January 25, 2017 Cerebral Advertising 101

Think about all the different fast food places. Have you ever wondered why most fast food logo colors are some form of red and yellow?  That’s because the colors red and yellow subconsciously trigger hunger and/or induce excitement. Genius, right? Color scheme is one of the oldest advertising tactic and it works wonders. It’s scientifically proven to alter our minds psychologically about how we feel towards something.  There are plenty of other tricks that advertisers use such as repetition, sexual imagery, limited offers, etc. So what makes our brains work like this? 

One man in particular has been decoding this mystery to make consuming content better worldwide. Marcus Collins, SVP of social engagement at Doner1 has become one of the most knowledgeable and accomplished social media gurus across the country and has certain tips as to what’s behind the best ads. There are four simple conditions within an environment; defaults, semiotics, placement and nuances. The environment of the consumer is most important and these conditions are what marketers need to shift to impact the behaviors of consumers. Delving into these ideas, we see a clear pattern and understanding of why these methods work.

First, the defaults are something that is the usual or standard. For example, when you receive a phone call, there is an answer and a decline button, and this is the simplest (default) way to get the point across. The higher the complexity of the default, the more influential it will be. Another example is when you’re young, driving a car seems daunting with so many controls on your dash, yet with a bit of experience under your belt, it’s easy to pick up. Have you ever reached your destination with no memory of how you actually arrived? You judged each lane change, exit, acceleration, and change of the radio station on almost total instinct. This default setting primes us to engage and reach when something totally different comes at us.


The second condition is semiotics, meaning how people inherently change their environment. So, if you add meaning to the location, you add interaction. A great example that Collins uses is an interactive piano that would play keys as you walked up and down a subway staircase2 The fun experience had created a memorable environment among all of the people who had the privilege of trying it. By adding meaning to the environment, you trigger emotions in the consumer, so seeing something of great meaning to the consumer will affect how they view advertisements as well.

Thirdly, the placement of messages within an environment is critical. Ever wonder why milk is in the back of the grocery store? It’s so you have to walk through the entire store to get what is most important to you, meaning you’ll most likely pick up a few items along the way. Most likely you’ve gotten lost in an Ikea as well because they employ the same tactics in leading their consumers around the entire store before reaching the exit. Colleges do something similar for when possible new students visit for a campus tour. When the group is ushered around the campus, the tour guide will be showing off the most praised sections as well as the nicest/newest facilities. The placement of these sections around campus is what attracts students to look into and apply to these colleges. When presented with options, we feel we are in control, and that in the end is what the consumer wants to feel, some sort of autonomy over their environment. Even though they came for milk and will likely go directly to get it, the opportunity to present them with more options allows them to grow.

Finally, the nuances of the environment prove to be the most beneficial to marketers and locals of the area. The ability to notice the small differences that will make a big impact on locals is what connects people together. Every city has pride, like Philadelphia for example, where you’ve got an attitude and you’re protective of your city. Philadelphians are loud and passionate, like their sport teams, and so understanding what it means to be from there is beneficial in advertising to the people from that city. That sounds obvious, but creating something that is unique and can be meaningful for someone from there will be powerful to the consumer. You need to not only understand but also show that you care about the people you’re trying to reach to really make an impact on them.

Beyond these four conditions, there is always more behind every advertisement. Each ad is unique, or at least it should be, and so there’s also a dash of something new that is different from these four conditions to make it stand out. It’s hard to point out what makes an ad stand out, whether it’s random, taken up as a meme, or it’s just plain revolutionary, but that sort of creativity just can’t be replicated.

If we understand people and understand their environment, we can predict and hopefully improve their lives. Collins coins this term as predictive mapping through social listening to see how everyone in certain environments would react to any situation. If you compare the normal ads you see everyday to something that directly impacts something in your life, that feels personalized, which do you think is going to stick?