BOUND TO PLEASE / Revealing the mental magic behind effective advertising

The Japan News

By Tom Baker / Japan News Staff Writer#Hooked: Why Cute Sells ... And Other Marketing Magic that We Just Can’t Resist

By Patrick Fagan

Pearson, 191pp

He was waiting in the business aisle of the bookstore. I almost walked past him, but when our eyes met, I halted in my tracks. I reached out to him, and before long, we went home together.

Consumer psychologist Patrick Fagan could explain why this happened. The object of my fascinated gaze was the dog on the cover of Fagan’s book, “#Hooked: Why Cute Sells ... And Other Marketing Magic that We Just Can’t Resist.”

Just by picking it up, I had unwittingly proved the book’s first assertion.

The main material is divided into three parts. Fagan says effective advertising must “invite attention,” “ignite thinking” and “incite action.”

Attention can be invited with images that appeal to basic instincts and emotions: delicious food, sexy models, human or animal faces, and even scary things like sharks or spiders. Faces with “baby schema,” such as large eyes and a high forehead, are especially magnetic, which is why kittens and puppies are reliable advertising stars. As for food, “high-calorie foods have been found to be more attention-grabbing than low-calorie foods.”

People are also drawn to things that are relevant to themselves. This can be as simple as addressing them by name or as complex as mining social media to tailor a message to their interests. Less obviously, an ad can link itself to something that is already on their mind. This is one reason why celebrities and upcoming holidays are so commonly featured in ad campaigns: They are already on many people’s minds, giving the ad an effective hook.

To “ignite thinking,” simply making a suggestion may be enough. At one shop, having cashiers ask every customer if they would like a dog chew toy increased monthly sales of the item by a factor of five when compared to the preceding year.

Another way to help people think is to present large numbers or abstract concepts in a way that creates concrete mental images. Fagan says residents of Britain receive 3.2 billion pieces of unaddressed junk mail every year — equivalent to a stack of A4 papers 18 times as high as Mt. Everest. While writing this review, I had forgotten “3.2 billion” and had to look it up again. But I remembered the 18 Mt. Everests with no effort at all.

To “incite action,” a sense of scarcity suggested by phrases like “while supplies last” or “limited time offer” can prompt people to act now.

Marketers may also seek to activate the human social instinct for reciprocity. Studies have found that surveys are significantly more likely to be filled out if they are presented along with a gift, such as a free bottle of water. But even as inexpensive a gift as a personalized weather forecast or an interesting fact will encourage a greater response.

By the time I finished this book, I wanted to try Fagan’s techniques for myself. For example, he suggests using a mystery or puzzle to ignite thinking. In the first paragraph of this review, did you wonder about the mysterious stranger I met at the bookstore? And did that mystery contribute, at least a little, to the fact that you read on?

Well, then: You’ve been hooked.

Where to Read

Any place with a lot of ad posters. Each time you glance around at them, you’ll have a better grasp of how they work.

Maruzen price: ¥3,809 plus tax (as of Nov. 25, 2017)Speech

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