By AMY STOCKWELL.
Advertisers want you to buy things. This isn’t necessarily bad [yes, you are reading a sponsored post: we get the irony]. You need to buy products and services. People who publish in magazines, on the internet and on the telly need money to deliver content – and advertising makes money so that you can keep watching tv, browsing on the internet and reading magazines for free or at a lower price. Oh, and advertisers need to sell their products, too.
Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is brought to you by our partners at Fernwood Fitness. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.
We all like to think that we are in control of our purchasing decisions – that we buy the things that we freely choose. It will come as no surprise to many of you that advertisers use strategy and manipulation to get you to buy their product. This manipulation may not obvious, but it can push your spending in a particular direction. Some of that manipulation may involve making you feel bad, inadequate or guilty so that you will buy a particular product.
Next time you see a commercial – consider how it makes you feel – and see whether you catch yourself being caught up and manipulated by some of these sneaky advertising tactics:
1. Scare tactics
Studies have shown that if something scares you and then you are flooded with relief, you will make the directed purchasing decision. It’s like a big game of Good Cop, Bad Cop: one person is mean and scares you and then the second person is so nice to you that you’ll give them whatever they ask of you.
Companies selling diet food or diet plans are notorious for using this technique – they show you a picture of someone who is sad and overweight (they are *always* sad – and the colour might be toned down in the picture. They are probably watching tv and eating chips. They are slovenly and there is food on their face) and then they show you a picture of a person who is thin and happy (with bright colours and happy images. There will likely be dogs and children in the footage). You get scared that you could be the sad person – but the advertiser has the answer to help you be the happy person. Buy! BUY!
Consider this use of a sad image of an overweight child who has been bullied used by a health department in the US to scare parents into addressing childhood obesity. It is hard to think of a more manipulative piece of advertising, designed to increase anxiety and alarm.
Working to get happy is important – and healthy eating and moving more is a big part of that – but don’t let advertisers scare you into purchasing a particular product or service by showing you images designed to terrify, worry, upset or repulse you.
2. Making you feel guilty
“Good mothers use X Brand of porridge because they care for their children (why do you hate your children?).”
“Chocolate hazelnut spread or chocolate granules for milk will make your kids healthier (and they will like you more).”
“Smart people buy this! (You must be stupid if you haven’t already bought it.)”
“Women who use our razors/tampons/cereal have hot boyfriends. (Why are you so unlovable?)”
You get it, right? You are not a bad person because you don’t buy a product. So, why can ads make us feel that way?
The irritating thing is that they are designed to just that. If an ad can make you feel inadequate, you will do almost anything they suggest to get rid of that feeling – including buy a product or a service. Nobody wants to feel stupid, or ugly, or a bad mother, especially if simply buying something will make you feel better.