Have you ever thought about why you choose the products you do—whether it’s what brand of toilet paper or peanut butter you buy, what smartphone or power tools you choose?

If advertisers had their way, you wouldn’t give it a second thought.

The most successful advertising campaigns get you to feel a certain way or take a certain stand on a product without thinking about it at all. When you look into the motives driving advertising campaigns, the psychology behind them may surprise you.

It all comes down to the slogan.

A catchy, effective slogan can trigger psychological responses within an audience that, as consumers, we don’t even realize are happening. A slogan is defined as “a catchphrase or small group of words combined in a special way to identify a brand or product.” In other words, advertisers have a very limited opportunity to convey their mission.

Advertising companies have spent billions of dollars to understand exactly what makes consumers tick in order to make that small opportunity the most beneficial; what makes consumers happy; what makes them sad; what triggers a person to feel a brand is better than all the others; and what little nuances will make them choose that brand over and over again?

The following campaigns have proven supremely successful for their companies and advertising psychology is the reason.

Jif — “Choosy Moms Choose Jif”

Typically, to be choosy may be seen as a negative trait. Not when it comes to being a mom, however. Jif may not have been the first company to recognize this natural maternal phenomenon, but they were definitely the first to capitalize on it.

Mothers, of course, should be picky about what products they give their children, right? That simple idea is what Jif was banking on when coming up with this decades-long campaign . In their 1993 ad, featuring an average 10-year-old kid, the child playfully complains that when picking out a new bike his mom is “choosy,” but all’s well because he ends up with the perfect bike. He goes on to say “Mom’s like that with a lot of things, I guess” explaining why his mom chose Jif over the “old brand.” The ad concludes with him happily enjoying his peanut butter sandwich while a very calm, soothing woman’s voice exclaims: “Choosy moms choose Jif.”

Jif transforms the negativity of being choosy and tells moms that not only is it okay to be a choosy mom, but one should be a choosy mom.

Every detail of this ad was thought out.

Moms and kids alike identify with the scenario, a kid impatiently wanting something simply because it’s new, but his mom has to make sure it’s safe and will be a durable, lasting purchase. Any mom will relate to wanting to make sure that the foods they give their little ones are tasty and the best option. Manipulating this deep psychological tendency would probably be enough. . .

. . .then there is the calming voice over.

It’s been proven that women respond psychologically better to a calm, but strong female voice when it comes to situations involving their children. It creates a sense of relatability, like advice from another mom. Even the clothing, hair style and environment of the ad were picked specifically to ensure that kids and moms relate easily. Jif transforms the negativity of being choosy and tells moms that not only is it okay to be a choosy mom, but one should be a choosy mom.

2. Nike — “Just Do It.”

Nike’s slogan “Just Do It” has become so ingrained in consumers’ minds that it is synonymous with Nike. This campaign took Nike from a simple athletic apparel brand to a state of mind.

Why is it so effective? It makes the whole active experience seem easy—supremely simple.

It simplifies the tasks ahead of you (in this case, being active). If you want to do it, just do it.

You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to analyze it, you don’t have to worry that there are seven steps from start to finish, all there is is just to do.

Not only is the idea behind the campaign simple, but the imagery is simple as well. Bold type, white on black, just the words and Nike’s swoosh symbol. This straightforward imagery enforces the easy and simple idea behind the campaign. Even the direction of the swoosh was strategically placed. Psychologically, your brain accepts imagery more easily if the flow goes from left to right. If the swoosh was flipped, your brain would find it odd and not as aesthetically pleasing.

3. Camel — Joe Camel

In no way are we advocating the use of tobacco products, but when it comes to advertising companies manipulating their audience, Joe Camel takes the cake.

In an effort to expand their consumer base to younger people (“young adult smokers” is the jargon used by the tobacco industry), Camel launched a campaign featuring Joe Cool—the epitome of cool.

Yes, we know. It’s not a slogan. However, it did transform dramatically how people thought of smoking.

Until the campaign launched in 1990, smoking was largely viewed as an adult activity done during a morning coffee or while on business lunches. Joe came on the scene and the image started to change. He was the coolest, smoothest guy there was—and he was always smoking. The psychology behind Joe was intended to make a child think “this is how I can be cool, I can rebel, or get my friends to notice me.” And it worked.

Studies published in the Journal of American Medical Association confirmed that Joe Camel was far more successful at marketing to children than to adults.

In a 1991 study, 91.3 percent of six year olds were able to correctly match an image of Joe with an image of a cigarette.

This is not surprising when one considers the fact that Joe is a cartoon character. Tobacco companies made sure this campaign hit from all sides, appropriating youth slang as well as ensuring Joe was hyper-masculine which is important in (especially young) male culture.

4. De Beers — “A Diamond is Forever”

Inherently, diamonds are not worth much. Yes, they are beautiful, but they depreciate in value by at least 50 percent the moment they leave the store. Furthermore, for hundreds of years, other kinds of gems and precious stones were used for romantic gifts.

diamonds are forever

So why are diamonds currently the epitome of romance and affection in America?


Right off the bat, the slogan plays on what every couple wants most: forever.

Diamonds become positioned as an eternal symbol of the love shared between two people. This slogan also subtly discourages buyers from reselling the product. If for some ungodly reason your love didn’t last forever, the diamond is still intrinsically tied to your partner and the love you two shared. It’s pretty simple but strong.

5. Lay’s — “Betcha Can’t Eat Just One”

Ah, snacking. We all do it, we all love it. Pretty much any salty, crunchy, delicious food we can get our hands on ais fair game, which is why Lay’s was so genius in exploiting this basic human behavior.

The Lay’s slogan doesn’t focus on the taste, or any aspect of the snack itself; it simply looks at human nature and says “you’re going to eat all of this” and usually, that’s right.

Maybe unknowingly, this slogan also creates a sense of play in consumers. How many times did you open a bag of Lay’s and challenge yourself to only eat one, then ten minutes later find yourself with an empty bag of chips? It made snacking a more encompassing experience. Yes, it’s basically a mindless task, but this slogan made you a part of the experience.

What slogan or marketing campaign do you find the most compelling? Have you noticed any other campaigns that overtly—or covertly—try to manipulate your thinking?