Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

Lots of people claim that advertising doesn’t really work. I disagree. Good advertising works so well that people don’t even realize what hit them. It’s sort of like the Jedi mind trick of the Advertising Realm. With the wave of a hand and the power of suggestion, good advertising leads the viewer to think the thoughts they want them to think.

That’s what happened to the people of Troy, Michigan. As a vote for a tax increase to keep their public library open drew near, citizens became aware of a group called Safeguarding American Families (SAFE) that was against the tax increase. In anticipation of the tax’s defeat, SAFE planned a little post-election celebration: a book burning. SAFE promoted the book burning around town using yard signs and social media.

News of the book burning spread, as did a fierce response by the citizens themselves. It was the talk of the town, neighbor calling upon neighbor to prevent the book burning. And they did, in record numbers. The summary of SAFE’s campaign and the backlash is a must-see:

Reality is, people rally to fight a common enemy. Using reverse psychology, this campaign reframed the enemy from the money lost if the tax was approved to the freedom lost if the tax was defeated. The rally worked. The citizens were incensed. Words grew caustic. And the 248% increase in voter turn-out proves my premise: truly good advertising works so well that people don’t even realize what hit them.

This is why we need to consume advertising “carefully and critically,” the very thing CaPC writer C. Ryan Knight encourages when it comes to consuming the news. So too, we would be wise to use caution when an ad stirs great emotion within us. That emotion is being stirred on purpose, to prompt us to a certain response. And before we know it, the Jedi mind trick has had its way in us.

As Christians, our responses need to be anchored in truth, not swayed by the latest clever ad campaign. Thoughtful, critical reactions to advertisements will require that we consider (and research) the source of the campaign, gather all the facts before making decisions, and refuse to let the masses determine our response. In short, we need God to help curb the mind trick power of the Advertising Realm so we honor Him with our choices so that we don’t get duped like the people of Troy, Michigan.

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