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The Power of Suggestion
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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The human mind is a wonderful information processor. However, not all information is created equal. If everyone always took in perfect information, there would be no use for our industry; people could process information and clearly see which products and companies were better than others. Consumers with perfect information would not need to rely on us marketing and advertising professionals. Perfect competition would finally arrive.

Thankfully for us, those days are yet to come. 

The reasons why our brains cannot process the exact same information are plentiful, but the reason we are targeting is the power of suggestion. When advertisers and marketers can frame a story or experience in a compelling way, the consumer is bound to base their experience on the one provided.

Example: Recently, we visited Savannah, GA, and went on a "haunted walking tour." The tour itself wasn't particularly frightening, but the guide showed us certain buildings that people can rent to stay for a few days in order to have a haunted experience. The tour guide went into spectacular detail of the history of the buildings, the deaths that occurred, how those people died, and subsequent sightings.

He ended, of course, by saying that for a “real” haunted experience, we should all come back and stay in the rooms.

It was very well done. But it got us thinking — if you believed the stories and rented one of the rooms, the power of the story could be amplified by the consumer's will for something to happen, and it could make the consumer turn any little anomaly into a "supernatural event."

Advertising example: Tide recently came out with a commercial featuring a dad and his daughter. The ad showed the girl playing dress-up and the dad doing laundry. It's something extremely subtle in framing the message, but Tide is suggesting that stay-at-home dads or single-dad families use Tide. If Tide builds a story around families like the one mentioned, it could be a compelling narrative.

Suggestion and framing the experience are both powerful ways advertising can influence the consumer. Let's make sure we use that power for good.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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