Understanding how true advertising works… using the Bible as a guide


Effective advertising goes well beyond the presentation of a product or service. Effective advertising utilizes the most basic human desires; appeal to the flesh, appeal to the eyes and lastly the impression that the product or service will help them live a better life.

This concept goes all the way back to the day when Eve met a door-to-door salesman selling apples. In fact, many of the basic concepts that are utilized in modern advertising are indeed derived from the Biblical premise of lust.

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Now this is a not Sunday sermon but rather an article on advertising; but in order to create an aggressive advertising campaign it’s good to understand the basic fundamentals and mindset that is utilized for effective advertising. While I think we would all agree that the best form of advertising is simply to identify the product and allow the product to sell itself based upon its merits; we all understand that in the real world, with so many products and services to choose from, those that say it louder and brighter usually get the customer.

Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Advertising to the Lust of the Flesh

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food” – In this basic Bible account we see, from the foundations of mankind, that something can be presented in such a way that it can build trust and reliance. The fruit appealed to Eve’s flesh as something that would be good for food. When marketing with this fundamental concept, present your product or service by letting them know it can help them with their daily need. (Example: Services that save you time by convenience such as online shopping or even a lawn service that “frees you up to do the things you enjoy”.) As cliché as this may sound, the process is only used because it works! When you appeal to someone’s basic need of daily sustenance it invokes a desire to acquire the product or service to fulfill the need.Advertising to the Lust of the Eyes

“… and that it was pleasant to the eyes” – This is where most of marketing dollars are spent; to make the product or service appealing to the eye. From a previous article we’ve already discussed the mental perceptions of red and yellow as colors that “get your attention”, but it goes beyond that. Having an attractive packaging or presentation can help sway a decision to purchase, even if the product or service is more expensive.

Consider the fact that generic products on the shelf at Walmart are placed right next to the brand name product; yet the brand name product continually outsells their generic counterpart despite both products, in substance, being identical. This is also why curvy models are utilized to sell certain products or services.

Never discount the power of attractive packaging.

Of all the factors in advertising this is the one that has the immediate response and will produce impulse purchases. Vehicle Wraps that use colorful imagery or banners that are bright and vibrant draw attention to the eye that helps the message get noticed. Using colors based on the shopper are also important. Women are drawn, in a mall setting, to pastels and pink where men are drawn to dark colors and blue. Children are drawn to reds and yellows because it causes a sensation of alertness. That is why flash ads use these colors for all ages.

Understanding The Pride of Life

“… and a tree to be desired to make one wise” – Have you ever heard of the phrase “keeping up with the Jones family”? This slogan accurately portrays a level of advertising where the purchase of the product or service gives the impression that it will improve your quality of life, then making others desire what you have. You see this method employed largely in automotive vehicle commercials where someone is always admiring the new car that their neighbor got… Fast forward to the end of the commercial to see that the neighbor went out and bought the exact same car. This popular direction of marketing often combines the other two traits of a product or service that’s appealing to the flesh and eyes. Examples of commercials that appeal to the Pride of Life are ones that use the phrase: “you want this to make you look better” or “you need this to look better” or even better still “you deserve this”.

When Advertising is at its most effective

Naturally a winning ad campaign will combine all the attributes found in 1 John 2:16. When the presentation of a product or service can invoke the senses in such a way to make one desire it… The end result is a purchase followed by additional purchases because others want what that person has.

Consider this… Adam was the next customer.

A Note from the Author

At the end of the day this article is not condemning the practices utilized in modern advertising; but rather explaining them, so that one might be able to explore them for a more effective means of advertising; nor is it to make light of the Bible’s powerful verses on the subject. The Bible is quite clear, within context, that these verses are not supporting these practices but rather discouraging them. But let’s be honest though… as a small business, understanding the make-up of advertising and what works and why is important is essential to competing in a competitive market. Advertising has always appealed to fleshly desire… like it or not… we fall for it everyday standing in line at the grocery store looking at the candy bars and magazines. So this article is made to identify and explain, not try to make the Bible seem like it supports advertising. Make sense?