The False Reality in Advertisement

Aayush Saraogi
2 min readApr 16, 2020

An illusion is a false reality. The word Illusion brings visual illusions to mind. We generally tend to think about misleading images. Although illusion is not just about optics, it is also about familiarity and truth. I came across this concept in the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. Interestingly this concept has a great deal of usage in ‘marketing’.

Illusions of familiarity- Consider this game. You are shown a basket of 10 different fruits for 5 seconds. Thereafter, you are supposed to list down the names. Most likely, the initial names would be of fruits which are a part of your regular consumption. This is known as Illusion of familiarity, wherein the brain did not go through the stress of remembering the names, instead just recalled the names which it was familiar with.

Illusions of Truth- This particularly refers to a situation when the brain does not have to go through the deep thinking process and believes the easiest to think ‘option’. The current situation of COVID-19 has led most people to think that China is the perpetrator because it is the easiest way to think, as it all started in China. This might or might be the truth, but it has created an illusion in the minds of people.

It is difficult for people to dissociate familiarity with the truth. Familiarity brings biases in one’s belief which is perceived as truth. Therefore, when these illusions are combined, it provides for a very effective usage for marketers. Some of how these are used by the marketers are mentioned below:

  1. Repetition of a phrase: There are ads which repeatedly mention phrases such as “India ka no. one brand”. This is done to familiarise the consumers with this phrase and the brand. The more it is shown, the more it is tended to believe. E.g. Colgate’s ad, which mentions “India’s most trusted brand”. This instills a sense of trust in the consumers just because it is repeated every time not only in the ads but also in their packaging.
  2. Usage of competitors advertisement: This refers to the usage of the popularity (familiarity) of a competitor brand by another brand for its advertisement. E.g. Samsung had come into a lot of limelight when its commercial included mockery of Apple. Samsung used the concept of familiarity or association. As most consumers in Samsung’s target segment are familiar with Apple, they would now remember Samsung vividly whenever they come across Apple phones. Similarly, BMW, Mercedes, and Audi have quite often engaged in such marketing while placing their billboards right next to the other brand.

Thus, we see that illusion which is not just optical illusion has found some interesting usage in the advertisement of brands. This relates to consumer behaviour in most sense. Notably, psychological concepts are widely applicable in the area of marketing.

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Aayush Saraogi

In the making of an MBA, with a tilt towards writing. I like to observe things and people around me and try to write something meaningful out of that.