Whenever I hear that phrase the feeling you get from a Coca-Cola Classic, my tongue tingles a bit and I can’t help but think, “Man, an ice cold Coke in a glass bottle sounds good right now.” That ad works like a charm on me and it likely encouraged me to buy far more Coke than I ever would have without it. Why? Effective – and very skilled – marketing.
Many of us like to believe that we’re wise to marketing, but it exists around every corner. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is a form of marketing – if you see something your neighbor has and you want it as well so you can “keep up,” marketing is at work. Name brands are a form of marketing.
I don’t begrudge a company their marketing department – there are many people in marketing that are very skilled at what they do and any company obviously wants to sell their product. I also don’t begrudge material that carries advertisements – if it’s material I want to see, I realize they’re going to have to be supported financially somehow.
What I do want is to reduce the influence that marketing has in my own life and on my family. I don’t want my children throwing temper tantrums over the latest toy because an advertisement or a clever display convinced them that it would be the greatest toy they’d ever own. I don’t want to feel a compulsion to fill my home with name brand items because ads make me feel temporarily good about them (that is, until I check my credit card balance).
Here are five steps I recommend for minimizing that influence.
Turn off the television. Fast forwarding through commercials isn’t enough – many programs are laden with product placements as well. Just turn it off and find something else to do – it’s not as hard as you might think. Why am I so hard on television? The combination of video and audio in the advertisements there make it possible to attract multiple senses – hearing and vision – and thus open you up to all sorts of clever marketing.
Think about how an ad works Quite often, spending a few seconds just thinking about how an ad places an idea in your head is enough to really refute it. The next time you see an ad that makes you think, “Hmm… I want that,” stop and ask yourself what part of the ad made you think this. That question alone will often quell the need.
When you see stuff your neighbors have that you want, imagine how much debt they’re in. Most blocks seem to have one family that has all kinds of neat stuff. I know we do – we live very close to a family that drives two Lexuses, for example. I look at the Lexus and think, “Wow… I’d love to drive that,” but then I imagine the debt load of having two sparkling new Lexuses and then it turns almost 180 degrees – I almost feel sorry for them. I’m much happier without $1,000 in car payments each month.
Give generics a try. When you go to make a name brand purchase at the store, give the generic version of the product a try and see whether you’re actually paying more for quality or just for the name brand. You’ll find that much of the time, you’re just paying for the name.
Read a book. Books have a unique advantage: the price you pay up front for the book means that there won’t be advertisements inside (most of the time). Instead, you get a big chunk of entertainment and/or thoughtful ideas that isn’t interlaced with marketing come-ons. Time spent reading a book is time spent minimizing the effect of marketing, especially if you try out fare like Fast Food Nation.