Psychological Marketing Techniques: Can Advertisers positively impact and effect male and female consumers?

June 17, 2019

Marketers use psychological techniques in adverts to manipulate consumer purchasing and
subliminally shift social norms to benefit their profit. The purpose of psychological marketing
techniques used in advertisement can have both a positive and negative impact on the male
and female consumer. An advert with the feature of social awareness can achieve a great
impact on shifting social norms. However, interpreting such techniques with an alternative
motive such as only to gain profit, can lead to an increase in insecurities therefore corrupting
the socio-culture. Initially, an analysation will be conducted of the use of multiple
psychological needs of male and female consumers which marketers meet cautioning that
both consumers are targeted differently based on gender stereotypes. Further, it will be
explained with examples of how psychological techniques can be effectively distributed/used
in adverts to both benefit the consumer and the marketer including the Gillette-The Best Man
Can Be,(2019) and the Nike-Dream Crazier,(2019) which brought awareness to breaking toxic
social norms. In contrast, lack of awareness of the negative consequences of an
advert, including selling insecurities to female consumers to gain profit and leaving toxic
masculine messages to male viewers leaves a lasting self-destructive cycle of purchasing to
lose the insecurities such as the advert Protein world- Are You Beach Body Ready?,(2015) and
Girl's shampoo isn't made for real men!, (2014)- will be examined. Finally, the amount and type
of psychological techniques pressed onto consumers will be discussed and highlighted to
demonstrate how adverts use these techniques in creating an illusion for the consumer to



Negative Female Consumerism

Psychological techniques can be used on adverts to both positively and negatively impact its
female consumer. In a materialistic and insecurity induced socio-culture, woman are known
to be the main object of sexualisation just based on their physical body features. As a result
this has pushed woman to internally digest another parties assessment of their body as a
credible main source of basing one’s value of their self-image also known as the
Objectification theory Fredrickson and Roberts, (1997). Similarly, advertisers use it to their
advantage as a form of psychological techniques to drive sales through insecurity stimulated
adverts. For example, the ‘perfect body’ Victoria Secret Lingerie advert (The Huffington Post,
2014) was gaining nothing but body-shaming woman who could not be able to relate to their
unrealistic body shapes which Victoria Secret tried to portray as the ‘perfect body’.

Image 1. Victoria Secret Advert from 2014

In particular, one of the psychological techniques advertisers had interpreted was ‘God
terms’ (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.134) which uses specific words such as;
healthy, control, discover, save, better, to make a positive feel good effect on a consumers
brain to purchase the product. However, the words used in the advert of ‘perfect fit’, ‘perfect
body’ and ‘perfect shape’ only enforced unhealthy perceptions for woman to base their
bodies on. Although, the advert did spark up over 32,000 signatures on
(Apologise for, and amend the irresponsible marketing of your new bra range 'Body', 2015) which
enforced Victoria Secret to change their Lingerie line name to ‘ A body for every body’. As a
result it also empowered and sparked a line of company’s and campaigns in positively
recreating the advert, resulting in the original VS advert being a drive of promoting
body-positivity. ‘Because women feel their bodies fail the beauty test, American industry
benefits enormously’ Hesse-Biber,(1996). This unfair social norm is the drive for a toxic cycle
of buying and making female consumers unsatisfied with the results which then pushes the
consumer to buy more of the company’s products to feel better. Similarly, another advert
which promoted body-shaming and body comparisons was weight loss ‘Are you beach body

ready?’ advert Flickr- Are you beach body ready, (2015).

Image 2. Protein World- Are you beach body ready? Advert from 2015

This advert shows a sense of power with the model standing with her barbie like flat stomach
in an abnormal pose whilst promoting an unrealistic bikini line next to a bottle of weight loss
tablets shows signs of pride with her head slowly tinted upwards. In terms of techniques that
were included, Attractiveness (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.62) is a universal
feature that has been implemented in media such as magazines, films and adverts to be a
main drive for sales by giving the illusion of ‘goodness’ creating a ‘Halo Effect’ that instantly
transfers its reputation to the product. In contrast, the quote ‘Bodily self-control was their
primary means to exert control in the social world’ (Goodman,2002,p.722) , shows that having
the ideal body gives one’s value in society which gives the feeling of power. Likewise,
studying and knowing the consumers unconscious traits using psychoanalysis such as their
desires, feelings and unconscious thoughts means that the advertisement can give them
exactly what they want to achieve Fromm, (1966). In particular, using their social needs such
as making consumers feel socially included, being in trends and or using their self-needs to
make an illusion of being one step closer to having a worry-free safe future if they bought
their product (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.13,14). Consequently, this form of
customer satisfaction is fabricated and in the long-term toxic to their health and self-esteem
risking the chances of eating disorders.



Positive female advertisement

However, more advertisers have started to seek in using empowerment to promote their
products instead- highlighting their brand values. For example, the advert Nike- Dream
Crazier(2019) highlights some of the main struggles that women face in result, making the
consumer feel a power rush and getting the brand more relatable to their female targeted
consumers Nike, (2019). This can be illustrated by how Nike has used a Simulation method
(Gupta, Singh and Dr.Rajesh Verma, 2010) to imitate and express complex issues and emotions
their woman audience may experience which otherwise cannot be simplified in order to
explain. Instead of depicting woman for what they don’t have or don’t look like, (Nike, 2019)
has disrupted the unhealthy cycle and instead listened to its consumers. With more brands
listening to their customers and writing down their desired resulting emotions of buying their
product, advertisers have the opportunity of being more credible, therefore being more able
to mimic their customer’s values. As a result,the use of social media brands becoming more
customer-led has started leaving the power of the message to the consumer. This creates a
more loyal and trustworthy brand look (Mitchell, 2018). Just like how Marxism contradicted
Spenoza, being working class aware and representing it through an erudite manner online is
a revolution in becoming more consumer unplugged (Fromm, 1966). Finally customers have
started to take back the power. Nevertheless, another technique Nike, (2019) also did use
was the ‘ Promised Land’ (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.36) which creates the effect
that if you bought their product, you will achieve their implied result psychologically
transporting you to a time of realisation and revaluation. In this instance, the promised land
is the independency for woman to be away from giving emotional labour, to be validated and
respected for their work ethics and not to be depicted on an emotional level. The positives of
this technique is that it drives sales in consumers because the desired achievement is
unrealistic, so therefore by buying the product the consumer can be one step closer to
having diversity and equal respect. The negative side is the unfortunate reality of this
paradox not existing resulting in woman having to desire this type of respect and equality
leaving brands such as Nike taking advantage of these emotional needs and making profit.



Positive male advertisement

Notwithstanding, Psychological techniques can be used to also shift social awareness.
When coming into the 21st century, full of media exposure enabling people to express their
struggles and concerns through different platforms to create social media movements such
as the me too. Movement, (2019), it demonstrates an increase of social awareness in adverts.
‘The Best Man Can be’ Gillette,(2019) is an advert that acknowledged and tackled issues

such as harassment, bullying and toxic masculinity at a time when it was most talked about.
In particular one psychological technique Gillette used was Anchoring. ‘New judgements are
always compared internally to existing information and are then adjusted towards or away
from their standard’ (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.94). This demonstrates Gillette
acknowledging and referencing back to the male gaze (Mulvey, 1999), with it being a main
feature of a film to openly use Voyaging. In contrast, Gillette took the old information to
create a new approach in their advert as they presented and tackled a situation in their
advert where a man is about to harass a woman in public but then gets stopped by a man
pulling him back. Of course, this doesn’t happen on a daily basis and it isn’t based on every
type of man but it does shed light on the many unshared stories of harassment that occur
without being questioned or acknowledged. In relation, the advert also used the DSR
techniques (Disrupt then reframe) also known as the crowbar - “ Disrupting attention gives
advertisers an opportunity to reframe and resell an already dismissed proposal’(Andrews,
Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.114). In relation to Anchoring, DSR method plays an important
part to compare but also disrupt previous chains of thought through introducing an
unexpected perception of real life situations, capturing its viewers attention as they
temporarily stop any critical thoughts therefore enabling the viewer to have a more open
mind to the subject and comply. This techniques is exercised when showing negative
behaviour followed by a new positive outlook. This can be demonstrated by, (Gillette,2019)
showing one father pulling his son through a crowd so that he could break up a fight between
a group of boys and show a positive example. Importantly, the advert has been getting a lot
of appraisal for the diversity of masculine representation (Gillette #MeToo razors ad on 'toxic
masculinity' gets praise – and abuse, 2019). Nevertheless, in contrast there has also been a lot
of negative responses of how Gillete had alienated its target audience (Gillette faces backlash
and boycott over '#MeToo advert', 2019) which I could agree with baring in mind that the advert
looks more appealing to women viewers, which Gillette doesn’t have as a target audience.
Likewise, Gillette had also used the social comparison Leon Festinger, (1954) to drive and
make individuals particularly men compare themselves, find flaws and therefore want to
improve. Although it has brought light to some toxic actions, it has also used insecurity
induced techniques in order to sell their product as a solution to an individual's actions.



Negative male advertisement

It is also important to highlight that, their shavers for men and women are near enough the
same product, and even then the price for a womans shaver is largely higher, fuelling
patriarchy, and at the same time trying to promote healthier masculinity which do not go

hand in hand. Similarly, When Gillette used DSR (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.114)
of recreating its original proposal of their brand values, they overwrote their older advert
version (Gillette Fusion, 2014) which would include a man walking around a pool party with
very attractive woman asking around what each woman preferred as a percentage of hair on
a man's body. This key Gillette insecurity driving technique goes by the term Social Proof,
which makes consumers copy and or inherit other people’s behaviours or looks who have
similar opinions or outlooks as them (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.50). This not only
drives men to question whether they have similar body hair types to what the three woman in
the advert preferred, but it also induces the idea that Gillette reversed the Objectification
theory Fredrickson and Roberts, (1997). Nevertheless making women's preferences the primal
source of men’s self-image beliefs which being used in either genders can have a negative
impact on one’s self- image Fredrickson and Roberts, (1997). Again, another mens product
brand had a trial at using social comparison (Leon Festinger,1954) to try and sell their Dove
men’s shampoo and differentiate it from their womens product range (Girl's shampoo isn't
made for real men!, 2014). To demonstrate, the techniques Dove used to enlighten their
audience attention would be by using humour (Andrews, Leeuwen and Baaren, 2014.Pg.71) .
This presented to their male audience what happens when they use their womans shampoo
range resulting in them getting luscious long ‘feminine’ hair. This technique does not only
increase liking for a brands reputation but also pushes impulsive buying, which is a win for
any company. Similarly, following with the otherness theory (Sarukkai, 1997), comparing
yourself to another only enables you to create a more valid self-image giving you a better
understanding of your identity through making you ask yourself, who is on that advert? And
what do they have compared to me?. So, in theory adverts can only help shape a better
picture of yourself. Furthermore in contrast, the advert did serve its purpose for successfully
targeting its male consumers only, but it also marginalised its male consumers. To Dove,
having long hair is portrayed as a feminine feature but also one that a man shouldn’t be
proud of having due to it being a technique to drive their sales through humouring their
audience. It also plays on the Anchoring technique of, comparing one’s product to another,
which in some cases can have an opposite effect and decrease the value of the compared
product. In this case its being a female’s product line resulting to women disliking the adverts
targeting. This advert also played on the toxic masculinity pushing men to feel more insecure
if they associate themselves with the more ‘feminine’ side of the advert, making them portray
having long hair as a reference to being lesser of a man.




In conclusion, psychological techniques can have a very positive effect on its male and
female consumers. For women, as from the Nike-Dream Crazier,(2019), It can give them
real-life scenarios and create an alternative fabricated situation where the advert can
promise the consumer independence, respect and power which can have a positive impact if
the consumer buys the product. An advert can also on the other hand show its consumers,
particularly woman, that their concerns and opinions are noted giving them the feeling of
being heard and understood. Some might argue that psychologically the adverts can give
pleasurable chemical response through using God terms and attractiveness such as the
beach body advert resulting in sparking up a feeling of joy and power through buying the
illusion of an easy solution from a product. Similarly for Men, it can help create a social

awareness and promote healthy masculine traits through positive examples like the Gillette-
The Best Man Can be,(2019). The adverts can also give male consumers a sense of pride if

they can associate their looks to an example in the advert such as the Dove-Girl's shampoo
isn't made for real men!, (2014). And lastly it also gives them a platform to compare themselves
to and create a better understanding of their self-image and identity. However, using these
powerful psychological techniques for the benefit of profiting a company could be argued
that it can have a catastrophic effect on a consumers self-esteem. For women, having a
smaller body can give the illusion of being powerful such as and for men having less
feminine features and relating to certain women’s preferences can give the feeling of more
acceptance and respect. But these aren’t things that are as easily obtained. Body-shaming
products such as Flickr- Are you beach body ready, (2015) for women can’t always give the
desired effect leaving the consumer in a loop of self-hate and purchasing. From the Gillette
Fusion, (2014), for men being liked by many woman isn’t a realistic gain and also not an ideal
goal for all. Highlighting bad behaviours and masculinity in men won’t make the consumer
feel better about themselves but it can raise a social awareness resulting in change. It could
be argued that, advertisers should stop only using psychological effects to depict its male
and female consumers and instead listen more to their customer and promote more healthy
images and educate healthy masculine examples instead of body-shaming and shaming
certain features of a man inducing toxic masculinity. Instead these techniques can be used
to better shape our society to a more realistic and representational one where customers
can relate to the product more, resulting in more brand credibility and more consumer
satisfaction. One might hope that the advertisers goal is representation and positive effects
of change.





Andrews, M., Leeuwen, D. and Baaren, P. (2014) Hidden persuasion. 2nd edn. Amsterdam: BIS, pp.
13,14,36,71,94, 114, 117.

Apologise for, and amend the irresponsible marketing of your new bra range 'Body'(2015). Available
at: (Accessed: March 2019).

Detroit Press (2019) Controversial Gillette ad is all about money, not the #MeToo movement.
at: (Accessed: March 2019).

Fredrickson, B. and Roberts, T. (1997) "Objectification Theory: Toward Understanding Women's Lived
Experiences and Mental Health Risks", Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21(2), pp. 173-206.

Flickr (2015) Are you beach body ready?. Available at: (Accessed: March 2019).

Fromm, E. (1966) "Marxism, Psychoanalysis and Reality", 9(1966), pp. 5-6. Available at: (Accessed: March 2019).

Gillette #MeToo razors ad on 'toxic masculinity' gets praise – and abuse (2019). Available at:
mens-rights-activists (Accessed: March 2019).


Gillette faces backlash and boycott over '#MeToo advert' (2019). Available at: (Accessed: March 2019).

Gillette (2019) We Believe: The Best Men Can Be| Gillette (Short Film). Available at: (Accessed: March 2019).

Gillette Fusion Body Grooming Proglide Styler 3-in1 Commercial, Featuring Kate Upton (2014).
Available at: (Accessed: March 2019).


Girl's shampoo isn't made for real men! (2014). Available at: (Accessed: March 2019)

Goodman, J. (2002) "Flabless Is Fabulous: How Latina and Anglo Women Read and Incorporate the
Excessively Thin Body Ideal into Everyday Experience", Journalism & Mass Communication
Quarterly, 79(3), pp. 712-727.

Gupta, A., Singh, D. and Dr.Rajesh Verma, D. (2010) "Simulation: An Effective Marketing Tool",
International Journal of Computer Applications, volume 4– No.11(0975 – 8887), p. 9. Available at: (Accessed:
March 2019).

Hesse-Biber, S. J. (1996). Am I thin enough yet?: The cult of thinness and the commercialization
of identity. New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press, pp.32


Leon Festinger, L. (1954) "A Theory of Social Comparison Processes", Sage Journals, pp. 117-140.
Available at: (Accessed: March

me too. Movement (2019). Available at: (Accessed: March 2019).

Mitchell, V. (2018) Why customer trust is more vital to brand survival than it's ever been,
Available at:
(Accessed: March 2019).

Mulvey, L. (1999) "“Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism", New York:
Oxford UP, 833-44. Available at: (Accessed: March 2019).

Nike - Dream Crazier (2019). Available at:
(Accessed: March 2019).

Sarukkai, S. (1997) "The 'Other' in Anthropology and Philosophy", Jstor, Vol. 32,(24), pp. 1406-1409.
Available at: (Accessed:
March 2019).


The Huffington Post (2014) Victoria's Secret 'Perfect Body' Campaign Changes Slogan After
Backlash. Available at:
Wd0Di0nMKvHk (Accessed: March 2019).

"The Other", The New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought, Third Edition, (1999) p. 620.

List of Images:

Image 1.

Victoria Secret Advert from 2014
The Huffington Post (2014) Victoria's Secret 'Perfect Body' Campaign Changes Slogan After
Backlash. Available at:
Wd0Di0nMKvHk (Accessed: March 2019).

Image 2.

Protein world- Are You Beach Body Ready? Advert from 2015
Flickr (2015) Are you beach body ready?. Available at: (Accessed: March 2019).

Please reload

"On The Run Media" is owned and operated by the BA(Hons) Digital Media Production course at Plymouth College of Art. 

Unless otherwise credited, all work is the copyright of the students and cannot be copied, shared or reproduced in any way,

without the prior knowledge and consent of both Digital Media Production Staff and Students.

PCA_DMP Copyright 2019