If a stranger walks up to you on the street and tells you to do something, would you? Almost intuitively, you would probably ask the stranger “Who are you” or “Why should I do as you say.” People are much more conscious and careful in the present time, that’s why advertising today is vastly different from advertising from, say, the 60s. Ads back in those days were simple, straightforward and (literally) tell you why you should buy a certain product; not to say it isn’t good, but the audience has changed.

Today, consumers have developed a bubble of their own because they are far more intellectual and opinionated. People don’t listen to persuasions anymore, because they were brought up to listen to reasons. Advertising can no longer survive by being overtly persuasive like the 60s. The curtain has rolled for the Golden Age.

Enter the advertising fraternal twin, reverse-psychology advertising.
In shorter terms, reverse-psychology advertising (let’s just call it RPA from here on) is an advertising tool that challenges an individual’s understanding and beliefs to a certain point that sparks an interest in them, which, in turn sends them along the consumer’s journey.
Does it work, you may ask? It’s definitely not a new trick. Here are three RPA campaigns that probably had us influenced already.

1. Campaign : Drive It Like You Hate It
Client: Volvo

Anyone ever told you that Volvo cars are the toughest cars around? They’ve probably been influenced by this campaign. In the 60s, Volvo used this campaign to outrun their competitors (who were all priced around the same range) by simply highlighting one reason: “You can drive it like you hate it.” By doing that, Volvo effectively positioned themselves as the toughest cars on the streets until today. We weren’t joking when we said ads from the 60s were good.

2. Campaign: Do Not Call: Forbidden Pizza
Client: Little Caesars

If you’re from Malaysia, you’ve probably never heard of this brand but Little Caesars is one of the fastest growing pizza chain in USA, and possibly the cheapest as well (we’re talking about $5 pizzas here).

In 2012, Little Caesars released a website that would give multiple warnings for you to avoid typing your personal address into the search bar. By ignoring these warnings and defying the website, the end result would leave your house digitally haunted by ghosts! How would one get rid of them? Using the same address you typed in, they would suggest the nearest Little Caesars to help you with your pesky ghost problem. The campaign was so successful, Little Caesars kept the website online until today to haunt more curious cats.

3. Campaign: Skip Ad Festival
Client: The Voice

Don’t you just loathe the 5 seconds of ads you have to endure that precede your favourite Youtube videos? US singing reality show The Voice made 100% use of those 5 seconds by — you guessed it right — turning those 5 seconds into a singing competition, and the judges being you! Each time someone clicked on a Youtube video, the singing competition in the form of an ad will play as usual. If the viewer skips the “ad,” the singer loses a vote. But if the viewer let it play on, the singer will finish the entire song and stand a chance to win a song recording from The Voice!

Reverse-psychology advertising works because it engages the audience by using their own complex personalities to respond to the message they are presented with. When a negative message meets a negative perception, it causes a positive reaction; it’s really just simple mathematics. After all, the goal of advertising is merely to get you interested whatever means possible.

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