7 Motivational Drivers in Advertising – with Examples!

7 motivational drivers in advertising

Have you ever come across an outstanding commercial that makes you immediately want to buy? Want to know more about how marketers tap into the science behind motivation?

In her book How To Get People to Do Stuff, Susan Weinschenk explains seven fundamental human motivation drivers.

Keep reading for BRICK’s summary of the seven motivational drivers in advertising with a few examples of how it all works.

Table of Contents

  1. The Need to Belong
  2. Habit
  3. The Power of Stories
  4. Carrots and Sticks
  5. Instincts
  6. The Desire for Mastery
  7. Mind Games & Illusions

The Need to Belong

People buy to be part of something bigger.

Belongingness goes way back to our ancestors because humans have always lived in social settings. Across countless centuries, our desire to connect with others has remained a strong and innate drive.

Here are two quick facts on the history and research behind belongingness:

  • Behavioral psychologist Abraham Maslow established belongingness as a key level in his hierarchy of human needs.
  • His findings have stayed consistent across time and cultures, making them great for applying to industries like advertising.

In advertising, theories behind belongingness are applied with a unique objective: to turn prospects into believers beyond just buyers.

Essentially, this means that brands should appeal to consumers looking to join a movement, with the ultimate goal of creating fans for their product.

Let’s take a look at how Dove used this concept in one of their ads.

The personal care brand featured women with model-like hair, except with copy that explains how none of the subjects were models, implying a certain beauty standard met by everyday women.

Dove appealed to the women’s desire to fit in and achieve a certain standard of beauty by directly stating this and tying in the prospect with their hook.

All they’d have to do –per the ad– is buy Dove’s products.

Ads like Dove’s that appeal to belongingness tap into a fundamental desire shared by customers: to be part of a group they believe in.


Repeat behaviors can be associated with rewards – and products.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes how you do things without thinking? As you’re probably aware, that’s called habit. Let’s unpack how it works by definition and within advertising.

A habit consists of three major parts: a cue, the routine, and reward. A cue is an event that causes a routine of behaviors. The following reward usually determines the routine.

Furthermore, rewards are essential to forming habits because they are likely to be remembered; and memory is how onetime behaviors become habits!

Knowing this, brands often deploy ads with obvious cues that also forecast appropriately rewarding outcomes.  Additionally, the best way to create a new habit is to anchor it to an existing habit.

Take a look at how this ad starts here, for example:

Next time you see another mouthwash commercial, see if it begins with someone brushing their teeth. If so, you’re witnessing their attempt to tie their brand to the existing habit of brushing teeth.  

The Power of Stories

Storytelling reflects intrinsic motivations and identities within every buyer.

Storytelling is one of the most potent advertising tools because it can appeal to many motivational drivers.

Foremost, it’s an opportunity to target underlying anxieties and aspirations of a target audience that aren’t as simple as habits or belongingness.

When understanding storytelling as a motivational driver, it’s necessary to recognize that everyone has a self-persona. People are defined by stories about who they are and why they do what they do.

Take a look at this successful use case for storytelling in advertising, the 2015 Super Bowl commercial, “New Toyota Camry – My Bold Dad”:

The ad tells the story of a dad looking out for his daughter, appealing to a fundamental part of fatherhood. It inspires dads to feel connected to the story and associate Toyota’s brand and Camry car with the narrative.

Carrots & Sticks

Positive and negative reinforcement inform buying behavior.

This method is considered the most well-known and most popular way to invite consumers into buying products and developing a long-term relationship with brands.

The motivational theory is about positive and negative reinforcement; essentially, humans tend to engage in behaviors that result in rewards and avoid penalties.

Beyond this theory’s traditional framework, advertising focuses on rewarding behaviors over prolonged periods.

One type of promotion that uses the carrots and sticks approach is loyalty programs. Consumers are rewarded with stamps, and eventually, a discount or free item after repeated visits.

  • Don’t reward consumers every time.
  • Stagger but maintain consistent rewards when the customer reaches the conversion goal.


Subconscious and fundamental human traits determine why we buy.

Instincts are substantial and mostly subconscious. They affect our behavior. Knowing this, advertisers lean on human instincts to get consumers to buy products.

There are three primary human instincts:

  • Self-preservation
  • Sexual
  • Social

Let’s take a look at self-preservation and fear.

Since people are motivated by fear of losing more than the possibility of gaining something, auto advertisers often tailor this fear to resources.

For example, they show car accidents in insurance commercials rather than newly insured vehicles, which would encourage uninsured viewers to get insurance, especially since a car is an essential resource for most workers and people. 

Would this commercial make you buy?

The Desire for Mastery

People buy to improve their skills in the world.

Within the self-preservation instinct, humans desire to learn and master skills and knowledge. This desire is observed early in life with toddlers learning how to stand and walk!

However, as we grow older, the desire for mastery becomes more intrinsically motivated. Essentially, we want to master things we are interested in.

Look at sports brands and how they often deploy inspirational commercials of an individual reaching the line of a marathon or conquering a challenging sport.


Athletes and enthusiasts are usually motivated to master their sport, which takes time and extensive training.

Mind Games & Illusions

Psychological illusions appeal to primary human instincts and tendencies.

Tricks of the mind are both visual and cognitive illusions. There are several biases in how we think, which often lead our brains to jump to quick conclusions (and behaviors).

There are plenty of methods advertisers use to encourage buying. Here are BRICK’s top 3:

  • The illusion of scarcity – creating a false sense of scarcity
  • Loss aversion – appealing to the human tendency to avoid losses
  • Social proof – deploying positive customer testimonials and outcomes

For example, Supreme implements the illusion of scarcity across their clothing launches, promoting exclusive garments and items that only appear per season.

How does this tactic play out?

Well, the lines outside their stores can speak to that.

Still figuring out how to make the most of out of your advertising? Get in touch with BRICK today to learn more about what digital advertising can do for you.