I flew across the country recently.  The window shades were drawn, and a happy, slurring suit leaned over his armrest, poked me in the shoulder and said, “I’m immune to your marketing.  It doesn’t work on me.” I had been drawn into the expected “what do you do” conversation with the man across the aisle. 

The belief that an individual might be immune to the effects of advertising isn’t new. My new friend thought advertising directed at him is a waste of money because he mistakenly thought the intent of our ads were to compel immediate action.

The most effective advertising rarely succeeds through persuasion or calls to action. Instead, the really good stuff creates positive memories and feelings that influence our behavior over time to encourage us to do something, to buy something…later. 

Jingle image to prove repetition in advertising works

Most of the ads that one sees are about brand building.  It’s true. The best advertisements are ingenious at leaving behind an impression, a brand stamp in your unconscious.  And, that’s the point. Consider my travel buddy, who, after I began reminding him of jingles he would inevitably know, proceeded to wake up the entire cabin ( “I’ll sing the harmony, you take the melody” ) with his favorite jingles: Subway- $5 footlong, Lucky Charms- magically delicious, and the flight attendant’s favorite, “We are Farmers, bam ba dum dum dum dum dum.”

Intellectually, you know that you barely notice the commercials and ads that are strategically placed in your digital world. You do not reflect on the visuals nor their messages unless triggered by something else at a later date. Seeing a brand advertised in a store can lead to a recall trigger, or, in the case of my new backup singer, blathering about it on a red-eye flight to Los Angeles. Yet, at that moment, when your subconscious begins to serve up recollections of past advertisements you have seen, it is not the ad that matters. The action comes from the visceral feeling created by your impression of the brand. Any memory that predisposes you to view the brand in a more positive light is the goal advertisers seek when they set their advertisement free into the world.  

And, that’s the point of almost all the advertisements you see.