The Psychology of Marketing: A Series (Part 1 – Introduction)

Are you being tricked by these common marketing techniques? Follow this series to find out!

We are bombarded by advertising and marketing techniques every day, everywhere we go. Knowing how these methods work can help people sort out what they actually want to buy or support and what they are simply being persuaded and convinced to buy through subliminal means such as a color, celebrity endorsements, voices, music, etc. All of this ties into a topic known as marketing psychology which will be examined in parts within this series. We begin with some background information to express how information is taken in and how this should be considered for different advertising strategies. Additionally, we will evaluate two advertisements to see what aspects are considered “good” or “bad” in terms of marketing persuasion.

Such strategies can be separated into source characteristics and message characteristics. Source characteristics refer to facets of the person/thing presenting the information (i.e., attractiveness, credibility of individual, brand name, etc.), whereas message characteristics look into the information itself (Gilovich et al., 2018). Subsequently, these topics go hand-in-hand with the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) which is a model that, when applied to persuasion, states that there are two routes – central and peripheral – that people can take when presented with persuasive pieces. Essentially, some “persuasive appeals will be more effective when the target audience is largely on “autopilot” [peripheral route], and other types will be more effective when the target audience is alert and attentive [central route]” (Petty & Cacioppo, 1896). In order to evaluate and apply these concepts, I hunted down two advertisements (both pictured below) that highlight different components of these source/message characteristics. I will also evaluate which type of route would be more effective when looking at these forms of persuasion.

The first advertisement for Pop Chips features celebrity Katy Perry. This ties into source characteristics. To begin, attractiveness comes into play. This form of persuasion is particularly effective in terms of the peripheral route but also for the central route as it increases one’s favorability of effortful thinking. In addition, there is certainty in her quote as she states that there is “nothing phony or fake” about this product. Then, we can look at the characteristics of the message itself. It is of high quality since it is clear, the product is visible, the message is in bold letters, etc. It is also vivid as expressed by the bright blue background and Katy Perry’s facial expression. In addition, since she is looking towards the message at the top, the audience is drawn to look at it. They also strategically place the bags of chips over her breasts to once again entice the audience to look at the product. This advertisement, since it is stagnant, would be more effective when presented via the peripheral route such as on a billboard or poster.

For the second advertisement, the product of Sensodyne toothpaste is being marketed as good for one’s teeth. We begin with the source characteristics as it clearly says “9 out of 10 Dentists Recommended” which indicates credibility and certainty for this product. In addition, the message itself showcases once again good quality and vividness in much the same way the first advertisement did. This can be seen in the use of colors once again, even though it is not as bright and vivid as the first one. In addition, the product is visible, and the message is in big bold font. All of these components go into making a good or bad advertisement.

Now you too can look at advertisements and point out their marketing tactics to help differentiate between the important information and the subliminal persuasion techniques being employed!


Gilovich, T., Keltner, D., Chen, S., Nisbett, R. (2018). Social Psychology (5th ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company

Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 123–205.