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12 Types of Propaganda Techniques Used in Advertising

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Propaganda is everywhere in advertising. But what is propaganda, exactly?

Simply put, it’s the spreading of information intended to influence public opinion. And when it comes to advertising, these messages are often used to leverage emotion and convince us to buy something.

Propaganda techniques have been around for centuries and, today, are still widely used by advertisers. From name-calling and glittering generalities to emotional appeals and testimonials, understanding the types of propaganda techniques being used in advertising can help you make better decisions as a consumer.

In this article, we’ll be discussing the 12 types of propaganda techniques commonly used in advertising. We’ll explain each one in detail and provide examples so you can spot them for yourself next time you see an ad on TV or scroll through your social media feeds. Let’s get started!

What is Advertising Propaganda?

Advertising propaganda is a form of marketing communication that aims to manipulate consumer beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours to promote a product or idea. The use of propaganda techniques in advertising has a long history and has become increasingly systematic and scientific over time.

What Is the Main Purpose of Propaganda

The main purpose of propaganda is to manipulate the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of a target audience to promote a particular product, idea, or political agenda. 

Propaganda is often used in advertising, political campaigns, and public relations to shape public opinion and persuade people to support a particular cause or point of view.

Propaganda can be used to create a positive association with a product or idea, to create a sense of urgency or fear, to appeal to emotions, to create a sense of belonging or conformity, or to attack or discredit competing products or ideas. 

The ultimate goal of propaganda is to influence people’s decision-making and behavior in a particular direction.

Propaganda can be effective in shaping public opinion because it often appeals to people’s emotions and can create a strong emotional response. 

It can also use persuasive language, such as loaded words or glittering generalities, to create a positive or negative association with a product or idea.

However, propaganda can also be misleading or dishonest, and it can be used to manipulate people into supporting ideas or products that are not in their best interest. 

It is important for people to be aware of propaganda techniques and to critically evaluate the messages they are being presented with to make informed decisions. 

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12 Types of Propaganda Techniques Used in Advertising with Examples

Advertising employs propaganda techniques that can be efficiently categorized into 12 distinct strategies. These encompass the Bandwagon principle, the authority of Testimonials, the simplicity of ‘Plain Folks’, the associative power of Transfer, the compelling nature of Fear, the lure of Humour, the potency of Emotional Appeals, the vague promises of Glittering Generalities, the derogatory impact of Name-Calling, the strategic bias of Card-Stacking, the persuasive influence of Loaded Words, and the deceptive nature of Misused Statistics.

Each of these techniques holds a unique persuasive power and when utilized effectively, they can significantly enhance the impact and reach of an advertisement campaign.

The comprehensive understanding and strategic deployment of these propaganda methods can provide a solid foundation for your advertisement campaign, ensuring its effectiveness and success.

We shall now commence our exploration with the first technique:

1. Bandwagon Propaganda

Have you ever listened to a friend raving about how great a certain product is, only to end up buying the same thing? This is the power of the bandwagon technique in advertising. 

It plays on our need to fit in and be accepted, by encouraging us to join the crowd and do what other people are doing.

The way this plays out in advertising is simple, show happy and successful people using a product as though everyone else also uses it. This creates a sense of urgency and pressure to conform, enticing viewers to make the same choice. 

It’s not just products that this are used for political campaigns also use it to rally support for their cause.

When you encounter a bandwagon ad, take note of who or what they’re targeting – it usually isn’t the most informed or analytical audience! Instead of following suit blindly, take some time to look into and weigh up the merits of any proposed solution yourself.

Let’s understand with an example:

Coca-Cola has used Bandwagon Propaganda in its marketing campaigns to create a sense of community and social acceptance around its brand.

By making people feel like they are part of a larger group of Coke drinkers, Coca-Cola has been able to establish brand loyalty and increase sales.

The “Share a Coke” campaign is a great example of this. By personalizing their bottles and cans with popular names and phrases, Coca-Cola encouraged people to share their Coke with friends and family, creating a sense of togetherness and community around the brand. This, in turn, made people feel like they were part of a larger group of Coke drinkers and helped to establish brand loyalty.

Bandwagon Propaganda

Here’s the second example of bandwagon propaganda in advertising 

Do you remember the “Just Do It” campaign by Nike? 

It was a massive hit that helped them outperform their competitor, Reebok. Nike knew they had to change their approach to remain competitive, and they did it by creating an iconic campaign that tapped into people’s desire to go beyond their limits. 

It quickly became a movement, and everyone wanted to be a part of it. That’s the power of bandwagon propaganda!

The campaign was so successful because it spoke to everyone, regardless of their sporting ability or fitness level, and inspired them to push beyond their limits. 

By joining the “Just Do It” movement, you were part of a community of like-minded individuals who strive for greatness. Nike made sure that everyone knew that they were missing out if they weren’t a part of this incredible movement.

And it worked! Nike’s sales skyrocketed from $800 million in 1988 to over $9.2 billion in 1998, and “Just Do It” remains one of the most recognizable slogans in the world. It’s not just a slogan, it’s a lifestyle that everyone wants to be a part of. 

Nike’s campaign was a perfect example of effective marketing that created an emotional connection with consumers while keeping the message simple and direct.

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2. Card Stacking Propaganda

Card stacking is one of the most common propaganda techniques used in advertising and manipulation of public opinion. It works by showcasing only the information that supports a certain point of view while ignoring, omitting, or even hiding any information that could contradict their message.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to convince someone to buy a specific product. You decide to use card stacking and focus only on the positive aspects of that product while ignoring any negative features or reviews from other customers. 

This is a way of creating an overly positive impression of the product without being completely honest about it.

A good example of this can be seen in the marketing strategy of Sunny Threads, a fictional eco-friendly clothing brand. Sunny Threads uses Card Stacking Propaganda to emphasize the positive aspects of their clothing, such as its softness, durability, and environmental benefits. 

They showcase their clothing in beautiful outdoor settings, with happy models, and emphasize the quality of their materials and attention to detail.

However, the brand does not mention any potential downsides, such as limited sizing options or higher cost compared to non-sustainable clothing brands. 

By only focusing on the positive aspects, Sunny Threads is using Card Stacking Propaganda to appeal to consumers who prioritize eco-friendliness and sustainability in their fashion choices.

Next, another example of how tobacco companies use propaganda is by highlighting the supposed benefits of smoking while ignoring or playing down the serious health risks. Similarly, pharmaceutical companies often promote the advantages of their medicines while downplaying potential side effects.

Fast food companies are also guilty of presenting only positive nutritional information while ignoring or downplaying the harmful health effects of their products. This tactic is part of a broader pattern where companies prioritize marketing their products over informing consumers about the associated risks.

Card Stacking Propaganda Example

It’s important to be aware of this type of propaganda when consuming media, as it can be used to sway public opinion in an unethical way. 

Advertising can be persuasive without resorting to manipulative tactics like card stacking, so look out for signs that the information you’re receiving may not be completely accurate!

3. Fear Mongering Propaganda

Did you know that fear mongering is one of the twelve types of propaganda techniques used in advertising? It’s a method to evoke fear, insecurity, or doubt to convince or persuade you to buy goods and services.

Fearmongering can be achieved by employing certain tactics such as:

  • Scare tactics designed to alarm you about how a product or service can help protect you from danger, loss or illness
  • Implied threats about not buying goods and services (e.g., “Without product X, your life could be at risk!”)
  • Appealing to negative emotions (e.g., “How will you cope if?”)
  • Using negative language that frames the message in a negative light (e.g., “This product won’t prevent getting sick…it will make you die!”)

An example of fear mongering propaganda could be a skincare brand that promotes their products as the only solution to preventing skin cancer. 

The brand might use statistics to scare customers into thinking that their current skincare routine is inadequate and that they must buy their products to protect themselves from skin cancer.

These are all classic examples of fear mongering, so it pays to be aware of them when looking at and evaluating advertisements. 

Remember, advertisers will often use fear mongering techniques as a way to sell products and services, but they don’t always have your best interests in mind when they do so!

4. Glittering Generality Propaganda

What do we mean by glittering generality?

It’s a type of propaganda technique that relies on the use of broad, vague words and phrases in order to evoke positive emotions and associations. 

For example, a company might use the phrase “respecting nature” to describe its commitment to sustainability, when in reality the company’s commitment is minimal.

This type of propaganda is used extensively by politicians and large companies to market their message, they want you to make an emotional connection with their cause or product before knowing all the facts.

Using glittering generalities can also be a way for companies to make promises they might not be able to keep, like guaranteeing that buying their product will somehow make you more successful. This could be as simple as using phrases like “the best of the best” or “luxury quality” without backing up those claims with actual evidence.

Let’s learn from Starbucks, Starbucks has successfully incorporated the marketing technique of Glittering Generalities into their brand messaging. By using positive and emotionally appealing language in their advertising, Starbucks has positioned themselves as a socially responsible and community-focused company. 

Phrases like “handcrafted” and “ethically sourced” are used to evoke feelings of quality and responsibility in the minds of consumers. Additionally, Starbucks’ emphasis on their partnerships with local communities and sustainability initiatives further reinforces their commitment to making a positive impact. 

Through the use of Glittering Generalities, Starbucks has effectively established themselves as a brand that not only offers a quality product but also cares about the well-being of their customers and the world around them.

So remember, when presented with words like “trustworthy” or “the only choice for real success” don’t rush to buy just because it sounds good. Always do your research first and make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting yourself into before making any big decisions.

5. Name Calling Propaganda

Name calling is one of the oldest propaganda techniques in the book, and it’s still used in advertising today. Name calling is when you call something or someone by a negative name to make them look bad.

It’s a technique used to generalise something or someone without facts or data to back it up.

Say you want to convince someone that a certain product or service is bad, you might resort to name calling and say that a particular person or company is “crooked” or “dishonest,” even though there’s no proof.

Name calling isn’t always malicious, however. Sometimes companies will use name calling to promote their own products by appealing directly to customers. For example, they may refer to their products as “the best” while implying that their competitors’ products are “inferior” – even if they have no objective evidence to back up their claims.

A well-known example of Name Calling Propaganda is the 1984 “Macintosh vs. PC” television commercials by Apple. 

In these commercials, the PC is portrayed as a stuffy, boring businessman while the Mac is depicted as a young, cool, and creative individual. The PC is constantly referred to as “uncool” and “dull”, while the Mac is portrayed as “fun” and “exciting”. 

This technique was used to create a negative image of the PC and a positive image of the Mac in the minds of consumers.

Name Calling Propaganda

Another example of Name Calling Propaganda is the “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” ad campaign by Apple, where the PC character is portrayed as a clumsy, slow, and outdated machine. 

The campaign used negative language to create a perception that PCs are unreliable and outdated, while Macs are modern and efficient.

It’s up to the consumer to be aware of this type of subtle manipulation, and always look for facts and unbiased reviews before making any large purchases.

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6. Plain Folks Propaganda

One of the oldest propaganda techniques used in advertising is the use of the Plain Folks technique. This technique is used when an advertiser wants to prove it’s in touch with the common person. 

It might portray a celebrity as someone just like you, or it might feature an enthusiastic satisfied customer. This type of advertising sets up a connection between the average person and a product, service, or company.

The basic premise of this technique is to make people feel like they belong or that they are part of something bigger. It also allows brands to establish trust and credibility with potential customers. 

To invoke Plain Folks, advertisers often use everyday language and down-to-earth visuals instead of fancy language and high-end graphics.

The goals of this technique can be seen in commercials, ads, websites, slogans, billboards, you name it! It’s a powerful tool because it puts the “people” at the forefront and helps brands connect with potential customers on a more personal level. 

When done well, this kind of advertising can help create loyalty between the brand and its audience which helps make for lifelong customers.

A famous example of Plain Folks propaganda is the “I Like Ike” presidential campaign of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952.

In this campaign, Eisenhower presented himself as a regular guy who had risen to the top through hard work and dedication. He dressed in simple clothing, spoke in plain language, and emphasized his humble roots to connect with voters.

The “I Like Ike” campaign used catchy slogans and simple graphics to appeal to the common man. The campaign’s message was that Eisenhower was just like them, and that he understood their struggles and aspirations.

The Plain Folks propaganda technique was successful in this campaign, as Eisenhower won the election with a large margin. The technique has since been used by many politicians, marketers, and advertisers to connect with their target audience by presenting themselves as regular people who share their values and beliefs.

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7. Repetition Propaganda

Repetition is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to advertising. It’s so effective, in fact, that you’ve probably experienced its power yourself. Have you ever heard a slogan so many times that it’s almost etched in your brain? That’s the power of repetition.

By repeating an idea or phrase multiple times, advertisers can effectively drive their product into your consciousness. 

This technique works because our brains are wired to remember patterns and information quickly and easily when it is familiarly presented multiple times. That’s why companies often use repetition to drive home their message and make their product stand out from the competition.

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One of the most well-known examples of repetition propaganda is the advertising slogan 

Apple’s “Think Different” campaign. The phrase was used consistently in their advertising campaigns in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and it became synonymous with the Apple brand. 

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The campaign featured famous icons such as Muhammad Ali, Albert Einstein, and Mahatma Gandhi, and the phrase “Think Different” encouraged consumers to think outside the box and embrace Apple’s innovative technology.

By using “Think Different” repeatedly in their marketing materials, Apple created a strong brand message that resonated with their target audience. This repetition helped to establish Apple as a brand that was not afraid to take risks and challenge the status quo.

8. Stereotyping Propaganda

Have you seen any commercials or ads that stereotype a particular demographic? Stereotyping is a commonly used device in advertising, and it’s all about using oversimplified ideas, images, or ideas to stir up a certain kind of reaction from viewers.

The idea behind stereotyping is to link the targeted demographic to certain characteristics or traits, such as “women are bad drivers” or “all teenagers are rebellious.” This technique is particularly effective when it capitalizes on existing biases and prejudices in society.

There are several types of stereotypes used in advertising, such as:

  1. Gender: Advertising that portrays men and women differently
  2. Ethnicity: Advertising that targets a specific ethnic group
  3. Income: Advertising that portrays people of different economic backgrounds
  4. Age: Advertising that relies on age-related stereotypes for comedic value
  5. Religion: Advertising based on religious beliefs and values
  6. Education: Advertising based on educational background and knowledge
  7. Region/area code: Ads targeting people from certain locations
  8. Sexual orientation: Ads targeting specific sexual orientations or preferences
  9. Appearance/body type: Ads targeting people with certain body types or physical attributes

Stereotyping can be an effective way to reach certain demographics, but it can also be considered unethical if it’s used to spread false information or demean people who fit into particular groups.

9. Testimonial Propaganda

Testimonials are those personal stories that you hear in commercials, all those TV ads that feature satisfied customers, who’ve given their stamp of approval for the product.

The whole idea here is to get you to trust what other people are saying about the product, so it looks like a good choice for you too. It’s a way of influencing public opinion, by playing on emotions and creating an emotional connection with the customer.

These stories can be real or fictional, sometimes famous people are used as endorsers, or regular people (who probably get paid or receive something in return).

For example, when a celebrity says “I just love this shampoo!” it’s likely because they were asked to say it and if they look attractive and seem genuine, then it can be quite persuasive. Celebrities often have thousands and thousands of followers on social media, making it easier for brands to reach millions of potential customers.

Sometimes testimonials don’t need to mention the product directly, they just tell a good story that connects well with the brand message and makes people think positively about it.

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10. Transfer Propaganda

From the calm waves of a beach to the loving embrace of a smiling family, advertisers often use visual symbols to establish an emotional connection with the viewer. This technique is known as transfer.

Transfer works by associating a product or brand with something that’s universally admired or respected, in an effort to give the product some of that positive sentiment.

So if you see a car commercial that features lush nature scenery, they’re trying to evoke feelings of peace and security, and then attribute those feelings to their product.

The bottom line, Transfer works by creating an association between the product and powerful emotions, making your viewers feel more connected to it and more likely to associate it with positivity.

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11. The Big Lie Propaganda

The Big Lie is an oft-used propaganda technique: when you tell something so extraordinary, and say it so often, people start to believe it. Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was the one who popularised this technique.

This type of propaganda injects its idea into the collective consciousness by repeating one untruth over and over, such that it becomes accepted as truth. It usually transpires through a “cult of personality,” where the leader of an organization is presented as heroic and almost superhuman.

But it also has a wide application in advertising too, for example claiming that a product can do something that it really can’t. This kind of advertising often relies on exaggeration and sensationalism to get customers’ attention but could actually be illegal if not backed up by facts.

That’s why savvy consumers need to look beyond marketing claims before making purchase decisions. Doing your due diligence can prevent you from being conned by the Big Lie!

One example of Big Lie propaganda in advertising was the infamous “Joe Camel” campaign by Camel cigarettes in the 1980s and 90s. 

The ad featured a cool and suave cartoon camel smoking a cigarette, with the implication that smoking Camel cigarettes would make the consumer just as cool and suave. Even though the campaign was targeting children and teenagers, Camel denied any such intent and claimed that the campaign was only meant to appeal to “sophisticated adult smokers.” 

However, internal documents later revealed that the campaign was indeed intentionally aimed at young people, intending to create lifelong customers. 

This is a classic example of Big Lie propaganda, where a lie is repeated so often and with such confidence that people eventually start to believe it, even when the evidence suggests otherwise.

12. Unstated Assumption Propaganda

The last type of propaganda technique used in advertising is the Unstated Assumption. You may not even realise it, but this technique is used a lot in modern advertising. It’s when an advertiser or commercial makes a statement that seems to suggest something that may or may not be true.

For example, you might see a commercial for a product claiming that it’s the best and most popular. The commercial doesn’t give any proof to back up their statement, so the viewer assumes that this statement must be true without knowing any real facts.

This technique works well because it allows advertisers to make claims without needing to provide any real evidence to support them. It is an effective way to persuade viewers and get them to buy their product without providing any actual evidence of its superiority over competitors.

Unstated assumptions are also frequently used in political campaigns when candidates make claims without providing any real evidence or proof of those claims.

The goal is to suggest something without explicitly stating it, allowing the audience to make their assumptions and draw their conclusions about the message being conveyed.

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No matter how much we’re exposed to these propaganda techniques, it’s important to be aware of what advertisers are attempting to do. When we can recognize these tactics, we can make more informed decisions about our purchases and the messages we choose to support.

By understanding how persuasive tactics can be wielded to control our behavior and attitudes, we can become more critical consumers. Armed with knowledge about how advertisers are attempting to manipulate us, we can resist and make decisions based on our values, rather than the motivation of a brand.

Ultimately, by recognizing the different types of propaganda techniques in advertising, we can become less susceptible to their influence and more in control of our own decisions.

What are propaganda techniques?

Propaganda techniques are methods used to influence public opinion or behavior towards a certain idea or agenda.

What techniques were used in WW2 propaganda?

These techniques have been used throughout history, including during World War II. Emotional appeals, demonization of the enemy, catchy slogans, powerful imagery, and censorship of opposing views were some of the common propaganda techniques used during the war.

What are some different propaganda techniques? which ones do you think are most effective?

Various propaganda techniques have been identified, such as name-calling, bandwagon, testimonial, plain folks, transfer, glittering generalities, and card stacking.
These techniques use different methods to sway public opinion, such as appealing to emotions, creating a sense of belonging, or presenting selective information.

The effectiveness of propaganda techniques depends on the audience and context. Emotional appeals and bandwagon techniques are particularly effective in influencing behavior and attitudes. In advertising, many of the same principles and tactics used in political propaganda can also be found.

What are the 7 propaganda techniques?

There are seven commonly recognized propaganda techniques, including name-calling, bandwagon, testimonial, plain folks, transfer, glittering generalities, and card stacking.
Each of these techniques aims to persuade the audience by using different tactics, such as appealing to emotions, creating a sense of belonging, or presenting selective information.

How many propaganda techniques are used in advertising

There are indeed seven commonly recognized propaganda techniques, which include:
1. Bandwagon propaganda
2. Card stacking propaganda
3. Testimonial propaganda
4. Transfer propaganda
5. Plain folk’s propaganda
6. Glittering generality propaganda
7. Fear mongering propaganda

However, in advertising, there are often more than seven propaganda techniques utilized. In fact, there are twelve propaganda techniques used in advertising, which include the seven mentioned above, as well as:

8. Name-calling propaganda
9. Repetition propaganda
10. Stereotyping propaganda
11. The big lie propaganda
12. Unstated assumption propaganda

These techniques are used to manipulate consumer behavior and influence their purchasing decisions. It’s important to be aware of these techniques to make informed choices and avoid being swayed by misleading or false information.

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