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So you’re in the beer aisle at the store, and you’re lingering in front of two beer brands that are on sale, Heineken at 6 for $3 and Budweiser for $.50 a piece. Which do you choose? Chances are you’ll take the Heineken, and not just because of its brand. Heineken employs two psychological tricks right here. Want to know what they are and what this example has to do with creating profitable Facebook ads? Hmmmm. You’ll have to read on to find out. (Tip: We just used two more psychological tricks right there).

1. What’s in a Face?

A great deal, it turns out when it comes to creating Facebook ads. Our brains are hardwired to notice faces. In fact, there’s a face-specific portion of our brain that only notices faces, according to AdEspresso.

From an evolutionary standpoint, being able to recognize familiar faces kept our ancestors stay alive. The face gives us clues about a person and becomes a predictor for the possible encounter we will have. Therefore, a happy face in an ad alerts us that we’ll be happy reading the ad. An angry or sad face also does the same.

This in turn stimulates our mirror neurons, the place in our brain that allows us to empathize with people or even to predict their behavior. Advertisers can use this to good effect if they want a potential customer to feel the same way as the person in the picture.

2. Are You Human?

This is a corollary to number one, and it speaks to the example in the introduction. Part of the reason that Heineken would garner the favor of the person in the beer aisle has to do with the “e’s” in the logo. If you look closely, they tilt slightly backward, giving the logo the look of a smiley face.

Anyone who has ever seen a face in the clouds or in their burnt toast has experienced this phenomena. If you can’t use a face in your ad, make sure to add a human quality to it through the use of anthropomorphism. Amazon also does this, by the way, with its arrow smiley graphic in its logo. It only looks like a smile, it looks like a smirky smile.

3. But How do You Feel?


The third element in all this is, of course, emotions. According to Growth Tribe, facial expression around the world are the same and mean the same thing. They’re visual-language shorthand for the online marketer. A happy face conveys a happy message in the ad, while a sad or angry one conveys more negative emotions. Both stimulate those mirror neurons.

And the type of face matters, too, according to Wired. People with longer faces and brown eyes are considered the most trustworthy of all. When you’re looking for a model for your product, this is worth looking at.

4. But Who Cares What Others Think?

It turns out that you do and I do and everybody does to a degree. This is also an evolutionary thing. If we got along with our tribe, we survived. If we didn’t, we perished. This feeling has never completely gone away from us. Ads that give social proof – think Facebook likes, number of shares, etc. – encouraged people to join in.

If you’re creating a Facebook campaign for say your company website, be sure to include the number of subscribers or the number of daily visitors if the number is large. It triggers the if-others-liked-it-it-must-be-okay response. It gives people permission to like your stuff.

5. And Speaking of Numbers…

One of the other reasons why the Heineken ad works has to do with anchoring, another psychological trick. Anything you see first sticks in the mind of the person seeing it. It employs a trick that lots of supermarket use, which is multiple unit pricing, according to Disenthrall.

The value on the beers in the example is exactly the same $.50 a piece. However, the “6” in the first of the ad provides an anchor that sets the tone for the rest of the ad. Even though both usually come in six-packs, the brain gravitates toward the first number.

Ways to use this in an ad: It’s the difference between saying “Get a 12-month subscription to my website for $48” and “Join my website for $4 a month.” Both are the same. The first one raises the bar psychologically.

6. And What About You?

The User

Certain words are power words, and “you” happens to be one of them. That’s the next psychological trick in the intro to this piece. Everyone is a bit self-centered and using the word “you” makes an ad seem like the advertiser is speaking specifically to them. It activates your brain in the same way (almost) as hearing your name. You perk up. So do your customers.

Other power words include “free” (no surprise), “because,” “instantly,” and “new.” Use them when you can in your ad copy and your headlines.

7. Oh the Headline…

Ads can be made or broken with a headline. Not only do they pique curiosity (the other psychological trick in the intro to this piece), but they also set the tone for the rest of the piece. Few other things aside from the right picture or graphic can do as much for your ad, and both accomplish similar things.

The types of headlines that do well include:

  • Lists – it helps the brain eliminate uncertainty
  • Curiosity – humans are curious, so we’ll click to learn more
  • Negative vs. positive superlatives – A headline with negatives get a 30% higher click-through rate than a positive one

And whether or not people click through your ad will depend on the headline, so make sure it sells.

8. Will There be Enough?

People want things when they think they can’t have said things. That’s the law of scarcity in a nutshell. That’s why you’ll see time-limited offers or exclusive sales and giveaways that only members can partake in. It works on two principles, the first being social proof, the second being a reminder that the item will soon be gone.


Getting a good ROI on a Facebook ad relies on a number of techniques, eight of which have been highlighted in this post. You’ve learned that ads with pictures and emotions get a better response than ones without them. You’ve also been taught that if you can’t use a face in an ad, you can simulate one. Additionally, numbers that prove that other people like you count as ad “must-haves,” while headlines get you interested in the product without giving too much away. Finally, you learned that if you take away someone’s freedom through scarcity, you’re bound to sell more.

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Posted by Alex

Alex has been marketing online for almost a decade. He founded Form Two Lanes, a digital marketing agency SEO Agency in Sydney, which provides world-class digital marketing solutions for businesses looking to grow their revenues online.

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