3 Persuasion Tricks Behind World’s Best Ads (That You Can Use, Too)


“Advertising doesn’t work on me!”

Isn’t this just one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves?

Even other business owners and trained marketers aren’t immune to so-called “illusory superiority”.

Yes, advertising does work. And the best thing you can do as an entrepreneur is to acknowledge the fact… and seize this learning opportunity to improve your own marketing.

The truth is, best advertising is invariably based on the science of persuasion. You can apply those underlying strategies and tactics to improve everything you create:

  • Emails
  • Whiteboard videos
  • Sales conversations
  • PPC advertising
  • Physical ads

You name it!

Today, we are going to look at 3 simple but powerful persuasion tricks that you can use in your marketing. All of them are rooted in psychology, and all of them are plain to see in famous ads… if you know where to look.

Let’s start with the most obvious one, shall we?

Persuasion Principles

1. Snuggling up to greatness

Sometimes, to make your message more compelling, you need to find an inherently trustworthy source: a celebrity, a public intellectual, even a historical figure.

Connecting with, and borrowing from that person’s credibility, your ad’s message is enhanced. Even obviously paid-for endorsements make advertisements more persuasive, just because the person endorsing the message is likeable or is perceived as trustworthy.

It’s the sole reason brands invest billions in celebrity endorsements and high-profile testimonials, and it’s why Apple ran this old thing when times got tough for the company.

Apple’s Think Different campaign is probably the boldest, most unabashed example of using this persuasion trick. Although none of the ads made a direct connection to Apple’s products, they powerfully associated the company with famous non-conformists and free-thinkers.

This alone proved enough to elevate the company’s brand significantly – arguably more than any “conventional” ad would!

2. Selling to more than one stakeholder

More often than not, when you’re selling a product or service to a customer – especially if it’s a high-priced product or service – they are not the sole decision-maker when it comes to buying from you.

There’s usually another person, another stakeholder who can influence their opinion: a spouse, a trusted advisor, a doctor, maybe even a child.

You use this dynamic to your advantage: maybe by crafting two distinctive messages, each designed to appeal to a specific stakeholder… or maybe you can help your customer persuade or educate the other person about why buying your product or service is a good idea.

Even just making people open to an outside opinion can do the trick. Pharmaceutical ads are a classic example of this persuasion tactic at work – we rarely, if ever, question the opinion of a medical professional.

That’s why you’re inundated with endless “ask your doctor” requests in virtually every ad for every drug under the sun! And since companies continue to spend billions every year on direct-to-consumer advertising, and pharmaceutical sales continue to rise, it’s obviously working.

3. Highlighting the downside

When you advertise a product or service, you want to bring your best foot forward and list all the reasons in favor of buying it. Makes sense, right? Turns out, your message could produce a much more persuasive video if you lead with the downside instead.

It’s probably the most counter-intuitive persuasion trick, but it works. It’s rooted in the idea of powerless communication – when you’re trying to signal power and confidence in a sales context, your potential customers will have their guard up.

Bottom line is, if you don’t get clear on the downside from the beginning, your target market will find it for you. Even with a great sales approach, it’s hard to be confident from a less-than-perfect position.

The solution? Come clean about the fact that your product or service isn’t perfect, and find a way to communicate why that downside will be beneficial to your customers. In philosophy, this is known as “the weakness of strength” theory – and you can use it to great effect in marketing as well.

One of the first and most famous examples of powerless communication in advertising is the Avis ads – “when you’re Number Two, you try harder”. They were an instant hit, and it took Hertz, its primary competitor, years to dismantle this “diabolical positioning”.

Of course, the three persuasion tricks we’ve talked about won’t work without the right offer, aimed at the right people – but the same is true about any marketing message, anywhere. What they will do, however, is make your potential customers look at your product or service more favorably. And that means more sales for you!

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