Marketing & Branding

What Are Optical Illusions and How Can They Be Used in Advertising?

Do you ever stop and stare at an optical illusion? Museums have them in their halls, psychology classes use them to talk about the brain, and your hippie friend from college has posters of them all over his apartment.

It’s possible, though, that you never thought about the power optical illusions can have in the world of advertising. You want people to pay attention to your ad, and they’re guaranteed to stop and stare when you give them something their mind has to figure out.

What Are Optical Illusions?

FedEx Logo

Optical illusions are images that trick your brain into seeing things that don’t exist or seeing them from two different perspectives. Sometimes the eye and the brain are on two different pages, and the result is a visual conundrum, better known as an optical illusion. You’ll see this at play in advertising. A good example would be the secret arrow between the “E” and “X” in FedEx’s logo.

previous arrow
next arrow

Technology has made optical illusions more accessible for graphic artists. As a result, more and more brands are using them everywhere from billboards and commercials to package design and promotional products. Just take a look at iridescent promotional products and your brain will get all fuzzy in the best way!

Who Has Advertised with Optical Illusions?

Ads can be interpreted in many ways, but no matter what, you want people to pay attention. That’s why it’s smart to incorporate optical illusions.

Some notable brands have found success playing with our minds in visually-stimulating billboards, truck ads, and commercials.

Here are 10 companies that do it right!

#1 Ananda Milk

Ananda Milk Illusion Ad

The company wanted to appeal to kids specifically by showing a strong young man moving buildings with his milk machismo.

The illusion works on a grand scale. People who see the building in Mumbai India, whether it’s tourists or residents, will see the ad and immediately think of Ananda Milk.

#2 Formula Toothcare

Formula Toothcare Illusion Ad

You want to know your toothpaste will make your teeth shiny and strong. Formula Toothcare found the right formula by using an illusion to make it seem like the man in the ad is biting the billboard.

It’s okay to look at your advertising from a different angle. Formula Toothcare did just that, and in the process, took a big bite out of the competition.

#3 Dior

Dior Poison Ad

Fashion is supposed to be daring and bold. Dior took that to heart in an image that doubles as a woman looking in the mirror and a skull for their Poison perfume ad.

Dior recreated a famous work of art called “All is Vanity” by Charles Allan Gilbert. The ad is an exact replica of that painting and makes the viewer look twice and think about the double meaning.

#4 Snooty Peacock

Snooty Peacock Illusion

Snooty Peacock, a small jewelry boutique in Texas, takes advantage of negative space to create a dual woman and peacock. This logo decorates their social media, storefront, and even some of their merchandise.

The logo is a clever way to reflect both the name of the company and the services they offer. It’s not overly complicated, and with the distinct purple and white, it’s also extremely memorable.

#5 Spartan Golf Club

Spartan Golf Club Ad

The Spartan Golf Club, a student organization at Michigan State University, reflects their name well with this warrior golfer optical illusion.

Despite the battle-ready name, the organization is dedicated to a casual golf experience. Many students will want to wear this eye-catching logo on apparel like jackets and t-shirts.

#6 World for All

World for All Illusion Ad

World for All, a non-profit dedicated to adoption and animal rights, reflected the importance of pets in these mind-bending ads.

Our pets are right in the middle of our hearts, there to light up the day and make our families complete. This is reflected in the profound optical illusion in these ads.

#7 Kit Kat

Kit Kat Hammock Truck

Take a break and have a Kit Kat. While you’re crunching, try not to be confused by this ad, which makes it look like the driver is hanging around in a hammock instead of behind the wheel.

If you’re driving alongside this truck in rush hour traffic, you’ll instantly want to look closer at this illusion. As a result, you might really crave a Kit Kat… and a hammock.

#8 Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola Illusion Ad

In 2015, Coca-Cola created a series of optical illusions that highlighted their environmental impact. The soft drink company takes pride in using plants to make their signature bottles.

Coca-Cola is one of the most iconic brands in the world, but they are still willing to be inventive with their advertising. This ad strays from the typical style, making it all the more powerful in spreading its green message.

It’s never too late to try something new! Sure, Coke may be known for their polar bears, logoed coolers, and Santa Claus, but they still play with perception and invest in clever marketing.

#9 McDonald’s

McDonald's Light Post Ad

The fast food restaurant has always been known for loving to see you smile. People can’t help but grin looking at this light pole, which makes it seem like a pot of coffee is floating in mid-air!

McDonald’s super-sized their marketing by cleverly using a light pole instead of another commercial or paper ad. The end result is nothing short of a work of art!

It just goes to show that anything and everything can be used to help you advertise your brand. Get creative, think outside of the box, and incorporate illusions whenever possible. Just imagine how many shares an ad like this will get on social media. That means a ton of attention for your brand!

#10 Honda

The CRV is one of the best-selling models for Honda. The ad claims that these cars are “making an impossible possible.” They reflect that sentiment by defying gravity in one of their memorable promos.

Take a look at the “impossible” in action!

It’s All an Illusion!

Your brain, no pun intended, has a mind of its own. It’s going to try and make sense of the world around you by relying on visual cues. Optical illusions mess with perception, raise questions, and spark debates. What more can you ask for when it comes to getting the word out there about your brand?

For more information about optical illusions, check out any of these sites!