How Marketers Manipulate Us To Buy More Stuff!!

Did you know that the highest paying job in America is and will always be marketing?  That’s right.  No matter how good your product is, it all doesn’t matter if you can’t get people to line up and make a purchase.   Marketers are smart.  Marketers are cunning.  Marketers (well some of them anyway) have learned the secret sauce that makes us want to buy more stuff even though we don’t really need it or even want it!   If you pay attention, you can learn the tricks of the trade but here are three ways that marketers learn how to separate you from your money:


  1. We Don’t Buy In Absolute Terms   In one of my favorite books, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, he discussed the theory of relative pricing vs. absolute pricing.   Don’t confuse this with the idea of presenting you with three choices knowing that you’ll likely pick the one in the middle.  In the case below of the Economist magazine, notice they offer three choices.  An online subscription for $59, a print subscription for $125, and an online and print subscription for $125.  If the Economist had just offered two choices (make it easy) we would have likely picked the online option.  By using the relativity trick, it made us think that we would be stupid not to get both for the same price because we were now comparing options two and three in absence of number one.
  2. The Words FREE and ZERO are addictive   Most people know that the world SALE is a trigger for us to take action on buying.  However, SALE pales in comparison to the words FREE and ZERO.  These words more than any substantially affect our view and behavior on making purchases.   You’ll see FREE most often used on infomercials because of how it sweetens the pot (artificially speaking).   You see a deal for a new set of pots and pans.  You know you don’t really need them until the infomercial throws in a set of knives. . . then a slicer and dicer . . . then a juicer.  Before you know it there’s so much FREE stuff, you start to justify why you need those pots and pans.   In the case of ZERO, it’s most commonly used in the ‘ZERO down payment’ context, which almost makes it seem FREE.   In our great city of Atlanta, Coca-Cola has used Coke ZERO as a new tremendous marketing line to augment their other lines of soda.   See a good example below . . . does the one extra FREE game make you say YES?
  3. Shouldn’t This Be You Good marketers realize the unfairness of manipulating people by knowing that we always want what we don’t have.  If they time the marketing right, we are simply silly putty in their hands.   Did you ever wonder why those hard bodied six pack ab infomercials are on early on Sundays or late at night?  They know that you are probably sitting on the couch finishing up an ice cream sundae or pounding down a bag of chips when the Ab Cruncher shows you how easy it is to grab yourself that six pack of abs you always wanted.   How do you think so many different types of ab machines have sold over the years?   Whether it’s cars, clothes, jewelry, or fancy vacations, ‘shouldn’t this be you?’ is an evil form of marketing manipulation.

The next time you make a purchase, ask yourself how good you feel about what you just bought.  If you loved it and didn’t even think about it, then the marketers got exactly what they wanted.   You didn’t even stand a chance.    Take a deep breath and do your best to extract your emotions from the next buying decision you make and go back to make yourself take the consumer acid test.  Do you want it?  Do you need it? Can you financial and emotionally afford it?   Make a smart money move and think twice or the marketers will surely get you spending more than you wanted to whether or not you like it.

Written by:
Ted Jenkin

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