How to Know Which Ad to Run (and When) According to Science

Cheaper, faster, and more effective ads? It all comes down to the science...

How to Know Which Ad to Run (and When) According to Science

Once upon a time, advertising was a simple game of broadcasting messages to the masses. Companies would craft clever slogans and eye-catching visuals then blast them to print, radio, and television. Customers would respond by going to their nearest department store and buying.

That was the Broadcast Era, and it lasted from the late 1950s until the early 1980s/1990s.

But then the internet arrived.

And customers gained something they'd never had before...they gained a voice.

Customers were no longer just passive recipients of a one-sided advertising relationship; they had options. They had opinions. And they began to do more than just interact with the brands they shopped with - they started to talk back.

Brands had to adapt. The next few marketing Eras were transformational:

  • The Engagement Era required brands to start leveraging email, social media, and interactive websites for a two-way conversation that allowed customers to be more in control of the outcome of their shopping experience.
  • Next came the Content Era, where brands became publishers creating blogs, videos, podcasts, and entire social media teams to help educate customers and add value to the market.

We've now entered into the Participation Era. Customers don't just want to be engaged or educated - they want to be active co-creators in the brand experience.

The most innovative brands in the world tap into this desire for collaboration to help make their ads cheaper, faster, and more effective.

Today I want to show you how you can do it too...

The Brain-Driven Advertising Framework: How to Persuade Consumers at Every Step

Effective advertising requires us to tap into the underlying psychology of how consumers actually think, feel and make decisions.

Aligning your advertising to the psychological needs of your consumers pre-optimizes your ads for maximum persuasive matter where your customers are in their journey.

The Consumer Decision Nexus is a framework I use with my DTC consulting clients.

It helps me outline the key strategies to deploy at each stage of the consumer decision process (and is grounded in proven psychology principles and heuristics).

Here's how it works:

Trigger Event

Identify Catalyst Moments

Every journey starts with a reason to go down that path (a Trigger Event). Anything that sparks a search for resources could be considered a Trigger Event:

  • Life transitions (like getting married, buying a puppy, or moving).
  • Seasonal changes (like Christmas, summer, an election, or BFCM).
  • "Pain Points" (like feeling uncomfortably squished in your clothes every day)...

The best ads to run during the Trigger Event phase are ads that speak to the first time your customer felt most uncomfortable:

  1. Life Event Ads (e.g. "Calling all new parents..." ads, "Moving again?" ads).
  2. Seasonal Ads (e.g. "Spring Cleaning Tips" ads, "Back to School Hacks" ads).
  3. Pain Point Ads (e.g. "Problem/Solution" ads, "Frustration" ads).
  4. Reminder Ads (e.g. "Didn't You Miss Me?" retargeting ads).
  5. Thought Leadership Content (e.g. "How-To" guides, "Expert Opinion" content).

Run These Ads Year-Round

No joke - you need to be running these ads all year long, rotating your Trigger Event so you'll always be at the forefront of people's minds. Increasing ad frequency (using the Mere Exposure Effect) around these trigger events will also help boost your brand's "mental availability" so your customers know who to go to when the need arises.


Provide Educational (and Relatable) Content

It's common to see Trigger Events in ads these days (most marketers understand how to generate a good "angle")...but I'd put money on "Exploration" ads being the most prevalent ads on the market.

It makes sense when you think about it - once a consumer's need or interest is piqued by a Trigger Event ad, it's natural to start exploring your options. It's even more natural for brands to notice this and want to engage with it.

This is a critical phase where brands need to educate customers, differentiate themselves, and build consideration through persuasive, entertaining, and (most importantly) relatable ads.

The best ads to run during the Exploration phase are ads that show a clear difference between you and the rest of your market:

  • Product Tutorials (e.g. "See How It Works" video ads).
  • "Us vs Them" Ads (Directly comparing your advantages).
  • "In Their Words" Ads (Highlighting customer testimonials/reviews).
  • "FAQ" Ads (Addressing common objections/questions).
  • "Trying Out the Viral [product]" Ads (Offering free trials/samples).

Run These Ads Year-Round

While your competitors go after all the low-hanging fruit (effectively shrinking their own market) you'll be preparing for more than just this year's influx of customers - you'll be prepping for the next five years of customers by running Exploration ads throughout the year.

Running Exploration ads that position your product as the only solution year round makes it easy for your customers to remember you, and only you. Utilize Cognitive Fluency here (the ease with which information can be processed and understood by the human mind). We're talking:

  1. Simple language.
  2. Clear visuals.
  3. Repetition.

Clear beats clever every time. Make your messaging easy to process and understand, and you'll captivate the masses with ease.


Facilitate (Transparent) Comparisons

The Exploration phase is where marketers shine and customers are acquired, but it's also the phase where customers are actively engaging with all the other brands in the market too. Which means they're highly engaged, but poorly attached.

This is where Evaluation ads come into play. The best ads to run when customers are in the Evaluation phase are:

  1. Large-Scale Social Proof Ads (Multiple customer testimonials in a row).
  2. "Success Story" Ads (Highlighting case studies/results).
  3. "As Seen On" Ads (Leveraging expert reviews/media mentions).
  4. "Value" Ads (Breaking down pricing/costs transparently).
  5. "Risk-Free" Ads (Emphasizing guarantees/return policies).

Run These Ads Year-Round

You can help your customers shorten their consideration phase by (you guessed it)...running these ads year-round! The Distinction Bias (the psychological tendency for people to view and evaluate things as more distinct and different from one another than they actually are) makes it easier to stand out from the long as you can ethically present a real differentiator.


Offer Incentives, Reduce Friction

Providing that final nudge with a limited-time promotion, a free trial, or a discount is often the go-to ad for most brands - but I would caution you against using this as your primary strategy.

Customers have spent time and energy attaching their identity to your brand (by making their way through a Trigger Event, Exploration, and Evaluation phase). The best thing you can do during the final Purchase phase is to increase the perceived value of your products and confirm their decision to stick with you...not just default to a quick discount.

The best ads to run during the Purchase phase are:

  1. "Limited Quantity" Ads (Creating scarcity with limited promotions).
  2. "Behavior Reminder" Ads ("You loved this look" reminder).
  3. "Complete the Set" Ads (Promoting complementary add-ons).
  4. "Tap to Buy" Ads (Seamless, integrated purchasing experience).
  5. "Join the Club" Ads (Highlighting loyalty/rewards programs).

Run these ads...year-round!

Once again, I suggest you keep a good stock of these ads in your account throughout the year. Make it easy for your customers to complete their transaction, and be sure to use the Zeigarnik Effect (the tendency for incomplete tasks to be better remembered than completed tasks) to help customers attain closure.

The quicker you can remove barriers to complete the purchase process, the faster they'll convert.

TLDR; Running a wide range of ads (year-round) that are purpose-built and psychologically-primed to capitalize on the natural Trigger Event, Exploration, Evaluation, and Purchasing behaviors of your customers is the best way to make sure your ads are pre-optimized for performance.

Discover the secret psychology hacks 9-figure brands (like True Classic) use to boost sales...🧠

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