Advertising and Psychology: The Direct Link Between the Two Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Advertising Effectiveness and Consumer Memory

The relationship between psychology and advertising is not a new one -- in fact, it is fundamental to the birth of modern advertising in America. Edward Bernays, the father of marketing, was the nephew of none other than Sigmund Freud, and used Freud's sense that "man was motivated by passion" to manipulate the senses of consumers and plant seeds of desire within consumer memory (Jones, 2000, p. 283). Since the days of Bernays, all evidence indicates that marketers have utilized cognitive psychology in order to assist advertising effectiveness in relation to consumer memory. This paper will discuss this evidence and research surrounding this association and critically analyze and discuss it.

A Complex Relationship

Developing brand awareness and brand loyalty are two of the biggest factors in successful marketing. Establishing either requires an effective campaign that essentially implants the brand in the mind of the consumer in a way that appeals to the consumer's emotions or passions, creating a strong need or desire to want to be a part of that brand -- to be identified as someone who partakes of that brand, or to identify oneself as someone who would partake of that brand. This phenomenon is often complex and cannot simply be explained by brand trust or brand efficiency, for brand loyalty will in many cases overrule the loss of either or both, indicating that the consumer's loyalty is based on a deep psychological need into which the market has tapped (Bloemer, Kasper, 1995). The study by Bloemer and Kasper (1995) assesses the complexity of this relationship using quantitative and qualitative analysis and is helpful in appreciating the relationship between consumer memory and cognitive psychology.

Bloemer and Kasper (1995) show that "manifest satisfaction" is more important in the consumer-advertiser relationship than is "latent satisfaction" and that appealing to and/or vivifying a sense of "manifest satisfaction" within the consumer's mind depends on cultivating and/or exploiting the superficial or surface desires of the individual's memory in such a way that brand recognition and loyalty is the end result. Essentially, the marketer establishes a need within the consumer by appealing to some passion and then shows, through marketing, that the brand or product is the only thing that will satisfy this need. Thus, "manifest satisfaction" is the key rather than "latent satisfaction" because the marketer is only really working on a surface level where needs and wants are more easily established and satisfied. Latent desires are less easily identifiable because they are relatively unknown and unseen. The old maxim "out of sight, out of mind," applies in this context -- because what is not known or seen cannot be acted upon and if the desire is not appreciated in this sense there can be no expectation of fulfillment. Thus, Bloemer and Kasper (1995) show that advertisers want to appeal to and/or create manifest desires in the consumer because these can then be satisfied more easily, as the psychological need dictates.

Cognitive Dissonance and the Complimentary Roles of Memory and Cognition

This psychological need was tested by Leon Festinger (1957) in his research on the theory of cognitive dissonance. Festinger discovered that individuals seek to maintain a balance in the mind and in order to do so will change one's actions, change one's perception, or change one's perception of one's actions. The change in cognition helps to eliminate tension, discord or dissonance and restore the mind to a state of equilibrium (harmony between action and thought). The basic idea behind Festinger's theory was already essentially illustrated by a study a year earlier by Brehm, who showed that females will "enhance" the value of chosen alternative gifts and "diminish" the value of rejected alternative gifts in order to achieve a state of cognitive consonance (Mullen, Johnson, 2013, p. 104). In this example, the women were changing their perception in order to decrease dissonance stemming from a new set of choices given regarding consumer products. The study indicated that there was indeed a positive correlation between cognitive psychology and consumerism.

The relationship between advertising effectiveness and consumer memory, however, would be one that would be developed and refined over a considerable amount of time. What Mullen and Johnson (2013) illustrate in their research is that there is a direct historical link between cognitive psychology and marketing, which finding essentially supports the argument of Jones (2000), who highlights the integral role of Bernays and Freud in modern marketing and advertising. Mullen and Johnson (2013) provide a considerable overview of much of the different research that has gone into the subject of consumer memory and cognitive psychology. Mullen and Johnson (2013, p. 31) discuss at length the processes involved in consumer memory and brand recognition and show that "memory and cognition can be viewed as complimentary facets of the processes by which consumers think about products." In other words, marketers are aware of the interaction between memory, thought and action, and they use this knowledge to their advantage when devising marketing strategies.

Bernays and the Beginning of Marketing

While Bernays started this ball rolling, the techniques used in the manipulation of memory by advertisers would differ from era to advertising era as the means of marketing changed with technological advancements (for instance, from billboards and placards to moving pictures to sound and radio to television to video to Internet to mobile phones to outdoor digital marketing). The essential idea would stay the same -- namely, that consumerism is based more on passion and the subtle sway and trigger of an emotional or covetous need, want or desire, than it is based on reason or intellectual justification (Jones, 2000). What Bernays understood was that cognitive psychology showed just how irrationally individuals could behave while justifying and rationalizing their behavior to themselves. Jones (2000) is especially helpful in appreciating the impact that Bernays had in the field of marketing. It was Bernays who wrote that the elements of human nature could be "turned by skillful handling" and that the possibilities of turning these elements were "infinite" (Jones, 2000, p. 188).

Most illuminating, however, is the assertion by Bernays that "human nature is readily subject to modification," an assertion that essentially tips the hand of the modern marketer and suggests that from the beginning advertisers had identified the compelling usefulness of cognitive psychology in "modifying" the actions of consumers (Jones, 2000, p. 188). Jones (2000) shows in his extensive study of Bernays that this man represented a powerful association between the control of human passions and the demands of consumerism. By playing upon the consumer's memory, into which Bernays and his fellow advertisers dropped their morsels of incitement, a demand could be inculcated within the consumer. Prior to the interaction with the advertiser, there was no need; after, there is both need and the avenue (consumption of the product) to satisfy that need. All of this has taken place on the surface level of the memory, as Bloemer and Kasper (1995) have shown. And as Festinger suggests, this interplay is ultimately a simple matter of adjusting for cognitive dissonance.

A Direct Relationship

Festinger's work drew a great deal of attention to the relationship between cognitive psychology and marketing, and as Oshikawa (1969) illustrates, marketing researchers jumped into the field of cognitive psychology in order to better understand the implications that Festinger had uncovered. Oshikawa (1969, p. 44) suggests that Festinger's theory only had a "limited" application in marketing and could not account for the "modes of reduction" of dissonance in the consumer's mind. Nonetheless, the groundwork was essentially laid by Festinger and others who identified a distinct phenomenon which could be directly related to the consumer market and researched and exploited by market analysts. Oshikawa (1969) also showed that a decade after Festinger's theory hit the stands, market researchers were indeed testing its legitimacy, which shows that there is solid evidence to suggest that marketers are using research from cognitive psychology in order to assist advertising effectiveness in relation to consumer memory. Why else would they be looking into the subject if not to assist in advertising effectiveness? Using reason to justify one's passionate or emotional choices and actions was the consumer's prerogative, so to speak -- and the marketer (guided by Bernays, who was guided by his uncle Freud) had figured this out: now all the advertiser had to do was help the consumer to go about that justification in a way that was beneficial to the brand or producer.

The role of consumer memory is very important to marketing academics, as Oshikawa (1969), Bloemer and Kasper (1995), Mullens and Johnson (2013), and Jones (2000) all indicate. Each of these researchers investigates the relationship between marketing and consumer memory in some form or another. In the case of Oshikawa, the researcher looks at the impact of the theory of cognitive dissonance on the marketing field, and in the case of Bloemer and Kasper, the researchers look more directly at the way that marketers appeal to consumer memory. Jones examines the philosophical-psychological aspects of Bernays'…

Sources Used in Document:


Aaker, D, Biel, A (2013) Brand Equity and Advertising: Advertising's Role in Building

Strong Brands, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

Bloemer, J, Kasper, H (1995) The complex relationship between consumer satisfaction and brand loyalty, Journal of Economic Psychology, 16(2): 311-329.

Festinger, L (1957) A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, CA: Stanford University Press.

Cite This Essay:

"Advertising And Psychology The Direct Link Between The Two" (2015, July 24) Retrieved July 21, 2019, from

"Advertising And Psychology The Direct Link Between The Two" 24 July 2015. Web.21 July. 2019. <>

"Advertising And Psychology The Direct Link Between The Two", 24 July 2015, Accessed.21 July. 2019,