Here's an interesting way to approach an ad or campaign. Just ask, "What is the most important task the communication should accomplish, simplified to the most basic human reaction?"
Perhaps you want your audience to think something, or do something or feel something about the brand, the product or service.
The theory of first principles, as applied to persuasive communications, means you begin at the beginning - you identify the first and most basic effect you wish to achieve with the audience.
Example: In a cluttered communications environment, your first and most important task might be to stand out from the crowd, to be noticed, to attract attention, engage your audience, get them looking or listening.
There are a variety of creative techniques to do just that, such as dramatic conflict.
Example: For a retail product or company you might want to spark an emotional reaction from the audience. Specifically, you might want to associate feelings of love or nostalgia with your brand.
In that case you could consider music and emotionally evocative themes as a solution.
First Principles - a different way to think
There are many theories about persuasive communications and how they work. First principles is just one, and it might work for you.
You won't want to use this tool with every ad. But for new clients, new campaigns, or new ways of thinking, it can be helpful to get back to basics.
Fact is there are just a few primary responses your ads can trigger - a few things an advertising campaign can actually get people to do:
- To see, to notice.
- To hear, to recognize or respond to sound.
- To feel, to experience an emotion.
- To think, to understand, perhaps remember.
- To take action, do something.
It's pretty simple. And you might find it helpful to identify the primary reaction you want from the target audience as a place to focus creative development.
Creative tip: There is no scientific evidence supporting "subliminal persuasion." That's the theory that stimuli below the threshold of conscious awareness can influence behavior.
And when you look at the spectrum of forces that do influence purchase behavior - from genetics to parents and peers - you'll find advertising way down at the weak end of that spectrum.