” One gives facts — big, ho-hum facts. The other hits an emotional nerve — “man, I’d love to impress people by playing the piano.”
All advertising, including healthcare, connects better with the audience when it involves emotion. “Our Retina Center Has More Modern Technology Than Anyone In The State” cannot compete with “Jimmy’s Parents Feared That He Would Never See Again. Then They Saw Us.” I was able to add even more emotion, and thus more power, to the second headline by simply adding a child. “More Technology” is a brain phrase for “better”. However, “Fear” is an emotional word for “do something”, which really is the point of the ad. The first headline explains. The second headline gives hope. People react to hope. They want opportunity. They don’t want knowledge because they really don’t know what to do with it. And I think the health habits of our medical community prove this fact.
Maybe the next time I’m confronted at a dinner party, I’ll point out that the Erectile Dysfunction ad was aimed at men, giving them hope by talking to their pleasure centers. I’ll then ask my “friend” if he would prefer that the ad say honestly and factually, “This pill has thrilled millions of men and, at the same time, aggravated millions of wives”.
Nah. Let them believe they buy using their brains. We advertisers know better. I’ll just try not to choke on my food when the subject comes up.