Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Psychology of Advertising: Creating Needs

Psychological needs occur when there is a discrepancy between a desired level and a current amount, and are centered on perceived deficits. For nearly a century, advertisers have capitalized on this idea, creating needs in consumers where there were none. Advertisers then sell relief for the very need they create. We are not motivated to buy the product, but rather to eliminate a deficit and restore equilibrium. A classic example is the early Listerine advertisements. Prior to the 1920's, bad breath didn't exist. It was something the public rarely thought about, nor was it considered socially unacceptable. This changed when the owner of Listerine, Gerald Lambert, began calling bad breath by its medical term, "halitosis". Not only did Lambert advertise bad breath as a disease, he also implied that it was a romance killer. Following the ads, public opinion about bad breath changed. People, especially aging single women, were suddenly very aware of the supposed consequences of bad breath.

Overexposure to advertising causes these needs to be constantly reinforced. Redintegration refers to the process by which a need is activated or restored, reminding individuals that there is a discrepancy between their current state and their desired state. In the culture we live in, we are constantly being bombarded with advertising. Be it through television, magazines, radio, the Internet, or billboards, advertising is EVERYWHERE. As a result, the deficiencies created by advertisers are consistently being redintegred.

1950's Listerine Commercial:


  1. Very true. The same can be said for a lot of products, notably electronics. Advertising definitely creates needs for us that weren't there before. What did we do before we could do our banking and watch movies from our phones, right? Yeah, I'm guilty of that one.

  2. This is incredibly true and still happens with all sorts of products today. Ironically, this exact advertisement is something we discussed in another course of mine that I'm taking this summer.