Leveraging the Potential of Optical Illusion in Advertising

Have you ever come across an ad that excited you? Or perhaps one that challenged your perspective? These are the kind of ads that you might probably remember for a long time. And these are the ads that help strengthen brand recognition as well. 

So, if you are looking to give a twist to your marketing strategy, it’s time to explore new ideas in ad designs. 

In this blog, let’s talk about one such design approach in creating ads that leave an impact – optical illusion. 

An optical illusion is when you use a combination of design elements to make something appear like something else. Or create an illusion of movement in a still image. Or an illusion of something that’s not actually there in the picture. 

Here is a quick example. It’s an ad by Coca-Cola. 

Stare at the image for a few seconds. Does it look like the leaves are fluttering? That’s the power of optical illusion. This ad uses a simple static image to create an illusion of motion. And thus makes the design more engaging. It’s not just that. Designs as unique as this one are hard to forget. 

Wondering how to use this idea in your ad design? Let’s find out. 

Use optical illusion to create ads that inspire 

1. Convey a hidden meaning

When you have to make customers think of a single word or emotion, simple designs will do the job. But what if you want to evoke a deeper feeling? What if you want to tell a story or provide a new perspective to the viewer? That’s where optical illusion can be of help. 

The below video ad from Honda talks about challenging the impossible. The ad has you hooked to the illusions appearing on each frame. And then finally, the brand subtly plugs in the promotion of the highlighted features in the car. 

The above ad shows how you can use illusions to get people to think certain things and then present them with your idea in the most convincing manner. So, when you have a strong meaning to convey illusions can make things interesting. 

2. Help customers visualize and grasp what you offer 

Sonos, an audio equipment brand, depicts this idea accurately in its logo design. What do you see when you look at the below image as you scroll up and down? 

Did you notice the pulsating movement that makes you visualize speakers? That’s a brilliant example of using optical illusion to help people instantly understand what you have to offer. 

Similarly, you can use illusion to create noticeable movements in the design. And if these movements remind viewers of something in particular, then it helps strengthen brand awareness. It is particularly useful for startups trying to establish a name for themselves in the industry. 

3. Shift focus to a specific location 

In the whole of your design, there might be one particular section that deserves maximum attention. When you know what this section is, you can use optical illusion to draw the eyes to this spot. And when you achieve this, the results are pretty good. 

The below ad, from Coca-Cola again, is a great example of using illusions to draw attention. 

The minimalistic design instantly attracts attention. And when you focus on the Coca-Cola logo you visualize a bottle though it is not actually in the design. These are unforgettable ads that get people to stop and take a second look. Ads that achieve this are the ones most likely to convert. 

4. Use illusions to make an emotional connection 

Ads that promote what you offer are good enough in marketing. But can you really survive competition with “good enough”? You do not want people to just place an order but to keep coming back to your brand. And choose your brand over the others. And also to advocate your brand. For all this to happen, you need to share a strong rapport with them. This becomes possible only if you manage to create ads that ignite strong emotions. 

If you look at the award-winning ads each year, most of them are heartwarming, thought-provoking, awareness-boosting campaigns that most people instantly fall in love with. These are ads that make people smile, laugh, cry or experience other emotions long after they see the ad. 

To achieve this with a static image, an optical illusion is perhaps the one design approach you need. 

The above PETA ad shows the use of optical illusion to trigger a strong emotional response in the audience. The copy of the ad captures the struggles of the orca while the optical illusion completes the message. It makes you visualize and virtually experience the struggles of the orca and thus empathize with it. Such an emotional response is exactly what the campaign aims for. 

5. Use illusion to encourage interaction 

This idea is easier to understand when we give you an example. Below is an ad design from Hygiene Color Bleach.

When you look at the image from a distance, there is a stain prominently visible on the red sweater. And this stain seemingly vanishes when you move closer to the image. Did you catch that?

Designs like these are interesting. With such fun concepts, you are encouraging viewers to interact with the ad. And when they interact and have their minds blown, they are sure to talk about the design on social media. Concepts like these work perfectly for transit ads and social media ads as well. 

What are the types of optical illusions you can use? 

Illusions can be broadly classified into three groups – literal, physiological, and cognitive. 

Literal illusions are intended to confuse the brain and challenge your perspective. This would be a design that forces users to stay back a little longer and interact with the design. The famous Shepard Elephant illusion is an example. 

Cognitive illusions use the power of the human brain to process information based on past experiences. This is where the meaning varies based on individual perceptions. Think of all those “what you see first” memes and social media posts you come across. What do you see in the below image? A rabbit or a duck? 

Physiological illusions play with the use of contrasts, lighting, and a host of other aspects to puzzle you. Look at the below image. Did you catch those grey dots appearing and disappearing in the grid intersections? 

The difference, as you can see, is the aspect you use to create an illusion. 

Based on the intended effect you can choose one of these ideas to create an illusion that confuses the viewer and engages them actively. 

A word of caution

Optical illusions are brilliant concepts, there’s no denying that. But not all of them are easy to interpret. And as we already discussed, there is often more than one way to look at the illusion. When there are multiple ways to perceive a design, you should be sure that all these interpretations are favorable to your brand. So, there are two things to remember when you decide to use optical illusions in your ads: 

On a final note

As long as the color scheme, fonts, and other design elements are aligned with the brand identity, optical illusions can be designed to suit any brand. Since there are many ways to create an optical illusion, you can easily optimize the design to resonate with your brand’s visual style. So, if you think that your ads are not converting enough, and if you need a novel concept to tackle this situation, give optical illusions a try.  

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