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Conclusions from tracking the effects of many hundreds of ad campaigns continuously, week by week, over a period of nearly 15 years in America, Asia, Australasia and Europe. Ad campaigns for companies like Gillette, Campbells Soup, McDonalds, AT&T, General Motors, Kodak, Shell and Qantas.

Draws on academic research into communication psychology and buyer behavior but reduces the 'fog index' to make the findings clearer and more actionable.

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Dr. Max Sutherland is an independent marketing psychologist and consultant in the U.S.A. and Australia, a regular columnist for trade publications and Adjunct Professor of marketing at Bond University.

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2006 archive

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3rd November, 2006

Bricks and Mortar Retailers Continue To Gain in Web Search

hands at keyboardIn my September column Web Search Terms: A Window on the Social Mind, I noted that four bricks and mortar retailers were increasingly searched on the web. All seemed to be heavily into product placement in TV shows and had been improving their web search position for months. Their investment in product placement seems to be paying off. Here is the comparison 2 months later and it shows all of them continuing to gain. (Maceys is still conspicuous by its absence.)


Web Search Position
Aug 2006

Web Search Position
Oct 2006
Home Depot 45 42
Wal-Mart 50 46
Target 90 89
Sears 103 97

Source: Wordtracker top 200 list for last 90 days


30th October, 2006

Slogan as a Brand PrécisBMW logo slogan

How do you come up with a great brand slogan? Its role is broader and more fundamental than just communicating a benefit claim or an advertising sign-off. A slogan should précis the very meaning of the brand and act as a verbal watchdog to help maintain its future focus... more

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18th October, 2006

Visual Reinforcement of Verbal Message

Ikea adHere is a clever ad for Ikea. (Thanks to Russian reader, Alexander Repiev who sent it.). You don’t even have to be able to speak the language to get the message as the visual does such a great job of communicating it. Because people are often only half paying attention, visual reinforcement of an advertisement’s verbal message is important to effective communication.

It is not what you say but how you say it. And it is not what you show but how you show it. The ad not only reinforces (what I presume is) the verbal message that Ikea’s furniture is strong, it does so in an eye catching way that makes it a two-second hooker.

A number of Ikea ads do visual reinforcement of verbal message in a way that grabs attention. Here’s one of their TV ads that does a nice job of visually reinforcing the message that you can “Find Your Style” at Ikea.


15th September, 2006

Web Search Terms: A Window on the Social Mind

hands at keyboardWeb search terms are a window on the social mind; they reveal what the other half of the world is thinking about. The media help agenda-set what people are interested in and this is revealed quickly in the search words that people type into search engines. A regular list of the top 200 search terms is available (free by email) and armed with this list, the task of appearing cool becomes a breeze! ...more download.


26 August, 2006

Google of Late Moves to Protect Trademark.

Update on my January column, Google: $ Billion Brand in Peril?, about Google's risk of being declared generic and losing proprietary control over its own brand. It is a mystery why the company has been curiously slow in getting off the mark to guard against this. However, this month it stirred and fired off a series of legal letters to the media asking them not to use the expression "to google" generically (to refer to search by any search engine). See "Thou Shalt Not Google". A long line of trademarks have become generic this way, including kerosene, trampoline, nylon, thermos and linoleum. What were once valuable brand names are now just words in dictionaries owned by no-one and available to all. Google must fight to fend off the same fate.


24 August, 2006

"Just Do It'". Did Nike Slipstream Clairol?

Clairol just do itFurther to my August column, Celebrity Slipstreaming: Pop Stars & Pop Expressions thanks to Stephen Holden (of Bond University) who sent in this Clairol ad from 1982 that may have been the first use of something like the Nike ad slogan. It appeared six years before Nike's "just do it".




21 August, 2006

Celebrity Slipstreaming: Pop Stars & Pop Expressions

retail just buy itWhy not hitch your brand to a pop expression and slipstream it? Like Budweiser did with ‘wassup’. Pop expressions (Yesss!, Duh, Hel-Lo?!) stop us in much the same way that seeing a famous person does. So get your free attention magnet, here! .. (139k)



13 May, 2006

Advertising Turn-off Tactics

cigarette pack gangrene warning

Can advertising turn people off, as effectively as it can turn people on?


Click here to view a range of ads that use different psychological appeals to turn people off smoking or stop them from taking it up.

New graphic health warnings on cigarette packs are the latest turn-off tactic being used in Canada, Brazil and now Australia. They visually depict risks of smoking. One risk is gangrene and this pack warning is backed in Australia by a TV commercial showing a surgeon amputating a diseased smoker’s foot (See the TV ad here. Read more about the Australian campaign here). Don't forget to check out the range of psychological appeals here.


23 April, 2006

Imagined Actions: Another Way to Create Advertising Impact.

Abe Lincoln pixilatedLast month we explored the psychology of double-meaning and word-play and how they increase the impact of an ad (see A Pun is its Own Reword). Now, here’s yet another way to engage the audience - using imagined actions. Imagined actions tap into the broader tendency of our minds to use whatever information there is around to self-complete what we are seeing or hearing.. (193k)



25 March, 2006

A Pun is its own Reword

J&B adWhat Aristotle called rhetoric, advertising calls creativity. The impact comes not just from what you communicate but how you communicate it. Here's the psychology of how double-meaning and word-play increase the impact of an ad. Just as we appreciate a public speaker for a clever delivery, so ads that endear themselves to us have the potential to wash-over onto our feelings about the brand advertiser. more... download (163k)


10 March, 2006.

Spitzer Urges FCC To Act On Payola

Elliot SpitzerMy Nov. 2005 column showed how, without making direct claims or assertions, people are influenced by payola, product placement, push polling etc. I pointed out how the regulators 'look the other way' if there is no overt claim. New York Attorney General, Elliot Spitzer (March 8) has now urged the FCC to take stronger action, against payola at least . He said: "Almost a year after payola was exposed in significant detail, the FCC has yet to respond in any meaningful way".


12 February, 2006

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): Brain Science Breakthrough.

Everyone knows about brain scanning, but most of us have never heard of a new device called transparent headtranscranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Non invasive and painless, it can temporarily inactivate an area of the human brain to let brain scientists study the effect. A treatment for depression, a tool for war, or a chance for us all to exhibit our more creative side? You decide. However one thing is for certain. TMS is an exciting breakthrough in brain science that you are going to be hearing a lot more about. more... download.




10 February, 2006

Superbowl Ads Evaluated with Brain Scanning

21 of the Superbowl 2006 ads have been evaluated using fMRI brain scanning. Full results are at FKF Applied Research. The Disney ad "NFL Dreamers" and Sierra Mist’s “Airport Security" seemed to perform well on the brain scans while Bud Light’s “Secret Fridge” and FedEx “Caveman” seemed to show little effect. Hmmm. (Thanks to Chris Middleton for pointing this out.)


13 January, 2006

'Generic' Google - Postscript

Further to my January column, if Google were to be declared generic and lose proprietary control over its own brand, there could be a touch of poetic justice in it for some trademark owners like Lois Vuitton, AXA and Geico. Google’s ‘Adwords’ market place 'sells' thousands of words (that people search for every day) to advertisers who bid for their ad to show up when people search on that word. The problem is that (unlike Yahoo) Google also includes trademark words. Corporations like Lois Vuitton, AXA and Geico object to Google including their trademarks amongst the search words that Google 'sells' to the highest bidder (including their competitors). A number of legal actions have been launched against Google on this and the issue is working its way through the courts. (Comment Feb 28: listen to a good explanation of the issues from NPR radio 8th Feb.)


5 January, 2006

Google: $ Billion Brand in Peril?

Google Story bookThe names ‘aspirin’, ‘escalator’ and ‘windsurfer’ were once proprietary brand names, but each one lost its trademark protection because the name drifted into general usage and became generic. Is Google headed the same way? more... download.




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