Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Choose Laughs

I thought this was fascinating:

If you're like most people, you're way too smart for advertising. You flip right past newspaper ads, never click on ads online and leave the room during TV commercials.

That, at least, is what we tell ourselves. But what we tell ourselves is hooey. Advertising works, which is why, even in hard economic times, Madison Avenue is a $34 billion–a–year business. And if Martin Lindstrom — author of the best seller Buyology and a marketing consultant for Fortune 500 companies, including PepsiCo and Disney — is correct, trying to tune this stuff out is about to get a whole lot harder.

Lindstrom is a practitioner of neuromarketing research, in which consumers are exposed to ads while hooked up to machines that monitor brain activity, pupil dilation, sweat responses and flickers in facial muscles, all of which are markers of emotion. According to his studies, 83% of all forms of advertising principally engage only one of our senses: sight. Hearing, however, can be just as powerful, though advertisers have taken only limited advantage of it. Historically, ads have relied on jingles and slogans to catch our ear, largely ignoring everyday sounds — a steak sizzling, a baby laughing and other noises our bodies can't help paying attention to. Weave this stuff into an ad campaign, and we may be powerless to resist it.

This is the really good part:

To figure out what most appeals to our ear, Lindstrom wired up his volunteers, then played them recordings of dozens of familiar sounds, from McDonald's ubiquitous "I'm Lovin' It" jingle to birds chirping and cigarettes being lit. The sound that blew the doors off all the rest — both in terms of interest and positive feelings — was a baby giggling. The other high-ranking sounds were less primal but still powerful. The hum of a vibrating cell phone was Lindstrom's second-place finisher. Others that followed were an ATM dispensing cash, a steak sizzling on a grill and a soda being popped and poured. [Emphasis added--E.M.]

Imagine that--we humans may be hardwired to pay attention to and cherish the sound of a happy baby above all other noises. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Of course, in addition to merely thinking about it, I start having ideas about ways to use this new knowledge. In particular, I think it would be pretty amazing to see this in pro-life advertising. Imagine smartly-made pro-life ads featuring shot after shot of laughing, happy babies--a montage of motherly bliss, so to speak. A simple tag-line screen at the end (still with the cute noises in the background) could read something like: Choose Laughter. Choose Love. Choose Life. I think that would get noticed, don't you?


Siarlys Jenkins said...

I read that article too. It reminded me that the truth about advertising, according to one CEO who has often been quoted, is "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and as soon as I can figure out which half, I'll stop spending it." All businesses are scared of losing market share if they don't advertise and their competitors do, so they all do, but seeing McDonald's ads, no matter how clever, doesn't send me to McDonald's when I KNOW I make a better quality burger at home. Nor would a laughing baby change my mind about that. A laughing baby would remind me of the last baby I held, but it would not make me want a McDonald's burger.

Now on your last paragraph... well, this is where we really don't have a meeting of the minds. Someone put up billboards around here a year ago, including a fully born, clothed, baby, with the headline "What? Embryos are babies." I thought of two replies, although I didn't have the money to rent billboard space. One would have been a life-size picture of an embryo, next to a baby, to scale. The difference would have been obvious. The other would have been a baby eating lima beans, with little tails hanging down like lima beans sometimes have, and the headline "What? I eat embryos for lunch." The point of all that being, advertising can make things look the way the advertiser wants them to look, but there are always other ways to think about it, and I doubt that advertising really changes minds much.

I do recall a slinky ad on TV that really made me want to get one. But I had had one as a much younger child, and it brought back memories of something I hadn't had for a few years. That grabbed me. Most ads don't.

JimmyV said...

I love the idea. Makes me want to get home and see the kids.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

JimmyV, that's a great thought. Madison Avenue will pour millions into ads featuring a baby's laughter. Instead of motivating us to go out and spend money, it will motivate us to go home and spend time with the kids.

Barbara C. said...

Erin, I think that is a great idea for a pro-life ad. So many people only focus on the negatives of children. They can't see past the burdens (even though they are legitimate) to the love and joy that usually surpasses everything else. I think this is especially hard for those who may be feeling afraid or desperate in the moment.

Siarlys, the point is that if advertisers can draw you in to look at their product or commercial they at least minimally increase your chances of buying what they're selling. And if they can plant a seed in your head with something catchy (like a pop song with altered words) they can make you think of it at least vaguely forever after. To this day whenever I hear "Old Fashioned Love Song" by Three Dog Night I think of hot dogs, even though I can't remember the brand.

Of course some of us take the bait more easily than others.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Barbara, I know what the advertiser's point is... it seemed that Mr. V had a notion that the result might be quite different than what they intended. And if you don't remember the brand, they failed.